With the pandemic in full effect along with the accompanying isolation and cancellation of all activities, I was thinking of ways to use my time away from dancing and singing and stay connected. Thinking about how we are all essentially broadcasting communications via the Internet from our homes – our personal and intimate spaces – and how these are our reference and existence points for the time being, I thought about sharing more of my personal space with all of you. I am often asked by visitors to my home to see my closet, so it seemed that was the natural place to go for a first episode and for the title of this web series.
I have other ideas for episodes, but I want to see how this first episode is received, so we shall see. I am also open to suggestions for episode topics and garments/shoes you might like to discuss, feel free to post them in the video comments on YouTube.
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I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
I know, I know, but hear me out. I’m pretty sure my mom put me in saddle shoes at some point during my childhood and I ran around the playground wearing them with a dress in ultimate classic kid style. When presented in high school with very limited options for women’s golf shoes, I was delighted that a saddle shoe was one of my options and made my selection accordingly. Then swing dancing came into my life – when I started in 1998, retro culture was an amalgam of generic vintage pop culture, but as the smoke of the late 1990’s swing revival started to clear, it was became very clear to me that saddle shoes were associated with two things: 1) a caricature of the 1950’s and 2) newbie dancers. As a budding Lindy Hopper, all I wanted was everything 1930’s/early 40’s and NOT to be associated with anything that would brand me as a newbie. I wanted to be taken seriously as a dancer. But deep down I still loved saddle shoes because they are adorable.
Flash forward a decade or so and I thought about saddle shoes again. A green and white pair would be amazing and I found a retailer online that made them. Vintage Dancer wrote this great blog post about the history of the saddle shoe, detailing their popularity between 1910 and 1960, clearly marking this as a period-appropriate choice for my swing-era-not-1950’s-caricature dancing activities. And then I remembered how saddle shoes would be perceived and I abandoned that idea.
I don’t know when Gretchen Midgley and I were first talking about this, but saddle shoes came up in conversation and how I’d wanted a pair, but ALL OF THE ABOVE HESITATIONS. Then I got a PM from Gretchen saying I needed to make this happen because saddle shoes would be a versatile addition to her fall wardrobe and she’s right. Gretchen’s message was the kick in the pants I needed. I AM LINDY SHOPPER AND I SHALL WEAR WHAT I PLEASE.
I ordered the green and white saddle shoes from Muffy’s, made from a last from 1956, which feature leather uppers and a Goodyear welted rubber sole and am so excited to finally have them after so many years of being worried about what other people would think about my dancing. Silly, I know – but being perceived as a good dancer was and is so important to me. I got to wear them last night to our weekly dance and I think they will take a little time to break in, but otherwise I am very happy with this purchase.
Would you like a pair of your own? Vintage Dancer has a set of links to retailers at the bottom of the post and I’m also eyeballing a pair from Julia Bo customized to my specifications – has anyone ordered from this site?
If you’re worried about how to style the saddle shoe, Vintage Everyday has a great collection of photos of women doing everything from riding a motorcycle to sleeping in a barrel wearing saddle shoes, with photographs looking like they date from the early 1930’s through the 1950’s.
All this to say let’s be a little kinder, a little less judgmental about what we see on people’s feet. I remember getting into a discussion on a chat forum in the early 2000’s about Bleyers, as I was still wearing mine for dancing, but someone there had branded them a shoe for newbies. At that point, I didn’t consider myself a newbie, but I was embarrassed and mad because I had stuck up for this dance shoe that was servicing my feet and someone set out to belittle me. I was either in school or working 3 jobs between stints in school at that point and I didn’t have a lot of money for dance shoes – hell, there weren’t even that many options for swing dance shoes at that point. Perhaps this is also a lesson in humanity and humility – there’s a human attached to those shoes who just wants to dance.
This past weekend I experienced my first international gig performing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders at Jeju Swing Camp in South Korea. In spite of a typhoon imposing itself upon the event, the organizers and dancers persevered and an incredible time was had by all and the sun came out for the last day of the event so that we could have an epic beach party with four bands and dancing on the sand. Following the event, several of the musicians would spend part of a day in Seoul waiting for our flights to various locations – my number one request was that I be able to visit Chloe Hong’s shop, FROMChloeHong.
