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:
Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, sells vintage inspired and reproduction shoes from their own line of shoes and from other lovely shoe makers. When under the American Duchess umbrella, they did some truly lovely custom pre-order shoes in limited runs and I was excited to see the owners branch out and create an entirely separate line for just us 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s gals. Their first line under Royal Vintage came out this past fall with some wonderful basics, but I felt the pumps/slingbacks weren’t practical for dancing and the heels were too high to be accessible to most dancers, which is why you didn’t read about it on this blog. Fast forward to now and let’s just say we’ve hit the mother load.
Beginning March 23, you can pre-order these amazing Royal Vintage Shoes – you can tell that the owners love history and know it well, based on their style and color selections. These shoes, which they are calling “Deco Darlings,” are anything but basic, yet I can see them going with so many things! Introducing the “Lillian,” a Mary Jane two tone heel in navy/white and sage/white; the “Evelyn,” a canvas and leather oxford in brown/cream and brown/navy; and the “Roxy,” a dressy Mary Jane in gold and silver.
It’s no secret that I’m #teamLunceford for the second round of the Lindy Focus transcription project, whereby we all get to vote for which night of dance music by a swing era bandleader will be transcribed for our dancing, listening, and (later) performing pleasure. Earl Hines and Fletcher Henderson are formidable opponents, the opposite of slouches, but maybe Jimmie just pulls at your heartstrings a little bit more? Show your support with one of JitterButtons’ Jimmie Lunceford buttons, made in the style of vintage political buttons. Great for lapels and shoe bags alike, three styles to choose from – grab yours now! #LuncefordforFocus
It’s been almost 7 years since I wrote this guest post for Atomic Ballroom in 2010, recommending clothing and brands to build a wardrobe of dance clothing basics and I thought it would be interesting to see how my recommendations held up seven years later. Maybe you’re just getting started, maybe you’re looking to add a few new pieces…let’s have a look:
2010: Recommended dance sneaker to get started.
2017: Would still recommend – KEDS 4EVA
2010: Recommended Heyday‘s 1940’s reproduction wide leg, high waist trousers.
2017: Would still recommend Heyday as the gold standard, but would add Vivien of Holloway and House of Foxy to the list, depending on waist/hip ratio and to give more fabric and color options. If you sew, make yourself a pair of Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers. More options seven years later means we are all winning. Note that the ready to wear pants I have listed are all from the UK, which means the UK wins the pants game in my book. That’s hard win, folks, given my general distaste for trousers.
2010: Trumpet skirt by Dancestore.com – note that I can not even link to this non-existent garment.
2017: After my crusade to bring back the Dancestore.com trumpet skirt failed, Chloe Hong rode across the sea on a unicorn to be my trumpet skirt fairy godmother, delivering the goods and improving on an already awesome skirt design by offering two different lengths and a built in slip to cover your bum when you spin. I’m 6 skirts in, four off the rack and two custom, and I’m hooked – I wear them to work and for dancing. A friend even noted she thought she made finals in a competition solely because this skirt improved how her dancing looked – that a garment could even do that speaks for itself.
2010: Shirts recommended from anywhere – cited ModCloth, The Limited, and American Apparel.
2017: Gonna keep the ModCloth recommendation (having one of those “what did I do before ModCloth?” moments) and add to the tops/blouse list Collectif (particularly for short sleeved knits), Nudeedudee (casual/dressy button-ups), and House of Foxy (dressy button-ups).
2010: Accessories to a minimum, usually hair flowers – recommended Bowsweet on Etsy.
2017: Still keeping accessories to a minimum, but my, how far we have come! Bowsweet primarily focuses on little girl hair accoutrements, but we now have many more dedicated hair creation artists online and at our swing dance events. My favorite is hometown gal Chatterblossom, who collects vintage millinery flowers to make exquisite creations that go with your vintage clothing – because vintage colors match vintage colors and the detail and material of the vintage blooms is so different than modern made blooms. Her shop is just scratching the surface of her flower collection.
As an addendum to the accessories, I’ll say that in the past couple of years that a number of artists have started making resin or plastic jewelry that resembles or is inspired by vintage Bakelite and Lucite jewelry and it’s marvelous. My favorites are Summer Blue, Mrs. Polly’s Lucite, and The Pink Bungaloo – leave the bangles, take the rest. Wearing less expensive reproductions means we don’t have to worry about breaking or damaging vintage jewelry when we dance.
