I don’t know what is going on in the UK, but they are acing the vintage reproduction market in almost all ways. Enter Cousin Jack Menswear, adding to the ranks of promising vintage offerings and showing the practical side of looking good. For example, pictured on the main page of their website is a pair of trousers with a fishtail back, espousing that said trousers “can be worn for cycling, jogging, fishing, hop skotch [but not scotch? I’ll defer, LOL], or even turning up a new spindle for that staircase.” While I don’t believe anyone is going to run a 10K in these trousers, I do like the idea that if you needed to break into a trot to chase a pet or maybe spend a couple of hours swinging out, that you would be secure in the breathability and range of motion of said trousers.
The collection is set up to be mini-capsule wardrobes, which I like because of the practicality – it’s easy to pick a suit, maybe a couple of waistcoats and shirts, a pair of braces, and a sweater vest and mix and match all of these pieces to create different looks. If you’re feeling extra fancy, indulge in a pair of plus fours and coordinating socks (thank you for putting these together) or a classic pair of striped pajamas. From the website:
“The idea was to create a collection of heritage inspired ‘looks’ that would appeal to many men rather than one style that would only appeal to one group.”
While not local to me, I love their emphasis on sourcing and manufacturing locally: “We manufacture either on site or in specially selected factories in the EU – where we are confident of the essential ethical standards. Our fabrics are selected from quality EU or UK based suppliers such as Abraham Moons in Leeds and Brisbane Moss in Todmorden.”
Cousin Jack is a spinoff of The House of Foxy, one of my favorite current brands, so I would wager that the garments are high quality, which is my experience with the multiple HOF garments I own.
If anyone has experience with this brand, please feel free to chime in and leave a comment below!
This is a unique year for gift giving – what do you buy the Lindy Hopper in your life when there’s no (or almost no) Lindy Hop because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Maybe you’re hopeful that we’ll get back to this soon and that pair of dance shoes is still on your wishlist. Maybe you’ve taken up a new/old hobby and you want things for that. Maybe you’re in need of any sort of injection of joy in your life. Maybe you need to get your booty moving in 2021, with or without this pandemic. Whatever your desires, I present some swing-related suggestions that may bring you joy and, perhaps, help others and bring joy to the community:
In my experience, the pandemic has made people more accessible than ever before, with potentially more flexible/free time to spend teaching via Zoom or other digital platforms to connect. The sky (or perhaps time zones?) is the limit! How fun/funny would it be to wrap up a photo of an instructor or set of instructors and have someone open this package on Christmas Day? As someone who has received private lessons as gift before, I promise it is a welcome gift at any stage in your dancing. Also, to connect with someone…anyone…Bueller?
SWING DANCE SHOES
We aren’t wearing out our shoes, but maybe this will give you time to break them in at your house and avoid those first dance blisters, troubleshoot any insoles you may need, or just wear them because you feel good in them. Some dance shoes are also great street shoes; for those that aren’t, you’ve got more time to wear them around your house. Need some ideas? There’s a search by category function on this blog – select “shoes” – I’ve written a decade’s worth of blog posts about all (am I missing any??) the swing dance shoe brands you may patronize this holiday season.
This one is obviously near and dear to me in many respects. I am both a producer of music and an avid music collector. I usually have both going on at the same time! For those of us who aren’t able to dance with a partner during the pandemic, getting new music has been a lifeline, a way to keep things fresh, inspiring, and joyful. I like mixing things up, something old, something new – consider a Mosaic Records box set (because there was a time when this company was in danger of folding) with its impeccable liner notes (a book, really – check out eBay for out of print sets, too!) or dig into some modern swing bands who definitely could use some holiday music sales to brighten their season, as well. ILHC made it easy for me by compiling a list of modern swing bands, which provided all the music for Virtual ILHC 2020, and I believe it doubles handily as a holiday wishlist and beyond for adding new music to a loved one’s (or, let’s be real, your) music collection.