Over lunch with MG Chris Jung and Scully Heejin Kim, Scully made arrangements with Chloe for me to come by the shop. I found out later that Chloe’s shop is by appointment only and that I was able to get in, perhaps, even before people who live in Seoul could get an appointment! Scully is my new hero, clearly. ❤
I traveled with reed man Keenan McKenzie on all the legs of this journey and he joined me at Chloe’s shop, with a mission to obtain one of Chloe’s legendary trumpet skirts for his wife, swing DJ and dancer Allison Meeks. Scully arranged for a cab to take us to Chloe’s shop and we ended up walking into some sort of laundry facility by accident and probably amusing several Korean women with our confusion and language barrier. Around the corner and up a short flight of stairs we found the shop.
Upon Keenan’s recommendation, the soundtrack to my entrance into Chloe’s shop is Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination,” feel free to cue that up for the rest of this post. Keenan also snapped the photo of me going into the shop, a pleasant surprise!
I often muse about Chloe’s excellent taste – you only get a glimpse of it at the events in the US, with a sampling of the shoes, ready to wear women’s clothing, and custom menswear pieces. Stepping into her shop was personal, an affirmation of her love of vintage style and decor, quality garments and fabrics, personalized goods, and Lindy Hop. Ella Fitzgerald’s dulcet tones greeted me as I walked through the custom painted gold door. The shop was on the smaller side, yet spacious feeling, furnished with early to mid-20th century furniture, vintage haberdashery items, and artwork, including various vintage-inspired Lindy Hop event posters. The chevron stripe wood floor gleamed. A teddy bear sporting one of the reproduction Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers jackets sent me over the edge. Bolts of beautiful fabrics, racks of sample menswear garments with exquisite details, rows of sample shoes to try on, a rack of Chloe’s staple women’s items, and vintage and vintage-inspired accessories completed the offerings in Chloe’s shop. I would also characterize the space a hybrid shop and studio – there was a room to the side I could see through glass that was clearly a sewing workroom. Most of the space functions as a custom menswear studio, where one would come in to be fitted for garments, view and try on sample garments and fabrics, select various cuffs and collars on display that could also be tried on, and once an ensemble was completed or conceived, select carefully curated accessories – vintage ties, Trafalgar braces, vintage cufflinks, tie cips, tie bars, caps, etc. – to complete the look.
The front portion of the shop was dedicated to Chloe’s dance shoe line, both women’s and men’s shoes. The shoes samples could be purchased if the color and size you needed were in the sample stock, but otherwise the shoes were made to order. I purchased my first pair of Chloe’s dance shoes last year at ILHC and they have become my favorite dance shoe, so I made plans to purchase two more pairs in colors I wear most often for dancing. A few weeks ago I had come to the realization that my 1930’s gold shoes were more of a deeper, bolder gold than most modern gold shoes and, of course, Chloe had the perfect leather sample to make just such a shoe so I can now have a dedicated pair for dancing. Does one have a conversation about 1930’s gold leather characteristics with just anyone? My heart sings for Chloe…
Back to our mission, we located a trumpet skirt for Allison – I imagine Chloe’s skirts are in such demand, as there was a limited selection, so don’t feel slighted if you’ve tried to order online only to find out she is out of stock. Everyone wants this skirt! There will be more coming soon, I understand, as well as some lovely trousers that look like they will lay perfectly, move well, and be as durable as the trumpet skirts.
It must be impossible to go into Chloe’s shop and NOT order menswear, so Keenan decided it would be a good idea to order a couple of dress shirts and to get measured in case another purchase may be viable in the future. It was such fun picking out fabrics from the lovely samples, selecting collars, cuffs, embroidery, and details for the shirts. Chloe was a wonderful collaborator, discussing options, allowing for opinions, and making suggestions. The turnaround was predicted to be fast for custom garments, about 3 weeks for the shirts.
While Chloe was working with Keenan, I essentially floated around her shop, absorbing all of her good taste and beautiful things, giving me life and energy and joy. I spotted a cap hanging on the wall I had been seeking for years – black and white tweed with a rainbow fleck. Into the bag it went!
As I finish this post, I realize that Chloe has been on my radar since 2013 and I have known her since shortly after that, seeing her at least annually at dance events in the US. It was thrilling to be able to visit her on her home turf, to visit the bustling city of Seoul that she calls home, and to glimpse into her daily life at her shop/studio. If you find yourself in Seoul, I would highly recommend setting up an appointment and making your way to her shop – it felt like a home away from home.