There are so many more reproduction clothing companies now doing a variety of everyday/dress up and danceable garments and accessories, but these are my go-tos, so please take this as a starting point to find even more good clothing and brands online. We are much better off than we were seven years ago – with many more options to purchase vintage-inspired clothing online, it becomes even easier to build your swing dance wardrobe.
I’ll leave you with the recap from the initial post: “To recap: Shoes that go with everything, flattering pants and a skirt to mix in with ladylike tops and knits, and a dress with an impeccable cut – it sounds like you have an amazing dance wardrobe!”
This will be a very brief post, but I felt it warranted a full-fledged Lindy Shopper post because I know it will make some people very happy – Re-mix Vintage Shoes is now offering U.S. women’s size 5 in the following styles: Anita, Balboa, Charleston, Emily and Emily 2.0! These are all popular styles for swing dancing, which I’m sure is more than a happy coincidence. 🙂
So I basically can’t keep up with all the swing dancer-focused shoe companies popping up right now – the latest company to grab my attention is Tranky Shoes, which Jessica Bullock mentioned in response to a shoe question Gaby Cook posted on Facebook. Their Facbook page is in Italian, Google translate has failed miserably to translate the text, and Facebook translate fared only slightly better, so I’m interested in hearing more about this shoe company. Here’s what I can surmise from their Facebook page:
Based in Italy
There are green double strap Mary Janes that need to come home with me (sans the velvet bootie – can that happen?)
They are being sold at a bunch of European events
Handmade, leather upper, leather soles
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell me more, peeps! Have you tried these shoes? I want to hear all about them. 🙂
Oh, how much do I love this red romper from The House of Foxy? A lot. ALOT. In addition to being adorable, practical (look mom, no tights!), stylish, and festive, it has great dance potential because it’s made from “Rayon/poly mix with a touch of spandex for stretch. Bodice lined in stretch poly.” I bet the drape is lovely…
I usually reserve my vendor report for after the event, but in an effort to be proactive in reporting and share the good news in advance so that we may all prepare ourselves (and perhaps put a bit of that holiday bonus or Christmas money aside, should you be so lucky), I am excited to share what many of you may already know from obsessively following the Lindy Focus Facebook group – nevertheless, here it is, the Lindy Focus vendor lineup:
– Jack n’ Jill Salon – https://www.facebook.com/JnJSalonLindyFocus
– Massage with Danielle Knight!
– Mary Kay Williams is returning again this year to draw $5-5 minute black and white caricatures of everyone, and is also taking commissions for some fabulous vintage pin-up style color caricatures!
For any event, this is a formidable lineup. It is particularly noteworthy because Chloe Hong will be coming from South Korea and Saint Savoy from Austria, making this a strong international presence in our vendor lineup, which is truly a rarity, a treat, and not something to be taken lightly – you can now try on all those wonderful skirts and shoes that you see online, talk to the vendors in person, and perhaps save on international shipping. Saint Savoy has already been posting information about new shoe colors that will be available in the Facebook group and, based on the comments, the people are READY FOR YOUR WARES.
I encourage you to become active in the Facebook group discussions if you have any questions. With Saint Savoy, specifically, as they are bringing try-ons only, unless you place your order by the end of November (see linked FB thread for information). The Jack n’ Jill Salon should start taking appointments soon and those appointments go fast. If you want something special/specific for your hair for NYE, reach out to Chatterblossom in advance for a custom piece, as she’ll only be able to bring limited stock of her seemingly endless inventory. Start compiling your best castoffs to consign at the Savoy Shop – I’ve already got a bag of goodies ready to go from my last closet purge. Are you ready for Lindy Focus? SOON.
I can’t begin to tell you how I began to salivate once I happened upon The Oblong Box Shop’s holiday offerings, particularly this skirt WHAT EVEN IS THIS. I tend to gravitate more towards 1930’s and 40’s aesthetics, but there are just some 1950’s things, confectionery things, that are irresistible. The combination of adorable reindeer, fluffy trees, and winter landscape in candy colors set my heart aflame and my fingers on the refresh button until, at last, the notification appeared that this skirt was in stock. Endless joy abounds and I’m set for my holiday engagements!
Check out the shop, other delightful confections await…
In the past year I have learned that Simon James Cathcart is making limited runs of highly desirable reproduction clothing items and accessories and that we are all along for the ride. It’s almost been the male-leaning equivalent of a Trashy Diva print launch, with each new item generating a buzz on social media and, within a couple of weeks, I’ll see said item on one of my vintage/classic menswear friends. What’s been going on lately? He’s released a long-sleeved version of his bamboo knit Art Deco polo, vintage-inspired “gang” jackets (are you a Vampire or a Werewolf? aka are you from Brooklyn or Detroit?), and yesterday I noticed a colorful array of two-tone waistcoats in my feed and it was then that I decided it was time for another post on the adventures of Mr. Cathcart.
