Category Archives: Ladies

All Balboa Weekend 2018 Vendor Report

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My favorite purchase of the weekend, from Flower Child – HAZ DIPSY DOODLE

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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.

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Dog fashion at All Balboa Weekend

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.

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Beauty in geometry from De Fils en Perles

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.

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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!

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I love a baseball tee!

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New styles and new silhouette for the ABW merch.

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The namesake shoe in a bevy of colors – by Re-mix

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Glorious brogues, by Re-mix

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So many lovely things to put on your feet…

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Victor’s smiling face awaits to guide you to your bespoke dreams

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A little menswear, a little hot jazz and swing at the Established Sartorial table

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Gorgeous cuffs by De Files en Perles

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Maybe you need a little rainbow butterfly in your life?

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Rings, such tiny details!

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Some Dancestore shoe classics, including a tiny pair of women’s white oxfords in the back

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Sometimes shoes don’t have to be new to be fabulous – find yourself a pair at Laurie Gilkenson’s booth

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Any angle of ChatterBlossom’s table is gorgeous

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ChatterBlossom headbands of loveliness

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Men’s accessories display at Flower Child

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A flower child vignette

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Perhaps the original inspiration for Trashy Diva’s Hollywood style dress/gown – at Flower Child

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The queen of all the peasant blouses at Flower Child, with the tiniest, most detailed embroidery

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I died a little when this didn’t fit

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A perfect brown and white houndstooth jacket.

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Because everyone needs a white dinner jacket

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Gorgeous two tone late 30’s gown with everything I love – puffed sleeves, matching belt, and flowers that can be worn on the dress or in your hair

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A couple of those wonderful blouses I mentioned

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Until next year…

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Spring 2018 Digest

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

As life becomes ever more complicated and my work obligations balloon all around, I am sad that I haven’t had more time to post here, but there ARE some new things, so rather than doing a comprehensive post, I will post some new developments here as teasers and encourage you to do your own research into what appear to be interesting new products and some updates on things/companies I have reported about in the past:

SJC – I know, I’m a broken record, but he’s just released new summer weight trousers (newer pants at the top) and a white summer dress shirt made from a special breathable fabric.

Hepcats – a new women’s dance shoe company has popped up, courtesy of Polish dancer Bogna Jabłońska, thanks to Jenna Applegarth for the tip!  Check out their Instagram for lovely things to come.

Trashy Diva – my obsession continues and they plan to release a New Orleans/Preservation Hall/jazz-themed print in the impending future.  Watch their Facebook page or Instagram for updates about the release.

Emmy and House of Foxy – killing it with the reproduction beach pajamas.

Loco Lindo – waiting with bated breath for the Venice Beach dress to be released (VB skirt already available on the LL website), here’s a preview.  Release mid-late May –  watch the Swing Sleuths blog for updates.

Cheers!

Pictured left: Venice Beach dress recreated by Loco Lindo

Pictured right – SJC summer dress shirt

 

What’s Old Is New: Keep Punching

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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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:

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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.

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SJC spearpoint in check

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.

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Heyday’s A-line skirt

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).

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OHAI PRETTY SHUEZ

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.

One of the dancers wears a pair of low heeled sandals with an ankle strap, akin to Saint Savoy’s Eden shoe or Chelsea Crew’s Nadia sandal – she’s also sporting them with some ankle socks, which may be part fashion-forward, part blister/sweat management.

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….

 

 

 

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Venice Beach Skirt Reproduction

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Jitterbugging on Venice Beach, 1938

The white dress in the center, coming soon…

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

What’s Old is New: Hot Chocolate (Cottontail)

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in the soundie “Hot Chocolate (Cottontail)”

A lot of black Lindy Hoppers are speaking right now and a lot of us are listening, but I know a lot of us also want to take action to help.  I have been looking for more ways to be an ally and to use my voice to help make our community more inclusive to black dancers.  Lindy Shopper is my most public voice, but this is a fashion blog – I wasn’t sure how I could help writing about clothing and shoes.