Since their launch a few years ago, I’ve been a supporter of Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, creating reproduction vintage shoes from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. My one complaint was that these wonderfully crafted shoes with leather uppers did not have leather soles – until now! For Spring 2019, Royal Vintage has made the transition to leather soles and I’m so excited about the offerings, all of which can be added to your dance shoe wardrobe. The new leather soled collection will be available for pre-order on their website starting on April 25, 2019. I particularly love the wedges, the heeled oxfords, and I’m delighted they are re-issuing their two tone Lillian Mary Janes (although I’ve already purchased the rubber soled version from a previous collection, womp womp). Enjoy their “Foxtrot Summer” collection, aptly named to now cut a rug!
The shoe blessings runneth over and, while this vintage reproduction shoe company doesn’t appear to be directly marketing to the swing dance community, all signs point to it being a default winner – Memery, a UK-based company, is making reproduction shoes from the 1920’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s with leather soles (but also a vegan option) and they are lovely, in some classic colors and some unexpected colors. While it appears that they are getting a start on their shoe lines, it looks like they are off to a strong start, particularly with their 1940’s pump, which comes in six scrumptious suede colors and two heel heights (3 cm/1.18 inches and 6.7 cm/2.6 inches). This is definitely a shoe company to watch!
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.
This year was my first full Camp Hollywood experience, flying in before the event began and flying out after the event ended, and after I got my obligatory In-N-Out Burger fix, I headed to the vendor area to hover and watch the magic unfold in the vendor area. The vendor area was comprised of an entire ballroom, a large adjacent conference room, and a large Camp Hollywood merch table where you could purchase both camp swag and music from the bands and musicians performing over the course of the event. This is definitely the largest vendor area at any event I have attended – I marveled at it last year, but this year I understood. The traffic in Los Angeles is so bad that you almost don’t want to leave the hotel, or at least not to go somewhere outside of a 5 mile radius. I looked into some sightseeing on Friday – maybe a vintage car museum or a Frank Lloyd Wright house – but the 12-15 miles to get there would take over an hour at 10:30 a.m., which I was neither willing to spend the time nor the money to accomplish at that point, especially with evening band obligations. So, the shopping comes to you!
I did manage an excursion with fellow vintage enthusiast Brettie Page, who had a car at Camp Hollywood – through some careful planning on her part and a small window of time on Monday where the traffic would only take about a half-hour, we rushed over to Paper Moon Vintage. I don’t have a full report because, when one has the challenge of an hour in a vintage store, one must be focused, particularly when said vintage store has a great selection of swing era items. Brettie and I both left with garments – she an incredible 1940’s bathing suit in shimmering white with gold stars and me with a silk 1930’s garden party dress – which is just about all you can ask for in a successful run to a vintage shop. I also left with this swell Jo Stafford pin – like, how often do you come across 1940’s band merch? Like, never. The cherry on this sundae was that everything in the store was 15% off.
Back at the LAX Marriott on the first day of the event, I hovered near the ballrooms and enough friends were volunteering at the Re-mix Vintage Shoes booth that I got pulled in with some lovely chatting and managed to be their first purchase of the weekend. Some day I will visit the mothership, but it was still great to chat with owner Philip Heath about shoes, pick up the shoes I had reserved, and check out all the new gorgeous purple shoes and a selection of wedges (which he doesn’t usually bring to All Balboa Weekend, the only other dance event Re-mix attends as a vendor). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Starlet shoe will actually fit my feet, even though I believe it’s on the same last as the Gabrielle, which my feet are entirely too fat to wear – another pair to go on the wishlist!
My second stop of the trip, in the brief window between sound check and downbeat, was to hit up the Vintage Blue Moon booth and I’m so glad I did! Apparently, the vintage expo at the Queen Mary didn’t happen this year and Vintage Blue Moon was having a magnificent sale on jewelry, both vintage and some excellent reproduction “Bakelite” jewelry. The first pass yielded a Bakelite scottie dog brooch, a 1930’s rhinestone ukulele brooch, and a matching repro necklace and earrings set in peppermint stripes. I returned later to go through the clothing and there were some truly special pieces – in particular a 1930’s black satin (that heavy/heavenly indestructible kind) jumpsuit with appliqués (dying/gasping), really excellent 1920’s dresses, 20’s/30’s lingerie, and an impressive wall of menswear.
