When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Appears And Does Her Colors

Last week I took a workshop with Imogen Lamport, a professional image consultant. I’ve always enjoyed wearing clothes, but I’ve never been very good at it. I mean, they stay on and everything – that’s not the problem – it’s just that I don’t always pick the right ones for me. I can trace the root of the problem back to my days as a kid in Greenwich Village, and my bohemian liberal free-thinking mother. She didn’t want me to grow up with any kind of limitations in life, so I was allowed to run around in such outfits as, say, purple flowered bell bottom pants paired with a green stripped shirt. Nothing was “wrong” or “bad.” Also, we didn’t have a lot of money, and when everything you wear is a hand-me-down, it’s unlikely that any of it’s going to match. But it was the Village in the 60’s, and there were purple pants and tie dye everywhere. I fit in.

It wasn’t until we moved to the semi-suburbs of Staten Island that I started to realize I dressed differently from the other kids. I was very excited on the first day of junior high, and I presented myself wearing a bright orange dress with a big frill down the front, white tights, and my long hair in two pigtails with huge bows of orange yarn in each. It was sort of “Sears catalog as styled by Timothy Leary.” Luckily, by the time I got to high school it was the 70’s and everyone looked bad. In college I majored in theater and wore black for four years. After college it was the 80’s, and we all know how that went. During most of the 90’s I was a struggling actor/writer, which meant I mostly wore my waitress uniform. For a large part of my life, getting dressed has been more about hiding than expressing myself. It was a costume that said to the world “This is who I want you to see,” or a mask that said “Don’t look at me.”

Of course, now that I’m finally interested in expressing who I am through my clothes, I’m at that age where nothing fits my body and I don’t know where to shop. I usually feel like I’m still fairly hip, until I wander into stores like Forever 21, the music blaring so loudly I can feel the vibrations in my feet, and I instantly become ninety years old. I’m assaulted by bright colors and TOO MUCH STUFF jammed onto too many racks. I have to be careful not to look around too fast or I’ll get dizzy because my progressive lenses don’t really allow much peripheral vision. I stumble back into the mall, and feel like falling to the floor, crying out in the words of Britney Spears, “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman ready for J.C.Penny’s elastic waist slacks!” Where do women of my age and sensibility shop?

The workshop was great, though. I had my colors done, and learned I’m a “dusky warm deep.” I love being categorized. For someone who grew up as a geeky outsider with no boundaries, it’s comforting to know that I fit in somewhere. I belong to the world of the “dusky warm deeps.” They are my peeps, my gang, and I shall proudly wear their colors. I also learned about things like body proportions. Apparently Leonardo Da Vinci used to work for Glamour Magazine back in the day, and came up with this really nifty way to figure out how long you should wear your tops. We also talked about our fashion personas and how much of what we project is based on things we learn and carry from childhood. I realized that I have come a long way from the little hippie kid running around in mismatched hand-me-downs. I have learned that fashion can actually be fun, and that clothes aren’t just a way to Stick It To The Man.

And I think I understand now what my high school principal meant when he said to me, “Tara, please don’t wear jeans and combat boots to graduation.” I think what he was trying to say was that a person can look nice, and it doesn’t always have to be a political statement. I can wear pink and still be a feminist. (Actually, I can’t wear pink because it’s not one of my “colors.” But I can wear a sort of dusky rose, as long as it’s more on the “warm” side.) It’s exciting to reinvent ones’ self at any age, and I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into the world of jeans that fit properly (no muffin top, please) and jackets that accentuate my waist. The little hippie girl in purple flowered pants will always live inside me, but she doesn’t get to dress me anymore. Now – who wants to go to the mall?


11 Comments on “When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Appears And Does Her Colors”

  1. Susan says:

    Not sure what my colors are, but your piece is really cool!

  2. Cosmo says:

    I am almost always up for the mall! Perhaps we should go west.

  3. lindsay says:

    I’m glad you got to go! How would you describe “dusky” though?…what is that?…Next time I see you, I expect you to be fabulously dressed! (no pressure)

  4. Imogen says:

    Ah you make me laugh Tara!

    Lindsay – dusky can be described as smokey, muted or soft – so not bright or intense colours.

  5. Laura says:

    Yay for having peeps in the color world! It’s always great to know where you fit … anything that helps narrow down the bazillions of possibilities out there. I love your style and can’t wait to see more on YLF!

  6. Donna says:

    Tara – Your writing style is great! I’ve enjoyed your posts on YLF, so it’s fun to read more.

    There’s an easy way to determine top length? Love to be clued into that! Great style can be such a mystery sometimes. Imogen and Angie make it seem so easy, but that’s because they’re so good at it. Looking forward to more of your fantastic writing!

  7. Laura says:


    I enjoyed meeting you at the workshop and your blog makes me laugh. The colors you were draped in looked amazing on you. Happy shopping.

  8. Tara Zucker says:

    Donna – I’m still learning all this stuff myself – and I rely heavily on YLF and Imogen! Even when I have all the “formulas” and suggestions and tips, I still get it wrong a lot. I guess it just takes practice? (What name do you use on YLF?)

  9. Donna says:

    I use “Donna” on YLF. We’ve exchanged comments a couple of times. I shared my “search for specs” experience when you were searching for yours. Yours are perfect for you BTW.

    I don’t comment too often, I’m more of an observer than a joiner, but I read Angie’s blog post and catch up on the forum everyday so I can continue to learn and improve my style.

    I also love Imogen’s blog and now I’ll be checking yours for new posts.

  10. Eve says:

    Did we have the same mother? I clearly remember asking if the black pants with white flowers went with the red, white, and black plaid/flower print top and she not only said yes, she let me out of the house!

    Loved the piece (as always) and please do share the REAL Da Vinci code!

  11. Tara,

    You are and always will be one of my very favorite writers. Very few people make me laugh out loud every single paragraph like you do. Your writing makes me happy, your wit inspires me, and your perspective of the world (and your place in this wacky world!) both warms my heart and makes me psyched to know you at the same time.

    Congrats on knowing your comfortable color category. I personally think you look gorgeous in anything, and hope the days of your purple hippie pants and green shirt aren’t entirely gone. I’d love to see you in that get up, even if it is just for old time’s sake.

    Bravo, and thanks for sharing. (Sorry it took me three weeks to actually read.)


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