I will always love the experience of shopping at brick and mortar vintage stores the most, but online vintage shopping has opened up a world of opportunity and access. In the beginning the hot spot was eBay, then the launch of Etsy seemed to take over the vintage market. With Etsy changing their policies in ways that didn’t work for vintage sellers, I’ve seen people migrate to Facebook groups, Instagram sales, and some establishing their own websites. What about the casual seller or someone who needs to offload a few pieces? There wasn’t a single go-to place for buying/selling vintage clothing.
With all of this in mind, longtime vintage clothing collector and seller Laura Hipshire launched Garb of Ages, a website dedicated to the buying and selling of vintage clothing and accessories. The format looks similar to selling on Poshmark, where you create a listing and potential buyers can search, like, make an offer, or buy the item as listed. The listings are only for items made before the year 2000, to keep things truly vintage and distinguish from other consignment websites.
The fees look reasonable: Buyers pay a $1.95 fee for sales under $20 and 15% of total sales over $20. Sellers pay $.25 cents to PayPal when purchase is confirmed.
This all looks fairly straightforward – let’s give it a go, shall we? I’ll be exploring the listings and adding items of my own in the coming weeks that are left from my @lindyshopperscloset Instagram sales under the user name lindyshopperscloset. It looks like they are still getting started, but I’m excited to see where this website goes!
It cannot be overstated the impact COVID-19 has had on all aspects of our swing dance community and, while our old way of life seems distant at the moment, I see friends and colleagues finding new ways to both support themselves and endear them to us. New Orleans based swing dance instructor Mia Goldsmith Halloran and jazz trombonist Charlie Halloran are two of my favorite people – I have been an ardent admirer of Mia’s dancing for so many years and Charlie is an incredible and versatile musician with whom both my husband and I have enjoyed sharing the stage – and I watched them on social media as they, like so many friends, figured out their next steps.
They did an adorable series of YouTube music videos (Quarantunes) and Charlie’s trombone duet with his neighbor from their respective porches went viral. Then I saw Charlie had gotten a sewing machine, which has become one of the central pieces of my pandemic activities, and cheered him on. Then Mia messaged me that she was starting an online vintage clothing business and we discussed logistics.
As is common with people with excellent taste, both of them have already excelled in their offerings.
Mia launched Golden Levee Vintage last month as an Instagram-based shop at @goldenleveevintage – I know Mia has collected vintage clothing for a long time and, like anyone who has, you likely have enough vintage to open up a de facto shop. Beyond that, it looks that she may have been collecting in earnest to start a vintage shop, which has been a dream of hers. Mia’s initial offerings in the past two months have been an excellent mix of 1940s through 1990s vintage, with a distinctly wonderful Mia viewpoint – even the later vintage has the nod to a prior era (hello, 90s tropical rayon does 40s dress I missed out on because I am SLOW) and everything is cheerful, embracing color. If Mia’s shop was a mood board, it would evoke words like tropical, comfort, dance-friendly, lounge, elegant, fun, light, color, whimsical, basically an aspirational wardrobe for my fantasy life in New Orleans. Follow her and watch for more goodness!
Charlie and his new sewing machine created Crescent Pennant Co. (@crescentpennantco), with handmade pennants in classic style featuring mostly New Orleans locations. This might seem like a hyper-local focus to some, but since New Orleans is the cradle of jazz, the locations have meaning to a wider audience – particularly if you know what it means to miss New Orleans. My absolute favorite pennant he’s created thus far is for Armstrong’s Secret 9, Louis Armstrong’s baseball team. Within weeks of launch, local boutiques were already buzzing and he’s been working hard to fill orders and create new custom designs.
Follow these two Instagram accounts for more goodness in the future – cheers!
Lindy Shopper’s Closet Episode 2 is up and I talk about the pandemic’s effects on the swing dance community and what I would have worn to canceled events for which I had already planned outfits. We’ll call this the learning curve episode, I talk too much, I tried to wear too many outfits, and there are some things I would change and realized I forgot to do, but if you want to hang out with me and talk about clothes and how the pandemic has impacted life and the life of your music/dancer friends, you’re probably going to appreciate it. I’ve also posted a ton of links to things I mention in the episode – pandemic relief resources, events and musicians affected by the pandemic, and resources for the clothing and accessories I talk about in the episode.
With the pandemic in full effect along with the accompanying isolation and cancellation of all activities, I was thinking of ways to use my time away from dancing and singing and stay connected. Thinking about how we are all essentially broadcasting communications via the Internet from our homes – our personal and intimate spaces – and how these are our reference and existence points for the time being, I thought about sharing more of my personal space with all of you. I am often asked by visitors to my home to see my closet, so it seemed that was the natural place to go for a first episode and for the title of this web series.
