This week’s Instagram style star isn’t on Instagram at all. Meet 66-year-old Swampscott psychotherapist and author Johanna Skouras. She sent an e-mail asking if I would be kind enough to feature her as a way to, in her words, “salute the old bags of America who refuse to surrender to stereotypical expectations of how older women should dress.” Who could say no to that kind of pluck? Skouras traveled around Europe in the 1960s as an artist’s model and dabbled in sculpture in the 1970s before becoming a psychotherapist. She can whip up a dress in less than an hour and loves mixing high-end pieces with thrift-shop treasures. Time to meet the first non-Instagram Instagram style pick.
Q. You told me that you wanted to be featured here as an opportunity to encourage ladies of a certain age to be a bit more adventurous in the way they dress. I’m pushing a metaphorical soap box in your direction. The floor is yours.
A. Being adventurous in what we wear as we get older takes a good deal of courage and faith: Courage that you don’t look like an idiot and faith that it is your inherent right to dress according to circumstances and personal desire.
Q. How much of your style is informed by the years you spent as an artist’s model and your time in Europe? I can image that experience really opened your eyes.
A. It’s ironic that we’re discussing clothing and style when, as an artist’s model, I was without clothing and therefore more aware of my body as well as how artists perceived it. In Greece, my miniskirt disturbed the older female “crows” in their floor-length dresses.
Q. You described some of the great pieces that you’ve made for yourself and your love of fashion mix-and-match. What kind of responses do you receive?
A. My occasional eclectic look does inspire comments — solicited or otherwise. Those who know me may say, “Knowing you, you can pass it off.” I am always amazed when a stranger will make the effort to tell me a certain color I’m wearing is great with my hair or my outfit was right on and they just had to let me know. I often design my outfit as though it were the canvas I don’t have time to paint.
Q. In your opinion, is style something that’s inherent or learned?
A. I think style is both inherent and learned. My parents came from peasant stock. There was no money and no glamour. But my father seemed to know how to choose just the right ties, suits, and hats for his tall frame. Likewise, my mother also gravitated toward high-end merchandise. So indirectly my siblings and I were shaped to appreciate and distinguish silk from polyester.
Q. You told me that “clothing is much more than threads of color and design.” As a psychotherapist, do you find that clothing is an important manifestation of what’s going on inside someone’s head?
A. Wherever we are at a certain point in our lives, that place will be reflected in our appearance. When I was 15, I just started to awaken to my own individuality with a patent leather skirt from Greenwich Village, fish net hose, and long, long black hair. Problem was I attended a super-conservative high school where everyone wore circle pins and Peter Pan collars. Stones were thrown at me for appearing as a threatening freak who may also have been arousing their own repressed longing to be “different.”