Then I saw a Facebook post made by dancer Angel Sheniev Cadenza, which detailed ways in which racial isolation is present in the dance scene, and one of those was was the following:  “Racial isolation in the dance scene to me…It is planning to attend a vintage-themed dance event and having almost no black reference points to create your look because all the vintage themed resources are created by and for whites, and black people are almost non-existent in historical media.”

I spend a good amount of time poring over photographs and videos from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s studying the subjects’ clothing and I knew that there were a lot of black reference materials (a good place to start is the Vintage Black Glamour Facebook page, which you should all be following because it’s fabulously curated with lots of historical information), but I can do better and share this information here.  I realize newer dancers may not know all the vintage clips of the swing era, so let’s explore that.  The focus of this blog is source material, where to purchase clothing and shoes, so I’ll try to tie that in, as well – we should be inspired AND know where to get the look.

Back in 2010, I started a series called “What’s Old is New” and I realized that I never actually made this into a series, so I’m going to pick this up and continue it (after posting it in Angel’s thread as a possibility of how I could contribute to this discussion and received positive feedback)…so here we go.  If this is a misstep, then I apologize and I will stop and continue listening.

The first and only post in my What’s Old is New series was about the clothing in the Marx Brothers’ film “A Day at the Races,” which features Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and I found sources for some modern day inspirations/approximations of the garments worn by the women dancers in the film.  I still love their outfits, the quintessential mid-calf 1930’s skirts in bias cut plaid are just awesome.

Let’s take a look at another classic clip featuring Whitey’s Lindy Hopper’s, a 1941 soundie called “Hot Chocolate (Cottontail),” featuring Duke Ellington and his Orchestra playing Cottontail.  The dancers are wearing clothing that is not quite costume, not quite street clothing, somewhere fun and in the middle.

The pinafore/jumpers on the women are just adorable and I am dying over the huge sleeves on their blouses.  The men have a bit more variance in their dress, ranging from overalls to jackets with maybe the largest collar I’ve ever seen on a shirt.  Finding exact replicas of these garments would be hard, you’d likely have to get a copy made, but we’ll find some pieces that capture some of the fun of these garments.

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Sleeves for days!

For the blouses, my first instinct was to go to the House of Foxy website and they deliver – their Elsie blouse has those amazing sleeves (available in mustard, black, and white).  They also have a great Peter Pan collar blouse available in ivory, ivory gingham, black gingham, and a black/gray/red floral print – I know I have missed seeing these available outside of thrift/vintage shops and I’m glad House of Foxy is offering some twists on the basic (or not so basic) blouse so we can find some reproductions we may not feel as hesitant to dance in.  I own the Peter Pan collar shirt and some other pieces from this company and the quality is stellar, would purchase again.

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The sweater with the Peter Pan collar, even!  Completes the styling.

Modcloth has a couple of great jumper options (including the red “Overall Winner” jumper that is pictured, also available in black) and the skirt length is pretty close to the clip, a bit shorter than knee length to facilitate movement.  I’m also a fan of the green velvet “Cupcake Consultant” jumper (it’s like they know me), but I’m sure no one is surprised there.  There’s another black jumper with a front panel, which I am noting because I prefer a front panel with my personal shape.

I didn’t see but one vintage 40’s jumper that caught my eye on Etsy (but it’s awesome – black velvet with pockets on the front!), but they tend to pop up somewhat often, as these jumpers and pinafore dresses were fairly common – the thing you won’t find is the shorter skirt length, but then you can decide what length you want and what look is more your style.

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70’s does big collars like nobody’s business

Men, I don’t even know where to begin with that giant collar, it’s amazing and a sight bigger than any 40’s, any 70’s, anything I’ve ever seen.  Since a trend in the 70’s was 30’s style and the collars were of superior width and breadth in that decade, I went looking in vintage because I honestly don’t know of any modern retailer carrying an approximation of this.  Even Simon James Cathcart’s polos aren’t cut that big, but if you wanted a nod to that big collar, this would be a reasonable place to start.  The 40’s shirts were a bust, but there were some promising 70’s options on Etsy – like this Art Deco print or this yellow long sleeved shirt.  There were more great printed shirts on Etsy with wide collars so take a gander!

As for the overalls…I’ve got nothing.  Sometimes garments are so special that they can’t be found and/or have to be made.

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Eat your heart out, Burberry

I went looking for the light car coat in the video and the first hits were Burberry and Prada, so I retreated to Etsy and found one from the 60’s that fit the bill.  That they were doing aerials in a coat is pretty awesome, but you’ll probably save yours for before and after the dance.

There are other pieces I wish I could find!  In particular that two tone paneled skirt, what a great piece to have in your closet.

Feel free to chime in with other pieces you have found that look inspired by this clip in the comments!  This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a starting point for ideas and sources.

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American Duchess/Royal Vintage Pre-Orders

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Literally dying right now

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!

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Loafers – Discussion on Men’s Swing Dance Shoes, Round 2

This post was written by Lindy Shopper and Bobby White of Swungover.

Every few years someone will post 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.

LOAFERS?!?

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Florsheim Dancer

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.   

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Hopefully your interactions in loafers will be less awkward than Gene Kelly sitting on your floor in front of your couch while you read…note the women’s styling here with loafers, short socks, and a shirt dress.

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.

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Kids these days…

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.

THE THREAD

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. 

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This pair of Nordstrom loafers on eBay, referenced in Bobby’s post, is long gone

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.

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A pair of Bobby’s well-worn loafers.

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.)

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Gene Kelly, casual mid-air.

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 instructorDavid Rehmenjoys.

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!

Lindy Focus 2017 Vendor Report

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Lindy Shopper and Porg wish you a Happy New Year from Lindy Focus!

2017 was a great year at Lindy Focus – the swing dance community has been growing, learning, becoming better versions of ourselves, working toward becoming a more inclusive community, and Lindy Focus embraced that and gave us resources to explore and grow.  Needless to say, I had an amazing week, I’m filled with hope and joy, and hope that our 2018 continues to see new strides in making us an even better community of people being excellent to each other.

Part of this community is our micro-economy here at Lindy Focus, where vendors set up in the two lobby areas of the Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville and dancers can browse and partake in services and products that are either personal in nature or tailored to swing dancers.

Of course there is the Lindy Focus merchandise table, which is always heavily picked-over by the time I arrive on December 27 – the gear is good, I don’t necessarily know what it was, but I got a green sweatshirt with the LF logo on it and that’s about all this green-loving gal needs. 😉

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Add some Savoy Shop sparkle!

Next to the merchandise/check-in is the Savoy Shop, a consignment shop and shoe repair boutique that has become an essential part of the event to people who not only are looking to buy fun apparel for dancing or offload said apparel to make room in their closets, but also a fantastic on-site backup plan for several kinds of catastrophes that can occur when traveling to dance weekends over holidays – lost luggage, broken shoes, forgotten items, forgotten outfits, upgrades to outfits, and I’m sure there are other ways the Savoy Shop has saved people’s sanity over the course of the week.  Men’s and women’s clothing and shoes available, lots of good selections, tailored to our dancing needs!

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Lush blooms by ChatterBlossom

The main lobby is the main vendor area and the first person I laid eyes on when I got to the hotel was Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom, an Etsy shop specializing in hair flowers and headpieces made from vintage millinery flowers.  Jamie lives near me, so I am spoiled by being able to collaborate with her on a regular basis, but I am excited that people get to see Jamie’s pieces in person because I can not overstate the fact that vintage millinery flowers are superior in both detail of floral design and in color matching to vintage clothing.  Even if you don’t wear vintage, there are an array of blooms to match your modern attire and add a bit of vintage flair.

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For heads, necks, and lapels…

If Jamie didn’t have something for your head, Forties Forward perhaps had just the piece, offering their lovely blooms, as well as feathered and jeweled headpieces, which were great options for people seeking to add a bit of flair and sparkle to their New Year’s Eve attire.  In addition to hair accessories, Forties Forward also had a nice selection of menswear accessories – ties, hats, and some silky boutonniere flowers just in time for that New Year’s Eve lapel!

