On a tip from DJ Kristy Milliken, I checked out Emmy, a Swedish company making vintage-inspired clothing – what I found was a really noteworthy clothing company, and here is why:
1. Their pieces really bridge the gap – you could mix and match a lot of these pieces with modern pieces or vintage pieces and they wouldn’t look out of place. Versatility is so important in a wardrobe.
2. Their pieces go together – they have sweaters to match the dresses/shirts/skirts, versatile basics, and coordinating colors. You could actually put together a mini-wardrobe just from their pieces and not be wanting for casual, dressy, beach, work, and so on.
I see a lot of repro and vintage-inspired clothing companies going for gold with their dresses (which is great, but not 100% of the time – what if I decide to go glamping?) and sort of half-heartedly offering a few separates or the other odd piece. There is definitely a trend away from this and I am hopeful that there is a demand out there, because I know I am wanting more and more to incorporate vintage and vintage-inspired clothing into my everyday life, not just my dancing or singing life.
So how did Emmy get to this point of versatility and so many different garments? With a focus on “feminine, well-fitted garments that embrace and enhance the female shape,” with a goal of suiting all body types and ages and a focus on quality to create garments that can be worn year after year.
Emmy has done a great job with their adorable and practical collections – here are some of my favorites from their Spring/Summer 2014 line:
I’m delighted to report that Trashy Diva’s peppy blue and white polka dots have returned, both in familiar and new incarnations to enhance the adorableness of your wardrobe. I had almost given up hope that TD would give me more rayon prints in 40’s silhouettes, but I don’t know why I ever doubted. Check out their website for the full collection, featuring some of their classic dress designs, but my favorites from the new items are the separates – seriously, an adorable blouse with a peplum to pair with either a swishy skirt or high waisted shorts? YSPLS!
I have another tip on a German reproduction/vintage inspired clothing source, thanks to Florian Kremers, who messaged me to tell me about Vecona Vintage. From the website:
“Inspired by the fashion of the 1920ies to 40ies Vecona Vintage combines former glamour with the wear comfort of modern textiles. High class materials and accurate craftsmanship make every item become a very personal piece of fashion history you´ll take much pleasure in for sure…Vecona Vintage garments are hand-made high quality products. Every single step is executed professional and accurate by a highly qualified and experienced master tailoress.”
As an added bonus: “The high quality materials not only feel great further they are easy to clean so that you don´t have to get them dry cleaned after every dance. You can wash your new treasures in your washing machine at 30°C.”
Vecona Vintage really shines with its menswear and women’s separates. The menswear selection boasts traditional pants and vest combos, along with knickers and work pants for a more casual-but-not-quite-as-casual-as-modern-jeans look. The women’s collection features a selection of high waisted trousers, pencil skirts, 1920’s-style dresses, and some lovely blouses. Here’s what I’m digging:
This shop comes to you courtesy of Laura Keat, who posted a photo album on Facebook detailing the sources of her most-asked-about items of clothing. I recognized all of her sources except for one – ViNSiNN. A Google search led me to a website written entirely in German. Not easily deterred*, I used Google translator so I could browse their shop and tell you about it…in English.
The founders of this retail site are Marina Fischer, Peter Bieniossek, and Lucy Flournoy, all swing dancers with a passion for the vintage aesthetic that comes with the dancing. Marina details her frustrations with attempts to locate vintage clothing, mostly sourced from America, and dealing with shipping, taxes, customs, and the waiting, only to find out that after such a great effort the garment wouldn’t work after all. Then came the resourceful idea to start a shop of vintage-inspired garments to sell in Germany. I am a firm believer in “if it doesn’t exist, you create it” and Marina picked up the ball and ran with it, along with business partner Peter, who shared similar frustrations, and Lucy Flournoy, whose paragraph did not translate well in the Google translator…but I can attest to Lucy’s sense of style, as I observed it when she was going to college in North Carolina and dancing at regional events.
This is definitely a store with the dancer in mind – as I browse through all the lovely dress, top, and skirt options, I notice lots of great modern takes on familiar vintage shapes, lovely details, lots of color, but the overarching theme is that all of these are dressing I wouldn’t hesitate to dance in. There are some great basics for men, even a pair of knickers. And the socks page is divine!
Now I have the reverse problem as Marina and Peter – how to get these items (reasonably) from Germany to the US? Anyone coming to ILHC? 😉 Faves listed below.