Go to Etsy and search for “Lindy Hop” and see what comes up – there’s a wealth of artists and craftspeople who are inspired by this dance and create wonderful gifts that are personalized to our niche hobby/lifestyle/obsession. I usually do this for my gift giving guide every year and pick out a handful of things to share and it’s one of my favorite things to blog about. Our community is so creative, we love this dance and the love comes through in both our movement and other creative endeavors, visual artists, and even face masks.
When I was in grad school I would always ask for Lindy Focus as my Christmas present. It was a lot of change to drop for someone subsisting on student loans and I never regretted that decision or felt like I was missing anything – if anything, the Lindy Focus FOMO would have been intense! There are some wonderful virtual events that have happened over the course of this pandemic, some of which have also doubled as fundraisers. Consider buying an event pass for your loved one, maybe watch it together, and as a bonus give a donation in someone’s name to an organization that is putting resources in the hands of people in our community who need it most.
Along those lines, you could literally buy a song for your favorite Lindy Hopper – the California Balboa Classic is funding recordings of brand new swing music as part of their event and efforts to keep musicians employed. You could have the gratitude of so many people and bring joy to others, while having your name associated with a song forever. Check out this great list of tunes – one of these could be a gift for an individual, or maybe your community can come together and sponsor a song, a gift to the event, the musicians, and some community togetherness and love.
Cheers and happy holidays – see you on the other side!
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 is uncanny how many swing dance shoe companies have popped up in the past 5 or so years, to the point that I apparently can’t keep up with them on this blog and I’ve fallen behind on sharing this information. With the search for the perfect dance shoes always in motion, let’s add some more options to the buffet, shall we? In no particular order…
I believe I found this brand on Instagram, maybe even one of those rare targeted ads they show that is actually relevant to my interests. I can gather from Facebook and Instagram that the company is based in Detroit, Michigan, that you place orders online, and they have four t-strap models in several colors that come with 3 heel height options, as low as 1 inch for dancers looking for a flatter shoe. Otherwise, I suppose you’ll have to email them for more information! Check out their Facebook and Instagram for a multitude of lovely photos and options and below is a primer on how to purchase/initiate contact.
COMFY DANCE SHOES
This is another Instagram find, @comfydance_shoes, featuring a boot and a t-strap dance shoe, available in some unique and versatile colors, all made in Mexico. I found even less information readily available, so hit that message button and send these dance shoe makers your questions if you find that these shoes strike your fancy.
ALL HEELS ON DUTY
All Heels on Duty is marketing to the WWII reenactment scene, but I know a solid-for-dancing heeled Oxford is on a lot of people’s wishlists since Dancestore stopped making their classic heeled oxfords. I haven’t purchased a pair, but as soon as I get another WWII themed gig, I’m going to need a brown pair and this company is a top contender – they appear to be faithful reproductions of 1940s service oxfords, with leather uppers and hard leather soles. Intriguing to me, the interiors are lined with sheepskin and are lightly padded, which would make these a welcome dance-friendly upgrade from some of my original 1940s oxfords. With a heel height of 1.5 inches, this is basically the perfect height for a weekly dance, moving equally between Balboa and Lindy Hop. Available in 6 colors (pictured below), all great neutrals. They also have the service pumps, but I find pumps difficult for dancing, so my focus here is on their oxfords.
If anyone has experience with any of the shoe brand in this blog post, feel from to share your feedback with us by leaving a comment below – cheers!
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!
I can’t imagine how much work goes into starting a dance shoe company, but add a pandemic layer of difficulty and it goes into the realm of incomprehensible. Applejacks‘ proprietor Jenna Applegarth and her regular teaching partner Jon Tigert have been having weekly live Facebook chats and, luckily, the day I was able to tune in Jenna had an update on her line of shoes. Two important updates:
1) The Greenwood is finally here! The prototype has been photographed and passed around, salivated over, and loved in advance as Jenna worked on launching this shoe for what seemed like an eternity, but quality is paramount and I trusted that Jenna would bring us this shoe when it was ready for dancer consumption. It’s one of those shoes that has wide appeal – low heel for comfort, t-straps for security, darling cutouts, and cheerful two-tone colors (pink/burgundy, teal/hot pink,yellow/royal blue). Note that the Greenwood is named for the thriving black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was the epicenter of the Tulsa race riots (made known to contemporary pop culture in the incredible Watchmen series on HBO – highly recommended).