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Wear the Woopie rainbow…

A Woopie Bow was a new vendor to Lindy Focus, although I have seen these ties at ILHC in a previous year and I was happy to see them back again, as there are often fewer vendors offering menswear items and I’m sure we all like to have options.  Helena Verheyen, a dancer and theater costume designer based in Ghent, Belgium, is the designer and creator of said bow ties and she selects fantastic fabrics from second-hand clothing and sometimes repurposes neckties to make her bows (which is a great idea if you have a damaged necktie, to get some more wear out of it).  Her website offers custom work, as well!

 

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GET IN MY CLOSET

It took a couple of tries to even get close to the Saint Savoy table and I felt bad for Austrian dancer Maren Merian, who was being pulled in a thousand directions – I’ll start this off by suggesting that we all proceed like civilized humans, take a minute to be patient when there is clearly a line and a demand and one person working the booth, and be mindful of personal space and allowing people to have time to make a decision about footwear.  Once I did make it near the table, of course the shoes were glorious and, after waiting my turn, Maren was gracious and helpful and I purchased a pair of Saint Savoy’s brand new multicolored blues/greens Grace shoe, a perfect 1930’s style shoe in a shape I haven’t seen anyone else making and I certainly hadn’t seen in person until Lindy Focus.  It was love at first sight, a shoe that you don’t even care if you own anything to go with it, it must be owned, worn, and loved!  They also came in solid dark red and taupe, and I spotted Jo Hoffberg in the brown colourway.  The Edens and the Rivieras were also selling like hot cakes and I’m excited to see what Saint Savoy has up their sleeves next!

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I don’t know that we’ve had a makeup vendor in the past, outside of someone applying makeup, but dancer Iris Tarou brought us many shades of lip color with LipSense, a product she discovered last year before Lindy Focus and loved it so much she decided to start a business selling it.  There’s nothing better than believing in and loving what you are selling!  Per Iris’ post, LipSense is dance-proof, sweat-proof, kiss-proof, waterproof, and burrito-proof, which is basically what every dancer needs and what sounds like it would be an awesome New Year’s Eve to get your kiss at midnight after a long night of dancing and then go get burritos.  For more information, join the Indelible Look by Iris Facebook group.

We also had massage therapists on-site, which is undoubtedly an essential part of a week-long dance event – Bennie Vo and Erin Hennessy had the perfect setup, a table and chair next to the fireplace for warmth, with the awesome swing music from the music jam in the alcove just a few feet away.

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Charleston kicks for your walls!

Ryan Calloway returned to Lindy Focus with his fantastic jazz music and jazz dancing prints, with a book of samples you could flip through, and then a link to a new service he is using called Redbubble, which streamlined the ordering process a bit, because Ryan didn’t have to be present to take your order and you can see all the options on the website.  In addition to prints, you can also order tee shirts and hoodies with Ryan’s artwork!

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Mary Kay Williams was back offering caricature drawings on-site, on-demand, while you wait.  She had some great samples up, like a dancer/musician/world-famous doctor Dorry Segev in Superman scrubs and Admiral Holdo with her enviable purple fingerwaves.  If you’ve never had a portrait drawn of yourself, Lindy Focus is a great time to add one to your collection!

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Fats Walrus!

Our new visual artist this year is dance instructor Laura Glaess, who had been gradually revealing her line of anthropomorphic jazz musicians on her Facebook artist’s page in the months leading up to Lindy Focus, drawn with a bit of pun and a lot of whimsy.  It was so great to see these in person and see the full lineup of jazz musicians!  She also did the artwork for Brooks Prumo Orchestra‘s debut album which is the perfect segue into the next topic…

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This isn’t even all of it, just what was there when I dropped off the Mint Julep Jazz Band stuff – see how they were adding a second table in front – BANANAS!

…since our local artists also lend their talents to our swing musicians (Ryan Calloway did the artwork for Keenan McKenzie’s new album “Forged in Rhythm“).  The sheer volume of music available for purchase, recorded by musicians in attendance at Lindy Focus, was so large that they had to keep adding tables to hold all the music and merchandise for sale.  It made my heart sing to know that our community can support this much music, much of it recorded and/or composed specifically for dancers and dancing.  I challenge you to learn about these musicians, there’s a list of them here.  Google them, check out their websites, buy their music!