*I once used Babelfish to translate an entire transaction over the phone, in real time, into Spanish so I could order custom tango shoes from Columbia from a salesperson who spoke no English.
Still basking in the afterglow of All Balboa Weekend, the Balboa Mecca that occurs every year in Cleveland, Ohio. It is a hub for so many things I love – good dancing, good music, good vintage shopping, good company, and good cupcakes. I left with a full heart and a shopping bag full of goodies – it was like Christmas!
My first stop in Cleveland, per usual, was Sweet Lorain, the vintage department store where I seem to have the most luck finding things in my size. I was greeted at the door by the owner, Redwin Lewis, who remembered me from years past (and possibly phone orders – yes, you can call them back if you decide later that you really want/need something you saw, even 6 months later the item may still be there!) and we chatted about high school reunions and all the films (THE film being Captain America) shopping at his store. I was on a mission for a full slip with some sweet details and Sweet Lorain did not disappoint, with two full racks to choose from.
On a personal note, I was ecstatic to find a red plastic beverage pitcher at Sweet Lorain, perhaps circa 40’s/50’s, that I have been seeking for the past decade or so – when I was in undergrad I picked up a plastic yellow pitcher from Target that looked vintage, with some sweet Deco detail on it. I probably paid less than $10 for it. My dad saw it in my apartment and was immediately drawn to it, asking where I got it, and how much it cost. I told him that I had purchased it at Target several months ago and that it was out of stock. He was crestfallen – my grandmother had owned one during his childhood and he had always thought it was a great design, with a lid that opens when you tilt it and closes when it’s upright. Flash forward to ABW 2013, I was chatting with Redwin in the housewares section and my eye caught a flash of red in that distinct shape. It was the pitcher! I text messaged my dad a photo of it and he confirmed that he wanted it. Done! I look forward to “reuniting” my dad with his childhood pitcher this coming weekend. 🙂
My next stop was Chelsea Costumes, which I had somehow managed to miss on all prior visits to Cleveland. The sheer volume of square footage packed literally floor to ceiling was overwhelming in a way that only a disorganized Goodwill warehouse of great magnitude could rival. The racks were three tiers high, with the top two racks reachable by rolling staircases located on each aisle. Adding to the library feel of the place, the ends of the racks were labeled by decade range. I searched in vain for the early vintage clothing and had to ask where it was located – at the end of one of the 1950’s racks was a single rack with 1940’s clothing. I found a couple of items I liked, but they had fatal flaws (fading, shredding, etc.). I’d say it’s definitely worth a look, especially if you are into later decades, and it’s an absolute must if you are looking for menswear – I saw just about every size, shape, color, item, and a range of seasonal weights, with a massive selection. You do have to be a digger to make this worthwhile, but the prices are good and worth the dig.
Back at the hotel, ABW had an array of vendors, some new, some old, that filled up the hallway in front of the ballroom. The first vendor was The Cleveland Shop, with an array of clothing and accessories for men and women. Favorites included some divine shoes, a burgundy silk 1930’s gown, and every dress that went on the mannequin and immediately sold.
Next up was the ABW merchandise, which featured some cool shirts with stripes, a henley, and a girly slouchy tee with cool sleeve detail. This year also saw the return of the ABW shoe bag – I do love a shoe bag!
Moving down the hallway, the next vendor was the ever-popular Re-mix Vintage Shoes, with owner Philip Heath on hand to help all the men and women eager to try on their shoes. This year, they took advance requests from people for specific shoes and sizes, so if you wanted a guaranteed shot at trying on a certain pair in your size, you got that chance. I took advantage of this for my husband, who is sort of between sizes and needed another pair of oxfords. It also resulted in Re-mix bringing a number of pairs of wedges, which have never made it out to ABW, since we mostly dance “the Balboa” in heels. 😉
Bettie Page Clothing made its debut as a vendor this year, spearheaded by the lovely Shannon Butler, who is now the manager of the Bettie Page store at the Mall of America in Minnepolis, MN. Shannon brought another innovative way to make sure everyone got to try on the clothing and get the sizes they need – she kept a stock of the dresses, shirts, and skirts she brought as try-ons and once you decided what you wanted, she called the Mall of America store, placed your order, and it was shipped to you (sometimes that day!) free of charge. In addition to all the adorable clothing, she brought these great adjustable belts that are the perfect dress belt, for when that vintage dress comes without a belt or maybe you lost the belt or want to add a belt…regardless, good, skinny dress belts are hard to come by and these babies are only $10 and come in several handy colors.
