I’m going to start with a note of remorse about the loss of Slide & Swing, a swing dance shoe company with a beautiful lineup of shoes for everyone and a casualty of the COVID 19 pandemic. If you have not already, please wander to their corner of the web and check out the remaining inventory, perhaps pick up a pair and give a little to someone who is losing their business and trying to recoup costs. Cheers to all the beautiful shoes you’ve created, Slide & Swing.
In spite of a pandemic (or perhaps coming into the business as the world slid into a pandemic), there are even more swing dance shoe companies that have popped up on my radar in the last year or so. Let’s have a scan of the new offerings.
@comfydance_shoes on Instagram is offering swing dance and street shoes handmade in Mexico. It looks like they are offering two styles right now, one pair of ankle boots and one pair of low heeled t-strap shoes, both in an array of color options. Instructions are to DM for more information and that’s all the information I have!
“Boun’Shoes started their small production of vintage-style dance shoes in January 2016 thanks to the collaboration of Fiammetta, a Roman Lindy Hopper, and a family of handcraft shoemakers based in Marche, Italy. They have been manufacturing shoes for three generations in the most famous shoemaking district in Italy. In 2019 Martina joined Fiammetta and launched the shop online.”
Unfortunately, the link to the website isn’t working on either Facebook or Instagram, so it’s probably best to reach out by private message/direct message. There are lots of lovely photos on their Facebook page, showing a variety of t-straps, Mary Janes, oxfords, and boots.
Swing Love shoes are made in Hội An, Vietnam, inspired by owner Châu’s search for swing dance shoes to fit her irregular feet and her fear of ordering shoes online only to have them not fit when they arrive. Taking advantage of the existing shoe making industry in Vietnam, Châu went on a journey find her perfect pair, with much trial and tribulation, and at the end of 2018, after finishing this journey, her friends suggested she should manufacture and sell the shoes she created. Châu spent two years learning everything she needed to know to launch this endeavor and the shoes are a showcase of Hội An’s shoemaker’s craftsmanship and Châu’s design ideas.
Swing Love is offering three styles – two oxfords (Savoy and Doo-Bee-Da) and one t-strap (Suzy-Q), all flats/low heel for those of you I know who are always on the lookout for flat dance shoes. Shoe color is customizable, just email them at email@example.com with your ideas.
That’s all for now – as we see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, I hope you’ll consider your dance shoe needs and wants. Maybe it’s time to start breaking in a pair now so that you’ll be ready when we can dance again.
I will always love the experience of shopping at brick and mortar vintage stores the most, but online vintage shopping has opened up a world of opportunity and access. In the beginning the hot spot was eBay, then the launch of Etsy seemed to take over the vintage market. With Etsy changing their policies in ways that didn’t work for vintage sellers, I’ve seen people migrate to Facebook groups, Instagram sales, and some establishing their own websites. What about the casual seller or someone who needs to offload a few pieces? There wasn’t a single go-to place for buying/selling vintage clothing.
With all of this in mind, longtime vintage clothing collector and seller Laura Hipshire launched Garb of Ages, a website dedicated to the buying and selling of vintage clothing and accessories. The format looks similar to selling on Poshmark, where you create a listing and potential buyers can search, like, make an offer, or buy the item as listed. The listings are only for items made before the year 2000, to keep things truly vintage and distinguish from other consignment websites.
The fees look reasonable: Buyers pay a $1.95 fee for sales under $20 and 15% of total sales over $20. Sellers pay $.25 cents to PayPal when purchase is confirmed.
This all looks fairly straightforward – let’s give it a go, shall we? I’ll be exploring the listings and adding items of my own in the coming weeks that are left from my @lindyshopperscloset Instagram sales under the user name lindyshopperscloset. It looks like they are still getting started, but I’m excited to see where this website goes!
It is uncanny how many swing dance shoe companies have popped up in the past 5 or so years, to the point that I apparently can’t keep up with them on this blog and I’ve fallen behind on sharing this information. With the search for the perfect dance shoes always in motion, let’s add some more options to the buffet, shall we? In no particular order…
I believe I found this brand on Instagram, maybe even one of those rare targeted ads they show that is actually relevant to my interests. I can gather from Facebook and Instagram that the company is based in Detroit, Michigan, that you place orders online, and they have four t-strap models in several colors that come with 3 heel height options, as low as 1 inch for dancers looking for a flatter shoe. Otherwise, I suppose you’ll have to email them for more information! Check out their Facebook and Instagram for a multitude of lovely photos and options and below is a primer on how to purchase/initiate contact.