Given the prevalence of vests/waistcoats in the swing dance world, particularly in competitions for their practicality and aesthetic, I would love to see the ensembles inspired by these particular waistcoats. Most waistcoats I see are of suiting fabric in muted tones, but these waistcoats are alive with color. Maybe not electric color, but certainly more of a range than I have seen in the past. They invite creativity and catch the eye, which makes them a viable candidate for a competition-wear, or maybe you just need an injection of color for a winter dance.
The vests are made of melton wool and are shown on the SJC website with both dressed-up menswear and dressed-down workwear ensembles – available in green/brown, navy/royal, green/rust, navy/mustard, gray/navy, and aubergine/brown combinations.
I had already backed the Kickstarter for the navy/cream spectators and ordered my Deco polo when I started to see the Simon James Cathcart apparel on others, first the polo on Nicholas Centino while vintage shopping in Cleveland for All Balboa Weekend, then on Glenn Crytzer on Facebook, and then on just about every vintage-loving gent I ran across in person. That the Deco polo was so prevalent and widespread so quickly speaks to its necessity. Vintage clothing isn’t always about being dressed up for fancy affairs, we want to look sharp in casual-wear, with all those nice vintage details that are missing from modern clothing. Unfortunately, not a lot of vintage knitwear survived, so we’re lucky SJC decided to do something about it.
My navy spectator shoes arrived in the mail week before last, so of course I have gigs all weekend and then it rains all week so I can’t wear them. I had already seen their glory on Facebook, through SJC’s posts of customers who shared their first ensembles with these glorious shoes. It was so inspiring that I couldn’t help but plan an ensemble of my own. Who am I kidding, I already had my outfit planned out, maybe three outfits…
The first sighting of the canvas and leather spectators in person on another person occurred at Classic City Swing in Athens, Georgia – a pair in acorn/cream on the feet of Augusta, Georgia dancer Keith Beckman. He came over to show them to me, I squeed a bit, he thanked me for posting about the shoes, and he had good reviews for their danceability – the leather sole is top notch, you can tell just by looking at it, but Keith was worried about the small rubber bit on the rear outside of the heel. What he discovered is that the rubber didn’t get in the way of his dancing, spinning, or sliding, but he could use the rubber as a stopper depending on how he distributed his weight. Of course they looked impeccable, I had already spotted him across the room in them before he came over to talk to me, because they are SHARP AS HELL.
I finally got to wear my navy and white spectators this Friday, with navy trousers and a striped shirt. It didn’t take long to break them in and by the end of the day they felt comfortable, even though I had worn them at my standing desk all day and walked around downtown during lunch for about 20 minutes. They are men’s shoes, but they fit well – my heel is a regular size, but the ball of my foot and toes can err on the side of wide and I had plenty of room in the toe box without feeling like I was wearing shoes that were too big for me. I wear a 7 in women’s U.S. sizes and I took a size 4 in SJC’s U.K. men’s sizes. I received several compliments on my shoes during my lunchtime walk and some dude in the parking deck was definitely checking out my shoes when I got out of the car that morning.
On Saturday I went out to lunch at Monuts in my green Deco polo, which was perfect for a fall transitional day – it was a season-appropriate color and matched my 1940’s Wild West scarf, but it was also good for the weather, which was sunny and 80-something degrees. It was comfortable and easy to dress down with jeans and Keds, but I have seen this paired with jackets for a more dressy look. I really struggle with that sort of in-between look that so many Americans seem to gravitate toward, not dressy, but not too casual – it seems I’m either in a fancy dress or in my pajamas, so the Deco polo is filling a bit of that in-between niche in my wardrobe. For sizing reference, I typically wear a U.S. women’s size 10 and I took an XS in the SJC polo. I’ll leave you with this description of the polo from the SJC website:
“Beautifully tailored and made from the truly remarkable bamboo plant. It is circular knitted in the old school style and thus very slubby giving the shirt a distinctly raw 1930’s look. Super soft feel and at 230 grams these polos have a nice weighty feel about them.”