Flower Child took up about half the hallway, with a wonderful display that moved from housewares and accessories, to jewelry, to several large racks of clothing at the end of the hall. Because Flower Child is made up of several vendors, there were a range of prices in the shop, and they definitely had the larges selection. Favorites included a 1940’s gold bathing suit, rayon Asian print pajamas, and an adorable dress with strawberry ribbon trim that came home with me.
Finally, Dancestore.com made an appearance with most of their line of shoes. I liked that they had a set of “try-on” pairs that you could put on and take for a spin during one dance. It helps you decide, cuts down on wear and tear of new pairs, and also gives you an idea of how they will feel once they are broken in. Great idea!
This year was probably the best year for vendors yet – many of the vendors are veterans at this point, they know their audience, and they only bring the best stuff as it pertains to swing dancers. I am elated that they continue to come out, year after year.
This was a bit of an interesting year for vendors at Lindy Focus, in that few of the usual suspects were present, so the vending was made up mostly of DIY lindy hoppers, including endeavors by Lindy Focus itself. Lindy Focus offered a consignment shop for those who had danceable clothes and shoes to get rid of and for those who needed/wanted such items. I did pretty well in the selling department, so some of you may have left Lindy Focus with a Lindy Shopper vintage garment. 🙂
Noticeably absent was Dancestore and their signature Aris Allen shoes, a serious business faux pas, in my opinion – 900+ attendees, many of which (including me) were looking to buy or replace dance shoes. To make up for the lack of being able to replace dancers’ worn out shoes, Lindy Focus offered a shoe sueding and repair service.
Marathon dance event vendor Sharon Crawford of Creations by Crawford was on hand creating custom hair pieces, boutonnieres, and other elegant accoutrement for ladies and gents at her table, positioned next to the ballroom off the registration lobby. Sharon’s table was always open and always had a bevy of guests – from hairdressers to nappers to chatters, all were welcome to hang out. I don’t know how she got any work done, but I’d wager to say she’s the longest working vendor at Lindy Focus (as evidenced by the sunrise/survivors photo on the last day, she was probably working the whole time).
Forties Forward, one of my favorite hair flower vendors, was right across the hallway from Sharon, making sure that the ladies of Lindy Focus had all the hair flowers they needed. With the customary gussying up for New Year’s Eve, I’m sure they did well. Added inventory this year: false eyelashes. Va-va-voom!
Also a regular, Mike Thibault’s jazz and lindy hop prints are always a welcome sight. I love his selection, especially the new-ish one of the interior of the Savoy ballroom packed to the gills with dancers. If you haven’t seen what he has, definitely check out his website – Vintage Jazz Art – and pick up something inspiring to put on your wall.
Next to Mike’s table was a curious little table of notecards with photograph images of dancers with a sign saying “Dance Cards by DJ Stone.” Perhaps a few campers picked one up to send a note saying “Wish you were here?”
Finally, New York designer Nicole Lenzen not only had a lovely rack of dresses at her vendor table, she debuted her first collection of dresses and rompers for dancers at Lindy Focus in a glorious fashion show during one of the camp meetings, featuring some of your favorite female instructors as models for her designs. The collection was movement-conscious, high in twirl factor, and rich in textiles. The designer loves to work with fine fabrics, produced ethically and created into garments in New York’s garment district. Nicole hopes to have her website ready to take orders soon – she does custom garments as well as those featured in her collection. Nicole is a delight and I look forward to seeing her business grow and flourish. Check out the fashion show in the video below for a full view of the collection and also Jessica Keener’s lovely photographs.
I think a fashion show and debut collection must be a swing dance event first, if not a Lindy Focus first, no? Clearly we are heading in the right direction.
I’ll close by saying I really enjoyed being on a panel discussing blogging and social media with Rebecca Brightly, Michael Seguin, and Jerry Almonte. Everyone had thoughtful commentary and different insights based on our different experiences. Special thanks to Abigail Browning for inviting us to participate and giving us questions so that we actually had something to say. 🙂
I have anticipated checking out Alexandria’s Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods since April, when I heard of its opening shortly prior to DCLX and the wonders that awaited me – rumors that the owners have a warehouse where items are pulled for Hollywood movies, that the inventory has real swing era stuff, GOOD stuff, and I was salivating. As I ditched the Saturday afternoon DCLX dance to head over to Alexandria I got a text message from Bill Speidel that the shop was closed. Oh, the disappointment!
