The alternate title for this post is I Have Too Many Things To Write About and No Time To Do It – my hope is that you’d rather have the news as it comes, rather than a comprehensive post about everything, so I’m giving you the tip of the iceberg here and trust that you’ll enjoy all the things at your leisure:
Zoe Vine – glorious dresses (with sleeves!) in lovely colors, based in the UK (because the UK has everything I want right now, right?), machine washable – gimme!
Hepcat Corner – tees, sweatshirts, bags, phone cases, and more, all with the swing dancer in mind. Bonus points for graphic of shag dancing couple (labeled Charleston – could be either!).
August Three – I had hoped to cover this in a Lindy Focus vendor post that may never come to fruition, but I got to see the beauties from this new swing dance shoe company based in Thailand and the quality looks great and I loved the custom color options. Would love to hear from others who have tried them! Jenna Applegarth has endorsed these and she is essentially the international swing dance shoe expert at this point, I’m not sure there’s a swing dance shoe company she hasn’t tried!
Pretty Retro – In December I discovered that my new favorite go-to clothing website, The House of Foxy, has an offshoot brand called Pretty Retro. I’m not sure what the differences are, it all looks like more glorious, quality vintage-inspired reproduction clothing and I am here for it.
Green of Grey – I found another magical trumpet skirt in the wild (which has since sold out, but maybe custom order? That bow, AMIRITE?) and a number of other adorable swing-era-inspired items in this adorable Etsy shop.
Swingbird Fashions – a Denver-based Etsy shop, with trumpet skirts IN STOCK, adorable 30’s style shorts/skort, 30’s blouses, trousers (both wide leg and those pleated/tapered ones that everyone seems to compete in), some gorgeous dresses, really so many quality things!
Groovy Fox – what a fun name for this new swing dance shoe company! Bulgaria jumps in on the dance shoe game and the results are lovely – we so spoiled with all these new shoe companies with lovely colors and styles. Loving the lilac and mint and wanting to build a spring wardrobe around these colors…
If you’re looking for a gift for the special swing dancer in your life (or really any super niche sub-culture), look no further than Etsy – here are some of my favorite swing dancer themed items that you may want to gift or that you may want under the tree for yourself:
The hits keep coming, folks – and for all the new swing dance shoe companies popping up, there is an equally eager audience of dancers wondering and hoping – “Will this be THE shoe?” Finding your perfect dance shoe is a process and everyone’s feet respond differently to different shoes, are shaped differently, have their own special needs, and there’s just never a one-size-fits-all solution, at least in terms of dance shoes.
I first heard about Swing Beauty swing dance shoes from instructor Jon Tigert, who I have seen at a number of swing dance events this year sporting a pair of green and tan dance shoes that he has been very happy with over the past months, explaining that he acquired them from this China-based company owned by dancer Mina Lin. Jon has wide feet and has been committed to a style of Stacy Adams shoes in a wide width for years prior to acquiring these Swing Beauty shoes – the new shoes look great on him and feel light on his feet, two excellent notes for a dance shoe. Jon posted on Facebook last night that he had acquired a second pair of Swing Beauty shoes in blue during a trip to Guangzhou to replace some shoes that were ready for retirement – I’d say acquisition of a second pair is a great recommendation! Jon was able to pick out his custom colors and, for wide widths, recommends that you reach out to Swing Beauty about customization options/sizing questions beyond the color customization listed on the website (and even the color custom chart, as compared with the photos on Facebook, looks like just the tip of the iceberg – if you can dream it, maybe they can make it?).
For all the women I am hearing who have wide feet or are looking for the perfect pair of oxfords or need flats (or all of the above!), here’s another option for you. There’s also a boot and a low heeled oxford.
The website looks fairly straightforward, with step by step instructions on what to do – your first step is essentially to send them an order inquiry, rather than putting something in a cart, which gives you the opportunity to ask a lot of questions (if needed) and to inquire about what custom options you seek. To get ideas, you can check out the Swing Beauty Facebook page, which I am sure will expand to give you more options as they create more custom pairs for dancers. The prices look great, ranging from about $107 to $140, based on today’s conversion table.