If any of this is incorrect or I have missed something/someone, please let me know and I will edit/add to this post!  It’s hard to keep track of everything going on at Lindy Focus, I’m sure you can agree!  Until next year, love and progress in 2018…

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Woopie Bows in warm tones

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Your Woopie Bow also comes with a how-to diagram

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Edens and Rivieras at your service, from Saint Savoy

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Saint Savoy for men, also with great color options

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The lilies from ChatterBlossom are the size of your face and they are wonderful

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These ChatterBlossom pansies are adorable and sweet (and not the size of your face)

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Lots of real vintage this year at the Savoy Shop, including this wonderful 40’s dress with soutache detailing

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One of several phases of women’s shoes at the Savoy Shop

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Solid men’s shoe offerings at the Savoy Shop

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Anyone know the story on this jacket?  Very interesting…

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Savoy Shop ties to brighten your day

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Just the tip of the iceberg on the Savoy Shop tie clips

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Ryan Calloway’s fabulous prints

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Laura Glaess gives us Lionel Hamster (and Lindy Focus will give us Lionel Hampton as the new bandleader for the 2018 transcription project!)

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Django Rhinohardt is as cool as they come, thanks to Laura Glaess

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Sample the LipSense!

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All the luscious LipSense colors

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Forties Forward gives us flights of fancy!

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Lots of fun blooms at the Forties Forward table, love the polka dots!

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Because because because because because!!!

Saint Savoy Eden

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Saint Savoy just released a new shoe design, the Eden, and I was virtually stopped in my tracks on Facebook because I need a pair and need to know everything about it.  Of course they have a green pair I’m dying to own, but it’s black with a deep, almost iridescent, green detail, as if to say “I’m Evil” in the best possible Una-Mae-Carlisle-kind-of-way.  Also available with two tone matte/shiny combos of tan/bronze and white/silver and a double shiny pair with bronze/silver, here’s the post from this morning:

“A classic peep toe, eye-catching asymmetry, sturdy 4-cm heel, and fitted ankle strap.

With padding softer at the heel than the toe, this shoe allows the balls of your feet impeccable control of the floor while firmly supporting your ankles and heels .

A comparison between the heels of the RIVIERA and the EDEN will show the difference in cut. The sole is softer and the toe box wider than the RIVIERAs.

Enjoy this classy shoe on and off the dance floor! We deliver free of charge worldwide and include a shoe bag with every purchase.”

Best possible additional news?  Saint Savoy will be at Lindy Focus!

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Miss Candyfloss

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The dress that spoke to me – I already have a coat like this, so the dress just completes the set, right?

I know, I know, another UK repro/retro clothing website, but as long as the UK keeps delivering the goods, I’m going to keep blogging about them.  Miss Candyfloss has been on my list to write about since earlier this fall, since they launched their “Femme Fatale” collection that, in my opinion, elevated them to the next level, with 40’s and 50’s-inspired pieces that were rich in color and style.

Do not let their terrible user interface deter you – there is good stuff here.  Start by following them on Facebook to see higher resolution photos of all the garments, particularly the aforementioned “Femme Fatale” collection, which looks both dance-friendly and work-friendly.  And while I don’t usually like polyester (some looks great, most looks not so great), these garments look so good that I took the plunge on one of their dresses over the weekend.  Also, plaid – there’s never enough plaid.  UK, you keep doing you and keep the plaid and tweeds coming…

Their attention to detail extends to the manufacturing process – from the website:

“Miss Candyfloss is manufactured within Europe under fair trade conditions, as we consider this as an important issue. Though sometimes hard to live up to for larger brands, Miss Candyfloss differ. The clothes aren’t mass produced in large factory lines, so things like working conditions, salaries and good item quality can be kept a closer watch upon. This also gives you, as a customer, a more long lasting quality where the products are made out of honest concern and care.”

Here are some of my favorites:

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Jumpsuits are so hot right now.  Green jumpsuits…

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The perfect fall plaid dress.

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Car coat with REMOVABLE CAPE

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Leonie-Rose red pencil dress

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Love love love the bow detail on this skirt.