I have other ideas for episodes, but I want to see how this first episode is received, so we shall see. I am also open to suggestions for episode topics and garments/shoes you might like to discuss, feel free to post them in the video comments on YouTube.
Also, please click SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel for episode updates and to help with monetization of my YouTube account – please and thank you!
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
I know, I know, but hear me out. I’m pretty sure my mom put me in saddle shoes at some point during my childhood and I ran around the playground wearing them with a dress in ultimate classic kid style. When presented in high school with very limited options for women’s golf shoes, I was delighted that a saddle shoe was one of my options and made my selection accordingly. Then swing dancing came into my life – when I started in 1998, retro culture was an amalgam of generic vintage pop culture, but as the smoke of the late 1990’s swing revival started to clear, it was became very clear to me that saddle shoes were associated with two things: 1) a caricature of the 1950’s and 2) newbie dancers. As a budding Lindy Hopper, all I wanted was everything 1930’s/early 40’s and NOT to be associated with anything that would brand me as a newbie. I wanted to be taken seriously as a dancer. But deep down I still loved saddle shoes because they are adorable.
Flash forward a decade or so and I thought about saddle shoes again. A green and white pair would be amazing and I found a retailer online that made them. Vintage Dancer wrote this great blog post about the history of the saddle shoe, detailing their popularity between 1910 and 1960, clearly marking this as a period-appropriate choice for my swing-era-not-1950’s-caricature dancing activities. And then I remembered how saddle shoes would be perceived and I abandoned that idea.
I don’t know when Gretchen Midgley and I were first talking about this, but saddle shoes came up in conversation and how I’d wanted a pair, but ALL OF THE ABOVE HESITATIONS. Then I got a PM from Gretchen saying I needed to make this happen because saddle shoes would be a versatile addition to her fall wardrobe and she’s right. Gretchen’s message was the kick in the pants I needed. I AM LINDY SHOPPER AND I SHALL WEAR WHAT I PLEASE.
I ordered the green and white saddle shoes from Muffy’s, made from a last from 1956, which feature leather uppers and a Goodyear welted rubber sole and am so excited to finally have them after so many years of being worried about what other people would think about my dancing. Silly, I know – but being perceived as a good dancer was and is so important to me. I got to wear them last night to our weekly dance and I think they will take a little time to break in, but otherwise I am very happy with this purchase.
Would you like a pair of your own? Vintage Dancer has a set of links to retailers at the bottom of the post and I’m also eyeballing a pair from Julia Bo customized to my specifications – has anyone ordered from this site?
If you’re worried about how to style the saddle shoe, Vintage Everyday has a great collection of photos of women doing everything from riding a motorcycle to sleeping in a barrel wearing saddle shoes, with photographs looking like they date from the early 1930’s through the 1950’s.
All this to say let’s be a little kinder, a little less judgmental about what we see on people’s feet. I remember getting into a discussion on a chat forum in the early 2000’s about Bleyers, as I was still wearing mine for dancing, but someone there had branded them a shoe for newbies. At that point, I didn’t consider myself a newbie, but I was embarrassed and mad because I had stuck up for this dance shoe that was servicing my feet and someone set out to belittle me. I was either in school or working 3 jobs between stints in school at that point and I didn’t have a lot of money for dance shoes – hell, there weren’t even that many options for swing dance shoes at that point. Perhaps this is also a lesson in humanity and humility – there’s a human attached to those shoes who just wants to dance.
The Triangle dancers are in a flurry preparing for the inaugural Bull City Swingout (July 12-14, 2019) and we are so excited to share with you all the lovely things our area has to offer – doing my part here and sharing all of my local vintage clothing and jewelry haunts. While the event is walkable within downtown Durham, North Carolina, if you want the full vintage shopping experience, you will need to venture out in a car – however, there are two vintage stores in the downtown area, so even if you don’t have a car you won’t miss out. I’ll start with the stores closest to the event and work our way (distance-wise) out from there.
213 W. Main St. (2 blocks from the Durham Armory)
Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dolly’s is a vintage clothing store and gift shop, offering both men’s and women’s clothing in addition to some fun Durham merch, cute gifts, and some downtown necessities (i.e. umbrellas in case you forgot yours, socks for jurors who get cold at the courthouse). Most of the clothing will be 1950’s-1980’s, but there are a few Art Deco gems hanging around – there’s a brown crepe and sequin evening gown and matching bolero from the 1930’s in there right now that better go home with someone! Dolly’s is only two blocks away from my office and is my haven when I need a cheerful place to be during a lunch break – say hi to Larisa Harrison, the owner, or maybe local artist Anna Wallace will be working that day. This is also where I take most of my vintage clothing that no longer fits.