The newest contender in the swing dance shoes and apparel market is Swing It, based in Krakow, Poland. A quote from their Facebook page caught my eye, so we’ll start with that: “We believe in slow fashion philosophy – natural materials, quality and comfort.” If this quote had the word adorable in it, it might be directly targeted at me. I’m seeing this term “slow fashion” come up more often and, as I become the old lady I was always destined to be, I find myself drawn to this idea that fashion should slow down a little – as a vintage clothing wearer, this seems innate, but in terms of buying new garments made now (but in the vintage style – we’re full circle), this is a new term that applies to a very old concept, of buying quality things you love to last you for a long time. I think slow fashion is easier for people who have developed their own sense of personal style, but then you’re here, reading this blog post, so maybe you have that or maybe you aspire to that more permanent sense of style. Perhaps you’re here to augment your current style. If you’re comfortable in yourself, comfortable in your quality clothes, and are sweating it out on the dance floor in natural fibers, what more do you need from a garment? Whatever the reason, I’ve digressed far afield, so let’s return to Poland where this new swing dancer-focused brand resides.
I always try to start on a company’s about page, to get a flavor for what the company goals are and what makes it tick. Swing It produces reproduction clothing and shoes from the 1930’s through the 1960s, based on original patterns, with all of the clothing made in Poland. Goals are quality, great appearance, and customer satisfaction, but also personal satisfaction, as the owners of this company, Basia and Greg, design things they want to wear. I believe in this concept – if you like it and are excited about it, certainly there are others who will/are, too.
The men’s shoes are cap toes or classic brogues, with your basic brown tones as well as a more adventurous color/combination for each style (I see you, dark green cap toes!).
The women’s shoes are also oxfords, in lovely suede in two of my favorite colors – purple and green. It’s almost like they called me…
This year was my first full Camp Hollywood experience, flying in before the event began and flying out after the event ended, and after I got my obligatory In-N-Out Burger fix, I headed to the vendor area to hover and watch the magic unfold in the vendor area. The vendor area was comprised of an entire ballroom, a large adjacent conference room, and a large Camp Hollywood merch table where you could purchase both camp swag and music from the bands and musicians performing over the course of the event. This is definitely the largest vendor area at any event I have attended – I marveled at it last year, but this year I understood. The traffic in Los Angeles is so bad that you almost don’t want to leave the hotel, or at least not to go somewhere outside of a 5 mile radius. I looked into some sightseeing on Friday – maybe a vintage car museum or a Frank Lloyd Wright house – but the 12-15 miles to get there would take over an hour at 10:30 a.m., which I was neither willing to spend the time nor the money to accomplish at that point, especially with evening band obligations. So, the shopping comes to you!
I did manage an excursion with fellow vintage enthusiast Brettie Page, who had a car at Camp Hollywood – through some careful planning on her part and a small window of time on Monday where the traffic would only take about a half-hour, we rushed over to Paper Moon Vintage. I don’t have a full report because, when one has the challenge of an hour in a vintage store, one must be focused, particularly when said vintage store has a great selection of swing era items. Brettie and I both left with garments – she an incredible 1940’s bathing suit in shimmering white with gold stars and me with a silk 1930’s garden party dress – which is just about all you can ask for in a successful run to a vintage shop. I also left with this swell Jo Stafford pin – like, how often do you come across 1940’s band merch? Like, never. The cherry on this sundae was that everything in the store was 15% off.
Back at the LAX Marriott on the first day of the event, I hovered near the ballrooms and enough friends were volunteering at the Re-mix Vintage Shoes booth that I got pulled in with some lovely chatting and managed to be their first purchase of the weekend. Some day I will visit the mothership, but it was still great to chat with owner Philip Heath about shoes, pick up the shoes I had reserved, and check out all the new gorgeous purple shoes and a selection of wedges (which he doesn’t usually bring to All Balboa Weekend, the only other dance event Re-mix attends as a vendor). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Starlet shoe will actually fit my feet, even though I believe it’s on the same last as the Gabrielle, which my feet are entirely too fat to wear – another pair to go on the wishlist!
My second stop of the trip, in the brief window between sound check and downbeat, was to hit up the Vintage Blue Moon booth and I’m so glad I did! Apparently, the vintage expo at the Queen Mary didn’t happen this year and Vintage Blue Moon was having a magnificent sale on jewelry, both vintage and some excellent reproduction “Bakelite” jewelry. The first pass yielded a Bakelite scottie dog brooch, a 1930’s rhinestone ukulele brooch, and a matching repro necklace and earrings set in peppermint stripes. I returned later to go through the clothing and there were some truly special pieces – in particular a 1930’s black satin (that heavy/heavenly indestructible kind) jumpsuit with appliqués (dying/gasping), really excellent 1920’s dresses, 20’s/30’s lingerie, and an impressive wall of menswear.