2) The Eldorado is a dance boot based on a pair of boots Jon owns (owned? danced to extinction?) – how incredible to fall in love with a shoe and be able to replicate it after it is no longer available? It really is a dream and I’m eager to hear reviews of the Eldorado, as it looks solid, comfortable, a shoe you can really live in. Available in brown, burgundy, and dark blue.
I believe Jenna discussed this in the Facebook live session, but all of these shoes are intended to double as street shoes, which is what the original Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers did – they wore their street shoes for dancing. Obviously, you can save your shoes and they will last longer, but if you really love the comfort and look, what are you saving them for? I’ve been wearing my Re-mix shoes as street shoes for years and, unless you’re coming out of the rain, it all works out in the end. With dancing pretty far on the horizon for those of us who don’t have a dance partner in our household/safe circle, it helps to know that you can enjoy these shoes now and not be sad about saving them for a future dance event. Missing all of you terribly!
Every so often a company reaches out to me for a product review and it’s usually not a good fit for my blog, but when I saw JJ Suspenders pop up in my inbox I was intrigued. Then I went to the website and there were loads of lovely braces and I thought, “Is this a mistake? Or is this marketing?”
As a lurker in several menswear groups on Facebook, the distinction between braces and suspenders was a critical one, it meant needing buttons sewn in your trousers versus simply clipping them on; it also meant a level are sartorial in-the-know-ness (you may call it snobbery) about the type of person who wears one over the other. While I prefer a set of braces because I’ve watched my husband struggle with his clip-ons for tuxedo gigs (both to put them on and have them stay on) and I’m particular enough to want that added level of security/not wanting a hassle, I know that the thought of sewing buttons into one’s trousers (or paying someone to do it), for some, is like that extra thing that’s not worth someone’s time, effort, and resources. I understand that not everyone shares my priority for absolute security in trousers being held up by elastic straps. I’m not at the level of wearing both braces and a belt, though, so I’m still within reason.
BUT I DIGRESS, back to the lovely package that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago. JJ Suspenders was very patient with me, because I already owned most of the colors I wanted and they were out of the burgundy, they waited until they got some more burgundy pairs in stock, notified me, and shipped me the pair. As I opened the box, I was confused again – there were both clips AND leather attachments on the ends of the straps. First thought, surely no one is THIS paranoid (takes a breath, looks closer); second thought, this is genius, they are delivering both so that you can choose and simply remove the type of trouser attachment you don’t want at the moment, with the option to reattach if/when you do, via a sturdy snap. This means they can be worn with all of your trousers, at any time.
The packaging and extras are all so thoughtful – a small sewing kit with buttons (perhaps to immediately encourage non-sewers to pull up a YouTube video on how to accomplish the sewing of braces buttons onto trousers – the question of where do the buttons come from seems to be novel to my husband, so I’m glad they’ve eliminated this hurdle); two extra sets of suspender clips; and a lovely canvas bag to put it all in.
While I usually prefer a wider elastic, I opted for the narrower braces this go around and was pleasantly surprised at their sturdiness and quality. The attachments are leather and the snaps sturdy. I wore these all day with great comfort and would say these are a win for me. I look forward to wearing them more this fall when I have more fall colored clothing items to coordinate.
The website has a large selection – from leather in seven colors to solids, stripes, tweeds, and a few patterns, I believe this to be a great resource for people who may be embarking on their first pair of suspenders/braces and for seasoned braces veterans. The prices are on par with quality braces makers, like Trafalgar. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure I know of another quality brand of braces maker – and the lack of quality options was the impetus for JJ Suspenders coming into existence. From their website:
“It started in 2014 when founders Jackson and Josh were shopping for suspenders to wear at a friend’s wedding and after visiting dozens of shops all they could find were a handful of generic, outdated and overpriced suspenders. When looking for alternatives online, they quickly found that about 90% of the suspenders on the market were low quality and mass-produced by the same factory. The only suspenders that met Jackson and Josh’s quality standards were from a very old company in England. But with this came high shipping costs, outdated designs, and poor customer service.”
My communications with JJ Suspenders have been exemplary – my contact, Misha Inglis, has been professional, courteous, and friendly and I am delighted that they found me and reached out to me out of the blue. It is clear they are striving for quality and I appreciate and applaud their mission to provide quality braces and suspenders – both, actually, at the same time.
P.S. Yes, that is my 1964 Vespa 90 kitted to a 129 cc engine. I’ve enjoyed riding it more during the pandemic, since other hobbies have been on the back burner.
We are living in historic times and I want to make it clear that black lives matter – I have been posting on my other platforms, but then I remembered that I also have this blog, so I would be remiss if I did not make it abundantly clear that I support racial justice and dismantling systematic racism, across all of my platforms of speech. A blog about swing dance clothing, shoes, and other things swing dancers may be interested in purchasing doesn’t seem like a likely candidate for addressing any sort of critical issues, but many people have written about how important what we wear is (historically and now) and how we spend our money affects perceptions and economics.
I was reminded this week of the Harlem Candle Company by dancer Lindsay Kelly, who posted her cocktail in a glass imprinted with E. Simms Campbell’s iconic 1932 nightclub map of Harlem (as some of you may know about #quarantini consumption throughout the pandemic). I thought, how lovely, because you can enjoy the candle, then you can enjoy the glass, so you’ve doubled your enjoyment of this lovely gold embossed vessel featuring the Home of Happy Feet and so many other iconic locations within this map that were integral to this dance and this music that we love.
The company, owned by Teri Johnson, a woman with a resume that makes you want to pack your bags and go on a travel adventure with her, is based in New York and the candles are “inspired by the richness of Harlem…like music, the top, middle, and base notes of each Harlem candle tells a story while taking you on an olfactory journey through time and place. Drawing on inspiration from legends like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, the subtle scents and soft glows from Harlem candles instantly enhance your space while creating a sense of comfort and luxury.” I love that Teri draws inspiration for the scents from the very things that inspire us to dance.
I can’t help but think of one of Dawn Hampton’s signatures quotes – “the light is on” – and all sorts of things that came to mind when writing about candles involving light, the black lives matter movement, and supporting black artists and businesses. I’ll spare you my soup of thoughts at the moment, but take inspiration where you may right now – we have a lot of work to do.
We’re back to the written posts, because – even as the pandemic rolls on – clothing companies who have been planning for months, perhaps even years, on certain garments can continue to release those garments for consumption. While we may not return to dancing for a while, summer approaches, style beckons as the world slowly begins to open up, and there’s no reason to know throw on something easy AND stylish. I’m still investing in quality pieces made by small companies producing clothing I want to wear for dancing that I also can wear to work – dancing may be a further down the road dream, but my essential job is now. I am also feeling less sad when I dress up, even a little.
I’ve written about Vecona Vintage before and I’m happy to see them continuing to produce lovely reproduction garments, particularly in the menswear department. Their 1940’s Loop Collar Shirt caught my eye because it’s one of those pieces that works for so many occasions – translates well to vintage and modern casual, can be worn alone with trousers or with a suit to dress it up, and the vintage shirts are usually made in wonderful, buttery materials.
Vecona knows its audience and has designed this shirt with heat in mind. Their description cites racing in Utah and recommends pairing with linen trousers, then they start describing the fabric: “Made from botanic cellulose Tencel is a sustainable and breathable material. It provides a very good moisture transport and thermal regulation. The material has a smooth hand with a nice drape. The fabric is crease resistant and soft to the skin, it prevents bacteria growth and thus offers a completely natural and anti-allergenic hygiene. A life cycle analysis proves Tencel’s environmental friendliness compared to cotton. Learn more about the material at https://www.tencel.com/sustainability.”
