5 Days of Style with Tara Gragg of Island Moving Co.

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Tara Gragg is a dancer with Island Moving Co. and an aficionado of vintage clothing. On a cold winter day she wore this vintage plaid 1970s flannel blouse and Paige Denim jeans, both from Closet Revival; a vintage Dooney & Bourke bag from Leviathan Exchange (similar here); an alpaca wool scarf and gloves from Moonlight Rose Alpaca; and James Avery onyx earrings.

Nobody expects a ballerina to be practical. But this sugar plum fairy is no diva. Dedicated to the art of dancing, Tara Gragg performs professionally with Island Moving Co. in productions such as The Nutcracker and Mother Goose at Rosecliff, which opens this Friday. But while she is a fan of sequins and sparkle, she’s driven by a purpose bigger than the fast-changing winds of fashion.

As the social media director of the Aquidneck Growers Market, Tara’s aim is to promote sustainability as well as the health and environmental benefits of eating and shopping locally. To further that cause, she frequently buys vintage and consignment clothing. When she discovered she had a knack for identifying quality, drape, and fit, she launched Bowline Style, a side business that deals in vintage clothing. (Her favorite era? The 1970s.)

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This vintage knit sweater cape is a cozy, favorite piece. Sweet Betsey Johnson earrings (similar here) compliment the top.

During the course of a week, she might be traveling from practice at the studio to an estate sale to date-night with her fiancé or a cocktail event to support IMC, and her looks here reflect that diversity, from what she calls her “trusty” Express jeans (which she’s had since college) to a vintage ivory wool sheath dress with rhinestone detailing. The latter she purchased for a party this past New Year’s Eve. “The shop owner told me that the woman who brought in the dress had worn it to her wedding reception,” recalls Tara. “Little did I know I’d be wearing it the night my now-fiancé proposed to me!”

Although Tara generally goes for streamlined looks and wears minimal jewelry, she’s also unafraid to add flair. After all, as a dancer she spends a good portion of her professional life on stage. “I love clothes with inherent drama,” she says, like a cape or long skirt that speaks for itself and doesn’t need much accessorizing.” In the interview below, she further describes her style.

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Tara purchased this 1950s ivory wool sheath dress to wear on New Year’s Eve. The original owner had worn it to her wedding reception; coincidentally, her husband-to-be proposed that night. The earrings are from Express.

Why vintage?
I’ve always been both a history aficionado and a dress-up enthusiast, so from early on I’ve been a vintage shopper – my high school prom dress was a periwinkle 1950s number. By purchasing vintage, my goal is to invest in quality pieces that have withstood the test of time and combat “fast fashion” by spending my consumer dollar on a more sustainable choice whenever possible.

What’s your favorite color to wear in the dead of winter?
I’d love to say that winter brings the cheerful, bold colors out of my closet, but in reality I tend to stick to more neutral colors. Maybe on a subconscious level I’m mirroring my surroundings: steely grays, tans, and browns with a bit of blue and green. My color statement is usually a bright pink or berry lipstick.

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Winters bring out her monochromatic side, says Tara, hence the blue-gray sweater (a TJ Maxx score) and full-length charcoal-gray skirt and striped wool scarf, both from from St. Paul’s Thrift Shop in Newport. The boots are Sorel Joan of Arctic wedges.

The Polar Vortex is coming (again). What’s your go-to piece?
I can’t sing enough praises for alpaca wool products! I’m the social media director for the Aquidneck Growers Market, and one of our vendors is Moonlight Rose Alpacas, a wonderful farm in Swansea, MA. I’ve invested in two pairs of their amazing Survival socks, a gorgeous cable-knit scarf, and two pairs of gloves. My feet have never gotten cold while wearing those socks!

How does being a ballerina and dancer relate to what you wear and how you style yourself?
My dance training makes me very aware of the lines of my body. We spend hours every day trying to perfect the aesthetic of our shapes and movements, so I try never to hide behind my clothes and waste all that hard work! My favorite looks are ones that showcase my limbs and create a sense of length and proportion.

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Sophisticated and warm? Yes, please. The dancer found this Toni Owen olive wool-tweed skirt and jacket at an estate sale. The green silk knit turtleneck underneath is from St. Paul’s Thrift Shop in Newport. Dancers are particular about their tights, we imagine; this opaque-gray microfiber pair is from Karol Richardson. The Hush Puppy black suede booties (similar here) were purchased on consignment.

What would be your style advice to your 13-year-old self?
Thirteen-year-old Tara definitely had a penchant for pastels – I’d try to break it to her that pastels are rarely flattering on super pale skin!

You’re a minimalist when it comes to accessories, but what’s the one accessory that never fails you?
In college I received a pair of James Avery sterling silver and onyx earrings as a gift. I love them because they go with nearly everything, and I wear them all the time. Also, the ballerina in me loves a good rhinestone – earrings, bracelet, brooch, hair clip, you name it– a little sparkle goes a long way.

What should shoppers look for – and avoid – when purchasing vintage clothes?
Aside from the general condition of the item, I always search for pieces that don’t look too dated (ahem, shoulder pads – although you can always snip those out) and have a timeless, classic quality. You want your vintage finds to blend seamlessly with your contemporary wardrobe. And though it’s always a good idea to air out vintage pieces and spritz them with a solution of equal parts vodka and filtered water to deodorize them, I’d stay away from anything that has a strong smell, whether it be cigarettes or perfume. Also, 100 percent silk or wool items can’t just be tossed in the washer to get the smell out, so you have to be willing to put in the work to care for them properly.

Photography by Caroline Goddard

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If the shoe fits, wear it. Gender neutrality FTW with these men’s vintage leather brogues.

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Tara wears the “wedding” dress with gray microfiber tights from Karol Richardson, a vintage costume jewelry ring and the same Hush Puppy black suede booties (similar here) seen above.

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The cape has enough drama for the entire outfit; Tara pairs it with her “trusty” Express jeans that she’s had since college and Sorel Joan of Arctic wedge boots.

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Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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