As I’m running through the vendor area, I notice a dress – CAN IT BE – it’s the Beach Clip dress! As we’ve talked about on this blog, I knew the Beach Clip dress (originally owned and worn by Southern California dancer Genevieve Grazis) was being reproduced for sale by Loco Lindo and recently heard that it would be debuted at Camp Hollywood, but I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Having examined it up close and inside out, I was so excited to finally see this project come to fruition and to see an entire rack of these dresses in wonderful prints on comfortable and washable rayon crepe. I made a beeline for the Loco Lindo booth after the main dance ended and was relieved to find several prints still available in my size, including a scottie dog print. (Fate? Fate.) Loco Lindo owner Linda Marrone and her crew did an incredible job with the design, translating a fairly complicated late 1930’s dress into the garment I ultimately purchased, which will be comfortable and movable for dancing, with the same amazing twirl from that gored skirt. You could also buy a Beach Clip skirt, and, of course, any of Linda’s other wonderful dresses, skirts, pants, and blouses in that wonderful crepe fabric. The “Venice Beach” skirt is already on the website and I hear the dress will be posted for sale in short order. Very special thanks to Jennifer Halsne, who essentially unearthed this dress, brought it to national attention, and then worked with Loco Lindo to make this reproduction happen! For more on the story of the Venice Beach/Beach Clip dress, visit Jennifer’s blog, Swing Sleuths.
Sharing the vendor area with Loco Linda was Bandini St., selling a variety of head bands, hair flowers, shoe bags, and ideally situated next to the door leading to the main ballroom across the hall. Let’s say you’ve already picked up a pair of Re-mix shoes, snagged a dress from either Loco Lindo or vintage dress, then you can put the finishing touches on your ensemble and/or buy a nice shoe bag to protect your new shoe investment. I had thoughts about WHAT IF THE AIRLINE LOSES MY LUGGAGE and then I realized that I’d be at Camp Hollywood where I could replace everything except my underwear.
All the Shiny Things! Occupied the center of the main vendor ballroom with an intense amount of jewelry for just about anyone or anything. I noted on the evening of the A Bug’s Life theme that it would be easy to stop by the ATST booth and instantly upgrade your outfit to tonight’s theme by purchasing one of many insect brooches or small pins to be worn on a dress or lapel or collar. I particularly loved the rainbow display of bangles – lucite, bakelite, other plastic, who knows? But if the color fits…
Need a hairstyle to get you through the weekend or maybe want to do something special for the Saturday night dance? The stylists from Hush Hush Bang Bang had you covered, offering an array of services from blowout to a full updo or glam waves.
A Walk Thru Time Vintage is the last stop in the main vendor area ballroom, offering a mix of swing era vintage, later vintage, and costume pieces. I particularly loved that they created a tiki/tropical vignette, as we were surrounded by palm trees poolside at the Marriott and it just seemed right that you might want to pick up something festive to wear by the pool or to the special poolside live music on Monday.
Across the hall in a conference room I found a Lip Sense booth, which was a collaboration among Iris Tarou (who was also vending at Lindy Focus this past year, Tawnie Gadd, and Lisa Cleveland. I am a big fan of budge-proof lip color for dance events for obvious reasons (short = face sometimes accidentally grazing lead’s shirt during Bal, also having to be dressed before dinner because of time constraints) and I am not above forgetting cosmetics! I also love the combined effort of these dancer/business women, which means the booth stays open more often for shoppers and they can alternate dance time!
The remainder of the conference room was a bit less defined, so I apologize if I credit a garment to the wrong vendor. Both Pepperpie Vintage, who was at Camp Hollywood last year, and Rare Revival Vintage carried a mix of swing era vintage and dance/fab appropriate later vintage items, mostly women’s items. In the very back was a men’s corner by Purple Peacock Vintage, with some truly fabulous menswear pieces, like a 4 piece suit (extra pants, y’all), other swing era three piece suits, and the cutest light blue and white polka dot braces (that I really considered buying even though I don’t own any pants that could accommodate them).
If I’ve missed anyone, please give me a shout! There’s so much going on at Camp Hollywood and the vendor area is no exception – save your pennies to do some serious shopping at next year’s event!
The International Lindy Hop Championships is one of those events where, even if you go into it feeling like you don’t have a lot to do, there are so many excellent people around and things to see that this feeling dissipates very quickly. While the vendor area was not as robust as in years past, there were still some new surprises as well as staple vendors to get you some things you may need and some things you may want.