These are more than just words – Vecona has put together a dream of a shirt, designed with sweat (re: dancers) in mind. Crease resistant, even! Available in green, blue, and sand, I’m loving this new shirt.
Time often gets away from me, so I must apologize for not writing about Saf Shoes when I first heard about them a while ago. However, I see that their reputation grew and there’s a shiny new website now where you can view and purchase these dance shoes, so the order in the universe remains such that a good dance shoe is a good dance shoe and news of it will travel fast.
Vancouver dancer Jacky Li is the mastermind behind Saf Shoes, who shares his journey to shoes as follows: “As a long time dancers – we are talking over 10 years partner dancing, here – Jacky has put his time in on the dance floor. He knows how dancing affects the body and selfishly wanted to design a shoe that could let him dance all night without pain. It’s a crazy idea, especially because we know how hard ya’ll dance. The thing is, at saf shoes, we want to dance well into our 90s, and that means taking care of our bodies. Part of taking care of your body is finding a dance shoe that supports it.”
Right now Saf Shoes offers three styles of oxfords in 2-3 colorways, all with varitions on oxford detailing and Saf’s signature diagonal cap toe. The Shadow and Light collection plays with tone on tone textures in white and black (currently out of stock due to pandemic-related leather shortage); the Made to Measure collection plays with multiple colors and the shoes are customized to your feet (available in leather sole and tap shoe options); and the Intelligence is Sexy collection takes the classic oxford for a spin into easy-to-work-with colors with a fun twist and standardized sizing. Check out their Facebook page for more photos and celebrity endorsement by the Arntzen brothers.
If you’ve ever been to I Heart Bal or if you know Richmond-based instructor Erica Vess, you know what an incredible artist she is and how she is able to hone in on the most adorable and instantly relatable ideas and translate them into marketing and merchandise for her event. I have only been to half of the I Heart Bal events, but I buy merchandise every year because I want it, it’s so good. I was delighted to see a one-off design this morning from Erica in my Facebook feed, featuring a punk rock kitty with punk rock font saying SWING MEOWT. This appeals to every fiber of my being.
From Erica on Facebook: “You can support our studio during the shutdown with this sweet merch I just dropped into our fundraising store. Bonus: you’ll also be supporting another local small business, Itty Bitty Press, who has lost tons of orders during this time.”
HERE FOR THIS SWEET MERCH, ERICA. TAKE MY WALLET. 😉
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.
Maybe you haven’t met Kendra Dandy at a swing dance event, maybe you’ve seen her – she likes to dance near the band and has mad solo jazz skills, is usually carrying a fan emblazoned with the word SHADE and has loads of style to match. I watched her from the stage at a few events and figured that she must be the coolest person in the room. When she accepted my friend request and I began seeing her posts in my feed, that suspicion was confirmed – she’s got the sharpest memes, excellent taste in cocktails, and is an incredible graphic designer who has teamed up with companies like Vans, Anthropologie, Estee Lauder, Coach, and companies selling products in Australia and South Korea that my grabby little American hands can’t reach.
This week the California Balboa Classic made the announcement that is has teamed up with Kendra for a very special project – from Cal Bal’s Facebook post:
“The community of dancers who come to CalBal represent an incredible range of talents from fiction authors, to medical professionals, to mechanical engineers. One of those people is Kendra Dandy . Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve probably seen her at a swing dance event, and it turns out that Kendra is a successful illustrator and designer with a career designing surfaces for international brands and her own shop at https://theebouffants.com/.
We want CalBal to be a showcase for talent in the Balboa community, and we love her work, so we asked Kendra if she would be willing to design something for CalBal2020. And she agreed!
We will have other merchandise, too, but the CalBal2020 scarf is an opportunity to take home a unique work of art to remind you of your time at CalBal2020.”
I was excited to see this partnership, as I love supporting visual artists in our community, and I also love the addition of this luxe merchandise item that is still practical within our community. A silk kerchief could be tied around the neck, worn in the hair, or worn as a pocket square; that 32 inch scarf opens up even more options, perhaps a belt or head wrap (to cover a wet set or not). Maybe you blot your sweat with silk kerchiefs, no judgment here!