As I’m running through the vendor area, I notice a dress – CAN IT BE – it’s the Beach Clip dress! As we’ve talked about on this blog, I knew the Beach Clip dress (originally owned and worn by Southern California dancer Genevieve Grazis) was being reproduced for sale by Loco Lindo and recently heard that it would be debuted at Camp Hollywood, but I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Having examined it up close and inside out, I was so excited to finally see this project come to fruition and to see an entire rack of these dresses in wonderful prints on comfortable and washable rayon crepe. I made a beeline for the Loco Lindo booth after the main dance ended and was relieved to find several prints still available in my size, including a scottie dog print. (Fate? Fate.) Loco Lindo owner Linda Marrone and her crew did an incredible job with the design, translating a fairly complicated late 1930’s dress into the garment I ultimately purchased, which will be comfortable and movable for dancing, with the same amazing twirl from that gored skirt. You could also buy a Beach Clip skirt, and, of course, any of Linda’s other wonderful dresses, skirts, pants, and blouses in that wonderful crepe fabric. The “Venice Beach” skirt is already on the website and I hear the dress will be posted for sale in short order. Very special thanks to Jennifer Halsne, who essentially unearthed this dress, brought it to national attention, and then worked with Loco Lindo to make this reproduction happen! For more on the story of the Venice Beach/Beach Clip dress, visit Jennifer’s blog, Swing Sleuths.
Sharing the vendor area with Loco Linda was Bandini St., selling a variety of head bands, hair flowers, shoe bags, and ideally situated next to the door leading to the main ballroom across the hall. Let’s say you’ve already picked up a pair of Re-mix shoes, snagged a dress from either Loco Lindo or vintage dress, then you can put the finishing touches on your ensemble and/or buy a nice shoe bag to protect your new shoe investment. I had thoughts about WHAT IF THE AIRLINE LOSES MY LUGGAGE and then I realized that I’d be at Camp Hollywood where I could replace everything except my underwear.
All the Shiny Things! Occupied the center of the main vendor ballroom with an intense amount of jewelry for just about anyone or anything. I noted on the evening of the A Bug’s Life theme that it would be easy to stop by the ATST booth and instantly upgrade your outfit to tonight’s theme by purchasing one of many insect brooches or small pins to be worn on a dress or lapel or collar. I particularly loved the rainbow display of bangles – lucite, bakelite, other plastic, who knows? But if the color fits…
Need a hairstyle to get you through the weekend or maybe want to do something special for the Saturday night dance? The stylists from Hush Hush Bang Bang had you covered, offering an array of services from blowout to a full updo or glam waves.
A Walk Thru Time Vintage is the last stop in the main vendor area ballroom, offering a mix of swing era vintage, later vintage, and costume pieces. I particularly loved that they created a tiki/tropical vignette, as we were surrounded by palm trees poolside at the Marriott and it just seemed right that you might want to pick up something festive to wear by the pool or to the special poolside live music on Monday.
Across the hall in a conference room I found a Lip Sense booth, which was a collaboration among Iris Tarou (who was also vending at Lindy Focus this past year, Tawnie Gadd, and Lisa Cleveland. I am a big fan of budge-proof lip color for dance events for obvious reasons (short = face sometimes accidentally grazing lead’s shirt during Bal, also having to be dressed before dinner because of time constraints) and I am not above forgetting cosmetics! I also love the combined effort of these dancer/business women, which means the booth stays open more often for shoppers and they can alternate dance time!
The remainder of the conference room was a bit less defined, so I apologize if I credit a garment to the wrong vendor. Both Pepperpie Vintage, who was at Camp Hollywood last year, and Rare Revival Vintage carried a mix of swing era vintage and dance/fab appropriate later vintage items, mostly women’s items. In the very back was a men’s corner by Purple Peacock Vintage, with some truly fabulous menswear pieces, like a 4 piece suit (extra pants, y’all), other swing era three piece suits, and the cutest light blue and white polka dot braces (that I really considered buying even though I don’t own any pants that could accommodate them).
If I’ve missed anyone, please give me a shout! There’s so much going on at Camp Hollywood and the vendor area is no exception – save your pennies to do some serious shopping at next year’s event!
I don’t know who is designing for Eshakti, an India-based company making customizabe/semi-customizable clothing, but they are up for everything and I am here for their vintage-inspired styles in knits and machine-washable fabrics. I haven’t written about them on the blog, in part because I assumed everyone knew about them and in part because I wasn’t sure if they would keep up with the few vintage-inspired styles they were offering, but it’s been a few years and I get and love what they are throwing down, especially for this coming fall. They’ve graduated from basic shirt dresses and 50’s shapes to much more adventurous vintage silhouettes with delicious details.