GIBSON GIRL VINTAGE
1001 W. Chapel Hill St.
Open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Mondays, open ’til 8 p.m. on Thursdays)
Owner Sara Spissu opened Gibson Girl Vintage a few months ago and she’s already got a full shop with more inventory coming in all the time – every time I go in, there’s new things to see, which is all very exciting. Gibson Girl has both men’s and women’s clothing, as well as a good bit of furniture and housewares. Like Dolly’s, it will mostly be 1950’s-1980’s clothing, with a sprinkling of earlier clothing – there’s a lovely yellow lace 1930’s dress and some hawt black 1940’s pumps (size 7.5) in there right now that I wish fit me! It’s about a 20 minute walk from the Durham Armory – if you decide to take that hike, there are some other great things within this block of the city, like the Durham Co-op Market, Grub (a yummy restaurant), and a Joe Van Gogh coffee shop.
CARLISLE & LINNY VINTAGE JEWELRY
112 S. Churton St.
Tuesday – Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday – Monday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you like vintage jewelry, Carlisle & Linny is the stuff dreams are made of, stocking Victorian through 1970’s jewelry, and not in a token way – there are so many Art Deco pieces that I spent about two hours in the store the first time I went, mulling over the pieces I should buy. I am fairly indecisive, particularly when there are so many lovely things…regardless, this tiny shop is packed to the gills and there’s even more in the back. If you are looking for something specific, reach out to owner Lindsley Bown ahead of time to see if she might have something – her inventory is deep, jewelry is small, so it takes some effort to find things. This shop is about a 17 minute drive from the Durham Armory and downtown Hillsborough is adorable – there are several good restaurants and a wonderful chocolate shop, Matthew’s Chocolates, within a couple of blocks of the shop.
If you attended the Eastern Balboa Championships, you may already be familiar with Raleigh Vintage, as they were our wonderful lobby vintage vendors who saved all their good swing era stuff all year for our selection. You can also get a nice selection of their inventory on their website, but obviously nothing beats going in person and being able to try things on. This shop is a 30-35 minute drive from the Armory and can be a little hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for – the entrance is down a ramp, between a shop and a parking lot, look for a door and a Raleigh Vintage sign at the bottom of the ramp. Once you’re inside, it doesn’t even feel like you are in a basement, the space is a light and airy salon with a selection of Victorian through 1970’s clothing and accessories that reflects the excellent taste of the owners, Andi Shelton and Isaac Panzarella. It’s also a few doors down from my favorite Triangle bakery, The Cupcake Shoppe.
FATHER & SON ANTIQUES
302 S. West St.
Monday – Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Father & Son is a Raleigh institution, predating any of the aforementioned shops and was one of those places before the downtown area started revitalizing that was an admirable and crowded mix of excellent junk, vintage clothing, and awesome furniture. They have moved to a location that is less crowded and less dank and it is just not the same and my heart will always belong at that old location. Father & Son tends to be better for menswear than women’s clothing, but it’s still worth a trip, particularly if you love mid-century furniture – they always have a beautiful selection and furniture makes up about half the store. This shop is also about a 30-35 minute drive from the Durham Armory.
When things started picking up with the Mint Julep Jazz Band, I was voraciously searching for vintage dresses to wear for performances. I didn’t necessarily have a ton of money to spend, as the recession was still in full swing, but it never hurt to watch the dresses I’d love to buy on Etsy and add them to my favorites list or on Pinterest. One of these dresses, a 1930’s cotton print dress with a rickracked sailor collar, I watched for at least a year in Moon River Mercantile‘s Etsy shop and, when it sold in 2014, I had strong regrets about not finding the money somewhere to buy it for myself. I don’t often have these regrets, but this is one of the few that stuck with me.
Flash forward to a few months ago and Emmy released previews of their spring line – much of the collection is sailor-inspired and I gasped when I got to their Silverscreen Sailorette Dress. It looked almost exactly like THE dress, the REGRETS dress, even in a red colorway, it couldn’t be a coincidence. I cross-referenced with my Pinterest and then emailed Emmy about the dress. It’s entirely possible we had the same love for the same dress – she said she found it on Instagram rummaging through vintage sellers’ accounts.
The Silverscreen Sailorette dress is available as of today – Emmy’s spring line was launched in three waves, with releases a month apart and today being the last wave. In addition to the red Art Deco print, it also comes in a blue Art Deco print, solid cream, and solid navy. I’m both excited and grateful for a second chance at this dress! ❤ Pictured below, the original (left) and Emmy’s dress (right).
Since their launch a few years ago, I’ve been a supporter of Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, creating reproduction vintage shoes from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. My one complaint was that these wonderfully crafted shoes with leather uppers did not have leather soles – until now! For Spring 2019, Royal Vintage has made the transition to leather soles and I’m so excited about the offerings, all of which can be added to your dance shoe wardrobe. The new leather soled collection will be available for pre-order on their website starting on April 25, 2019. I particularly love the wedges, the heeled oxfords, and I’m delighted they are re-issuing their two tone Lillian Mary Janes (although I’ve already purchased the rubber soled version from a previous collection, womp womp). Enjoy their “Foxtrot Summer” collection, aptly named to now cut a rug!
This year was my first full Camp Hollywood experience, flying in before the event began and flying out after the event ended, and after I got my obligatory In-N-Out Burger fix, I headed to the vendor area to hover and watch the magic unfold in the vendor area. The vendor area was comprised of an entire ballroom, a large adjacent conference room, and a large Camp Hollywood merch table where you could purchase both camp swag and music from the bands and musicians performing over the course of the event. This is definitely the largest vendor area at any event I have attended – I marveled at it last year, but this year I understood. The traffic in Los Angeles is so bad that you almost don’t want to leave the hotel, or at least not to go somewhere outside of a 5 mile radius. I looked into some sightseeing on Friday – maybe a vintage car museum or a Frank Lloyd Wright house – but the 12-15 miles to get there would take over an hour at 10:30 a.m., which I was neither willing to spend the time nor the money to accomplish at that point, especially with evening band obligations. So, the shopping comes to you!
I did manage an excursion with fellow vintage enthusiast Brettie Page, who had a car at Camp Hollywood – through some careful planning on her part and a small window of time on Monday where the traffic would only take about a half-hour, we rushed over to Paper Moon Vintage. I don’t have a full report because, when one has the challenge of an hour in a vintage store, one must be focused, particularly when said vintage store has a great selection of swing era items. Brettie and I both left with garments – she an incredible 1940’s bathing suit in shimmering white with gold stars and me with a silk 1930’s garden party dress – which is just about all you can ask for in a successful run to a vintage shop. I also left with this swell Jo Stafford pin – like, how often do you come across 1940’s band merch? Like, never. The cherry on this sundae was that everything in the store was 15% off.
Back at the LAX Marriott on the first day of the event, I hovered near the ballrooms and enough friends were volunteering at the Re-mix Vintage Shoes booth that I got pulled in with some lovely chatting and managed to be their first purchase of the weekend. Some day I will visit the mothership, but it was still great to chat with owner Philip Heath about shoes, pick up the shoes I had reserved, and check out all the new gorgeous purple shoes and a selection of wedges (which he doesn’t usually bring to All Balboa Weekend, the only other dance event Re-mix attends as a vendor). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Starlet shoe will actually fit my feet, even though I believe it’s on the same last as the Gabrielle, which my feet are entirely too fat to wear – another pair to go on the wishlist!
My second stop of the trip, in the brief window between sound check and downbeat, was to hit up the Vintage Blue Moon booth and I’m so glad I did! Apparently, the vintage expo at the Queen Mary didn’t happen this year and Vintage Blue Moon was having a magnificent sale on jewelry, both vintage and some excellent reproduction “Bakelite” jewelry. The first pass yielded a Bakelite scottie dog brooch, a 1930’s rhinestone ukulele brooch, and a matching repro necklace and earrings set in peppermint stripes. I returned later to go through the clothing and there were some truly special pieces – in particular a 1930’s black satin (that heavy/heavenly indestructible kind) jumpsuit with appliqués (dying/gasping), really excellent 1920’s dresses, 20’s/30’s lingerie, and an impressive wall of menswear.
As I’m running through the vendor area, I notice a dress – CAN IT BE – it’s the Beach Clip dress! As we’ve talked about on this blog, I knew the Beach Clip dress (originally owned and worn by Southern California dancer Genevieve Grazis) was being reproduced for sale by Loco Lindo and recently heard that it would be debuted at Camp Hollywood, but I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Having examined it up close and inside out, I was so excited to finally see this project come to fruition and to see an entire rack of these dresses in wonderful prints on comfortable and washable rayon crepe. I made a beeline for the Loco Lindo booth after the main dance ended and was relieved to find several prints still available in my size, including a scottie dog print. (Fate? Fate.) Loco Lindo owner Linda Marrone and her crew did an incredible job with the design, translating a fairly complicated late 1930’s dress into the garment I ultimately purchased, which will be comfortable and movable for dancing, with the same amazing twirl from that gored skirt. You could also buy a Beach Clip skirt, and, of course, any of Linda’s other wonderful dresses, skirts, pants, and blouses in that wonderful crepe fabric. The “Venice Beach” skirt is already on the website and I hear the dress will be posted for sale in short order. Very special thanks to Jennifer Halsne, who essentially unearthed this dress, brought it to national attention, and then worked with Loco Lindo to make this reproduction happen! For more on the story of the Venice Beach/Beach Clip dress, visit Jennifer’s blog, Swing Sleuths.