This product release coincides with my very first Cal Bal, I’ll be attending as a DJ in 2020 – looking forward to that California vibe Kendra depicted in her scarf design, warmth, sun, palm trees, dancing shoes, and some cocktails!
As we embark on this rather abbreviated holiday season, we have even less time to get our act together and buy thoughtful gifts for the swing dancers in our lives. Here are some tidbits and links that may help you out, but also, gift cards for retailers that sell dance shoes are always at the top of my want list! I’m highlighting visual artists this year because there is so much fun art being created, inspired by our dance art.
As I clicked purchase on my third Daniel bag by ItalicHome, I thought to myself, “Maybe others would want to know about this bag?” At first glance, perhaps there’s nothing remarkable about this bag, other than it meets all of the criteria for a certain type of travel bag. Then I remembered all of you reading this blog, with similar needs and interests, so it’s high time ItalicHome got a post.
Let’s go back to 2015 – I had been attending the Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York for a few years at this point and was struggling with some of the logistics of attending an event that is both city and country at the same time. A good portion of this is dust management. After trashing a pair of Re-mix shoes in the mud in a previous year, I learned quickly not to wear nice shoes; likewise, to wear flats and washable garments because each at at JALP was a long, sweaty, dirty day of dancing and picnicking on the ground. I needed a bag that was also washable, durable, that could carry my necessities (wallet, phone, food for the day, a water bottle, extra pair of shoes, etc), and that looked like it would fit in with my 1920’s clothing. Vintage bag searches gave me the idea to look for canvas bags, and an Etsy search came up with ItalicHome’s page and the Daniel bag.
The original Daniel bag is made of cotton canvas, grommets, rope, paraffin and beeswax (the latter two optional) – very simple, no crazy modern zippers, and the more I read about it, the more I thought it would fit the bill. I messaged the shop owner, Colin Evan Pritchett, about the conditions under which I would be using the bag and we decided to go with un-waxed canvas, lest the wax melt all over a picnic blanket on a hot summer’s day.
Having a backpack was perfect for me, as I have struggled with back problems for the past decade and this was lightweight and evenly distributed the weight. I could roll it down to be small and stick it in my suitcase or my carry-on. It didn’t take up much space on the metro. When I arrived, I could throw it on the ground and not worry about it getting dirty, as I selected the caramel color and knew that the dirt would wash out easily. The bag is lined, so with a double layer of fabric, the contents did not get dirty. I sweated on the rope, which is a very soft rope to the touch, and it was OK. When I got home, it washed easily in my washer on the delicates setting with only minor shrinkage, and I folded it up for the next adventure.
It was such a success that I thought about getting another bag in a different color immediately following my return from JALP – ItalicHome tends toward neutrals and I really wanted something in green. Within a month I found a green canvas with rainbow arrows print that I fell in love with and messaged Colin about doing a custom bag in the arrow canvas. He was wonderful to work with and delivered his signature bag in a color scheme that goes with most of my wardrobe.
If you’ve seen me at an event in the last few years, you’ve probably seen this arrow bag. When I fly, I travel with a book bag and either a SkyRoll or Away suitcase – logistically, a purse doesn’t really fit into this scheme for me and I don’t always want to carry my book bag (which is a Girl Scout’s trove of air travel “just in case” items) to every destination in between flights on my gig travel. The Daniel bag fills that purse gap, but, again, is big enough for a change of shoes and a water bottle, in addition to my purse contents. Maybe you have bigger feet than me and this is the perfect heavy duty shoe bag.
The Daniel bag (and many other ItalicHome products) come in caramel, navy, black, gray, burgundy, natural and moss green. You can mix things up a bit, and select the top of the bag to be any of these colors and have a two-tone bag. You can select either natural or black rope. Or you can pull a Lindy Shopper and work out a custom order in a canvas print that you source and send to Colin.
Is it just a drawstring back pack? Maybe. But it’s exactly the draw string back pack I needed.