“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” Marlene Dietrich
This quote from Marlene Dietrich is, to me, somehow both complicated and empowering. Is image the vision she has for herself? The version of herself she believes is best for her? The public persona she wants to portray? The intrinsic version of herself? An image to inspire others? Perhaps all of these things. Grace Foster posits in a Smithsonian article that “Dietrich fastidiously fashioned and controlled her own image,” much in the way that an Instagram celeb might cultivate an image over time.
Dietrich is perhaps most known for her iconic appearance in white tie and top hat in the film Morocco, is perhaps secondarily known for donning traditional menswear off-screen, as well. As part of that carefully cultivated image, Dietrich inspires in both silk and and in tweed, presenting an image that is glamorous and distinctly Dietrich in any garment she chose to wear.
My favorite brand of the moment, the UK-based House of Foxy, has released three sets of trousers and waistcoat pairings inspired by Dietrich, complete with men’s style tailored trousers, in navy chalk stripe, charcoal chalk stripe, and brown herringbone. Women’s trousers, still rare during the 1930’s, would likely have had a side opening instead of a front opening, but Dietrich was known for having men’s pieces tailored for her, so the House of Foxy trousers follow suit. I’m so very excited about these pieces, primarily because I’ve had women approach me about how to get this look or ask where to find menswear to fit women’s bodies, and, short of replicating Dietrich’s strategy of paying a tailor to modify menswear, my recommendations often fell short. Baby steps…also, the charcoal stripe vest (as of my writing this) is still not posted on the website and I’ve been hitting refresh for two weeks eagerly waiting for its release to purchase along with the trousers – I have ties, braces, a cap, and cap-toe boots ready to go! *REFRESH*
In one of the House of Foxy’s Facebook posts, someone noted that this was an outfit of their dreams and HOF responded something to the effect that they themselves were just following their dreams. Here’s to dreams of Dietrich and defining your own image. Cheers!
I’m excited to see more vintage inspired men’s trousers popping up from reproduction/retro brands on the Internet – as you may or may not know, the most searched for item on Lindy Shopper is men’s high waisted pants. The latest offerings are from Chester Cordite, who I featured on this blog in January of 2017 with suits and spearpoint collar shirts, but they have since added even more clothing options to their stock. However, I’m focusing on this particular pair of 30’s/40’s inspired twill trousers because they will likely be the most versatile for dancers in most seasons, depending on where you live – these are the most basic of basic men’s pants, but with all the little vintage details that make the difference: high waist, light pleat in the front (for mobility/movement, y’all, don’t get scared), braces buttons, machine washable, 2 inches to let out in the rear, and comes in five colors (khaki, cream, light gray, dark gray, and navy). Again, the UK is killing it with the repro trousers – if you’re like me and you simply cannot find pants to fit you in the US, the shipping cost and risk of a return are worth it.
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…
As I wrap up the last of my dance-oriented gigs before the holidays, a common farewell is, “See you at Focus!” As usual, my holiday dress shopping is a double-duty task, as I look to acquire festive attire for both holiday parties/dances and for dancing at Lindy Focus. I’ve been smitten for some time with the House of Foxy’s offerings, but they about knocked me out of my chair when they released four of their Grable dresses in holiday-perfect hues. Festive red, dark green, a berry hue, and classic black – I love solids for the holidays because they are so easy to dress up or down with jewelry, shoes, and other accessories. This dress is also a crepe poly/viscose/spandex blend for a quick and easy wash and wear turnaround. Can you guess what color I ordered? 😉
Every once in a while I’ll happen upon Lindy Hop-themed jewelry, so it was no surprise that retro-leaning Australian jewelry company Erstwilder created a brooch of a dancing couple mid-aerial called Jack Rabbit Slims, which looks like it was based on a classic photo of Hal Takier and Betty Takier. While I don’t recall Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega doing this move, I get the sentiment and perhaps another dance contest winner in that fictional universe won the dance contest with this move? It looks like this also came in a pink colorway at some point, maybe some digging on eBay will yield one if the brown colorway isn’t your bag. Cheers!
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….
The Women’s Swing Dance Shoes Hunt Facebook group has been active for a few years now, but I’ve seen an uptick in men looking for shoes as of late. In the case of Nashville, Tennessee dancer Nick D’Amico, he was also looking to sell some of his dance shoes that never quite worked out for him with sizing, so just last week Nick took the plunge and created The Gentleman’s Corner Shoe Exchange: Buy and Sell Shoes for Swing Dancing. Nick also wants to cultivate discussion about shoes and shoe care, so come join and let’s get this group off the ground – you’ve got a place to sell your not-quite-right shoes and you never know when something you need might pop up!