Thankfully, I had already planned to attend the International Lindy Hop Championships in August, so I knew I’d get a second chance. I messaged the store’s Facebook page a few days prior to the event to make sure that they would be open and should I send my measuremnets. The answers were yes and yes, and I was elated.
I planned to go on Friday of ILHC and at the Thursday night dance I met Beth Midavaine, who had also planned to take a trip to Amalgamated with Bill Speidel, but Bill had bailed on her, so it seemed that fate would have it that we go shopping together. We headed to Amalgamated the next day with Jason Sager and arrived at the store at noon on the dot. The store was closed. I was frantic. We went next door to a knick knack store owner, who didn’t know why the shop wasn’t open. As we regrouped on the sidewalk, the door opened to Amalgamated and it was, after all, open for business. *phew!*
It took us three hours to get through everything in the store and try on the rack of clothes that Beth and I accumulated through our collective digging through the store. The store itself is small is square footage, but packed with everything good – there was no small rack where the few swing era items were delegated – the entire store was pre-1960’s, so 100% of their inventory was everything that you would want to see in a vintage store. It was glorious! The men’s section rivaled the women’s section in size and magnificence (who has an entire rack devoted to two tone Ricky Ricardo jackets?) and a men’s shoe section that took up an entire table, and included children’s shoes (tiny leather and mesh oxfords!). Owner Shelley White took us through boxes in the back room filled with delicate 1920’s beaded dresses, there were racks of glorious dresses and gowns, plus some very practical items that would be perfect for dancing. The women’s shoes had a good selection of larger women’s sizes, which was great for Beth, who picked up a pair of fantastic 1940’s heels.
I don’t think words or photos will do this place justice, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Until then, check out some of our finds below:
I’ve been following Allure Original Styles for a while, from her initial offerings through eBay as seller buddhaboogie (which is still used to sell what appears to be samples), to a full-fledged Etsy store where you can purchase custom made reproduction swing era garments. Allure Original Styles distinguishes itself from other reproduction sellers by creating an extensive line of pants and complimentary blouses. The fabrics range from wool gabardine to light-medium weight denim, to cover both dressy and casual pants needs. I am probably most excited about having wide leg denim options – while I love to dress up, sometimes you have you wear jeans for more casual occasions and shopping for jeans is only a step above shopping for a swimsuit on the loathsome activity scale. What could be more comfortable for everyday wear than a pair of flattering wide leg lightweight denim jeans?
There are also some great dresses and other separates from the store. So much to love here…I might learn to love wearing pants again:
It’s been a while since I posted reproductions, so here is your reproduction retail fix: Tara Starlet is a UK based company that makes reproduction 1940’s and 1950’s clothing with an interest in recycling and creating eco-conscious products.
From the website: “We are advocates of recycling and we have a collection of original buttons and trimmings from our favourite era that we try to incorporate into our designs wherever possible, giving our collection true authenticity. Also we reinvent quality wool jumpers, injecting a bit of fifties glamour to give them a new lease of life! We use end of roll fabrics too, putting to good use what would otherwise be waste. This means that our designs are often made in a selection of different fabrics with a limited amount of garments in each, so you won’t find hundreds of other women wearing the same thing! On top of this, all of our clothes are made locally in London, to keep our carbon footprint dainty.”
I love the idea of reusing original materials – there is waste where there is leftovers, even from the 1940’s, and if we can reuse these notions and fabrics, it creates a really interesting hybrid vintage/new garment and eliminates the need for modern manufacturers to re-create these items. The original stuff is better anyway, right?
Just when I was beginning to think eBay is the only place I’ll ever find a deal on vintage clothing or find, not just one rare gem, but hundreds of fantastic items, I travel to Portland, Oregon for a day of vintage shopping. Oh, Portland…your stores are so numerous that they fill up two brochures with maps of locations! I’ve been saving this post for Yehoodi because I knew it would be full of extra goodness, hence the delay in posting following my trip to Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago.
I should begin the story of my trip to Portland with an Etsy purchase from Jitterbuggin’(aka Kim Cullins), about a week before my trip. I noticed that her logo included her location, which happened to be Portland, and I thought, who better to give advice about what vintage stores I should check out in the city than someone who lives there and makes reproduction vintage garments? So I sent her a private message asking about vintage shopping, to which she responded “You should call me and I’ll meet you out for a shopping date.” Um…yeah!!!