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Gotta end on a beautiful green note…

Nancy Mac

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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I want this on my body right now…I mean, I don’t have anything in THIS shade of green velvet…

It’s about time to start planning what to wear for New Year’s Eve (or, if you are me, you’ve been planning since you knew you were going to Lindy Focus months ago) for Lindy Focus, Snowball, or perhaps your local scene has a special event.  This may be the trickiest night of the year to dress yourself because you want to look like you’re on a red carpet, but you also need to be able to move and sweat like you’re running a marathon.

I took one look at Nancy Mac‘s collection of dresses and immediately thought these would make great NYE dresses for swing dancers – luxe fabrics in movement-friendly cuts with vintage silhouettes.  This U.K. based company (if anyone was in doubt, the UK is KILLING IT with the repro brands) was founded by two sisters, Hannah and Sarah McMahon, and their about page reads like music to my ears and my closet: “Designed to flatter, Nancy Mac dresses and stand-alone separates are cut with care from luxurious fabrics and unique prints.  Every piece in the range is inspired by the belief that true style stands the test of time. We love making beautiful yet affordable clothes that you will want to wear and keep in your wardrobe forever.”

Did I mention that I have a velvet problem, in that I can’t resist it?  Specifically vintage silk velvet?  Because it feels like buttah on your body, inside and out, but then come the rips I seem to be forever repairing…with a newer garment (which I also own in silk velvet, because problems) fabric deterioration becomes less of an issue and I’m just over the moon about Nancy Mac’s velvet dresses because they look so wearable, on top of that silk velvet feeling.  Other fabrics look almost as enticing, such as viscose crepe, silk viscose, and just plain silk.  Do you feel fancy?  Because I feel fancy talking about all these fancy fabrics.

Let’s not forget that it gets cold in the mountains of North Carolina and in Sweden in December – Nancy Mac also has gorgeous coordinating jackets, shrugs, and coats to go with their dresses.  There’s also a collection called Mint Julep…it’s like they knew I was coming…

Here is what I am loving from the Nancy Mac website:

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This chevron burnout velvet makes me weep with joy.

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Blue lace, beautifully done.

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For New Year’s…or every day for tactile bliss…

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This velvet and crepe jumpsuit is brilliant

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This emerald crepe would be easy to dress up, just add sparkles

Letter Sweaters

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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One of the classic swing dance looks is a “collegiate look,” a youth culture of the jazz age and swing era (and beyond, really), who had their own trends and fads, like any youth culture – one option to add to this look is a classic letter sweater.  Last year All Balboa Weekend had a limited number of ABW patches made up, so of course I snagged one because I love the look, love the concept and I lettered in a couple of sports when I was in high school, so I’m partial to that nostalgia – I mean, of course I’ve lettered in Balboa by now, my 10th ABW, right?

But my ABW letter patch has been sitting on the dresser in my guest room since then, waiting for the perfect sweater.  I had hoped to find a vintage one, but finding one in the right color and in my size proved to be a non-starter.  I ran into New York dancer/instructor/performer Adrienne Weidert at Camp Hollywood in September sporting a Miss Camp Hollywood letter sweater and she (and several other former Miss Camp Hollywood title holders) had purchased theirs online.  It makes sense, I had a letter jacket in high school, those classic items can still be purchased, why not sweaters?

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A Neff letter sweater with all the bells and whistles

A quick internet search directed me to Neff, a company still making classic letter jackets and letter sweaters, but the absolute best part is that these sweaters, made from acrylic, are customizable – 16 different colors to choose from, decide what you want each color to be for the body of the sweater, the neck/placket, the pocket trim, the buttons, and if you want stripes on either sleeve.  I designed a sweater and submitted it for a quote, which came back at $94.95, which is cheaper than any vintage sweater I had found that would work.  Then we had to get our roof fixed for the impending hurricane than never ended up coming, and the sweater quote email sat in my inbox, I’m sure you know how that goes, and I never got around to getting this…

Then, dancer/instructor/organizer Andy Nishida tagged me on Instagram for a kelly green 30’s/40’s wool letter sweater being sold by @mrartdeco, and I had to have it – exactly my size, my favorite color, maybe it would look good with the ABW letter, and if it didn’t I’d still have a ton of things to wear with it.  It arrived and it is WARM and HEAVY – like I don’t know if I’d need a coat if I had it on, which I think was the point (that you’d want everyone to see your sweater and not cover it up with a coat).  There’s no way I could dance in it, so I decided to look for something more…3 seasons than 1 season.  But never fear, the green sweater will be out in its own glory, it really needs no embellishment and you will all see me coming a mile away.