COMFY DANCE SHOES
This is another Instagram find, @comfydance_shoes, featuring a boot and a t-strap dance shoe, available in some unique and versatile colors, all made in Mexico. I found even less information readily available, so hit that message button and send these dance shoe makers your questions if you find that these shoes strike your fancy.
ALL HEELS ON DUTY
All Heels on Duty is marketing to the WWII reenactment scene, but I know a solid-for-dancing heeled Oxford is on a lot of people’s wishlists since Dancestore stopped making their classic heeled oxfords. I haven’t purchased a pair, but as soon as I get another WWII themed gig, I’m going to need a brown pair and this company is a top contender – they appear to be faithful reproductions of 1940s service oxfords, with leather uppers and hard leather soles. Intriguing to me, the interiors are lined with sheepskin and are lightly padded, which would make these a welcome dance-friendly upgrade from some of my original 1940s oxfords. With a heel height of 1.5 inches, this is basically the perfect height for a weekly dance, moving equally between Balboa and Lindy Hop. Available in 6 colors (pictured below), all great neutrals. They also have the service pumps, but I find pumps difficult for dancing, so my focus here is on their oxfords.
If anyone has experience with any of the shoe brand in this blog post, feel from to share your feedback with us by leaving a comment below – cheers!
I can’t imagine how much work goes into starting a dance shoe company, but add a pandemic layer of difficulty and it goes into the realm of incomprehensible. Applejacks‘ proprietor Jenna Applegarth and her regular teaching partner Jon Tigert have been having weekly live Facebook chats and, luckily, the day I was able to tune in Jenna had an update on her line of shoes. Two important updates:
1) The Greenwood is finally here! The prototype has been photographed and passed around, salivated over, and loved in advance as Jenna worked on launching this shoe for what seemed like an eternity, but quality is paramount and I trusted that Jenna would bring us this shoe when it was ready for dancer consumption. It’s one of those shoes that has wide appeal – low heel for comfort, t-straps for security, darling cutouts, and cheerful two-tone colors (pink/burgundy, teal/hot pink,yellow/royal blue). Note that the Greenwood is named for the thriving black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was the epicenter of the Tulsa race riots (made known to contemporary pop culture in the incredible Watchmen series on HBO – highly recommended).
2) The Eldorado is a dance boot based on a pair of boots Jon owns (owned? danced to extinction?) – how incredible to fall in love with a shoe and be able to replicate it after it is no longer available? It really is a dream and I’m eager to hear reviews of the Eldorado, as it looks solid, comfortable, a shoe you can really live in. Available in brown, burgundy, and dark blue.
I believe Jenna discussed this in the Facebook live session, but all of these shoes are intended to double as street shoes, which is what the original Lindy Hoppers and Balboa dancers did – they wore their street shoes for dancing. Obviously, you can save your shoes and they will last longer, but if you really love the comfort and look, what are you saving them for? I’ve been wearing my Re-mix shoes as street shoes for years and, unless you’re coming out of the rain, it all works out in the end. With dancing pretty far on the horizon for those of us who don’t have a dance partner in our household/safe circle, it helps to know that you can enjoy these shoes now and not be sad about saving them for a future dance event. Missing all of you terribly!
Lindy Shopper’s Closet Episode 2 is up and I talk about the pandemic’s effects on the swing dance community and what I would have worn to canceled events for which I had already planned outfits. We’ll call this the learning curve episode, I talk too much, I tried to wear too many outfits, and there are some things I would change and realized I forgot to do, but if you want to hang out with me and talk about clothes and how the pandemic has impacted life and the life of your music/dancer friends, you’re probably going to appreciate it. I’ve also posted a ton of links to things I mention in the episode – pandemic relief resources, events and musicians affected by the pandemic, and resources for the clothing and accessories I talk about in the episode.
Time often gets away from me, so I must apologize for not writing about Saf Shoes when I first heard about them a while ago. However, I see that their reputation grew and there’s a shiny new website now where you can view and purchase these dance shoes, so the order in the universe remains such that a good dance shoe is a good dance shoe and news of it will travel fast.