So what makes two strangers from opposite sides of the continent able to meet up and share an afternoon of shopping? Two things: vintage clothing and swing dancing. Thanks to the Interwebs, our continents grow smaller and communities grow larger, and the friendly faces of the swing dance community, like Kim’s, open up opportunities in other cities that don’t seem to exist for people outside of our community.
My purpose in Portland was to visit my dear friend from college, Danielle McQueen, and have fun with her in Portland, while incidentally accomplishing some planning for her wedding. Part of the planned fun was already to go vintage shopping, so Kim’s offer seemed like the cherry on our plans sundae.
At Kim’s suggestion, we met her at Huber’s, a restaurant that has been in business since 1879 and has the distinction of being Portland’s oldest restaurant. The restaurant had a lovely Victorian interior and specialized in “a traditional turkey dinner” (hello turkey pot pie!), as well as coffees…but not just any coffees. Their signature cocktail is a Spanish coffee, which the menu states is “Kahlua, Bacardi 151, Bols triple sec and coffee topped with fresh whipped cream and nutmeg, flamed tableside.” You read that right – FLAMED TABLESIDE. Kim ordered a Spanish coffee and, having not seen the menu, had no idea what was going on when the bartender brought over a tray with all the ingredients to make the cocktail. There were grand pours of liquor, with a span of almost four feet, followed by a flame to caramelize the sugared rim of the glass, then more grand pours, and the topping of freshly whipped cream and sprinkles of nutmeg. It tasted so divine, I wish I had ordered one of my own!
After lunch, we embarked on our shopping trip. The first stop, Decades Vintage Company, was just around the corner from Huber’s. The store was small, but inviting, with a lot of great menswear pieces and an enviable rack of shoes in the back of the store. There was much lingering around the shoes and we began talking about the vintage shoes we longed for. I began to tell the story of how my grandmother danced a hole through a pair of red snakeskin heels in one night, to the dismay of her family who had scrimped and saved ration coupons to buy her those fancy heels, and how I wanted just such a pair. At that moment one of my companions gasped and we all turned around to look at the shop owner, who had discreetly pulled out a pair of red 1940’s heels from behind the counter and placed them on top of the counter while I was telling this story. Were they my size? You bet they were! I left Decades Vintage Company with a very happy shoe purchase.
Nearby was Avalon Antiques & Vintage Clothes, a large vintage store with museum-like displays of early 1900’s clothing at the front of the store and an entire wall of men’s suits that made it feel a bit like a vintage version of the Men’s Wearhouse. It took a while to take in all the awesome things on display at the front of the store, like 1920’s shoes and Victorian accessories, but I slowly made my way around the store. After going through the racks, I noticed I wasn’t encountering any pre-1940’s clothing – where was the good stuff? Kim pointed toward the ceiling, where there was a rack full of delicacies from the decades I love, plus some even older items. Introductions were necessary at this point to gain access to the rarities on the ceiling, so between the Lindy Shopper blog and Kim’s reproduction business, we had enough credibility to get some of the garments off the ceiling rack. The shopkeepers shared some wonderful treasures with us from the top rack and the mutual appreciation and joy for these garments was evident, as they continued to pull down things for us to admire – a 1920’s neglige, a spring green silk 1920’s dress, a gossamer 1930’s dress with matching jacket, a Titanic-era coat, and 1920’s day and evening-wear. While we didn’t leave with anything, we did have a wonderful experience in this store.
Next stop was Magpie, an equally large vintage store, but with a more eclectic and modern selection. Even so, there were some choice jazz age and swing era finds, like some divine suits, a sheer 1930’s day dress, silver t-strap heels, 1920’s day and evening-wear, bakelite accessories, vintage luggage, and hats.