Sharing the vendor area with Loco Linda was Bandini St., selling a variety of head bands, hair flowers, shoe bags, and ideally situated next to the door leading to the main ballroom across the hall. Let’s say you’ve already picked up a pair of Re-mix shoes, snagged a dress from either Loco Lindo or vintage dress, then you can put the finishing touches on your ensemble and/or buy a nice shoe bag to protect your new shoe investment. I had thoughts about WHAT IF THE AIRLINE LOSES MY LUGGAGE and then I realized that I’d be at Camp Hollywood where I could replace everything except my underwear.
All the Shiny Things! Occupied the center of the main vendor ballroom with an intense amount of jewelry for just about anyone or anything. I noted on the evening of the A Bug’s Life theme that it would be easy to stop by the ATST booth and instantly upgrade your outfit to tonight’s theme by purchasing one of many insect brooches or small pins to be worn on a dress or lapel or collar. I particularly loved the rainbow display of bangles – lucite, bakelite, other plastic, who knows? But if the color fits…
Need a hairstyle to get you through the weekend or maybe want to do something special for the Saturday night dance? The stylists from Hush Hush Bang Bang had you covered, offering an array of services from blowout to a full updo or glam waves.
A Walk Thru Time Vintage is the last stop in the main vendor area ballroom, offering a mix of swing era vintage, later vintage, and costume pieces. I particularly loved that they created a tiki/tropical vignette, as we were surrounded by palm trees poolside at the Marriott and it just seemed right that you might want to pick up something festive to wear by the pool or to the special poolside live music on Monday.
Across the hall in a conference room I found a Lip Sense booth, which was a collaboration among Iris Tarou (who was also vending at Lindy Focus this past year, Tawnie Gadd, and Lisa Cleveland. I am a big fan of budge-proof lip color for dance events for obvious reasons (short = face sometimes accidentally grazing lead’s shirt during Bal, also having to be dressed before dinner because of time constraints) and I am not above forgetting cosmetics! I also love the combined effort of these dancer/business women, which means the booth stays open more often for shoppers and they can alternate dance time!
The remainder of the conference room was a bit less defined, so I apologize if I credit a garment to the wrong vendor. Both Pepperpie Vintage, who was at Camp Hollywood last year, and Rare Revival Vintage carried a mix of swing era vintage and dance/fab appropriate later vintage items, mostly women’s items. In the very back was a men’s corner by Purple Peacock Vintage, with some truly fabulous menswear pieces, like a 4 piece suit (extra pants, y’all), other swing era three piece suits, and the cutest light blue and white polka dot braces (that I really considered buying even though I don’t own any pants that could accommodate them).
If I’ve missed anyone, please give me a shout! There’s so much going on at Camp Hollywood and the vendor area is no exception – save your pennies to do some serious shopping at next year’s event!
I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.” Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town. You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.
At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year. There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee. If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee? A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.
Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit. I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.
De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy. Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions. The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.
Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.
Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW. Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.
Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look. I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing. I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.
Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well. I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments. They get us. I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.
That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!
There is a lot of documented history about the creation and performance of The Big Apple line dance in the 1939 film “Keep Punching” – if you don’t know this story already, take a gander at Wikipedia, The Lindy Circle, and Savoy Style. It’s the story of a dance within a dance craze! I love this clip for its energy, the individual style (dancing and clothing) of each of the dancers, and also because they keep it simple and functional – this clothing is obviously their own normal street clothing, with the exception of the coordinating Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts. I imagine this is a snapshot into what they might wear on any given night of the week out at a dance (compare to the more fancy street clothing/costumes in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) or the outright dance costumes in The Harlem Congaroos clip). There is an array of interesting clothing in this clip – from the dancers to the more fancy daywear/cocktail attire of the actors/extras to the orchestra in tails.
There are so many pieces of clothing worn by the dancers in this clip that are accessible today, so let’s dig in:
First, those custom Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts – we don’t have the light background with the darker graphics, but Chloe Hong has reproduced this graphic on dark blue and dark red tees that you can order from her website. Since none of us hold a candle to the original Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, we can view these shirts as aspirational/inspirational, a tribute to these original dancers and innovators. I love that some of the tee shirts in the clip are worn as-is and others are worn over another shirt, as layers. This makes me think of the ever present battle of sweat management – if that tee shirt has to last through a day of many film takes under hot lights, you might need that base layer to keep things fresh on the outside.