I usually do a trend report, but I’m sad to say that I did not see many of the competitions this year due to both work obligations and time spent with friends outside of the dance. I WILL note that I did see the invitational strictly and, if this is any indicator of trends, white was absolutely a trend this year – white skirts, pants, and even a jumpsuit. White is one of those attention-grabbing colors for competitors and we usually point to shoes as a prime example, i.e. highlighting a dancer’s footwork, so here, let’s say we’re highlighting all those amazing swivels. I also want to give a shoutout to Remy Kouakou Kouame, along those same lines, for wearing a stellar pink suit in a sea of neutrals and for being such a great menswear inspiration to up and coming dancers – I noticed one of the Cleveland Junior Jitterbugs, Jermaine Trevon Donald, competing in pink trousers and one of the sweetest sport coats I’ve seen in a long time (it’s hard to tell from the video, but the fabric is awesome), and coach Valerie Salstrom told me that Remy is a big inspiration to him. Here’s to inspiring dancing and inspiring and eye-catching competition apparel!
Now, on to the vendors!
Victor Celania has been working in custom menswear for years and serving dancers in the Austin, Texas swing dance community, but has only recently started setting up shop at swing dance events under the name of his business, Established Sartorial (which may have the cutest logo ever). I love visiting Victor’s table and seeing and feeling all the wonderful fabric samples. I also love hearing people talk about the kids of garments they want and how they want things to fit – we all have such different bodies, different needs, and different ways that off-the-rack clothing doesn’t work for us. I’ve known Victor for a long time, he has such excellent taste and I’m glad he’s sharing this skill with the rest of the dance community.
Speaking of excellent taste and custom clothing, Chloe Hong was on site and focused on selling her not-quite-flats-not-quite-heels t-strap dance shoes that have become so popular due to their comfort and the array of colors offered – an actual rainbow of options appeared on her table, which I love and adore. This goes without saying, but being able to try on the shoes is so important for us as dancers, so having Chloe at ILHC with shoes in all available sizes to try on was fantastic. I ordered a pair in light gold and I’m so excited to try them out (following a recent purge of 10+-year-old dance shoes that were well past their prime)! She also had a selection of men’s oxfords in more subdued colors with a contrast sole, I would be interested to hear from people how they like dancing in them.
New this year to me was Lucky Lindys NYC, a brand of bloomers made in New York and created by New York dancer Julia Loving. I did not get to speak to Julia in person, but there were no less than three people at her booth, either helping or shopping, who sang the praises of these bloomers as to their comfort and construction, particularly that there is no center seam in the crotch area, eliminating THAT kind of discomfort. If you missed out at ILHC, you can pick up a pair from the Lucky Lindys NYC Etsy shop.
Finally, also new to me, was Dee’s Tees, tee shirt customization and design by Darlene Davis, who would craft, create, and cut your tees on site in any number of ways to effectuate the desired result. Maybe you want a larger neck hole or something off the shoulder, then maybe the shirt becomes an over layer for something interesting underneath. She was using ILHC tees as examples, so you could pick up a tee and walk 10 feet over to Darlene’s table for instant gratification and leave with a one-of-kind shirt. I don’t have a website, but if you are interested in this kind of service at your event, email Darlene at email@example.com.
Finally, Richmond dancers Dave Barry and Cate Rauschenberger set up their Jazz Garden, an array of gently used jazz CDs which they have scavenged in thrift shops and beyond to give this music the second life it deserves in the hands of new owners. I love this idea, very much akin to scavenging/thrifting vintage clothing, and taking it to the next level by collecting a critical mass to sell at an event. Like a good vintage clothing store, Dave and Cate have curated dance-friendly jazz artists and saved you the effort of intense and time-consuming digging. I salute y’all, as I also enjoy the hunt!
I know there was also a massage vendor, but I was never in the area when they were around – I’m happy to update if someone wants to message me with their name and information!
I don’t know who is designing for Eshakti, an India-based company making customizabe/semi-customizable clothing, but they are up for everything and I am here for their vintage-inspired styles in knits and machine-washable fabrics. I haven’t written about them on the blog, in part because I assumed everyone knew about them and in part because I wasn’t sure if they would keep up with the few vintage-inspired styles they were offering, but it’s been a few years and I get and love what they are throwing down, especially for this coming fall. They’ve graduated from basic shirt dresses and 50’s shapes to much more adventurous vintage silhouettes with delicious details.
Aside from the wash-and-wear fabrics, one of the main reasons I’ve had friends recommend and wear this brand is the wide range of sizes and the ability to customize the garments, not only in body proportions, but also modifying parts of the garment itself – don’t like a scoop neck? Make it a V-neck. Don’t like sleeveless? Add your choice of several different sleeve options. It costs a bit extra to make these modifications, but it’s a modest cost and Eshakti always seems to be running a sale of some sort to basically offset that cost. And every dress comes with pockets – if you don’t want pockets, you can opt out at no cost (but why would you? lol).