We then encountered Ray’s Ragtime. This seemingly endless store is filled wall to wall and floor to ceiling with vintage clothing and accessories, which was great until the encounter. I sometimes forget my manners and begin to take photographs of vintage stores without asking the shopkeeper or owner’s permission, but I was so overwhelmed by the bakelite counter, then the girls beckoned me to the shoes, and I took a photo. One of the shop keeper asked me not to take photographs, so I then explained I wrote a blog and she gave me permission to take photographs. However, she did not relay this to any of the other workers, and within 5 minutes someone snapped at me to stop taking photos. I went back over to drool at the bakelite and one of them employees pulled out some things for me and I made my selections, delighted at the prices – a bracelet, earrings, and necklace! I was reeling until the woman made a comment about her holding on to the jewelry, implying that she would hold them so we didn’t shop lift them, rather than just saying she’d hold them for us until we checked out. Awkward. Dani and I then found Kim in an…I don’t remember the word Kim used, but an Asian style dress with amazing sleeves. Dani and I had barely opened our mouths to express our approval when Ray (THE Ray) came out of nowhere and screamed at Kim to get out of the dress immediately, that she was stressing the seams. The entire store stopped to look at Kim, who Ray had basically called a fatty in front of like 15 people, when Kim is the opposite of fat and was not fitted into the dress in a way that compromised its structure. We all retreated to the dressing room in a flurry of frantic whispers, where Kim showed us how the dress was already in poor condition and that someone had done a botch job on the back seams, where they had put inserts in the darts that weren’t even the same fabric as the dress. Kim was interested in using the dress as a pattern, but not after the screaming incident. While Dani and I waited for Kim near the register, I got up the nerve to ask if they had any 1920’s day dresses. I wasn’t going to leave treasures behind just because the owner was Oscar the Grouch. Ray interjected again, asked my size, and said “We have this 1930’s dress over on the wall, do you see it? It’s from 1931.”
“But I’m looking for a 1920’s day dress…”
“Then I guess that’s not good enough for you!”
Ray huffed, then turned around and continued working on something. He then turned back around, got a long pole, and fished out an orange and tan 1920’s dress from one of the ceiling racks. Orange is probably the last color I would wear with my coloring and before I could articulate my thanks for him pulling it down, he says again “well, I guess that’s not good enough for you!” I muttered my thanks, paid for my bakelite, and we ran out the door to wretch and moan on the sidewalk about our awful experience.
We needed a palette cleanser after that bitter pill, and, thankfully, our next and last stop for the day was Xtabay Vintage Clothing Boutique, a vintage shop with decor that looked like a cross between an elegant ladies shop and a Hollywood Regency boudoir. Calm and elegant was just what we needed, as well as the friendly chatter with Xtabay’s employees and owner. I found an “almost” with a 1920’s dress, but would have had to modify the garment too much for my purposes and didn’t want to hurt the integrity of the garment. Kim found the most amazing 1950’s shoes with little crystals/rhinestones all over the toe strap and saucy gold metal heels. There were some really great 1950’s party dresses, vintage suits, dresses made with wonderful novelty fabrics, and some seriously hot shoes at this store.
It was one of those days you hope never ends, even with the drama at Ray’s. Thanks so much to Kim Cullins for being our guide through the vintage stores of Portland and for taking the good photographs, since I left my camera at home and used my phone. After realizing just how many vintage stores are in Portland, it could take days just to get through them all. Sounds like another trip… 🙂
It was another wonderful year at Richmond, Virginia’s Jammin’ on the James, both the dancing and the shopping. Some of my favorite vintage shoppers – Lily Matini, Elizabeth Aldrich, Bill Speidel, and, a new addition to my vintage cavalry, Josephine Stewart – made cameos at the event this year and it made Saturday an exciting and bustling day at the vintage shops in Richmond. I reported on my trips to Richmond’s two best vintage shops, Halcyon and Bygones, after last year’s Jammin’ on the James, but there’s always new inventory to scout.
Halcyon is my favorite Richmond store because it is so inviting – beautifully decorated, not too large/too small/too crowded, with a carefully chosen selection of garments that leaves you with the feeling that the entire store is filled with the “good stuff,” no filler. This year was no exception and I left with one beautiful 1930’s dress, but there were several other things I probably could have taken home if the budget had allowed. After we expressed interest in ties, Angelica from Halcyon pulled out the hidden rack of beautiful 1930’s ties, including one with circles and butterflies that Bill and I both claimed, but, ultimately, Bill won out because my husband wouldn’t answer his phone to tell me if he would wear the tie. Bill also scored a vintage Alexander Calder inspired tie by Carnival Jones, Elizabeth left with a lovely black faux fur jacket, and I left with a 1930’s silk dress. There were some really lovely pieces from a Richmond estate, including a 1920’s dress that must have had over 100 green bakelite buttons down the front and both sides.
Next stop was Bygones, which is famous for its window display and top of rack displays. This season’s display did not disappoint, with an Egyptian revival-themed window-dressing and an inside display of furs and faux animals that just begged for some taxidermy or, as Bill said, the barrel of a shotgun peeking out from between the furs. Josephine had great luck here, asking for tiny sized clothing and they definitely delivered. Favorite pieces included two 1940’s suits, one in light aqua velvet with quilting detail on the jacket and another in green silk velvet with amazing trim detail on the jacket.