Vancouver dancer Jacky Li is the mastermind behind Saf Shoes, who shares his journey to shoes as follows: “As a long time dancers – we are talking over 10 years partner dancing, here – Jacky has put his time in on the dance floor. He knows how dancing affects the body and selfishly wanted to design a shoe that could let him dance all night without pain. It’s a crazy idea, especially because we know how hard ya’ll dance. The thing is, at saf shoes, we want to dance well into our 90s, and that means taking care of our bodies. Part of taking care of your body is finding a dance shoe that supports it.”
Right now Saf Shoes offers three styles of oxfords in 2-3 colorways, all with varitions on oxford detailing and Saf’s signature diagonal cap toe. The Shadow and Light collection plays with tone on tone textures in white and black (currently out of stock due to pandemic-related leather shortage); the Made to Measure collection plays with multiple colors and the shoes are customized to your feet (available in leather sole and tap shoe options); and the Intelligence is Sexy collection takes the classic oxford for a spin into easy-to-work-with colors with a fun twist and standardized sizing. Check out their Facebook page for more photos and celebrity endorsement by the Arntzen brothers.
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
I know, I know, but hear me out. I’m pretty sure my mom put me in saddle shoes at some point during my childhood and I ran around the playground wearing them with a dress in ultimate classic kid style. When presented in high school with very limited options for women’s golf shoes, I was delighted that a saddle shoe was one of my options and made my selection accordingly. Then swing dancing came into my life – when I started in 1998, retro culture was an amalgam of generic vintage pop culture, but as the smoke of the late 1990’s swing revival started to clear, it was became very clear to me that saddle shoes were associated with two things: 1) a caricature of the 1950’s and 2) newbie dancers. As a budding Lindy Hopper, all I wanted was everything 1930’s/early 40’s and NOT to be associated with anything that would brand me as a newbie. I wanted to be taken seriously as a dancer. But deep down I still loved saddle shoes because they are adorable.
Flash forward a decade or so and I thought about saddle shoes again. A green and white pair would be amazing and I found a retailer online that made them. Vintage Dancer wrote this great blog post about the history of the saddle shoe, detailing their popularity between 1910 and 1960, clearly marking this as a period-appropriate choice for my swing-era-not-1950’s-caricature dancing activities. And then I remembered how saddle shoes would be perceived and I abandoned that idea.
I don’t know when Gretchen Midgley and I were first talking about this, but saddle shoes came up in conversation and how I’d wanted a pair, but ALL OF THE ABOVE HESITATIONS. Then I got a PM from Gretchen saying I needed to make this happen because saddle shoes would be a versatile addition to her fall wardrobe and she’s right. Gretchen’s message was the kick in the pants I needed. I AM LINDY SHOPPER AND I SHALL WEAR WHAT I PLEASE.
I ordered the green and white saddle shoes from Muffy’s, made from a last from 1956, which feature leather uppers and a Goodyear welted rubber sole and am so excited to finally have them after so many years of being worried about what other people would think about my dancing. Silly, I know – but being perceived as a good dancer was and is so important to me. I got to wear them last night to our weekly dance and I think they will take a little time to break in, but otherwise I am very happy with this purchase.
Would you like a pair of your own? Vintage Dancer has a set of links to retailers at the bottom of the post and I’m also eyeballing a pair from Julia Bo customized to my specifications – has anyone ordered from this site?
If you’re worried about how to style the saddle shoe, Vintage Everyday has a great collection of photos of women doing everything from riding a motorcycle to sleeping in a barrel wearing saddle shoes, with photographs looking like they date from the early 1930’s through the 1950’s.
All this to say let’s be a little kinder, a little less judgmental about what we see on people’s feet. I remember getting into a discussion on a chat forum in the early 2000’s about Bleyers, as I was still wearing mine for dancing, but someone there had branded them a shoe for newbies. At that point, I didn’t consider myself a newbie, but I was embarrassed and mad because I had stuck up for this dance shoe that was servicing my feet and someone set out to belittle me. I was either in school or working 3 jobs between stints in school at that point and I didn’t have a lot of money for dance shoes – hell, there weren’t even that many options for swing dance shoes at that point. Perhaps this is also a lesson in humanity and humility – there’s a human attached to those shoes who just wants to dance.