What prompted this blog, in addition to recent emails from Eshakti and ensuing purchases/longings, were some prominent Eshakti sightings at the International Lindy Hop Championships this past weekend. Dance instructor Carol Fraser coached and performed with the Jazzabelles, a solo jazz performance team from Long Island, New York, and she and her teammates were all in coordinating shades of green of the same Eshakti dress. This particular dress I have seen on other women I know who are into vintage style it’s one of those universally flattering cuts for many different body types. Combined with the ease of the knit fabric and the relatively reasonable cost, Eshakti becomes a great option when you are looking for performance team outfits.
Highlighting the versatility and customization elements and also the more luxe fabrics, my fellow vocalist this weekend, Taryn Newborne, sported a gorgeous embroidered lace dress from Eshakti, which she customized by adding length to the skirt and modifying the sleeves. The results were superb, she looked and sounded like a queen.
I would say my only complaint about Eshakti is that you can’t always linger when making a decision – some dresses, like the Jazzabelles’ dresses, have been on the website for a few years; others have disappeared within a matter of a couple of months, for reasons unknown or because they run out of that particular fabric (I’m looking at you green cat print skirt, also couldn’t find Taryn’s dress to link).
Now, for what’s been catching my eye for fall – enjoy!
There are any number of reproduction companies making 1950’s-inspired clothing, but very few that have been quite this incisive or referential to the designs that set the aesthetic for the following decade – I am, of course, referring to Christian Dior’s “New Look” collection from 1947 (which cast of the shackles of wartime austerity in favor of a “new” silhouette for women) and the most recent collection from UK-based clothing company Miss Candyfloss, which they have playfully named “Amour Fou.” If you need a little lift in your day, I recommend taking a gander at the MCF Fall 2018 look book highlighting this collection, it is pure joy and beauty of design and the models look comfortable and beautiful in their garments.
While I find most New Look skirts to be too full for my liking for dancing, I certainly appreciate this glorious aesthetic and MCF has nailed the look with modern takes on fabrics and shapes. For me and my dancing wardrobe, the separates in this collection really shine, as well as the overall color palette being versatile and so lovely for fall and winter. While I don’t love all the synthetic fabrics (in general), I can very much appreciate their washability and wearability for dancers – the design is so good here, I’m willing to break my own rules and add a few pieces from this collection to my own.
MCF started releasing portions of this collection on August 15 and some items are already sold out. According to their Facebook page, they will continue to post items through November, as there are so many looks in the book that it will take that long to get all of them up on the website.
I can’t pull photos from the look book, but here’s what I’m loving from what they’ve posted for sale on the website thus far:
I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.” Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town. You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.
At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year. There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee. If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee? A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.
Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit. I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.
De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy. Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions. The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.
Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.
Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW. Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.
Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look. I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing. I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.
Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well. I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments. They get us. I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.
That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!
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:
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.
There is a lot of documented history about the creation and performance of The Big Apple line dance in the 1939 film “Keep Punching” – if you don’t know this story already, take a gander at Wikipedia, The Lindy Circle, and Savoy Style. It’s the story of a dance within a dance craze! I love this clip for its energy, the individual style (dancing and clothing) of each of the dancers, and also because they keep it simple and functional – this clothing is obviously their own normal street clothing, with the exception of the coordinating Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts. I imagine this is a snapshot into what they might wear on any given night of the week out at a dance (compare to the more fancy street clothing/costumes in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) or the outright dance costumes in The Harlem Congaroos clip). There is an array of interesting clothing in this clip – from the dancers to the more fancy daywear/cocktail attire of the actors/extras to the orchestra in tails.
There are so many pieces of clothing worn by the dancers in this clip that are accessible today, so let’s dig in:
First, those custom Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts – we don’t have the light background with the darker graphics, but Chloe Hong has reproduced this graphic on dark blue and dark red tees that you can order from her website. Since none of us hold a candle to the original Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, we can view these shirts as aspirational/inspirational, a tribute to these original dancers and innovators. I love that some of the tee shirts in the clip are worn as-is and others are worn over another shirt, as layers. This makes me think of the ever present battle of sweat management – if that tee shirt has to last through a day of many film takes under hot lights, you might need that base layer to keep things fresh on the outside.
Since men’s reproduction knitwear is still a bit of an outlier, your best collared “undershirt” solution to get the look from the video is to pick up one of Simon James Cathcart’s short sleeved polos with that distinctive spearpoint collar – they are also made of wicking bamboo fabric, so extra helpful with sweat management. Available in nine colors and I wouldn’t be surprised if SJC was going to release some more in the future. Even though the men in this clip are wearing the spearpoint collars, these polos are also great for women, I have a few and I love them.
A few of the women in this clip looks like they may be wearing either some sort of collared or uncollared blouse underneath their tee shirt or they may be wearing a scarf tied loosely around their neck and tucked in a bit at the tee shirt collar. The House of Foxy’s 1940’s shirt in crepe would give a similar effect to the pointed collar blouses in the clip, with just the top points peeking out and the crepe being flexible enough to work around the tee shirt collar and lay right. One of the women is wearing a belt with her flared skirt and it looks awesome, but the video quality is such that I can’t tell if the belt is leather, fabric, or some other material.
While there is one woman in a flared skirt (and I say that relatively, as we’re not talking Dior “new look” volume, just a bit more twirl than the other women), rest of the women in this clip are in A-line skirts, something with a more streamlined profile, but with enough radius at the hemline to allow for kicks and movement. This skirt silhouette and just-below-the-knee hemline shows the fashion transition to the 1940’s silhouette, when you contrast with the calf-length skirts from the film A Day at the Races that came out just two years before Keep Punching.
UK brand Heyday has a nice A-line skirt, available in several prints and solid colors, I love the quality, wearability, and washability of their pieces. If you are going for the more full skirt, it looks like the House of Foxy’s Whirlaway Skirt fits the bill of being not to full, not too A-line, but just right in terms of fullness for the purposes of this clip. It’s also available in 7 colors and ditto on the quality coming out of this UK brand. Would wear both of these skirts for dancing and for work and for anything, really.
Men’s bottoms look like your standard fare for trousers, tucked in shirt or not tucked in – I mean, whatever’s comfortable for you after umpteen takes, right? If you are looking for something high waisted, I can’t say enough good things about SJC’s 1930’s chinos, which can handle belt or braces. Or just go and buy whatever lightweight, breathable trousers you can find and wear that shirt untucked! The exact right pants are usually hard to find, but for this look it’s not an absolute essential, the devil is in the other details. For the tucked-in crowd, note the dancer with the skinny belt – how skinny is up to you and your pants loops. Google was an absolute failure at looking for skinny belts (“no, Google, I mean REALLY skinny, 1.5 inches wide isn’t skinny!”), so dive deeper into your internet searches and/or go to the women’s section of a department store to buy one because nobody cares where it comes from.
The footwear is all over the map. I see white Keds-like sneakers with dark socks (that may color-coordinate with the collared shirt under the tee shirt) and in other colors (Gray? Black? Oh, wait, we’re not in Technicolor), or maybe even a shoe with a more substantial sole closer to Vans’ classic shoe (or their newly engineered more flexible/lightweight version).
I see a couple of pairs of saddle shoes thrown in the mix and, though most modern associations are with the 1950’s, the saddle shoe’s popularity boomed in the decades prior to the 1950’s, as well. Most saddle shoes I see today have a crepe sole, which isn’t my favorite for dancing, but Re-mix carries them with a leather sole. I’d consider giving this Restricted pair from ModCloth a whirl because they have leather interiors (for my sensitive feet), what appears to be a flat synthetic sole, and because the blue/brown color combo is awesome. Then I go and find this yellow and white Chelsea Crew pair…I need to stop while I’m ahead.
Finally, one dancer has some classic leather oxfords on, which previous discussions on my blog have covered everything from buying them used at thrift stores to getting your first pair of Aris Allens to splurging for a pair of Allen Edmonds (or finding them used on eBay).
To recap: classic dance shoes of your choosing, socks, comfy pants/skirt, signature tee shirt, optional undershirt/collar/scarf action. One might say this is not too far from what we are wearing on the dance floor today. Now, time to go practice the second half of the Big Apple that I never seem to remember….
Last year I wrote about the Venice Beach dress, the garment worn by dancer Genevieve Grazis in the famous Venice Beach Balboa clip that dancers around the world have dissected as dance source material. This dress came into the possession of dancer Jennifer Halsne, who has taken her role of custodian of this dress seriously and written a series of blog posts about the dress and has been working with California-based reproduction dress company Loco Lindo to recreate the dress for those of us dancers who would love to have a skirt with such twirling power.
I’ll let Jennifer’s blog post do the talking, but I wanted all of the Lindy Shopper readers to know that a skirt based on the dress is now available for purchase on the Loco Lindo website and that the dress reproduction is coming soon! Head over to Swing Sleuths to read (and see) more! #trumpetskirts4eva
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been counting down the days until February 1 since Royal Vintage Shoes made its announcement that they were taking pre-orders for their spring line on said date and showed previews of some of the most delicious new reproduction 1930’s shoes I have seen in a while – a golf shoe in kelly green and white (BE STILL MY HEART, also in brown) and a two tone 1930’s sandal (in blue/white and red/white). However, neither of these shoes have leather soles, so my intent was to go about my merry way, purchase these as street shoes, and not blog about things I felt it might not be OK to dance in, since our focus is on function AND aesthetics. But you should go look at their entire spring line because it is all beautiful!