While the Gentleman’s Emporium boasts primarily reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian garb for men and women, there are some things that remain timeless and, thus, useful to swing dancers aspiring for a vintage look from just beyond Edwardian times or for those who aspire to the high style of Mr. Bobby White. Gentleman’s Emporium makes it easy for buyers – if you aren’t sure what pieces go together, you can view the items by “Outfit” for a head to toe ensemble, grouped in clever characters like “Toby Greenwell – Newsboy,” “Professor Babcock – Man of Science,” “Dickerson Potts – Sportsman,” and numerous other rogues and gentlemen. The ladies also have characters and ensembles, but are, for the most part, not period-appropriate and not dance-able.
In the alternative to the ensemble approach, the Gentleman’s Emporium lists their stock individually in categories, so if you are looking for a vest, you need only click on the proper category. This is probably going to be the most effective way to buy pieces to re-create 1920’s and 1930’s looks via this website. I’m treading lightly here, as menswear is not my forte, so if I’ve listed something that is just not in the realm of comprehension during the jazz age, I apologize.
Here’s what I think might be useful from the Gentleman’s Emporium:
The Jazz Age Lawn Party never ceases to amaze me, with its charm, beauty, number of well-dressed people, and even its power over mother nature. It is such a rare opportunity to dance entirely to 1920’s music and the quality of music was superb, thanks to Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra, the Gelber and Manning Band, and the twin Victrola turntables operated by DJ MAC. It was a beautiful weekend under the trees on Governor’s Island – the storms that threatened New York were held at bay until Sunday afternoon, when Michael Arenella commented from the bandstand that the rain couldn’t stop the festivities and called a tune with “rain” in the title to mock the threatening weather; it was then that the sky opened up, with only a few warning drops before the downpour sent everyone scurrying for cover.
This event has grown every year and this year it seemed to double in size from last year’s impressive turnout. I also noticed that the event organizers take note of how they can improve the event from year to year; for example, in an attempt to combat bystanders loitering on the dance floor and eventually taking it over, they roped off the dance floor area (which was someone effective, but there will always be chattel who don’t understand that a dance floor is for DANCING, not for standing or ogling). There were also more vendors this year, so let’s get to the list!
There simply couldn’t be a JALP without the classic and delicious cocktails made with St. Germain Liqueur, a cocktail confection made from elderflowers picked in the Alps. There was a rush on the cocktails, primarily due to an online coupon deal that offered all you can drink St. Germain for the day, and by the end of day one they were sold out of liqueur. Never fear, they replenished the supply for day two and the delicious festivities continued.
Kreamland Ice Cream was on hand with scoops of ice cream in classic flavors, the perfect treat on a hot August day. In the photograph at right you can see an example of the signs the JALP crew added to distinguish the different administrative and vendor tables, which were especially helpful with the throngs of people in attendance.
Another improvement I noticed was a table set up with helpful items to get you through the day. Forgot your parasol? Need sunscreen or a tissue? Wishing you had a fan to escape the heat? Making these items available for purchase was a great idea! And isn’t the display lovely?
It was interesting to see a modern vendor, such as Yelp, have a table at JALP, but then Yelp is a very useful resource. Yelp sponsored a vintage photo booth at the event, with photographs taken by Tsirkus Fotografika, “an ongoing non-profit, public arts project based in Philadelphia, PA, designed to bring the creative process directly to communities and document populations at their most lively. Employing a mobile portrait studio and trailing-edge technologies such as analog film, old-fashioned “hot” lighting, and large format equipment, Tsirkus follows in the footsteps of itinerant photographers who would travel from town to town making portraits on-the-spot.” I now wish I had waited in line to get my photograph taken – perhaps next year.
Next in the line of vendors was Odd Twin, a Brooklyn-based vintage store with wares available from the jazz age and beyond. I will display more photographs below of the vendors’ wares, but I will note that I was particularly smitten with a two tone brown 1940’s suit that was displayed on the end of their hanging rack. Drool…
Sharing a vendor table were Necks Tuesday and hyc Creative letterpress. Necks Tuesday might be the most creative name for a bow tie company I’ve ever encountered. This Brooklyn-based company asserts that bow ties are a “facet of traditional menswear,” but are now “often an element of a forward, contemporary look.” What’s old is new again, eh? I can get behind this philosophy. Their ties are available in a number of wonderful muted tones and patterns that are sure to go with much of a man’s wardrobe and make a stylish statement without being too loud.
hyc Creative letterpress displayed an endearing collection of thoughtful printed cards, stationery, bookmarks and prints. From their website: “hyc Creative is the creation of Dawn Hylon Lucas-Carlson. A small private press founded in 2006. We print Letterpress greeting cards, bookmarks, coasters, prints, and invitations using a mix of found vintage blocks and fonts, hand carved linoleum blocks and newly created designs. Everything is hand-printed on a Kelsey 6 x 10 Excelsior Press.”