I am so pleased with my Simon James Cathcart purchases. It’s important to remember that these items are limited batch specialty items and some are based on Kickstarter/pre-orders, so it doesn’t give you a lot of time to ponder, “Do I need this?” The spectators and polo were an easy choice for me because I almost never find good navy shoes (much less vintage two-tone navy flats) or green shirts and these are things I want in my wardrobe. There are only the acorn/cream spectators left on the website and some of the Deco polo colors have sold out, so be sure to act swiftly to secure what you like.
I can’t wait to see what SJC comes up with next, he seems to have a knack for finding these “holy grail” vintage items and then reproduces them for us to enjoy today.
What if you had unlimited patience and diligence to power through thrift store racks AND and uncanny knack for knowing your friends/dancers’ style to pick up the best deals for them at said thrift stores? Knoxville dancer, organizer, and bandleader Megan Lange noticed this pattern in her life and a growing inventory in her house and decided to launch the Lost and Found Lindy Lounge, which is both a Facebook-based shop and a pop-up shop at swing dance events. Megan has been posting new goodies regularly on the Facebook page and you can inquire about what you see in the photographs on the page in terms of pricing, shipping, sizes, etc. She loves working with people, so don’t be shy about reaching out!
As with any business endeavor, the Lost and Found Lindy Lounge is a bit of serendipity, inspiration, and thoughtful business planning – Megan wrote this about her start: “A few years ago, I was given a book called A Vintage Affair (written by Isabel Wolff, a novel about a woman who owns a vintage store in London) and fell in love with the idea of owning a consignment shop – the book is also a lovely read – and when I combined that with my love for sewing and all things vintage, and the fact that I have time to do things right now… It just seemed like the right time to try it. It’s all just a grand adventure.”
So what has Megan unearthed for the dancing masses? Posted in the Facebook page is an array of dance-worthy and vintage-inspired shoes in great condition, dance dresses, jewelry, and hats, as well as a box showing her latest haul with some of the above and gloves and purses in the mix. The shoes are the most impressive, some really nice dance heels and leather shoes, and lots of them!
You can find the Lost and Found Lindy Lounge at the Knoxville Lindy Exchange in October and MC Shuffle in February, and perhaps at some other events near you in the future!
Yes, it’s another UK-based company and yes, it’s another retro plastic jewelry maker, I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. The explosion of goodness will not go unreported on this blog and LouTaylorStudio is the latest in creative genius, using a laser cutter to create whimsical and detailed jewelry in distinctive vintage shapes. The Carmen Miranda alone warranted a post.
From her Etsy page, it looks like Lou Taylor got her start in paper, which you can also purchase some of her paper creations on Etsy:
“I create striking papercuts full of colour, pattern and intricate detail. Prints are available of my work, and are high-quality giclee prints made by a local printers called Stampa.
I am inspired daily by colour, pattern and often vintage fashion illustrations from the 50s and 60s and I have a real affection for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar covers from the 20s. I love to use unusual motifs in my work such as thermos flasks, spider plants and flamingoes as I believe they are very evocative and iconic.
I recently translated my ideas into acrylic jewellery and now have a wide range of colourful striking designs that I hope have a similar feel to my artwork.”
She also notes that bags will be coming to the shop next (!!!) and I see the scarves she predicted have made it to the shop. Here are my favorites from the Etsy shop.
This year All Balboa Weekend celebrated it’s 16th birthday and I celebrated 9 years of attending this event, with the requisite vintage shopping, both within and outside of the hotel where the event occurs. The event has become such a destination for our micro-economy of dance clothing, shoes, and accessories, that it attracts some truly wonderful vendors, some repeat vendors and some new each year. I have certainly become educated as to certain brands by being introduced to them at ABW and also have the opportunity to try things on in person that I may only see online for the rest of the year.
I am sad to report that one of ABW’s regular vendors, The Cleveland Shop, has closed its doors, so there was no more brick and mortar store, nor a happy booth of vintage clothing and accessories at the hotel.
All Balboa Weekend had some clever merchandise this year, with specialty items that I was very excited about – as someone who owns many event tee shirts, it is nice to see events thinking outside of the box (but also inside OUR box as swing dancers). My favorite this year was the chenille patch of two eighth notes, with “Balboa” and “ABW” embroidered on the patch – as if you attended ABW and lettered in Balboa – to add to any jacket or sweater for an instant collegiate look. My second favorite item this year was the bandanas they had made, which is already an extremely practical item for the wiping of sweat or the hiding of a pincurl wet set, but also features graphics of dancers, dance shoes, dance wax, a new ABW logo, and a border print that is actually musical notations of a well-known and loved song in the Balboa community! The level of thought and love that went into this did not go unnoticed. I also loved and picked up the new durable canvas logo shoulder bag with a leather strap, perfect as a traveling bag or to carry all your accoutrements to your local dance.