Aside from the wash-and-wear fabrics, one of the main reasons I’ve had friends recommend and wear this brand is the wide range of sizes and the ability to customize the garments, not only in body proportions, but also modifying parts of the garment itself – don’t like a scoop neck? Make it a V-neck. Don’t like sleeveless? Add your choice of several different sleeve options. It costs a bit extra to make these modifications, but it’s a modest cost and Eshakti always seems to be running a sale of some sort to basically offset that cost. And every dress comes with pockets – if you don’t want pockets, you can opt out at no cost (but why would you? lol).
What prompted this blog, in addition to recent emails from Eshakti and ensuing purchases/longings, were some prominent Eshakti sightings at the International Lindy Hop Championships this past weekend. Dance instructor Carol Fraser coached and performed with the Jazzabelles, a solo jazz performance team from Long Island, New York, and she and her teammates were all in coordinating shades of green of the same Eshakti dress. This particular dress I have seen on other women I know who are into vintage style it’s one of those universally flattering cuts for many different body types. Combined with the ease of the knit fabric and the relatively reasonable cost, Eshakti becomes a great option when you are looking for performance team outfits.
Highlighting the versatility and customization elements and also the more luxe fabrics, my fellow vocalist this weekend, Taryn Newborne, sported a gorgeous embroidered lace dress from Eshakti, which she customized by adding length to the skirt and modifying the sleeves. The results were superb, she looked and sounded like a queen.
I would say my only complaint about Eshakti is that you can’t always linger when making a decision – some dresses, like the Jazzabelles’ dresses, have been on the website for a few years; others have disappeared within a matter of a couple of months, for reasons unknown or because they run out of that particular fabric (I’m looking at you green cat print skirt, also couldn’t find Taryn’s dress to link).
Now, for what’s been catching my eye for fall – enjoy!
I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.” Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town. You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.
At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year. There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee. If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee? A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.
Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit. I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.
De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy. Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions. The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.
Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.
Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW. Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.
Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look. I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing. I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.
Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well. I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments. They get us. I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.
That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!
5-year-old Lindy Shopper is squeeing right now, because Re-mix Vintage shoes has added a number of purple shoes to its lineup – my favorite color as a child, second favorite to green now. I remember looking for purple shoes to wear with vintage for a long time and I did manage to pick up a couple of pairs, but nothing I could wear dancing, and Re-mix always had a couple of pairs (mostly multi-tone or eggplant), but nothing that really spoke to me until now, particularly seeing them all in a row. Let us take a moment and bask in the purple options in various heel heights and styles…
A lot of black Lindy Hoppers are speaking right now and a lot of us are listening, but I know a lot of us also want to take action to help. I have been looking for more ways to be an ally and to use my voice to help make our community more inclusive to black dancers. Lindy Shopper is my most public voice, but this is a fashion blog – I wasn’t sure how I could help writing about clothing and shoes.
Then I saw a Facebook post made by dancer Angel Sheniev Cadenza, which detailed ways in which racial isolation is present in the dance scene, and one of those was was the following: “Racial isolation in the dance scene to me…It is planning to attend a vintage-themed dance event and having almost no black reference points to create your look because all the vintage themed resources are created by and for whites, and black people are almost non-existent in historical media.”
I spend a good amount of time poring over photographs and videos from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s studying the subjects’ clothing and I knew that there were a lot of black reference materials (a good place to start is the Vintage Black Glamour Facebook page, which you should all be following because it’s fabulously curated with lots of historical information), but I can do better and share this information here. I realize newer dancers may not know all the vintage clips of the swing era, so let’s explore that. The focus of this blog is source material, where to purchase clothing and shoes, so I’ll try to tie that in, as well – we should be inspired AND know where to get the look.
Back in 2010, I started a series called “What’s Old is New” and I realized that I never actually made this into a series, so I’m going to pick this up and continue it (after posting it in Angel’s thread as a possibility of how I could contribute to this discussion and received positive feedback)…so here we go. If this is a misstep, then I apologize and I will stop and continue listening.
The first and only post in my What’s Old is New series was about the clothing in the Marx Brothers’ film “A Day at the Races,” which features Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and I found sources for some modern day inspirations/approximations of the garments worn by the women dancers in the film. I still love their outfits, the quintessential mid-calf 1930’s skirts in bias cut plaid are just awesome.
Let’s take a look at another classic clip featuring Whitey’s Lindy Hopper’s, a 1941 soundie called “Hot Chocolate (Cottontail),” featuring Duke Ellington and his Orchestra playing Cottontail. The dancers are wearing clothing that is not quite costume, not quite street clothing, somewhere fun and in the middle.
The pinafore/jumpers on the women are just adorable and I am dying over the huge sleeves on their blouses. The men have a bit more variance in their dress, ranging from overalls to jackets with maybe the largest collar I’ve ever seen on a shirt. Finding exact replicas of these garments would be hard, you’d likely have to get a copy made, but we’ll find some pieces that capture some of the fun of these garments.
For the blouses, my first instinct was to go to the House of Foxy website and they deliver – their Elsie blouse has those amazing sleeves (available in mustard, black, and white). They also have a great Peter Pan collar blouse available in ivory, ivory gingham, black gingham, and a black/gray/red floral print – I know I have missed seeing these available outside of thrift/vintage shops and I’m glad House of Foxy is offering some twists on the basic (or not so basic) blouse so we can find some reproductions we may not feel as hesitant to dance in. I own the Peter Pan collar shirt and some other pieces from this company and the quality is stellar, would purchase again.
I didn’t see but one vintage 40’s jumper that caught my eye on Etsy (but it’s awesome – black velvet with pockets on the front!), but they tend to pop up somewhat often, as these jumpers and pinafore dresses were fairly common – the thing you won’t find is the shorter skirt length, but then you can decide what length you want and what look is more your style.
Men, I don’t even know where to begin with that giant collar, it’s amazing and a sight bigger than any 40’s, any 70’s, anything I’ve ever seen. Since a trend in the 70’s was 30’s style and the collars were of superior width and breadth in that decade, I went looking in vintage because I honestly don’t know of any modern retailer carrying an approximation of this. Even Simon James Cathcart’s polos aren’t cut that big, but if you wanted a nod to that big collar, this would be a reasonable place to start. The 40’s shirts were a bust, but there were some promising 70’s options on Etsy – like this Art Deco print or this yellow long sleeved shirt. There were more great printed shirts on Etsy with wide collars so take a gander!
As for the overalls…I’ve got nothing. Sometimes garments are so special that they can’t be found and/or have to be made.
I went looking for the light car coat in the video and the first hits were Burberry and Prada, so I retreated to Etsy and found one from the 60’s that fit the bill. That they were doing aerials in a coat is pretty awesome, but you’ll probably save yours for before and after the dance.
There are other pieces I wish I could find! In particular that two tone paneled skirt, what a great piece to have in your closet.
Feel free to chime in with other pieces you have found that look inspired by this clip in the comments! This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but a starting point for ideas and sources.
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.
It’s about time to start planning what to wear for New Year’s Eve (or, if you are me, you’ve been planning since you knew you were going to Lindy Focus months ago) for Lindy Focus, Snowball, or perhaps your local scene has a special event. This may be the trickiest night of the year to dress yourself because you want to look like you’re on a red carpet, but you also need to be able to move and sweat like you’re running a marathon.
I took one look at Nancy Mac‘s collection of dresses and immediately thought these would make great NYE dresses for swing dancers – luxe fabrics in movement-friendly cuts with vintage silhouettes. This U.K. based company (if anyone was in doubt, the UK is KILLING IT with the repro brands) was founded by two sisters, Hannah and Sarah McMahon, and their about page reads like music to my ears and my closet: “Designed to flatter, Nancy Mac dresses and stand-alone separates are cut with care from luxurious fabrics and unique prints. Every piece in the range is inspired by the belief that true style stands the test of time. We love making beautiful yet affordable clothes that you will want to wear and keep in your wardrobe forever.”
Did I mention that I have a velvet problem, in that I can’t resist it? Specifically vintage silk velvet? Because it feels like buttah on your body, inside and out, but then come the rips I seem to be forever repairing…with a newer garment (which I also own in silk velvet, because problems) fabric deterioration becomes less of an issue and I’m just over the moon about Nancy Mac’s velvet dresses because they look so wearable, on top of that silk velvet feeling. Other fabrics look almost as enticing, such as viscose crepe, silk viscose, and just plain silk. Do you feel fancy? Because I feel fancy talking about all these fancy fabrics.
Let’s not forget that it gets cold in the mountains of North Carolina and in Sweden in December – Nancy Mac also has gorgeous coordinating jackets, shrugs, and coats to go with their dresses. There’s also a collection called Mint Julep…it’s like they knew I was coming…
Here is what I am loving from the Nancy Mac website:
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.