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Harlow cardigan – a good choice for my climate and needs

I had a birthday coupon for J Crew and went to look at their cardigans – I don’t buy a lot of things from J Crew, but their Jackie cardigan is my go-to classic cardigan (good weight cotton, lovely finish, stays nice through washes, nice shape/length, etc.) so I went to check on any new colors they may have for the fall season.  As I’m perusing the cardigan page, I notice the Harlow cardigan, which looks like a letter sweater in shape – merino wool, pockets on each side, trimmed in grosgrain ribbon, but it looks like a lighter weight wool.  Of course ordering things online is tricky and I was fully prepared for this sweater to be a total failure of modern clothing, like most things from mall retailers are for me these days.  It arrived today and it’s perfect – great weight for a little nip in the air, light enough to be a middle layer, I prefer natural fibers for breathability, and just enough space to sew my letter on.  I can’t wait to wear it out and about!

Thus ends this letter sweater story – if you are on a search for your letter sweater, I hope some of this information will be helpful.

SJC Update: Workwear Chambray Separates/Suiting and 40% Off Summer

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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I will continue to sing Simon James Cathcart’s praises – his fall releases thus far consist of matching separates in salt and pepper or Dutch blue chambray, inspired by nineteen teens, 20’s, and 30’s workwear, and I think the concept of purchasing mixing and matching pieces you like is brilliant, not to mention all of these could be worn separately or together as a suit.  And all the pieces are great – two jackets (belt back or Norfolk style), two styles of trousers with proper buttons at the fly and for braces (narrow or wide leg), a waistcoat in each color, and a dart cap in each color.

But what to wear with your new workwear?  How about a work shirt in 4 different colors, two stripes and two solids?  SJC gives you a great jumping off point for many different workwear inspired looks.  Add some work boots or oxfords, add a tie to dress it up, add a henley to dress it down…

ALSO, there’s a 40% off sale on those magical chinos that everyone keeps looking for on my blog (high waist, wide leg, breatheable, danceable), as well as the summer weight flannel trousers (which I think would be more perfect for fall around these parts), the signature zig zag neckerchief, and the vintage style polos in bamboo fabric that every dancer needs as part of their wardrobe of comfort and style.

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Action back is ready for action.

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It’s a cinch!

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Love this rust 1930’s work shirt, also available in a cream stripe, charcoal solid, and Dutch blue solid.

 

Re-Mix Update – New Color Balboa and New Style

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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The shoe news just keeps coming, Re-mix Vintage Shoes has some new goodies for us – a limited edition teal/blue color combo in their popular Balboa style (but only 16 pairs total – don’t hesitate if you need these in your life) AND a brand new style called Starlet.  I love love love the new Starlet shoe, anything with a wide low heel and cutouts is good in my book.  It has the same heel as the Gabrielle shoe, I just hope it doesn’t share the same width issues for my fat feet…feel free to weigh in on fit/stretch in the comments after you’ve worn yours for a few months. 😉

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GET ON MY FEET

Swivells – Swing Dance Oxford Flats

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

In the next installment of shoes Jenna Applegarth has recommended, a new company named Swivells appears to have their sights set on cornering the market on women’s oxford dance flats.  I could not find a website for this company (which appears to be based in France), but the few photos and posts on their Facebook page were intriguing enough that I wanted to bring Swivells to everyone’s attention (particularly in light of Charlie Stone’s transition away from leather soles – we need more flats options!).  Check out their Facebook page, like it, and stay tuned for updates on these candy colored oxfords.

Update (12/14/17): the website is live, get thee to shopping!

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