Then I went to visit Royal Vintage’s parent company, American Duchess, which produces shoes from time periods prior to the jazz age, because I love historic costumes and I like to see what is out there. To my surprise, as part of their spring line of Victorian shoes, there was a lovely little flat two tone oxford with a leather sole called the Eliza. The uppers are houndstooth wool and leather and come in shades of black and brown. These shoes look so soft and comfortable, which is not something you can always say just by looking at a shoe. So if you’re in the market for flats, you can use these for modern swing dancing or your 1830’s-1860’s ensembles.
Pre-orders last through the end of February with shoes expected in April!
This post was written by Lindy Shopper and Bobby White ofSwungover.
Every few years someone willpost looking for men’s dance shoe recommendations, people who are serious about dancing and want to hear from their peers and instructors about what shoes work for them. While women’s shoes are often specifically designated as dance shoes, as fewer and fewer women’s street shoes have leather soles, men have to navigate between classic men’s dress shoes and designated dance shoes to find their sole mate and this can get a bit tricky.
The request du jour is about finding suitable dance loafers. “But why specifically loafers?” You might be asking. “Why is THAT a Bal thing?” To answer this, we’re going to go back to 1936 when Bass first released their “Weejun” loafer (Based on Norwegian fisherman’s shoes, which were themselves based on Native American moccasins.) They added a strap across the top of the simple slip-on, and it was the first time the loafer as we know it came into being. They were soon nicknamed “penny loafers” because teenagers realized they could slip pennies in the holes of the loafer strap. Loafers became a huge fashion trend, becoming the casual shoe of many teenagers across America. (There are pictures of entire malt shops full of teenagers, all of them wearing loafers.)
Many readers probably realize that 1936 coincides with when swing music was beginning to sweep the nation. So, in California, in those years when Balboa and Bal-Swing began being danced by casual teenagers, the loafer was one of their dance shoes. Gene Kelly himself wore loafers and danced in them all the time as part of showing his casual, down-to-earth persona.
Though many of the teenagers probably danced in loafers for practicing, or casually dancing at the beach-side pavilions, you don’t see many in the old films. This was probably for two reasons. Loafers, as a casual slip-on, were too informal for dances where teenagers liked to/were required to dress up (and the dance scenes in the movies tend to take place in those ballrooms). Secondly, they were not the best for when Lindy Hop came to the California scene in the late 30’s, which was more high-powered dancing where the feet needed a lot of support, and shoes needed to stay on in extreme circumstances.
However, when the original dancers were dancing at the restaurant and bar Bobby McGee’s in their older years (their twice-a-month get together), loafers were a common shoe on the floor — and we have footage of Maxie Dorf, Willie Desatoff, Hal Takier, and some of the pure bal dancers in them, so it seemed most of them owned a pair. (Imagine the stereotypical old man in loafers — the Bal Old Timers were that generation.) Nick Williams said loafers were also an easy way to get the flexible kind of leather-soled shoes that Old Timers like Willie Desatoff desired in his students— but we’ll have more on that below.
So, loafers weren’t a huge thing, but just enough of a thing. And when the new generation of Bal Dancers in the late ’90s learned from the Old Timers, loafers became a sort of Balboa slang, which grew in the scene and has been passed down ever since. They’ve come to represent the casualness and smoothness of Balboa, as well as a tip of the hat to the old timers, even if the old timers were just old men who occasionally danced in their comfortable slip-ons. So that’s why loafers have a special place in the heart of the Bal scene.
As an aside, loafers went on to become the shoe of choice for another coastal group of dancers, Carolina Shag dancers, who also appreciate a casual and smooth shoe.
Now then, back to the present.
After a good bit of discussion ensued on Jeff Liu-Leyco‘s Facebook wall for the request to find a good pair of dancing loafers, Bobby White offered to collaborate with Lindy Shopper on a post – so here, you get the benefit of the discussion and firsthand knowledge from one of swing dancing’s sartorial heroes.
In the Facebook thread, swing dance instructorMickey Fortanasce recommended this classic pair of loafers, the Florsheim Dancer at $115. Given that Florsheim named these the “Dancer,” I think that bodes well.
Allen Edmonds is always a name that pops up in these discussions, and their now discontinued (but still available sometimes on eBay)Bergamano loafer came up.