Next in line as we travel down the ABW ballroom hallway/vendor area, is Remix Vintage Shoes, and we should all thank the heavens that owner Philip Heath comes to Cleveland with a metric ton of shoes for us, because (as far as I know) only ABW and Viva Las Vegas have made it worth Remix’s while to come outside of their retail location and shipping center in California. New this year is a black and off-white version of the popular Balboa style shoe, which is also available in a rainbow of color options and it was delightful to see them all in a row. Also new is a lower heeled version of the Ritz called the Charleston, which looked much more dance-friendly with 2 3/8 inch heels as opposed to 3 1/4 inch heels. Last, but certainly not least, the new men’s shoe features a fantastic array of perforations and brogueing, just perfect for summer!
Rejoining us this year after a brief hiatus is my favorite brick and mortar Cleveland vintage shop, Sweet Lorain, who packed up a bunch of their “vintage department store’s” wares and set up shop at ABW. I went to the brick and mortar store before I went shopping at the hotel and I can tell you that it didn’t make a dent, that shop is packed to the gills and I’m glad I shopped both the store and the booth. There was a great mix of garments, but I thought the separates were particularly good this year, namely an amazing lantern print blouse snagged by San Francisco dancer Lori Taniguchi and a mint green sailor middy with white trim I snagged for myself. Also the bakelite jewelry… *swoons*
De Fils en Perles was a new vendor to ABW this year, with truly amazing, meticulous, intricate beadwork, many pieces with a nod to Art Deco lines and loveliness. As someone who has attempted beadwork repairs on clothing, I can only imagine the patience it takes to create this jewelry! Favorites included drop earrings with 3D effects, bracelets with multi-color geometric patters, and a beaded bracelet with lady bugs.
Next in the line is Dancestore, with their signature line of Aris Allen dance shoes and the booth headed up by none other than Laurie Gilkenson (affectionately aka “Nina’s mom). Dancestore offered a nice selection of dance shoes at affordable prices, including their cap cap toes and some nice options for flats for the ladies, if you didn’t want to dance in heels all weekend. You can catch Laurie and Dancestore at ILHC, next for your chance to try on and pick up a pair of dance shoes in person.
ABW vendor veteran and Etsy celebrity ChatterBlossom never disappoints and this year, knowing that she would be back, her fans were ready – it was not uncommon for people to bring clothing down from their rooms specifically to match items, even showing up to ABW unaccessorized knowing that ChatterBlossom would have just the bloom to complete the outfit. Of course, it’s also easy to pick up a vintage dress and find a vintage flower from Chatterblossom to match, as Jamie Sturdevant (proprietress and artist) collects vintage millinery for her pieces and, thus, the dyes are just as they were.
Holding it down at the end of the hall was Flower Child, which is a collective of sellers who usually sell at the Flower Child brick and mortar location, but have also been staples at ABW for the past few years with an epic spread of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, and also some other vintage items like housewares, memoribilita, fabric and sewing notions. My absolute favorite dress this year was purchased by Rochester dancer Beth Midavaine, a late 30’s/early 40’s rayon dress with all the bells and whistles one could fathom for a vintage rayon dress – a stellar print with a sort of 3 muses theme (but also tropical and geometric?), a light peplum, gathered seams creating a fan effect just below the booty (and accentuating said booty), bakelite rings at the shoulders, all the right tucks and pleats, and a wonderful drape that makes all this fuss into a truly comfortable dance dress. Even better, Beth was able to accessorize the dress with the help of the two vintage vendors and Chatterblossom and wear the dress for Saturday night!
That’s all, folks! Another stellar year of shopping at All Balboa Weekend!
Here we have yet another example of the UK absolutely killing the reproduction clothing market: The Seamstress of BloomsburyThe Seamstress of Bloomsbury, a clothing line of revived reproductions from and inspired by a woman who bore this nickname, Lillian Wells, who was seamstress to aristocratic families around the world. The focus here is on 1940’s frocks and they’ve pretty much nailed everything down to the prints (which I find can be the hardest thing to get right, perhaps leaning toward the kitschy rather than fun and artful).
I am presently salivating over everything in the Seaside print and, with these reasonable prices, an order is inevitable…here are some of my favorites from the shop: