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.
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In many ways I am still recovering from Lindy Focus 2015, the swing village that camps out at the Crowne Plaza in Asheville, with all manner of dancing and services that pop up to cater to a population that would prefer not to leave the hotel, lest they miss too much dancing, live music, performances, and classes. To help with our self-containment of joy, 2015 saw service providers such as massage therapists, shoe repair, tailors, the Jack and Jill Salon for hair cuts and styles, a caricature artist in the lobby, and two hotel room pop-up restaurants (Midnight Di-Noshery and Taco Focus) to serve food after the main dance that were, after two nights, axed by the hotel administration and replaced with food trucks, arranged by Lindy Focus to fill the void and the empty bellies of the masses.
There were retail vendors, as well! Let’s start with the Savoy Shop, a mix of consigned clothing from campers, vintage and thrifted duds with dancers in mind, and the home of the shoe repair service at Lindy Focus. Michelle Morrison has run the shop for the past several years and has this down to a science. I love seeing things in the Savoy Shop one day, then seeing them on the dance floor the next! I even spotted one of my own consigned dresses in the crowd one night and it made my heart soar to know it had found a wonderful new home. Of particular note this year, the Savoy Shop offered the largest selection of tie clips I have ever seen in one place – surely something for everyone!
Dance instructor and artist Ryan Calloway was on hand this year, not only throwing down in the Superheroes of Swing finals, but also selling his wonderful jazz dance and music prints, offering giant, colorful books of his prints to flip through while you chat with the artist himself. Rather than having to worry about crushing your brand new artwork on the flight home, Ryan offered to ship the prints you purchase for free to your home starting on December 28 and ran the special through January 4 in case you decided you wanted a print after all. If you missed out on decorating your walls with his signature style, you can order his glorious prints online from his Etsy page.
I’m going to give a shoutout to Forties Forward, making another appearance on this blog as my most prolific vendor – perhaps it’s because we are both from the Southeast and travel to the same events, or perhaps it’s because they have a great product and the get-up-and-go to make it to some of the best events in the USA. I imagine they do a great business at Lindy Focus, particularly around New Year’s Eve, for the perfect fishing touch to an ensemble. This year feathers were a trend at Lindy Focus and they offered some great feather options with sparkly jewels as the attachment piece, in addition to their signature blooms.
Revive Fashions made, I believe, its debut this year at Lindy Focus, with the crafty Zoe Lechucita creating “custom made hair pieces, feather corsages, and tie pins” on site, while you wait or while you dance and come back to check on it later. 🙂 It was so great to see Zoe picking up the custom torch from Sharon Crawford, ensuring that you can have something custom made to match your ensemble for New Year’s Eve.
Another newcomer to the vendor program this year was Juniper Jewelry Designs, the work of Maddie FitzGerald, who was interviewed this year for the Lindy Focus blog about her jewelry designs, so I’ll direct you to the blog post for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Maddie and her jewelry. Maddie’s sense of humor is evident in her notes left on the vendor table (see photo at left) and her collection is serious, with an extensive line of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, small and large, simple and intricate, a little something for everyone (as I like it!). You can check out her work on her Etsy page, which is really only a small sampling of the large display she had at Lindy Focus.
Last, but certainly not least, I was so happy to see Dancestore.com return to Lindy Focus, thanks to the efforts of Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom). At any event there are shoe casualties, and Lindy Focus is, perhaps, well-equipped to deal with some repairs, but sometimes there are catastrophic shoe failures that only a new pair will fix and you only have so much room in your suitcase. At an event with 1,000+ dancers, it is critical to have a vendor like Dancestore.com present and on site, not just to fulfill wishlists and fill out shoe basics, but to turn a tragedy into a happy ending!
I’m also going to insert a shameless plug for Beastly Beauties, who was not a vendor this year at Lindy Focus, but who made my feathered headdress that I wore on Ellington night – I am in awe of and eternally grateful for the efforts of this wonderful Raleigh-based designer.
And there you have it! I hope I have not missed anyone, as I didn’t have as much time this year to shop and hobnob with all the sellers. If I have missed anything, please let me know and I will amend this post. Happy hopping and shopping, everyone!
I attended the first ever Southeast Summer Brawl two weekends ago, a weekend of competitions for the Southeast held in Columbia, SC. Having never been to Columbia, I was curious to know about vintage shopping there, as the South is notoriously bad for having vintage clothing (poor, rural us, right?), but then Columbia is the capital and just maybe there was something – organizer Nathan Clinebelle tipped me off to two places, a vintage clothing and costume shop called Hip Wa Zee and the Gentleman’s Closet, a store that sells consignment menswear and some new items. My companions for this outing were Winston-Salem dancer Anna Bryant and my ABW shopping companion and newly outfitted Skyler Hinkel.
Hip Wa Zee proved to be a successful outing – the front of the store is a mix of vintage clothing and reproduction clothing and the back of the store is entirely rental clothing and costumes. The store was cheery and organized and, while it lacked a large section of swing-era vintage clothing, the offerings it did have were swell. Definitely a good place to stop in if you are going through or stopping in to visit Columbia! I particularly enjoyed the selection of beautiful slips in an array of colors, as well as a gorgeous rayon print suit with a floating overskirt/long peplum and puffed sleeves. Anna left with two gorgeous slips, Skyler with two ties, and I with a 50’s sundress and matching bolero, as well as a late 30’s tie. We also ran into Clemson, SC dancer Ben White, who left with a sweet vintage sweater vest.
Gentleman’s Closet was a consignment store full of menswear basics – shirts, suits, slacks, socks (new, not used), braces, belts, ties, shoes, just about everything you’d need to put together a wardrobe. They also had the largest selection of seersucker suit colors I had ever seen (all new suits, pristine, in plastic dry cleaning bags), which I understand were in stock for Carolina Cup, a horse race held in Camden, SC – purple, yellow, orange, colors I have never seen made into a suit and I LIVE IN THE SOUTH. We found Skyler a pair of brown oxford street shoes to go with his ABW clothes and newly acquired three piece navy pinstripe suit – can’t wear those Remix oxfords out in the street!
Enjoy the photos and be sure to stop in Columbia if you are in the South – these two stores are also in a very hip area of town, with fun restaurants and delicious coffee!
I’ve written about costuming for team performance before, and I’ll reiterate that it’s no small task. Everyone has different body types, comfort levels, colors that work with their hair, etc. To add to the difficulty, perhaps a theme is integrated, and then we have this vintage dance form that we have adopted and it’s hard to find those more accurately vintage-inspired duds to compliment the music. Those who are successful in costuming a team have achieved a great feat, indeed.
I was delighted to see my friend Hannah MacKenzie-Margulies tagged on Facebook wearing an adorable vintage-inspired dance costume, along with the three other ladies – Rachael Ries, Mallory Teresina Freed, and Leah Bazzano – that make up the Portland Rhythm Shakers, a Portland-based 1920’s and 30’s dance troupe. The costume has everything I would want for a vintage chorus girl – a puff sleeve, an asymmetrical neckline (for enhanced visual effect in quadruplicate), a short and sassy skirt (to draw attention to footwork and legwork, plus twirl), and sparkles ALL OVER IT. Very Busby Berkeley and a nod to Killer Diller.
The costumes are from a dance costume company, Art Stone, which reminds me that not all of our clothing sources will come from streetwear – their jazz and tap costume catalog looked very promising, a great jumping off point for ideas for a routine. This costume is also a good jumping off point for the Portland Rhythm Shakers – they could use this costume for a lot of different routines, mixing in different head pieces, shoes and shoe accents, pin an applique to the shoulder, add a trim to the skirt, etc. to create different visual effects and themes using the same base costume.
Check out the costumes and the Portland Rhythm Shakers in action, they recently performed a routine to Glenn Crytzer‘s “Harlem Mad” at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon:
Still basking in the afterglow of All Balboa Weekend, the Balboa Mecca that occurs every year in Cleveland, Ohio. It is a hub for so many things I love – good dancing, good music, good vintage shopping, good company, and good cupcakes. I left with a full heart and a shopping bag full of goodies – it was like Christmas!
My first stop in Cleveland, per usual, was Sweet Lorain, the vintage department store where I seem to have the most luck finding things in my size. I was greeted at the door by the owner, Redwin Lewis, who remembered me from years past (and possibly phone orders – yes, you can call them back if you decide later that you really want/need something you saw, even 6 months later the item may still be there!) and we chatted about high school reunions and all the films (THE film being Captain America) shopping at his store. I was on a mission for a full slip with some sweet details and Sweet Lorain did not disappoint, with two full racks to choose from.
On a personal note, I was ecstatic to find a red plastic beverage pitcher at Sweet Lorain, perhaps circa 40’s/50’s, that I have been seeking for the past decade or so – when I was in undergrad I picked up a plastic yellow pitcher from Target that looked vintage, with some sweet Deco detail on it. I probably paid less than $10 for it. My dad saw it in my apartment and was immediately drawn to it, asking where I got it, and how much it cost. I told him that I had purchased it at Target several months ago and that it was out of stock. He was crestfallen – my grandmother had owned one during his childhood and he had always thought it was a great design, with a lid that opens when you tilt it and closes when it’s upright. Flash forward to ABW 2013, I was chatting with Redwin in the housewares section and my eye caught a flash of red in that distinct shape. It was the pitcher! I text messaged my dad a photo of it and he confirmed that he wanted it. Done! I look forward to “reuniting” my dad with his childhood pitcher this coming weekend. 🙂
My next stop was Chelsea Costumes, which I had somehow managed to miss on all prior visits to Cleveland. The sheer volume of square footage packed literally floor to ceiling was overwhelming in a way that only a disorganized Goodwill warehouse of great magnitude could rival. The racks were three tiers high, with the top two racks reachable by rolling staircases located on each aisle. Adding to the library feel of the place, the ends of the racks were labeled by decade range. I searched in vain for the early vintage clothing and had to ask where it was located – at the end of one of the 1950’s racks was a single rack with 1940’s clothing. I found a couple of items I liked, but they had fatal flaws (fading, shredding, etc.). I’d say it’s definitely worth a look, especially if you are into later decades, and it’s an absolute must if you are looking for menswear – I saw just about every size, shape, color, item, and a range of seasonal weights, with a massive selection. You do have to be a digger to make this worthwhile, but the prices are good and worth the dig.
Back at the hotel, ABW had an array of vendors, some new, some old, that filled up the hallway in front of the ballroom. The first vendor was The Cleveland Shop, with an array of clothing and accessories for men and women. Favorites included some divine shoes, a burgundy silk 1930’s gown, and every dress that went on the mannequin and immediately sold.
Next up was the ABW merchandise, which featured some cool shirts with stripes, a henley, and a girly slouchy tee with cool sleeve detail. This year also saw the return of the ABW shoe bag – I do love a shoe bag!
Moving down the hallway, the next vendor was the ever-popular Re-mix Vintage Shoes, with owner Philip Heath on hand to help all the men and women eager to try on their shoes. This year, they took advance requests from people for specific shoes and sizes, so if you wanted a guaranteed shot at trying on a certain pair in your size, you got that chance. I took advantage of this for my husband, who is sort of between sizes and needed another pair of oxfords. It also resulted in Re-mix bringing a number of pairs of wedges, which have never made it out to ABW, since we mostly dance “the Balboa” in heels. 😉
Bettie Page Clothing made its debut as a vendor this year, spearheaded by the lovely Shannon Butler, who is now the manager of the Bettie Page store at the Mall of America in Minnepolis, MN. Shannon brought another innovative way to make sure everyone got to try on the clothing and get the sizes they need – she kept a stock of the dresses, shirts, and skirts she brought as try-ons and once you decided what you wanted, she called the Mall of America store, placed your order, and it was shipped to you (sometimes that day!) free of charge. In addition to all the adorable clothing, she brought these great adjustable belts that are the perfect dress belt, for when that vintage dress comes without a belt or maybe you lost the belt or want to add a belt…regardless, good, skinny dress belts are hard to come by and these babies are only $10 and come in several handy colors.