One of the common complaints I hear about women’s swing dance shoes offerings is that they can’t find something flat and cute to wear with dresses. For a variety of reasons, heels won’t work for certain dancers and, depending on the day/circumstances/conditions, a pair of cute flats may be the only cure for what ails. Charlie Stone burst onto the scene a few years ago with their flats catering to dancers, but subsequently changed their business model and the soles of their shoes to rubber to accommodate a larger, less niche market. Other companies have offered oxfords and boots, but I know that I am not alone in preferring something that pairs traditionally well with dresses and skirts and doesn’t necessitate socks (I’ll deal with the foot funk fallout later!).
It’s always exciting to receive international packages in the mail and, from start to finish, Groovy Fox has delivered the goods. I opened my package and discovered a sealed envelope, with a thank you note (very classy, thank YOU), a welcoming solicitation for feedback and the means to do so, and a polite request for tags on social media; another card in the envelope talks about their goal of providing comfort and quality footwear and gives a list of aspects of the shoe they have focused on, such as insole cushioning, flexibility, softness, the strength and slide of the leather soles, and ends with a note that you are encouraged to wear them on and off the dance floor. The flip side of this card details and diagrams the layer of viscoelastic gel throughout and foam layer at mid-sole in the insole of the shoe.
The next layer of my package included a burgundy shoe bag with the Groovy Fox logo on it, made from a quality material with a grosgrain ribbon tie. I travel a lot and go through a lot of shoe bags to protect my shoes, so I was very grateful to receive a quality shoe bag that looks like it will wash well.
Finally, the shoes! On the heels of discussing my Dorothy complex in September’s post on Kitschy Witch, I was delighted to see that the red shoes I was anticipating were actually a delicious, shimmery ruby color. I may have died a small death of joy in receiving these shoes, the reveal was everything. The leather is soft, but not so soft that it doesn’t hold its shape. I can see these molding to my feet in good ways after several wears, and with the placement of the stitching and perforations I also anticipate that they will give in the right places and also hold up in those places.
The soles are smooth leather – I don’t have preferences on suede or smooth leather soles, so I can’t give you much feedback either way, but I did solo jazz, Lindy Hop, and Balboa in these shoes and did not feel compromised with any of these dances. I found the cushioning to not be overt – I could still feel the floor a great bit, so I feel like this would be a good transition to make from Remix os Saint Savoy shoes if you are needing a flat that is lightly cushioned, but you still want to feel the floor. If you need additional cushioning, I can see ways that you could easily add ball of foot cushioning with the closed toe box. If you need a lot of arch support, which I do not, this shoe does not have that arch support feature, although the gel in the insole continues through the length of the sole. The heel is rubber, but not a sticky rubber, so it did not inhibit my movement in any noticeable way.
I found these shoes to be streamlined and comfortable, a classic t-strap with great proportions and lovely details. They immediately got a lot of attention at my local weekly dance, both because of the wonderful color, the styling, and the fact that they are flat, leather soled dance shoes. The price point of $132 is a great value for the quality of dance shoe you receive. I have also had excellent communication with Groovy Fox’s executive director, Georgi Evgeniev. 10/10 would recommend!
This past weekend I experienced my first international gig performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jeju Swing Camp in South Korea. In spite of a typhoon imposing itself upon the event, the organizers and dancers persevered and an incredible time was had by all and the sun came out for the last day of the event so that we could have an epic beach party with four bands and dancing on the sand. Following the event, several of the musicians would spend part of a day in Seoul waiting for our flights to various locations – my number one request was that I be able to visit Chloe Hong’s shop, FROMChloeHong.
Over lunch with MG Chris Jung and Scully Heejin Kim, Scully made arrangements with Chloe for me to come by the shop. I found out later that Chloe’s shop is by appointment only and that I was able to get in, perhaps, even before people who live in Seoul could get an appointment! Scully is my new hero, clearly. ❤
I traveled with reed man Keenan McKenzie on all the legs of this journey and he joined me at Chloe’s shop, with a mission to obtain one of Chloe’s legendary trumpet skirts for his wife, swing DJ and dancer Allison Meeks. Scully arranged for a cab to take us to Chloe’s shop and we ended up walking into some sort of laundry facility by accident and probably amusing several Korean women with our confusion and language barrier. Around the corner and up a short flight of stairs we found the shop.
Upon Keenan’s recommendation, the soundtrack to my entrance into Chloe’s shop is Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination,” feel free to cue that up for the rest of this post. Keenan also snapped the photo of me going into the shop, a pleasant surprise!
I often muse about Chloe’s excellent taste – you only get a glimpse of it at the events in the US, with a sampling of the shoes, ready to wear women’s clothing, and custom menswear pieces. Stepping into her shop was personal, an affirmation of her love of vintage style and decor, quality garments and fabrics, personalized goods, and Lindy Hop. Ella Fitzgerald’s dulcet tones greeted me as I walked through the custom painted gold door. The shop was on the smaller side, yet spacious feeling, furnished with early to mid-20th century furniture, vintage haberdashery items, and artwork, including various vintage-inspired Lindy Hop event posters. The chevron stripe wood floor gleamed. A teddy bear sporting one of the reproduction Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers jackets sent me over the edge. Bolts of beautiful fabrics, racks of sample menswear garments with exquisite details, rows of sample shoes to try on, a rack of Chloe’s staple women’s items, and vintage and vintage-inspired accessories completed the offerings in Chloe’s shop. I would also characterize the space a hybrid shop and studio – there was a room to the side I could see through glass that was clearly a sewing workroom. Most of the space functions as a custom menswear studio, where one would come in to be fitted for garments, view and try on sample garments and fabrics, select various cuffs and collars on display that could also be tried on, and once an ensemble was completed or conceived, select carefully curated accessories – vintage ties, Trafalgar braces, vintage cufflinks, tie cips, tie bars, caps, etc. – to complete the look.
The front portion of the shop was dedicated to Chloe’s dance shoe line, both women’s and men’s shoes. The shoes samples could be purchased if the color and size you needed were in the sample stock, but otherwise the shoes were made to order. I purchased my first pair of Chloe’s dance shoes last year at ILHC and they have become my favorite dance shoe, so I made plans to purchase two more pairs in colors I wear most often for dancing. A few weeks ago I had come to the realization that my 1930’s gold shoes were more of a deeper, bolder gold than most modern gold shoes and, of course, Chloe had the perfect leather sample to make just such a shoe so I can now have a dedicated pair for dancing. Does one have a conversation about 1930’s gold leather characteristics with just anyone? My heart sings for Chloe…
Back to our mission, we located a trumpet skirt for Allison – I imagine Chloe’s skirts are in such demand, as there was a limited selection, so don’t feel slighted if you’ve tried to order online only to find out she is out of stock. Everyone wants this skirt! There will be more coming soon, I understand, as well as some lovely trousers that look like they will lay perfectly, move well, and be as durable as the trumpet skirts.
It must be impossible to go into Chloe’s shop and NOT order menswear, so Keenan decided it would be a good idea to order a couple of dress shirts and to get measured in case another purchase may be viable in the future. It was such fun picking out fabrics from the lovely samples, selecting collars, cuffs, embroidery, and details for the shirts. Chloe was a wonderful collaborator, discussing options, allowing for opinions, and making suggestions. The turnaround was predicted to be fast for custom garments, about 3 weeks for the shirts.
While Chloe was working with Keenan, I essentially floated around her shop, absorbing all of her good taste and beautiful things, giving me life and energy and joy. I spotted a cap hanging on the wall I had been seeking for years – black and white tweed with a rainbow fleck. Into the bag it went!
As I finish this post, I realize that Chloe has been on my radar since 2013 and I have known her since shortly after that, seeing her at least annually at dance events in the US. It was thrilling to be able to visit her on her home turf, to visit the bustling city of Seoul that she calls home, and to glimpse into her daily life at her shop/studio. If you find yourself in Seoul, I would highly recommend setting up an appointment and making your way to her shop – it felt like a home away from home.