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
“Dance shoes to dream, that move us to another more friendly time, full of swing, magic and good vibrations.” (Translated from Spanish thanks to Google Translate)
As a lady dancer, the name of this brand new swing dance shoe business really caught my eye – who of my femme-leaning friends doesn’t want to be a Madame Dynamite on the dance floor? I received a message via the Lindy Shopper Facebook page from Mayte Ample alerting me to the existence of this new swing dance shoe company based in Valencia, Spain.
It looks like they are just getting off the ground (the Facebook page says they were “born” on November 3), but definitely more to watch for – check out their lovely 30’s-inspired t-strap shoe, available in navy, honey, red wine, rose gold, and ginger. Also, check out their Facebook page photos for some fantastic photos of these shoes being made – I love seeing how clothing and shoes are constructed!
Saint Savoy just released a new shoe design, the Eden, and I was virtually stopped in my tracks on Facebook because I need a pair and need to know everything about it. Of course they have a green pair I’m dying to own, but it’s black with a deep, almost iridescent, green detail, as if to say “I’m Evil” in the best possible Una-Mae-Carlisle-kind-of-way. Also available with two tone matte/shiny combos of tan/bronze and white/silver and a double shiny pair with bronze/silver, here’s the post from this morning:
“A classic peep toe, eye-catching asymmetry, sturdy 4-cm heel, and fitted ankle strap.
With padding softer at the heel than the toe, this shoe allows the balls of your feet impeccable control of the floor while firmly supporting your ankles and heels .
A comparison between the heels of the RIVIERA and the EDEN will show the difference in cut. The sole is softer and the toe box wider than the RIVIERAs.
Enjoy this classy shoe on and off the dance floor! We deliver free of charge worldwide and include a shoe bag with every purchase.”
Best possible additional news? Saint Savoy will be at Lindy Focus!
In the search for reproduction menswear, one of the most commonly worn items, a dress shirt, is generally available – however, if you are a stickler for detail, you’ll notice that most modern men’s shirts lack that distinctive spearpoint collar prevalent in jazz age/swing era shirts. One could always spend the money for a custom shirt, but what if you just want something a little more vintage without spending an arm and a leg?
It has been suggested by some of my esteemed OcTieBer colleagues that Natty Shirts’ “Savvy Journalist” shirt is that shirt – not quite exactly a vintage spearpoint, but definitely closer than most modern options, and, at $29.99, it’s far from breaking the bank. You can even get it monogrammed for an additional $5.00.
One of the classic swing dance looks is a “collegiate look,” a youth culture of the jazz age and swing era (and beyond, really), who had their own trends and fads, like any youth culture – one option to add to this look is a classic letter sweater. Last year All Balboa Weekend had a limited number of ABW patches made up, so of course I snagged one because I love the look, love the concept and I lettered in a couple of sports when I was in high school, so I’m partial to that nostalgia – I mean, of course I’ve lettered in Balboa by now, my 10th ABW, right?
But my ABW letter patch has been sitting on the dresser in my guest room since then, waiting for the perfect sweater. I had hoped to find a vintage one, but finding one in the right color and in my size proved to be a non-starter. I ran into New York dancer/instructor/performer Adrienne Weidert at Camp Hollywood in September sporting a Miss Camp Hollywood letter sweater and she (and several other former Miss Camp Hollywood title holders) had purchased theirs online. It makes sense, I had a letter jacket in high school, those classic items can still be purchased, why not sweaters?
A quick internet search directed me to Neff, a company still making classic letter jackets and letter sweaters, but the absolute best part is that these sweaters, made from acrylic, are customizable – 16 different colors to choose from, decide what you want each color to be for the body of the sweater, the neck/placket, the pocket trim, the buttons, and if you want stripes on either sleeve. I designed a sweater and submitted it for a quote, which came back at $94.95, which is cheaper than any vintage sweater I had found that would work. Then we had to get our roof fixed for the impending hurricane than never ended up coming, and the sweater quote email sat in my inbox, I’m sure you know how that goes, and I never got around to getting this…
Then, dancer/instructor/organizer Andy Nishida tagged me on Instagram for a kelly green 30’s/40’s wool letter sweater being sold by @mrartdeco, and I had to have it – exactly my size, my favorite color, maybe it would look good with the ABW letter, and if it didn’t I’d still have a ton of things to wear with it. It arrived and it is WARM and HEAVY – like I don’t know if I’d need a coat if I had it on, which I think was the point (that you’d want everyone to see your sweater and not cover it up with a coat). There’s no way I could dance in it, so I decided to look for something more…3 seasons than 1 season. But never fear, the green sweater will be out in its own glory, it really needs no embellishment and you will all see me coming a mile away.