Flower Child took up about half the hallway, with a wonderful display that moved from housewares and accessories, to jewelry, to several large racks of clothing at the end of the hall. Because Flower Child is made up of several vendors, there were a range of prices in the shop, and they definitely had the larges selection. Favorites included a 1940’s gold bathing suit, rayon Asian print pajamas, and an adorable dress with strawberry ribbon trim that came home with me.
Finally, Dancestore.com made an appearance with most of their line of shoes. I liked that they had a set of “try-on” pairs that you could put on and take for a spin during one dance. It helps you decide, cuts down on wear and tear of new pairs, and also gives you an idea of how they will feel once they are broken in. Great idea!
This year was probably the best year for vendors yet – many of the vendors are veterans at this point, they know their audience, and they only bring the best stuff as it pertains to swing dancers. I am elated that they continue to come out, year after year.
After finding this gorgeous dress on eBay, I was inspired to post about cheongsam (plural cheongsams?). I have loved these sexy Asian dresses since I saw the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a kid. Also known as “qipao” in Mandarin, the cheongsam has a long history that overlaps with the jazz age and swing era.
According to Wikipedia, the original qipao was wide and loose, and meant to cover a woman’s shape, but “the modern version, which is now recognized popularly in China as the “standard” qipao, was first developed in Shanghai in the 1920s, partly under the influence of Beijing styles. People eagerly sought a more modernized style of dress and transformed the old qipao to suit their tastes…it was high-class courtesans and celebrities in the city that would make these redesigned tight fitting qipao popular at that time. In Shanghai it was first known as zansae or “long dress” (長衫 – Mandarin Chinese: chángshān, Shanghainese: zansae, Cantonese: chèuhngsāam), and it is this name that survives in English as the “cheongsam”…as Western fashions changed, the basic cheongsam design changed too, introducing high-necked sleeveless dresses, bell-like sleeves, and the black lace frothing at the hem of a ball gown. By the 1940s, cheongsam came in a wide variety of fabrics with an equal variety of accessories.”
Case in point, the amazing 1940’s cheongsam pictured at above/right, with a gorgeous silk pattern, double piped seam along the neck with fantastic toggles going all the way down the side of the dress. While the trend originated in China, this dress was made in Japan. I also see that the bust/waist/hip ratio on this dress is a little more forgiving than the versions sold today, which leave little room in the hips. Someone buy this dress because you will look so elegant in it!
If you’d like a new cheongsam, there are multitudes of them on eBay and other internet retail sites, some as cheap as $10.00. When I had to come up with an inexpensive costume for The Carolina Fascinators, I remembered that I’d been wanting one of these dresses and how they came in an array of colors, sizes, and prices on eBay. These dresses are not made of silk, obviously, but if we are going to sweat in them, perhaps a cheap dress isn’t such a bad idea. These dresses are visually stunning, in great colors and prints, and come in a variety of styles (sleeves, sleeveless, knee length, calve length, halter, etc.).
There are a few drawbacks that we discovered – they are cheaply made and we had to sew the snaps back on, reinforce the toggles, and if you don’t get the right size you may split a seam while dancing. Those slits are there so you can move, because this is supposed to be a form fitting dress. The cut on these dresses was not conducive to any of our shapes – narrow hips meant ordering a size that fit the hips and all of us had to have them tailored to take them in at the waist, or bust, or both. However, it was worth the tailoring and mending because the dresses looked amazing in the end.
Also, don’t get hung up on the size labels. This girl needed an XXL for the hips. Those of you that know me know that the booty is not THAT big. Buy the size you need, based on the size charts provided.
I’ll leave you with a video clip of my initial inspiration. As an FYI, if you want Kate Capshaw’s sequin cheongsam, Sequin Queen will make you one for $250.00. 😉