But the holy grail of the loafers are the Nordstrom black tassel loafers and Bobby dropped the knowledge on everyone with the force of an eternal mic drop:
“Go to Ebay. Search for “Nordstrom Loafers Men Tassel [Black or Brown or Cream or just leave out a color] [your size].” Save this EBay search so that you will get notifications (possibly for the rest of your life — they can be hard to turn off). Eventually you will see loafers like this (below). There are many like them (some with netting/woven leather tops, likeDouglas Mathews rocks), some with pointy toes verses more square toes. Buy them. If you like tassels, keep them. If not, cut them off (like Nick Williams and I do). I present to you, the famous, the infamous, the eternal: the Nordstrom Loafer. The soles are one thin strip of leather, and minimal padding — which is why Willie liked shoes like these. You can really feel the floor in them (and, of course, your knees will too, if you pulse a lot). But that can easily be fixed with insoles, like Nick does (might need a half-size bigger in that case). They are tanks, and last a very long time. They are $200 shoes that will cost you $20-50 on eBay. They are seven-minute brownies in four minutes. Here endeth the lesson.”
THE TRUTH OF THE NORDSTROM LOAFER
In all honesty (Bobby speaking, here), the Nordstrom Loafers are fantastic, but they are not the only shoes out there like them. They just happen to fit the bill for the kind of loafer many of us Bal dancers like: Thin leather sole / classic loafer look / well-made so they will last a long time.
The Allen Edmond Bergamano is the same idea as the Nordstrom, and both Santiago and Johnston & Murphy have made leather-soled loafers that fit that bill that you might be able to grab on ebay. (The Johnson & Murphy ones are actually the ones Douglas Mathews rocks). If you get loafers like these and they don’t work well, you can almost always find a Bal dancer they will fit, so it’s not a big risk.
The other important take-away is that, if spending $100 + on a pair of new shoes is outside of your budget, thanks to Ebay, you can get an incredible pair of shoes for $15-$50 with a little bit of patience and an internet connection.
ONE-PLY VS. TWO-PLY
Also, you don’t HAVE to get thin leather soles. You might have very good reasons for wanting otherwise. In fact, the biggest question every dancer looking for a pair of leather-soled shoes should probably answer for themselves (after fit, and probably alongside aesthestics) is one-ply leather or two-ply?
Here’s what we mean:
Single Ply or One-ply sole means the sole is made of one strip of leather. This is more formally called a “Single leather sole” — “One-ply” is Bobby slang. Technically the thickness of that leather sole van vary slightly, but rarely enough to make a big difference. The common Aris Allen men’s cap toe is an example of a single-ply dance shoe with lots of cushioning.
Two-ply,or formally “double leather sole” or “double sole,” means two pieces of leather stacked on top of each other for the sole. Two-Ply soles were made for walking around outside (like on cobblestones), daily work, and keeping your feet warm from the cold ground. Because of this and their bulkier look, they are considered less-casual, though by modern standards the general public doesn’t care about that anymore and you shouldn’t worry about it too much — it’s more important you have comfortable shoes for your dancing style. The men’s Saint Savoy is an example of a double sole, as well as the Stacy Adams Madison. (There’s even a triple leather sole, but there’s probably very little need for that in dancing.)
Shoes like the Nordstorm loafer are one-ply and have minimal padding— you will feel the floor, and all the sensations of shuffling and sliding very clearly. The shoes will give you almost a barefoot sensation, cause the leather will move with the muscles of your feet on the floor.
However, because the swing dances are often athletic in nature, as well as involve some kind of pulsing, many of us choose to wear insoles with single-ply shoes, especially with the ones with minimalistic padding. You don’t have to, though — just know that you will have to dance very gently in them regarding your knees and feet. In single-ply shoes, you will smooth out your dancing (which is what the Old Timers wanted modern Bal dancers to do, anyway).
Shoes like the Florsheim Dancer Mickey prefers, or the now-defunct Bostonian leather-soled classic penny loafer (eBay!) are two-ply. You would choose these if you had a heavier pulse or more athletic dancing style in general (to cushion your knees and other joints), or, if you just liked the feeling of a heavier shoe and the weight it gives to your rhythmic experience, like swing dance instructor David Rehm enjoys.
There is no wrong answer, and you can plan your shoes based on the style of dancing you want to accentuate. If you can’t decide on one ply or two ply, you can try both with a little patience and an eBay account. You’ll be well on your way to being an old timer in no time and, as Bart Bartolo said, don’t forget to “keep it casual.”
Special thanks to Sylvia Sykes, Nick Williams, and David Rehm for their insight into the modern Bal history of the loafer!