Style veteran Tziporah Salamon transcends age with a look all her own
“My eyes are having orgasms,” Tziporah Salamon announces. It’s only surprising to hear a 63-year-old declare this in the middle of rehearsal for her one-woman show if you don’t understand the degree to which Salamon loves clothes. So although the Manhattanite has traveled to her native Israel to perform her “sartorial autobiography” The Fabric of My Life—including for an audience of teenage Ethiopian girls who were about to enter military service—her mind is partially on her soon-to-be-revealed fall wardrobe. When she steps out in the first ensemble, it could mean eyeball orgasms for all.
Salamon has grown accustomed to strangers celebrating her style, a multiple-layered extravaganza of color and texture often with an Asian influence—“Given a choice, I’d rather wear Chinese clothes from the ’20s more than anything else,” she admits—and always finished with a hat. She is such a constant in Bill Cunningham’s New York Times column that they have become friends since he first shot her in 1987. Yet, even Cunningham may not be prepared for Salamon’s latest looks, which were only made possible by an unexpected windfall.
"People see me, smile, come up and say thank you. They love me and I love them. It’s a loop of love."
In the middle of the summer, Salamon bicycled from her Riverside Drive apartment crosstown to Cancer Care, a favorite thrift shop on the Upper East Side. Instead of the normal Ralph Laurens and other classic designers, the owner showed her a cache of never-before worn Central Asian vintage collectibles. A lesser woman may have marched right out the door in the coat covered in silver coins with a hexagram of semi-precious stones sewn onto the back, declaring this the style find of a lifetime. But not Salamon. For her, these were just the building blocks to future greatness. Wearing only the coat would have been like Picasso sketching a guitar, signing his name and hanging the canvas on the wall…unfinished.
“I can’t tell you the thrill it gives me when all of the elements come together,” she says, explaining that an outfit is not complete without the right shoes, scarf, bag, jewelry and, of course, hat. It’s a skill she teaches in her seminar The Art of Dressing, which she teaches in her home, in the home of other women and at her synagogue, because although “dressing is something we do everyday, it can bring so much love. People see me, smile, come up and say thank you. They love me and I love them. It’s a loop of love.”
It’s not surprising that a former Berkeley, California hippie would talk about how clothes are able to form a “loop of love.” Salamon, who lived in the Bay Area in the 1970s as a PhD candidate in psychology, may have been a bohemian at heart, but her inner fashionista didn’t emerge until she left her degree program early and relocated back to New York in 1980. “This was the time when the Japanese designers like Comme des Garcons came onto the scene,” Salamon remembers. “They took my breath away.”
New York City also reawakened memories of a childhood that emphasized how clothes meant a lot more than covering up. Her parents, Holocaust survivors who moved the family from Netanya, Israel to New York when Salamon was nine, were both tailors who custom-made much of her wardrobe. Meanwhile, her aunt was married to the vice president of Neiman Marcus. At least twice a year she would send her niece boxes of the highest quality children’s clothes. “I had a responsibility to uphold this level of dressing that I had always known,” Salamon believes.
Responsibility can feel like drudgery, but fortunately, for Salamon, she considers dressing well her calling. She honed this gift by scouring vintage trunk shows and studying the art of color masters like Matisse. “Women have always adorned themselves, and this beauty elevates energy and brings delight to people. I bring the museum to you. I am the painting.”
All looks styled by Tziporah Salamon.