I had a birthday coupon for J Crew and went to look at their cardigans – I don’t buy a lot of things from J Crew, but their Jackie cardigan is my go-to classic cardigan (good weight cotton, lovely finish, stays nice through washes, nice shape/length, etc.) so I went to check on any new colors they may have for the fall season. As I’m perusing the cardigan page, I notice the Harlow cardigan, which looks like a letter sweater in shape – merino wool, pockets on each side, trimmed in grosgrain ribbon, but it looks like a lighter weight wool. Of course ordering things online is tricky and I was fully prepared for this sweater to be a total failure of modern clothing, like most things from mall retailers are for me these days. It arrived today and it’s perfect – great weight for a little nip in the air, light enough to be a middle layer, I prefer natural fibers for breathability, and just enough space to sew my letter on. I can’t wait to wear it out and about!
Thus ends this letter sweater story – if you are on a search for your letter sweater, I hope some of this information will be helpful.
It is no secret that workwear has been a trend in the vintage community for the past several years and this has started to translate into some more casual reproduction clothing being made and available for dancers who may not want to roll up into a dance in a 1930’s suit or a 1940’s rayon dress every week. For women, many of these workwear reproductions translate into WWII era throwbacks, when women joined the workforce in many sectors of employment, including factory workers who would need to wear something more practical than the aforementioned rayon dress. Vintage style workwear is very easy to integrate into your wardrobe, whether you wear vintage style every day or want a few easy pieces to mix in with your regular daywear.
Simplicity patterns has been periodically trickling out reissues of popular patterns from the past, with reformatted instructions for more ease in sewing, for the past decade, or so. I remember picking up a couple of dress patterns for my mom to make for me a little over 10 years ago, since her sewing skills are so much better than mine, and was very pleased with the results. But the vintage reissues are still a very small part of their offerings, so I hadn’t checked in in a while to see what they were up to.
Yesterday, I see in my Facebook feed that Simplicity has caught wind of the workwear trend and reissued their pattern for 1940’s overalls, trousers, and blouses, a practical package deal for anyone, then and now. Each piece has such lovely details, showing us that practical doesn’t have to mean boring. The overalls come up over the bust with some shape so that they define the waistline a bit more than your standard pair of overalls. The trousers are so classic, make them out of just about any fabric for any occasion, and that hooded blouse is just…I’m dying. The best of all possible basics in one envelope. My only complaint is that there isn’t an optional short sleeve for the blouse, but that may not bother you if you are a veteran sewer – if I were actually to make this, I would be lazy and not want to have to figure that out, LOL.
But wait! This pattern is already on backorder. I’m a little surprised, but then not surprised because this is such a great pattern to own.
If you need this pattern in your life right now, never fear – EvaDress Patterns has already been selling a reissue of this pattern (with the original pattern number), picking up the slack from Simplicity being behind the curve on this trend. It even has the short sleeve options, further picking up the slack from Simplicity. 😉
I’m essentially going to re-post what is on the Frankie Manning Foundation website, but I wanted to get the word out – this can be a one-day challenge or a month-long challenge, your choice! While you’re there, check out all the other ways you can get involved…and while you are here at lindyshopper.com, you can figure out just how to get #TheLindyLook. 😉
From the website: “As part of Frankie’s long-held wish that the entire world know about lindy hop, let’s dress the part and hopefully trigger some conversations at the water cooler, on public transit, and wherever you may go on May 26th.
Don your favourite swing threads that best capture the spirit of the Savoy Ballroom in its 1920-50s pomp, or if you prefer, wear your favorite event t-shirt or whatever else means “swing” to you. Have your photo taken at work, in your office, at your desk, at a cafe, on the street, or wherever you may go. Be creative!
Share your photos on social media with the hashtag #TheLindyLook; photos shared on most social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram will automatically be collated as part of #TheLindyLook tag board. Share your #TheLindyLook photos on Facebook too on the Frankie Manning Foundation page.
Are you up for an extra fancy challenge? Why not dress the part for the entire Frankie Month, May 1st to 31st, and share a photo each day!”
Let’s talk about Sunny van Zijst, or rather, let her talk about her work, via the website: “I spend many hours looking into the originals that are the source of my work. The details, the construction, the fabric, they all matter. I try to get to the fundamentals of a garment, and work out what makes them iconic. The process of the making involves learning the old techniques, and combine them with modern techniques. I prefer to work with quality materials for outside as well as inside. Waistcoats, jackets and coats are tailored with hair canvas interfacing in order to give structure on the inside, and a natural drape on the outside. This makes a garment into a piece that is timeless and can be treasured a lifetime.” This is all music to my ears, of course!
Here are things I love from the website/Etsy site: