ILHC 2020 Virtual Fashion Report

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

It didn’t occur to me that I might be able to write an International Lindy Hop Championships fashion report this year, but there was enough chatter about wardrobe in the chat that I couldn’t help myself and I started taking notes on a post-it as I watched the competition unfold on my laptop. Two things that I believe have had an obvious impact on what people wear at ILHC – obviously the pandemic, as evidenced by some participants wearing masks in their routines and dancing on a variety of surfaces (grass, concrete, tile, carpet), and the move from August to November, which notes changes like sleeve length, fabrics, and color palette. I particularly loved Ukraine’s Curly Girly Trio for their cozy outfits and fall colors.

Tap dancer Cora La Redd’s sleeves are the GOAT, here with
Noble Sissle’s Orchestra in 1933

Speaking of sleeves, the star of ILHC this year was sleeves – specifically long sleeves, flowing and billowing, drawing attention to and highlighting movement, while simultaneously practically facilitating movement with their shape that allows a wider range of movement than, say, a standard modern woman’s dress shirt. This is a beautiful choice for all of these reasons and it’s a period-appropriate choice for the swing era, also for all of these reasons – we see performers from the 1930s and 1940s wearing these shirts for reasons beyond style…but also style.

Another trend involves drawing the attention of the eye – white. Wearing white, particularly against a darker backdrop, tends to draw the eye toward the white, which is advantageous, say, when you are wearing white shoes and doing some incredible footwork. We saw a number of dancers sporting white Adidas sneakers, which can be credited to Skye Humphries’ influence, but also saw a number of white suits. An entire team of them, in fact – Italy’s Milano Swing Team showing us all how it’s done with incredible tailoring and double breasted jackets, perhaps a nod to Remy Kouakou Kouame and Vincenzo Fesi’s routine from 2014. See also, followers’ sleeves…

Along those lines, I saw a few dancers drawing attention with a pop of yellow or chartreuse on a shoe, shirt, or skirt, which has a similar effect. Who doesn’t need a little pop of sunshine and joyful color as we head into a fairly quarantined winter? I loved Yuyu Yeonjeong You’s yellow blouse (also with the signature sleeves, in the Advanced Solo Jazz and Charleston finals) against a plain white backdrop and also loved that several Lithuanian dancers used a room with a yellow/chatreuse backdrop, which reverse highlighted the neutral tones worn by Pamela Gaizutyte and Tadas Vasiliauskas in the Invitational Classic Lindy Hop division.

Building on all of the above – sleeves, white, and yellow – we’re going to add a skater punk aesthetic to the mix. As many of us came to swing through the punk/ska scene and also lived through the baggy pants of the groove era, seeing Sakarias Larsson come onto the screen with Frida Segerdahl and then completely throw down in the Invitational Classic Lindy Hop division was a cheer-inducing moment. Note that his choice of attire isn’t haphazard just-rolled-out-of-bed skater punk, it’s Lindy Hop because of his choices – white Converse All-Stars to draw your eye; loose light colored trousers rolled up for efficiency of movement; a loose, but not ill-fitting yellow shirt (again, drawing attention), and a black knit cap that coordinates with with his socks and keeps his hair out of his face. This is how you do it, folks. I’m calling it a trend because we also saw Barcelona dancer Aurelien Darbellay sporting a similar aesthetic and, also, throwing down. Note Frida in the signature blouse, with a ruffle detail – all the shirts are slightly different and these details prevent this trend from becoming repetitive.

I’ll end with a note about the medium – i.e. video, which has essentially thrust many of us into the role of amateur filmmakers, with considerations like lighting, backdrop, angles, everything that goes into creating a cinematic experience all an added challenge in presenting the competition videos. You don’t need a drone or a crew to get good results, but you do need to be thoughtful in some of your choices. One of my favorite videos from ILHC was from Argentina, with dancers Eugenia Diaco and Santiago Arana creating a single visual backdrop that was geometric and dynamic, with contrasting and abstract clothing (a nod to Groovie Movie?), a checkerboard floor, a band of black highlighting upper leg/lower torso movement, and a skyline in the far background. They didn’t make the cut for the screen cap of the video for the Open Classic Lindy Hop Finals (Grace Babbes and Kevin Nguyen ARE adorable), but you can find them at the 16:32 mark.

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