Tag Archives: A Day at the Races

What’s Old is New: Hot Chocolate (Cottontail)

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Duke Ellington and his Orchestra in the soundie “Hot Chocolate (Cottontail)”

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.

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Sleeves for days!

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.

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The sweater with the Peter Pan collar, even!  Completes the styling.

Modcloth has a couple of great jumper options (including the red “Overall Winner” jumper that is pictured, also available in black) and the skirt length is pretty close to the clip, a bit shorter than knee length to facilitate movement.  I’m also a fan of the green velvet “Cupcake Consultant” jumper (it’s like they know me), but I’m sure no one is surprised there.  There’s another black jumper with a front panel, which I am noting because I prefer a front panel with my personal shape.

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.

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70’s does big collars like nobody’s business

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.

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Eat your heart out, Burberry

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.

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Jitterbuggin’ Derby Day Blouse

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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‘Tis the season for horse racing and large hats and the Lindy Hop community will always be tied to “the races” by way of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ appearance in the Marx Brothers’ film. What better way to celebrate than by picking up a very limited edition horse race print blouse, courtesy of Jitterbuggin’? The stylized horses and be-hatted spectators on this reproduction blouse are just perfect for a dance or your local Derby festivities. And when I say limited run, I mean she only made three of them and one of them has already sold! (Kim, please make more! <3)

A close-up of the print.

What’s Old is New: A Day at the Races

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I love magazines that do the “real” v. “steal” spreads – taking designer and runway ensembles and translating them into more affordable pieces to create the same or a similar looking ensemble. I’ve been wanting to do this on Lindy Shopper, but instead of designer, take looks from iconic Lindy Hop photographs or videos and create an ensemble using modern pieces of clothing. I love doing this for Halloween costumes, but it does take patience to find each piece.

So here we go! For the first ensemble in this series, I’m looking to A Day at the Races, the classic Marx Brothers film from 1937 featuring Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. For the most part, the dancers appear in street clothing, but there are two follows wearing bias cut plaid skirts that really pop on the silver screen, the bold pattern contrasting with the more solid colors on the extras in the background. It’s no secret that I love plaid and this is a great use of plaid to draw attention to these two follows.

For the most part, the two outfits are the same: bias cut plaid skirt, white socks, dark shoes, and a collared blouse/sweater. The first plaid skirted follow has a low heeled t-strap shoe and a wing collared short sleeve sweater, while the second has a low heeled oxford and a collared blouse, which may or may not be under some sort of short sleeved sweater. The white socks also help draw attention to the follower’s footwork, especially with the t-straps.

It’s always interesting to see exactly what pieces come together to make up an ensemble. Sometimes it’s more simple (or more complicated) than you think. I had no trouble finding the skirt or the shoes, but the tops were quite difficult and I’m still empty handed on the lace trim collared shirt. Here’s what I was able to dig up to help achieve this look:

This plaid skirt from JC Penney is a bit long, but then so are the skirts in the movie...comes in 3 different plaids

This belted plaid skirt, also from JC Penney, hits at knee length for a more modern translation

I couldn't locate a lace collared shirt, so a plain button-up by American Apparel will have to do.

While not lace, this Peter Pan collared shirt would be a more feminine option

Layer the shirts with this short sleeve crew neck fine gauge cotton sweater by Port Authority

Wing collared sweater from JC Penney - because no one else seems to have any

White bobby socks for both looks

Remix's Bauhaus for the low-heeled t-strap

Aris Allen's black heeled oxford completes the second look