For too long, the Keds and heels divide was a painful reality, with very little in the way of dance shoes in between these options. With the explosion of new swing dance shoe companies in the past few years, the options have increased, but often the flats offerings were limited to oxfords. Knowing how much work goes into starting any company, it stood to reason that shoe companies would offer those items that are already a sure thing, but even then one of the most common complaints I hear from women is that they just want a cute, flat dancing shoe. With Charlie Stone stepping away from the dance shoe market by eliminating leather soles, where does that leave us?
What I hope I am seeing is a trend toward cute, flat dancing shoes. At All Balboa Weekend this past weekend, I saw Re-Mix Vintage Shoes’ brand new Giulia model, a flat sandal with a leather sole in Re-Mix’s impeccable vintage style and colors. I have owned other pairs of Re-Mix’s flat sandals with rubber soles and love them, so it is exciting to see their take on a flat dance sandal in colors that compliment my vintage clothing. Not to be outdone, I spotted Saint Savoy’s announcement that their Riviera shoe (one of my favorite Balboa shoes) will now be a flat sandal – nothing was lost in translation, the proportions on this shoe look so lovely and I imagine I will see a lot of this shoe pop up at events in the fall after they launch.
Thanks so much to dance shoe companies for listening – I am so excited to be able to direct newer dancers to more flat shoe options that are not only comfortable, but also beautiful.
The Triangle dancers are in a flurry preparing for the inaugural Bull City Swingout (July 12-14, 2019) and we are so excited to share with you all the lovely things our area has to offer – doing my part here and sharing all of my local vintage clothing and jewelry haunts. While the event is walkable within downtown Durham, North Carolina, if you want the full vintage shopping experience, you will need to venture out in a car – however, there are two vintage stores in the downtown area, so even if you don’t have a car you won’t miss out. I’ll start with the stores closest to the event and work our way (distance-wise) out from there.
213 W. Main St. (2 blocks from the Durham Armory)
Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dolly’s is a vintage clothing store and gift shop, offering both men’s and women’s clothing in addition to some fun Durham merch, cute gifts, and some downtown necessities (i.e. umbrellas in case you forgot yours, socks for jurors who get cold at the courthouse). Most of the clothing will be 1950’s-1980’s, but there are a few Art Deco gems hanging around – there’s a brown crepe and sequin evening gown and matching bolero from the 1930’s in there right now that better go home with someone! Dolly’s is only two blocks away from my office and is my haven when I need a cheerful place to be during a lunch break – say hi to Larisa Harrison, the owner, or maybe local artist Anna Wallace will be working that day. This is also where I take most of my vintage clothing that no longer fits.
GIBSON GIRL VINTAGE
1001 W. Chapel Hill St.
Open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Mondays, open ’til 8 p.m. on Thursdays)
Owner Sara Spissu opened Gibson Girl Vintage a few months ago and she’s already got a full shop with more inventory coming in all the time – every time I go in, there’s new things to see, which is all very exciting. Gibson Girl has both men’s and women’s clothing, as well as a good bit of furniture and housewares. Like Dolly’s, it will mostly be 1950’s-1980’s clothing, with a sprinkling of earlier clothing – there’s a lovely yellow lace 1930’s dress and some hawt black 1940’s pumps (size 7.5) in there right now that I wish fit me! It’s about a 20 minute walk from the Durham Armory – if you decide to take that hike, there are some other great things within this block of the city, like the Durham Co-op Market, Grub (a yummy restaurant), and a Joe Van Gogh coffee shop.
CARLISLE & LINNY VINTAGE JEWELRY
112 S. Churton St.
Tuesday – Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday – Monday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you like vintage jewelry, Carlisle & Linny is the stuff dreams are made of, stocking Victorian through 1970’s jewelry, and not in a token way – there are so many Art Deco pieces that I spent about two hours in the store the first time I went, mulling over the pieces I should buy. I am fairly indecisive, particularly when there are so many lovely things…regardless, this tiny shop is packed to the gills and there’s even more in the back. If you are looking for something specific, reach out to owner Lindsley Bown ahead of time to see if she might have something – her inventory is deep, jewelry is small, so it takes some effort to find things. This shop is about a 17 minute drive from the Durham Armory and downtown Hillsborough is adorable – there are several good restaurants and a wonderful chocolate shop, Matthew’s Chocolates, within a couple of blocks of the shop.
