It's a casual day for Tziporah Salamon (BA '72): chic Comme des Garçons top; polka dot socks; vibrant red lips.
It’s her Pierrot look, she explains, and perfect for a winter evening spent in her Upper West Side apartment, walking a visitor through her seemingly endless collection of antique clothes. Her confidence—and the care that she puts into each of her sartorial creations—has made Tziporah Salamon, “Tzippy” a cult style icon.
At 64, she appears regularly in Bill Cunningham’s On the Street column for The New York Times and in various street-style blogs. She has served as a muse for Diane von Furstenberg and Ralph Lauren, modeled for Lanvin and Australian Vogue, and co-starred in Ari Seth Cohen’s 2014 documentary “Advanced Style.” She also teaches a private seminar, The Art of Dressing, which she first offered at Parsons design school, and has a one-woman stage show that has been performed at the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York and at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Yet all of this recognition came relatively late in life. To pay the rent over the years, Salamon has worked dozens of jobs, from restaurant hostess to hatcheck girl. “It doesn’t matter what I do,” she says, “because what I really do is dress.” When Salamon left Brooklyn to attend the University at Buffalo, she arrived with a bespoke collection of silk blouses and heavy wools. She graduated with honors, taking her BA in English and secondary teaching credential to the graduate program in English literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She later switched to education but still found herself looking for something more.
At 29, she returned to New York with hopes of entering the fashion industry. She learned she didn’t want to be a designer or buyer, and along the way, acquired a deep education in fashion and style. She secured her first waitressing job at Jezebel, then one of the city’s hottest restaurants, when the owner, impressed by one of her outfits, hired her with the stipulation she dress up in her own clothes for work.
In 1999, at a spiritual retreat, Salamon found what she was looking for. A rabbi praised her for the creativity and energy she put into her clothes. “It was a huge boost for me,” she says. “What I do—changing buttons, paying attention to every detail—it makes dressing holy.” On the cusp of 50, Tziporah Salamon had come into her own. As an artist and teacher, she says, her criteria for a job “is to use my heart and wear my clothes.”
--Excerpted from At Buffalo magazine