Since men’s reproduction knitwear is still a bit of an outlier, your best collared “undershirt” solution to get the look from the video is to pick up one of Simon James Cathcart’s short sleeved polos with that distinctive spearpoint collar – they are also made of wicking bamboo fabric, so extra helpful with sweat management. Available in nine colors and I wouldn’t be surprised if SJC was going to release some more in the future. Even though the men in this clip are wearing the spearpoint collars, these polos are also great for women, I have a few and I love them.
A few of the women in this clip looks like they may be wearing either some sort of collared or uncollared blouse underneath their tee shirt or they may be wearing a scarf tied loosely around their neck and tucked in a bit at the tee shirt collar. The House of Foxy’s 1940’s shirt in crepe would give a similar effect to the pointed collar blouses in the clip, with just the top points peeking out and the crepe being flexible enough to work around the tee shirt collar and lay right. One of the women is wearing a belt with her flared skirt and it looks awesome, but the video quality is such that I can’t tell if the belt is leather, fabric, or some other material.
While there is one woman in a flared skirt (and I say that relatively, as we’re not talking Dior “new look” volume, just a bit more twirl than the other women), rest of the women in this clip are in A-line skirts, something with a more streamlined profile, but with enough radius at the hemline to allow for kicks and movement. This skirt silhouette and just-below-the-knee hemline shows the fashion transition to the 1940’s silhouette, when you contrast with the calf-length skirts from the film A Day at the Races that came out just two years before Keep Punching.
UK brand Heyday has a nice A-line skirt, available in several prints and solid colors, I love the quality, wearability, and washability of their pieces. If you are going for the more full skirt, it looks like the House of Foxy’s Whirlaway Skirt fits the bill of being not to full, not too A-line, but just right in terms of fullness for the purposes of this clip. It’s also available in 7 colors and ditto on the quality coming out of this UK brand. Would wear both of these skirts for dancing and for work and for anything, really.
Men’s bottoms look like your standard fare for trousers, tucked in shirt or not tucked in – I mean, whatever’s comfortable for you after umpteen takes, right? If you are looking for something high waisted, I can’t say enough good things about SJC’s 1930’s chinos, which can handle belt or braces. Or just go and buy whatever lightweight, breathable trousers you can find and wear that shirt untucked! The exact right pants are usually hard to find, but for this look it’s not an absolute essential, the devil is in the other details. For the tucked-in crowd, note the dancer with the skinny belt – how skinny is up to you and your pants loops. Google was an absolute failure at looking for skinny belts (“no, Google, I mean REALLY skinny, 1.5 inches wide isn’t skinny!”), so dive deeper into your internet searches and/or go to the women’s section of a department store to buy one because nobody cares where it comes from.
The footwear is all over the map. I see white Keds-like sneakers with dark socks (that may color-coordinate with the collared shirt under the tee shirt) and in other colors (Gray? Black? Oh, wait, we’re not in Technicolor), or maybe even a shoe with a more substantial sole closer to Vans’ classic shoe (or their newly engineered more flexible/lightweight version).
I see a couple of pairs of saddle shoes thrown in the mix and, though most modern associations are with the 1950’s, the saddle shoe’s popularity boomed in the decades prior to the 1950’s, as well. Most saddle shoes I see today have a crepe sole, which isn’t my favorite for dancing, but Re-mix carries them with a leather sole. I’d consider giving this Restricted pair from ModCloth a whirl because they have leather interiors (for my sensitive feet), what appears to be a flat synthetic sole, and because the blue/brown color combo is awesome. Then I go and find this yellow and white Chelsea Crew pair…I need to stop while I’m ahead.
Finally, one dancer has some classic leather oxfords on, which previous discussions on my blog have covered everything from buying them used at thrift stores to getting your first pair of Aris Allens to splurging for a pair of Allen Edmonds (or finding them used on eBay).
To recap: classic dance shoes of your choosing, socks, comfy pants/skirt, signature tee shirt, optional undershirt/collar/scarf action. One might say this is not too far from what we are wearing on the dance floor today. Now, time to go practice the second half of the Big Apple that I never seem to remember….
Last year I wrote about the Venice Beach dress, the garment worn by dancer Genevieve Grazis in the famous Venice Beach Balboa clip that dancers around the world have dissected as dance source material. This dress came into the possession of dancer Jennifer Halsne, who has taken her role of custodian of this dress seriously and written a series of blog posts about the dress and has been working with California-based reproduction dress company Loco Lindo to recreate the dress for those of us dancers who would love to have a skirt with such twirling power.
