This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
The Triangle Swing Dance Society has requested a post about where to shop locally for vintage or vintage-inspired swing dance clothing in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). In the spirit of shopping locally, there are a few places I would recommend to find garments, but keep in mind that this is never a sure thing – vintage shops have one of a kind items and you may have to visit a shop several times before finding anything; similarly for retailers, things that may be in stock one season will not be carried for another season. I’ll list some of the more consistent producers and some general ideas about where to look for these things.
Dolly’s Vintage is in the forefront of my vintage shopping right now because my office is two blocks away from this delightful shop and I often (read: 2 or 3 times a week) stop by the shop to chat with Jennifer Donner, the amazing and talented owner of Dolly’s, and to soak up some of the cheerful atmosphere of the store. Dolly’s is also the most reasonably priced vintage store I have ever encountered. Where other vintage stores would charge $40-$100 for garments, or even more, Dolly’s keeps everything just below that range, with most items between $20 and $30. Jennifer stocks decades from the 1920’s through 1970’s (with a few choice items from more recent decades), but keep in mind that 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s garments will be much rarer and she may not have anything in stock, but you should still ask so that she knows how many people are looking for these garments. She will be more likely to purchase these items from people clearing out estates if she knows there is a demand. I can usually go into Dolly’s and find a few 1940’s items, and definitely a lot of 1950’s day dresses that are perfect for swing dances. For men, Dolly’s has a great selection of sport coats, pants, shirts, and an entire rack of 1950’s skinny ties. If you see something you like, you should either buy it immediately or ask her to hold it if you need to think about it or find something to match it – the clothes fly off the racks in that store and she stocks new items every day just to keep up with the demand. I know some of the Triangle dancers are already a fan of Dolly’s, as I’ve seen Elizabeth Tietgen pick up a 1920’s cloche, Holly Owens bought an adorable polka dot dress that she wore to a dance at the Century Center recently, and Jason Sager purchased a wig here for RDU Rent Party’s role reversal night.
For more information, here is an older blog post I did on Dolly’s Vintage: https://lindyshopper.com/2011/05/03/field-trip-dollys-vintage-durham-nc/
Beggars and Choosers
While not technically inside the borders of the Triangle, Beggars and Choosers should not be overlooked. It is a bit of a drive to Pittsboro and they are only open on some Saturdays, but this is the only place I know of in the Triangle that stocks clothing from the late 1800’s through the 1970’s and consistently has a few items from the jazz age and swing era. I see a lot of conflicting information about when this store is open, so it’s best to call ahead before you decide to make the trip. This is a gold mine for men’s and women’s vintage clothing, so I promise it will be worth the effort!
For more information and photographs, here is an older blog post I did on Beggars and Choosers: https://lindyshopper.com/2010/04/30/field-trip-beggars-and-choosers-pittsboro-nc/
Raleigh Vintage Collective
While they have no brick and mortar store, the Raleigh Vintage Collective has a lot of swing era clothing and accessories available for purchase through the web. They are a group of ladies who periodically have trunk shows around Raleigh and list their wares on Etsy (Raleigh Vintage and Time for Vintage). Most notably for dancers, they will have a trunk show at this year’s Eastern Balboa Championships, back by popular demand after last year’s trunk show, which featured only items from the 1920’s through the 1950’s – no digging through polyester to find what you want and no question about the garment’s decade of origin.
For more information about the Raleigh Vintage collective, see my post about their activities at EBC last year: https://lindyshopper.com/2010/11/08/ebc-vendors-the-vintage-collective/
There are a few other vintage stores in the Triangle, but my experience with them in finding garments for swing dancing has been unsuccessful, as they stock 1960’s or later garments. Men may find them more useful, as menswear has changed fairly little over the past century. For example, The Clothing Warehouse in Chapel Hill had a rack of men’s vests that looked promising.
Other random notes: Someone who designs for Urban Outfitters must have a penchant for vintage hats because I always seem to find great vintage-inspired hats at this store. I always make sure to stop in at the Southpoint Mall, Durham location when I am there to browse through the accessories. Also at Southpoint, Anthropologie is a store that has built its brand around vintage-inspired clothing and accessories. The prices may set you back, but they always have a good sale rack and, if you find something on the sale rack or in the store that is not in your size, they will locate your size in another store and have it shipped to you.
Gents, the best and cheapest place for you to look for things are your local thrift stores. When my grandfather passed away, most of his suits went to a thrift store – jackets and suits from the 1950’s forward, most of them only worn on Sundays so they were in great condition. I see a rack of suits and sport coats and every thrift store I go to and this can be a great place to pick up something cheap that you don’t mind sweating in. You may also want to check shoe repair places for vintage dress shoes, as people leave shoes or bring them there to sell them. Men’s shoes, for the most part, are easily repairable and able to be shined up to look as good as new. Main Street Shoe Repair in Durham always has several pairs of cap toes and wingtips that look dance-ready, at a fraction of the price of a new pair of shoes.
Finally, Remix Vintage Shoes, a company based out of California that makes gorgeous reproduction shoes, sells their shoes in a couple of stores in Durham – Magpie, a boutique in the West Village tobacco warehouses, and Cozy, on Ninth Street. Neither store carries the entire Remix line, but if you find a pair locally that you like it will save you about $20 in shipping from Remix in California.