This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
This year All Balboa Weekend celebrated it’s 16th birthday and I celebrated 9 years of attending this event, with the requisite vintage shopping, both within and outside of the hotel where the event occurs. The event has become such a destination for our micro-economy of dance clothing, shoes, and accessories, that it attracts some truly wonderful vendors, some repeat vendors and some new each year. I have certainly become educated as to certain brands by being introduced to them at ABW and also have the opportunity to try things on in person that I may only see online for the rest of the year.
I am sad to report that one of ABW’s regular vendors, The Cleveland Shop, has closed its doors, so there was no more brick and mortar store, nor a happy booth of vintage clothing and accessories at the hotel.
All Balboa Weekend had some clever merchandise this year, with specialty items that I was very excited about – as someone who owns many event tee shirts, it is nice to see events thinking outside of the box (but also inside OUR box as swing dancers). My favorite this year was the chenille patch of two eighth notes, with “Balboa” and “ABW” embroidered on the patch – as if you attended ABW and lettered in Balboa – to add to any jacket or sweater for an instant collegiate look. My second favorite item this year was the bandanas they had made, which is already an extremely practical item for the wiping of sweat or the hiding of a pincurl wet set, but also features graphics of dancers, dance shoes, dance wax, a new ABW logo, and a border print that is actually musical notations of a well-known and loved song in the Balboa community! The level of thought and love that went into this did not go unnoticed. I also loved and picked up the new durable canvas logo shoulder bag with a leather strap, perfect as a traveling bag or to carry all your accoutrements to your local dance.
Next in line as we travel down the ABW ballroom hallway/vendor area, is Remix Vintage Shoes, and we should all thank the heavens that owner Philip Heath comes to Cleveland with a metric ton of shoes for us, because (as far as I know) only ABW and Viva Las Vegas have made it worth Remix’s while to come outside of their retail location and shipping center in California. New this year is a black and off-white version of the popular Balboa style shoe, which is also available in a rainbow of color options and it was delightful to see them all in a row. Also new is a lower heeled version of the Ritz called the Charleston, which looked much more dance-friendly with 2 3/8 inch heels as opposed to 3 1/4 inch heels. Last, but certainly not least, the new men’s shoe features a fantastic array of perforations and brogueing, just perfect for summer!
Rejoining us this year after a brief hiatus is my favorite brick and mortar Cleveland vintage shop, Sweet Lorain, who packed up a bunch of their “vintage department store’s” wares and set up shop at ABW. I went to the brick and mortar store before I went shopping at the hotel and I can tell you that it didn’t make a dent, that shop is packed to the gills and I’m glad I shopped both the store and the booth. There was a great mix of garments, but I thought the separates were particularly good this year, namely an amazing lantern print blouse snagged by San Francisco dancer Lori Taniguchi and a mint green sailor middy with white trim I snagged for myself. Also the bakelite jewelry… *swoons*
De Fils en Perles was a new vendor to ABW this year, with truly amazing, meticulous, intricate beadwork, many pieces with a nod to Art Deco lines and loveliness. As someone who has attempted beadwork repairs on clothing, I can only imagine the patience it takes to create this jewelry! Favorites included drop earrings with 3D effects, bracelets with multi-color geometric patters, and a beaded bracelet with lady bugs.
Next in the line is Dancestore, with their signature line of Aris Allen dance shoes and the booth headed up by none other than Laurie Gilkenson (affectionately aka “Nina’s mom). Dancestore offered a nice selection of dance shoes at affordable prices, including their cap cap toes and some nice options for flats for the ladies, if you didn’t want to dance in heels all weekend. You can catch Laurie and Dancestore at ILHC, next for your chance to try on and pick up a pair of dance shoes in person.
ABW vendor veteran and Etsy celebrity ChatterBlossom never disappoints and this year, knowing that she would be back, her fans were ready – it was not uncommon for people to bring clothing down from their rooms specifically to match items, even showing up to ABW unaccessorized knowing that ChatterBlossom would have just the bloom to complete the outfit. Of course, it’s also easy to pick up a vintage dress and find a vintage flower from Chatterblossom to match, as Jamie Sturdevant (proprietress and artist) collects vintage millinery for her pieces and, thus, the dyes are just as they were.
Holding it down at the end of the hall was Flower Child, which is a collective of sellers who usually sell at the Flower Child brick and mortar location, but have also been staples at ABW for the past few years with an epic spread of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, and also some other vintage items like housewares, memoribilita, fabric and sewing notions. My absolute favorite dress this year was purchased by Rochester dancer Beth Midavaine, a late 30’s/early 40’s rayon dress with all the bells and whistles one could fathom for a vintage rayon dress – a stellar print with a sort of 3 muses theme (but also tropical and geometric?), a light peplum, gathered seams creating a fan effect just below the booty (and accentuating said booty), bakelite rings at the shoulders, all the right tucks and pleats, and a wonderful drape that makes all this fuss into a truly comfortable dance dress. Even better, Beth was able to accessorize the dress with the help of the two vintage vendors and Chatterblossom and wear the dress for Saturday night!
That’s all, folks! Another stellar year of shopping at All Balboa Weekend!