I’ll let Jennifer’s blog post do the talking, but I wanted all of the Lindy Shopper readers to know that a skirt based on the dress is now available for purchase on the Loco Lindo website and that the dress reproduction is coming soon! Head over to Swing Sleuths to read (and see) more! #trumpetskirts4eva
I have been counting down the days until February 1 since Royal Vintage Shoes made its announcement that they were taking pre-orders for their spring line on said date and showed previews of some of the most delicious new reproduction 1930’s shoes I have seen in a while – a golf shoe in kelly green and white (BE STILL MY HEART, also in brown) and a two tone 1930’s sandal (in blue/white and red/white). However, neither of these shoes have leather soles, so my intent was to go about my merry way, purchase these as street shoes, and not blog about things I felt it might not be OK to dance in, since our focus is on function AND aesthetics. But you should go look at their entire spring line because it is all beautiful!
Then I went to visit Royal Vintage’s parent company, American Duchess, which produces shoes from time periods prior to the jazz age, because I love historic costumes and I like to see what is out there. To my surprise, as part of their spring line of Victorian shoes, there was a lovely little flat two tone oxford with a leather sole called the Eliza. The uppers are houndstooth wool and leather and come in shades of black and brown. These shoes look so soft and comfortable, which is not something you can always say just by looking at a shoe. So if you’re in the market for flats, you can use these for modern swing dancing or your 1830’s-1860’s ensembles.
Pre-orders last through the end of February with shoes expected in April!
This post was written by Lindy Shopper and Bobby White ofSwungover.
Every few years someone willpost looking for men’s dance shoe recommendations, people who are serious about dancing and want to hear from their peers and instructors about what shoes work for them. While women’s shoes are often specifically designated as dance shoes, as fewer and fewer women’s street shoes have leather soles, men have to navigate between classic men’s dress shoes and designated dance shoes to find their sole mate and this can get a bit tricky.
The request du jour is about finding suitable dance loafers. “But why specifically loafers?” You might be asking. “Why is THAT a Bal thing?” To answer this, we’re going to go back to 1936 when Bass first released their “Weejun” loafer (Based on Norwegian fisherman’s shoes, which were themselves based on Native American moccasins.) They added a strap across the top of the simple slip-on, and it was the first time the loafer as we know it came into being. They were soon nicknamed “penny loafers” because teenagers realized they could slip pennies in the holes of the loafer strap. Loafers became a huge fashion trend, becoming the casual shoe of many teenagers across America. (There are pictures of entire malt shops full of teenagers, all of them wearing loafers.)
Many readers probably realize that 1936 coincides with when swing music was beginning to sweep the nation. So, in California, in those years when Balboa and Bal-Swing began being danced by casual teenagers, the loafer was one of their dance shoes. Gene Kelly himself wore loafers and danced in them all the time as part of showing his casual, down-to-earth persona.
Though many of the teenagers probably danced in loafers for practicing, or casually dancing at the beach-side pavilions, you don’t see many in the old films. This was probably for two reasons. Loafers, as a casual slip-on, were too informal for dances where teenagers liked to/were required to dress up (and the dance scenes in the movies tend to take place in those ballrooms). Secondly, they were not the best for when Lindy Hop came to the California scene in the late 30’s, which was more high-powered dancing where the feet needed a lot of support, and shoes needed to stay on in extreme circumstances.
However, when the original dancers were dancing at the restaurant and bar Bobby McGee’s in their older years (their twice-a-month get together), loafers were a common shoe on the floor — and we have footage of Maxie Dorf, Willie Desatoff, Hal Takier, and some of the pure bal dancers in them, so it seemed most of them owned a pair. (Imagine the stereotypical old man in loafers — the Bal Old Timers were that generation.) Nick Williams said loafers were also an easy way to get the flexible kind of leather-soled shoes that Old Timers like Willie Desatoff desired in his students— but we’ll have more on that below.
So, loafers weren’t a huge thing, but just enough of a thing. And when the new generation of Bal Dancers in the late ’90s learned from the Old Timers, loafers became a sort of Balboa slang, which grew in the scene and has been passed down ever since. They’ve come to represent the casualness and smoothness of Balboa, as well as a tip of the hat to the old timers, even if the old timers were just old men who occasionally danced in their comfortable slip-ons. So that’s why loafers have a special place in the heart of the Bal scene.
As an aside, loafers went on to become the shoe of choice for another coastal group of dancers, Carolina Shag dancers, who also appreciate a casual and smooth shoe.
Now then, back to the present.
After a good bit of discussion ensued on Jeff Liu-Leyco‘s Facebook wall for the request to find a good pair of dancing loafers, Bobby White offered to collaborate with Lindy Shopper on a post – so here, you get the benefit of the discussion and firsthand knowledge from one of swing dancing’s sartorial heroes.
In the Facebook thread, swing dance instructorMickey Fortanasce recommended this classic pair of loafers, the Florsheim Dancer at $115. Given that Florsheim named these the “Dancer,” I think that bodes well.
