This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
(Another article for Yehoodi – enjoy!)
Inspired by Rebecca Brightly’s “Top 20 Online Resources For Becoming a Bad-Ass Swing Dancer” (and delighted to be included in her list!), I decided to come up with a list of my own. Unless you are a regular reader of the Lindy Shopper blog, it may be hard to determine what sources may be most helpful to get you started in your swing dance shopping endeavors.
I usually try to stay away from lists because I find that they can become outdated quickly (stores no longer in business, styles no longer relevant, etc.), so we are going to say that this is my top 10 list as of the date of publication. Most of these sources have been tried and true for me, so hopefully the list will withstand the test of time, at least for a few years.
This is kind of a no-brainer if you’ve been dancing for any length of time, but if you are just starting out you may not know where to find dance shoes. Most people outside of the swing dance community see character shoes as an option and I’ve definitely seen newer dancers show up in ballroom shoes, but it shows a level of commitment to the dance when you invest in your first pair of swing dance shoes.
Dancestore.com provides the work-horses of my dance shoe collection, as well as thousands of other dancers, with their Aris Allen line of shoes – shoes that are comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and offer vintage styles that work well with both vintage and modern outfits. I think we sometimes take Dancestore.com for granted – when I have worn my Dancestore shoes outside of the swing dance community, they tend to garner a lot of attention because they don’t look like shoes that are available anywhere else – and really, aside from a couple of other vintage repro shoe makers, they aren’t. Dancestore does the swing dance community a great service with their products and makes it easy for us to point new dancers in their direction and say THIS is where you should get your first pair of dance shoes.
2. Re-Mix Vintage Shoes
Let’s say you’ve accumulated a few pairs of Aris Allens in great neutral colors, but you’ve just acquired an outfit that requires some color or something extra fabulous in the way of footwear – Re-Mix Vintage Shoes is the next step. Offering an array of vintage styles from swing-era decades with divine details and fabulous color, Re-Mix is the place for the most stylish reproduction shoes I know of online.
3. Your local vintage store
If you are blessed with a wonderful vintage store in your area, then you already know this is a great place to shop. More likely, your vintage store does not stock swing era clothing or men’s clothing and is full of polyester, but don’t be discouraged! It is important to check in on these places for two reasons – first, you never know when they might get something in stock that you would die to have; second, if the store owner doesn’t know that there is a demand for these things, he or she probably won’t buy it from a seller or an estate. It is so important to develop relationships with the vintage store owners in your area and tell them what you are looking for in terms of clothing. Then, when something does come across their desk, they will have you in mind, they might even give you a call to let you know that something has come in, and they also might give you a better price on it because of that friendship and loyalty. Don’t assume you can come into a store and tell them you are a swing dancer and that they will instantly know how serious you are about collecting vintage clothing – to them, you are no better than the random college girl or boy looking for something to wear to a theme party. Distinguish yourself!
4. Your local thrift store
This is mostly for the gents, although ladies may find a diamond in the rough every now and then. But, seriously, menswear hasn’t changed so much in the last century that you can’t go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any local thrift store and find a sportcoat, old pairs of dress shoes, entire suits, pants, just about everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying it new in a store AND with a cut and quality that is more likely to be in line with that of the swing era. It must pain most men to spend money on clothing because I talk about thrift store shopping (usually after hearing a complaint about needing more vests, pants, etc.) to dozens of men every year, only to hear the lamest excuses. You obviously went somewhere to buy those jeans and that tee shirt…and if you didn’t, you should tell the person shopping for you about the thrift stores…
I post a lot of items on Lindy Shopper from eBay because there are so many good things at good prices, if you are patient and willing to look. I spend the time looking on eBay because it’s worth it – I don’t have lots of vintage resources locally and it’s more efficient to shop on eBay because you simply type in your search terms and – voila! – what they have available pops up on your screen. Because eBay has continuous auctions and it’s not practical to search for the same items every day, you can save your search terms if you don’t find what your are looking for and have eBay email you when something you want does pop up on eBay. It’s that simple. For example, I get daily emails for 1940’s dresses and sometimes I go through the listings (looking at the most recently listed items), but other items, like 1930’s suit in size 40 (for my husband) only pop up every few months. Yes, it can be hit or miss and auctions can go for astronomical amounts, but even with the gamble it is still the best place to find the most rare items and the quickest way to find specific items, new and old.
I am addicted to Etsy for many things. It’s almost as good as eBay for vintage finds (usually pricier), but it’s even better for new items that people have hand-crafted. If I can dream it or find it in a vintage photograph, someone on Etsy can make it. Etsy is my go-to source for hair flowers, fascinators, and affordable reproduction garments. Some Etsy sellers have ties to the dance community, like Jitterbuggin and Allure Original Styles, while others, like Time Machine Vintage and Raleigh Vintage simply have a love for vintage and reproduction clothing.
7. Your relatives’ closets (or anyone within earshot at least 40 years older than you)
The odds are favorable that you have a relative who was alive during the swing era, and the odds are pretty favorable that they have kept things from that era (being products of the Great Depression in some fashion – anyone else’s grandparents have giant freezers full of food?). I have been the recipient of so many items, mostly accessories, that relatives have given me that they didn’t want to get rid of, but were delighted to give to me knowing these items would be used and loved. Once word got out that I was looking for vintage items, other people (aunts, friends of grandparents) started digging through their closets or finding things at yard sales (for pennies!) that I might like. Even people I’ve encountered and simply had a conversation with about my vintage clothing has yielded items from closets, lovingly tucked away for years, but brought out for me because they thought I might like the garment and get some use out of it. The key here is to talk to people – a simple “Hey Grandpa, do you have any old suits you don’t wear anymore?” or “Grandma, do you have any jewelry from the 1940’s?” Even if they don’t give it to you, it can make a nice connection or revive some stories from the past. :)
8. My Heinies
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of covering your butt at swing dances. If you are not vintage-inclined and are buying the very short dresses that are in style now, don’t assume that the dance floor won’t be able to see your underwear. We all see it and I, especially, SEE it. Dancer Carol Fraser is a saint with her dance pants, My Heinies, developed based on her years of experience as a dancer and instructor, with the dance community and clothing styles in mind. There’s something for everyone on the My Heinies web site and I would encourage ladies who wear skirts and dresses to invest in this product so that you can dance uninhibited and free from worry that the entire room will see your private parts.
9. Vintage stores at out of town dance events
For me, the grass is usually much greener on the other side, so I take the opportunity when I travel to out of town swing dance events to visit that town’s vintage stores. Before I travel to a new city, I like to ask one of the local dancers where they recommend shopping (and if it’s worth it to try), or I’ll check to see what information I can find on the internet and, if it’s not apparent from the information on the web, give the store a call to find out if they carry swing-era merchandise. I relish every trip to Cleveland for All Balboa Weekend for the event and for Cleveland’s vintage stores, and I can’t wait to get back to Portland and Seattle. By the way, anyone know of any good vintage shops in Iowa City? Hawkeye Swing Festival, I’m coming in April…
10. Clothing swaps
One of the best places to get clothing and shoes for swing dancers could be other dancers. The ladies in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill swing dance community have been organizing periodic clothing swaps for the past couple of years, which include all clothing and accessories, but have been particularly helpful in passing around dresses and shoes that are good for dancing. That dress you are tired of wearing is brand new to someone else, so rather than give it to Goodwill, why not take it to the clothing swap and find it a new home? I’m always delighted when I see other girls in dresses that don’t fit me anymore, and they are always grateful for the garment. It’s a win-win.