This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
I have returned from the land of Balboa milk and honey, with tired feet, a warm heart, and a bag of vintage goodies in tow. The All Balboa Weekend organizers did another stellar job with the event this year and it remains my favorite swing dance event. Of course, the shopping helps… ;)
I usually do separate posts for event vendors and my “field trips” to a city’s brick-and-mortar stores, but was no way to separate the vendors from the stores because, in several cases, they were the same. I’ll run through the shopping activities chronologically:
My partners in crime for this round of shopping were Elizabeth Tietgen (she of the aqua velvet 30’s gown and other blue accoutrements from last year) and Molly McGowan (her first trip to ABW and first big vintage shopping endeavor). After a lunch of delicious crepes, we visited Deering Vintage first because they were not represented in the ABW vendor lineup and so I did not blow all of my money at Suite Lorain, as in past years, and actually make it to another store. Deering Vintage had a few swing era items, but was mostly filled with quality goods from later decades and tons of fantastic accessories, like purses and gloves. Elizabeth found a fantastic black and red velvet 40’s ice skater-ish dress (which she took home) and Molly found a gorgeous 1930’s tea dress, which we decided was not the most-dancer friendly dress and that we would keep looking. We also ran into Valerie Bissig and Stefan Deuber, who were also making the vintage store rounds, and I started to get really excited about the weekend and all the international dancers!
The magnetic pull was too strong, so we drove to Sweet Lorain, the vintage department store, for some shopping. There are some real heartbreakers there, in the form of gorgeous dresses suffering from fading, but there were some new gems in the midst as well. Favorites were a late teens/early 20’s dress that was screaming at me to take it home and dress up as someone from Downton Abbey for Halloween, a velvet gown with Art Deco burnouts on the sleeves, some purple canvas 1940’s platforms, and Molly’s navy blue 1940’s dress with matching bolero – win!
We pressed on, to Flower Child next, which appeared to be mostly furniture on the main level, and had vendor booths with clothing, records, knick-knacks, and other furniture downstairs. There were racks upon racks of polyester and, aside from a few slips, we deduced that the good stuff was already in the hallway at ABW (and we were right!). Nevertheless, an interesting space with some really good furniture pieces on display.
Our last stop before heading back to the hotel was The Cleveland Shop. At the front of the store when we walked in was an empty rack where all the swing era clothing used to be and we had to laugh because we all knew where it went. Still, it was nice to see the location and know where it is, for future reference. There were a couple of items left behind, namely a mint condition 1920’s beaver fur coat that was too small for my shoulders and a pair of silk tap pants that came home with me (my first purchase of the day, if you can believe it).
Side note: We were apparently right across the street from another treasure trove, Chelsea Costumes, and didn’t know it. Next year!
Back at the hotel, we began shopping immediately. The Flower Child vendors grabbed the prime spot at the top of the hallway, where you round the corner to go to the ballroom. These ladies get the most dedicated award, for being there the whole time and for bringing in new clothing and items daily. There were too many good things to name – gorgeous beaded and velvet 1920’s dresses, 40’s cocktail dresses, 30’s tea and house dresses, men’s military, sweaters, ties, hats, fabric, notions, you name it, Flower Child had a piece of it.
Next up in the hallway was Re-mix Vintage Shoes, where many would linger, ponder, and eventually part with their hard-earned cash for a fabulous pair of handmade leather reproduction heels. I didn’t notice any new models this year, but there were a few new colors available in the Emily t-strap and some new metallics in the Anita shoe. So much love for these shoes!
The Cleveland Shop set up almost across from Re-Mix and had a nice variety of clothing for ladies and gents, as well as some accessories and choice footwear. This is where I found my sole dress purchase of the weekend! I heard that The Cleveland Shop did so well at ABW, they are interested in attending the Eastern Balboa Championships this year as a vendor. Cleveland, North Carolina will certainly welcome you with open arms if you bring your vintage goods to our fair state…
Shannon Sheldon’s Bombshell Baubles were back this year, in all their petal and feather glory. Shannon added some new handmade items, like aprons, make-up bags in adorable fabrics, and hair flowers made of fabric and buttons. Of note, there were a lot of blue flowers in the collection, which is a color that is both hard to find and, if you do find it, hard to find in a GOOD blue. I made sure to pick up a blue hair bloom for myself.
My Heinies grabbed a fair chunk of the vendor space to house all the lovely bloomers and Carol Fraser’s army of hot dance shoes. I spotted a number of these fabulous heels making their debut on the dance floor this past weekend. I stocked up on fancy hosiery while I was there and picked up some hair accessories that sparkle! As at ILHC, My Heinies paired up with Model J Vintage to offer a selection of vintage and vintage-inspired clothing.
Finally, Sweet Lorain set up a display case of rare gems (like 1920’s beaded bags and Art Deco jewels) at the end of the hallway, and I briefly saw a rack of clothing nearby, but did not see that they were present the way most of the other vendors were. Hence, the lack of reporting. Don’t worry, Sweet Lorain, I still love you!
And…that’s a wrap! I look forward to next year’s vendors and vintage shopping at ABW!