Allen Edmonds is always a name that pops up in these discussions, and their now discontinued (but still available sometimes on eBay)Bergamano loafer came up.
But the holy grail of the loafers are the Nordstrom black tassel loafers and Bobby dropped the knowledge on everyone with the force of an eternal mic drop:
“Go to Ebay. Search for “Nordstrom Loafers Men Tassel [Black or Brown or Cream or just leave out a color] [your size].” Save this EBay search so that you will get notifications (possibly for the rest of your life — they can be hard to turn off). Eventually you will see loafers like this (below). There are many like them (some with netting/woven leather tops, likeDouglas Mathews rocks), some with pointy toes verses more square toes. Buy them. If you like tassels, keep them. If not, cut them off (like Nick Williams and I do). I present to you, the famous, the infamous, the eternal: the Nordstrom Loafer. The soles are one thin strip of leather, and minimal padding — which is why Willie liked shoes like these. You can really feel the floor in them (and, of course, your knees will too, if you pulse a lot). But that can easily be fixed with insoles, like Nick does (might need a half-size bigger in that case). They are tanks, and last a very long time. They are $200 shoes that will cost you $20-50 on eBay. They are seven-minute brownies in four minutes. Here endeth the lesson.”
THE TRUTH OF THE NORDSTROM LOAFER
In all honesty (Bobby speaking, here), the Nordstrom Loafers are fantastic, but they are not the only shoes out there like them. They just happen to fit the bill for the kind of loafer many of us Bal dancers like: Thin leather sole / classic loafer look / well-made so they will last a long time.
The Allen Edmond Bergamano is the same idea as the Nordstrom, and both Santiago and Johnston & Murphy have made leather-soled loafers that fit that bill that you might be able to grab on ebay. (The Johnson & Murphy ones are actually the ones Douglas Mathews rocks). If you get loafers like these and they don’t work well, you can almost always find a Bal dancer they will fit, so it’s not a big risk.
The other important take-away is that, if spending $100 + on a pair of new shoes is outside of your budget, thanks to Ebay, you can get an incredible pair of shoes for $15-$50 with a little bit of patience and an internet connection.
ONE-PLY VS. TWO-PLY
Also, you don’t HAVE to get thin leather soles. You might have very good reasons for wanting otherwise. In fact, the biggest question every dancer looking for a pair of leather-soled shoes should probably answer for themselves (after fit, and probably alongside aesthestics) is one-ply leather or two-ply?
Here’s what we mean:
Single Ply or One-ply sole means the sole is made of one strip of leather. This is more formally called a “Single leather sole” — “One-ply” is Bobby slang. Technically the thickness of that leather sole van vary slightly, but rarely enough to make a big difference. The common Aris Allen men’s cap toe is an example of a single-ply dance shoe with lots of cushioning.
Two-ply,or formally “double leather sole” or “double sole,” means two pieces of leather stacked on top of each other for the sole. Two-Ply soles were made for walking around outside (like on cobblestones), daily work, and keeping your feet warm from the cold ground. Because of this and their bulkier look, they are considered less-casual, though by modern standards the general public doesn’t care about that anymore and you shouldn’t worry about it too much — it’s more important you have comfortable shoes for your dancing style. The men’s Saint Savoy is an example of a double sole, as well as the Stacy Adams Madison. (There’s even a triple leather sole, but there’s probably very little need for that in dancing.)
Shoes like the Nordstorm loafer are one-ply and have minimal padding— you will feel the floor, and all the sensations of shuffling and sliding very clearly. The shoes will give you almost a barefoot sensation, cause the leather will move with the muscles of your feet on the floor.
However, because the swing dances are often athletic in nature, as well as involve some kind of pulsing, many of us choose to wear insoles with single-ply shoes, especially with the ones with minimalistic padding. You don’t have to, though — just know that you will have to dance very gently in them regarding your knees and feet. In single-ply shoes, you will smooth out your dancing (which is what the Old Timers wanted modern Bal dancers to do, anyway).
Shoes like the Florsheim Dancer Mickey prefers, or the now-defunct Bostonian leather-soled classic penny loafer (eBay!) are two-ply. You would choose these if you had a heavier pulse or more athletic dancing style in general (to cushion your knees and other joints), or, if you just liked the feeling of a heavier shoe and the weight it gives to your rhythmic experience, like swing dance instructor David Rehm enjoys.
There is no wrong answer, and you can plan your shoes based on the style of dancing you want to accentuate. If you can’t decide on one ply or two ply, you can try both with a little patience and an eBay account. You’ll be well on your way to being an old timer in no time and, as Bart Bartolo said, don’t forget to “keep it casual.”
Special thanks to Sylvia Sykes, Nick Williams, and David Rehm for their insight into the modern Bal history of the loafer!