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Budding photographer, cinephile and model (and star of Samatha Pleet's latest look book), Tara Violet Niami isn’t your typical college sophomore. She owns a leather prom dress and collects Victorian flea market finds, while her style is inspired by the changing fashions of the early 1900s and the young protagonists of Little Women.
Interview by Maddie Sensibile; Photography by Amanda Charchian




Hi Tara! Tell me a little bit about yourself, and what you're up to right now.
At the moment I am studying fine art photography at the Pratt Institute and I am also doing other photography on the side, like fashion photos. In my free time I’m modeling as well.


Tara for Samantha Pleet S/S 14 photographed by Jacqueline Di Milia

When you walk into your closet, what are some essentials you always gravitate toward?
I really like my black oxfords, which are just really classic looking and worn out because I wear them so much. I generally like flat shoes. I'm also drawn towards patterns and interesting textures.

How would you describe your style?
Old fashioned, but with my own modern twist on it. I’m into drama in my clothes, and feeling like I’m a character in a movie or book. People that I look up to, style icons...I’m really into the 1900s. I guess because it was a very restrained time, both in terms of how women had to act in society, and how they had to dress. People found a way to express themselves in interesting ways with their own personal style. Also, growing up as a kid, I was really inspired by Little Women, and the idea of these really cool girls who would wear long dresses but would get them dirty and adventure around--I wanted to be like them. I like the idea that you should have fun in your clothes, even if you’re wearing something feminine, and you can mess it up.





You clearly love vintage. Where are your favorite places to search for special pieces?
In L.A., American Vintage on Melrose. The Melrose Flea Market is also really fun. There's also Jet Rag, which has a one dollar sale, and in Westwood, where my family lives, there's an Out of the Closet thrift store. I’ve found amazing things there, including a cashmere sweater for ten dollars. Those places are my go-to places in L.A.

What's the most treasured item in your closet?
I have this rainbow harlequin skirt that was my mom’s. I love it because it’s so colorful. I think it's from India, because it has batik symbols on it. I’ll never let that go. She also passed down to me this leather dress that I wore to prom. It's '50s style in the front with corset lacing in the back. It's really special. I don’t wear it that much, but I want to wear it more. Another thing that is super, super fragile that I love is a hand-embroidered 1920s dress that I wore to my graduation. It has butterflies on it and it reminds me of The Virgin Suicides.



What's your approach to skincare and makeup?
I don’t really wear makeup that often, but when I do, I’m really into lipstick, like wearing a red or plum color. I like the classic look of lipstick. It can dress up outfits too, and make you look more sophisticated and elegant.



Who inspires you?
Photographers that inspire me are Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Edward Steichen, and Amanda [Charchian, who took these photos] is really amazing. And my friend Shae Detar, she hand-paints her photos. A photographer I’ve loved for years is Ellen Rogers, who’s British. She shoots large format and hand paints her photos, and they’re incredibly beautiful. They look like they’re out of a dream. And I always go back to the films I watched as a child: The Secret Garden and the Little Princess had a big influence on me, and still do. Those rebellious, complex girls in dresses. I don’t know, I just really like them.

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