Next in the lineup is The Original Prohibition Clothing Company, a company specializing in custom menswear. What I like about TOPCC is the wear-ability of the garments and the attention to detail. These clothes could be in a fine menswear store just about anywhere, you could wear the clothes anywhere, but they would be that piece that stands out as superb amongst the modern suits, with just enough nod to vintage to appear authentic. Details like fan pleating out of a belt back Norfolk jacket or a black and white Bette Davis printed on the inside of a newsboy cap make these items truly stand out against the competition. Their website is still under development, but I look forward to this company making their products available to the masses. Until then, you can browse some of their accessories available in TOPCC eBay store.
The Fine and Dandy Shop.com had a wonderful showing of men’s accessories – ties, pocket squares, handkerchiefs, cufflinks and other man jewelry, flasks, pocket watches, and even a vintage Boy Scout’s guide. Fine and Dandy has a fairly comprehensive website and I’d recommend that you gents check out their fantastic selection, including their ties, which are made in New York. See photographs below.
After all this menswear, I arrived at my favorite vendor of the weekend, Noble Savage Vintage, who displayed exclusively pre-1940’s clothing and accessories for women. This table and rack were a dream come true, with beautiful beading, gauzy dresses, satin 1920’s shoes, and vintage lace galore. My friend Elizabeth picked up a wonderful 1930’s dress in a gauzy chiffon floral that was perfect for Day 2 of the lawn party.
I’ll end this tour-de-vendors with The Village Scandal, one of last year’s wonderful vendors who had amazing cloches and the must-have fascinator of the event. This year, their entire inventory must have been must-have because, by the time I made it out to their table, it had been ransacked. Their positioning near the entrance may have helped add to the chaos of what happened to their table, but I am pleased to see that they did so much business.
There were other vendors, but they did not have signs and I was unable to speak with the vendor representative (so many people!). I hope to return to this event next year and make it a priority to get to the event earlier to scope out the vendors’ wares. Until then, I leave you with these photos:
Sweet Lorain (formerly Suite Lorain, now under new ownership) is one of those rare places where there are entire racks devoted to 1930’s and 1940’s clothing, rather than being relegated to a few rare items on the wall or stuck in the middle of a mound of polyester. In fact, Sweet Lorain skirts the issue by focusing exclusively on “Deco to 1960’s.” It’s a huge store, with tons of furniture, housewares, knick-knacks, clothing and accessories, and maybe some random items from a past era you’ve never even thought about. The dresses, evening gowns, coats, and other swing era garments are comparably plentiful and in an array of sizes. There were so many things to see that my partner in crime, Elizabeth Tietgen, and I spent several hours there, long enough for the store owner to offer us each a bottle of water!
We were told that the store had been hoarding swing era items for the ABW participants and people were dropping off things to sell to the ABW’ers the morning of the day we went to Sweet Lorain, namely a pair of 1940’s low heeled sandals that Elizabeth took home and a green 1930’s raincoat that came home with me.
I have heard stories about Sweet Lorain for years from my vintage tailor/couturier, Laura Boyes, who grew up in Cleveland. She and her daughter have had great luck in this store during their visits and Laura has even seen buyers from Anthropologie using their corporate card to purchase items from Sweet Lorain to copy or as inspiration for their designs. Understandably, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this visit to Sweet Lorain and it did not disappoint.
Did I think to take photos of what we bought? No, of course not, but Elizabeth left with a bevy of blue and white items, including a 1950’s sundress, a 1930’s day dress with matching bolero, black 1940’s shoes, tap shoes, and an aqua velvet 1930’s gown, and I left with a gray 1920’s dress, a seersucker romper of unknown decade, the 1930’s raincoat, a tie for the Boy, and a Bakelite bangle. Quite possibly the best trip to a vintage store EVER. Did I mention the prices here are amazing? This store will be a must-do for all subsequent ABWs.
Here are some of the other goodies I found at Sweet Lorain (I apologize for posting photos from my phone, I forgot my real camera):