If you attended the Eastern Balboa Championships, you may already be familiar with Raleigh Vintage, as they were our wonderful lobby vintage vendors who saved all their good swing era stuff all year for our selection. You can also get a nice selection of their inventory on their website, but obviously nothing beats going in person and being able to try things on. This shop is a 30-35 minute drive from the Armory and can be a little hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for – the entrance is down a ramp, between a shop and a parking lot, look for a door and a Raleigh Vintage sign at the bottom of the ramp. Once you’re inside, it doesn’t even feel like you are in a basement, the space is a light and airy salon with a selection of Victorian through 1970’s clothing and accessories that reflects the excellent taste of the owners, Andi Shelton and Isaac Panzarella. It’s also a few doors down from my favorite Triangle bakery, The Cupcake Shoppe.
FATHER & SON ANTIQUES
302 S. West St.
Monday – Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Father & Son is a Raleigh institution, predating any of the aforementioned shops and was one of those places before the downtown area started revitalizing that was an admirable and crowded mix of excellent junk, vintage clothing, and awesome furniture. They have moved to a location that is less crowded and less dank and it is just not the same and my heart will always belong at that old location. Father & Son tends to be better for menswear than women’s clothing, but it’s still worth a trip, particularly if you love mid-century furniture – they always have a beautiful selection and furniture makes up about half the store. This shop is also about a 30-35 minute drive from the Durham Armory.
This post may be premature, but I have been eagerly anticipating Jenna Applegarth’s line of swing dance shoes since I first saw her post about this business endeavor on Facebook. A lot of people ask me about shoes and visit this blog for information about dance shoes, but Jenna is THE source, the person I know who knows about all the brands popping up all over the globe because she is traveling to teach at these places and trying out the shoes, but also because she has excellent taste, she cares about the shoes, and gives detailed feedback about the fit, look, materials, and functionality shoes.
I say premature because the Applejacks website does not have any shoes listed for sale, but Jenna has slowly been releasing posts about her work and, this week on the Applejacks Facebook page, photos of some of the shoes she has designed. I couldn’t wait, you all need to know about this, and be sure to follow the Applejacks Facebook page for release updates.
From the Applejacks about page:
“Applejacks shoes are designed by dancers, for dancers. We want you to not only look good, but to feel good. To be able to stay on the dance floor all night and still walk back to your hotel. Our shoes are designed to help your body stay aligned and balanced. Room for your toes, secure on your ankles and happiness on your feet. We believe that Applejacks represents a fresh take on comfort and design.
We know feet are as unique as personalities, which is why we don’t believe in “one size (style) fits all.” That means we know our shoes may not work for everyone. But that is ok, because we founded this company to help fill in the gaps from the other companies already in business. Fit the feet that weren’t being fitted 🙂 Which means if our shoes don’t work for you, that is ok – they may fit your friends and family instead! And you can always check out some of the other great shoe companies out there with a different fit.
We have a goal to help reduce unnecessary waste, maintain high industry standards and choose sustainable durable materials. What that means for you:
Simple labels – It gets thrown away anyway, so we only label what we need to.
Minimal packaging – From the factory to you, we do our best to only use what is needed.
No shoe bags automatically – but 1 free for every pair on request!
Leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations
Fair working conditions
Non-gendered/Non-roled sizing and styles
We are still working on building our brand and identity. We appreciate your feedback, and we hope you travel along with us on our journey.”
I love this approach and I can’t wait to see more from Jenna’s company. I also have some nerdy glee about the company name being so perfect with Jenna’s last name and being one of my favorite jazz steps. Here are the three previews released this week, from L-R: the Greenwood in teal, the Seneca in rose gold/silver, and the Seneca in purple.
Since their launch a few years ago, I’ve been a supporter of Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, creating reproduction vintage shoes from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. My one complaint was that these wonderfully crafted shoes with leather uppers did not have leather soles – until now! For Spring 2019, Royal Vintage has made the transition to leather soles and I’m so excited about the offerings, all of which can be added to your dance shoe wardrobe. The new leather soled collection will be available for pre-order on their website starting on April 25, 2019. I particularly love the wedges, the heeled oxfords, and I’m delighted they are re-issuing their two tone Lillian Mary Janes (although I’ve already purchased the rubber soled version from a previous collection, womp womp). Enjoy their “Foxtrot Summer” collection, aptly named to now cut a rug!