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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.