While I have your attention with yesterday’s post, I’ll make a shameless plug for my band, the Mint Julep Jazz Band, and the Kickstarter we are running through December 30 to fund our first CD! We’d love to have you as a backer in exchange for copies of the CD, dance shoe bags, and other fabulous rewards, but the best reason of of all – we make music you can swing out to!
This past weekend, I attended the Hawkeye Swing Festival in Iowa City, Iowa. As far as dance events go, the University of Iowa has an ideal setup to run a weekend of dances and workshops, with a student union that has both a giant ballroom with a stage and an attached student-run hotel, where the event attendees can stay. Everything you need is within walking distance of the venue/hotel – shops, restaurants, bars, fro-yo, pie shakes…mmmmm, pie shakes. Ahem. Needless to say, I had a fantastic time dancing, meeting new people, and listening to some sweet music over the weekend provided by the all-star bands headed up by Bria Skonberg, Solomon Douglas, Chase Garrett, and those Seattle darlings, The Careless Lovers.
But what about the vintage? While Iowa City did not turn out to be the vintage Mecca I had hoped, it was certainly a lesson in vintage hunting, which is that vintage can be found just about anywhere, you just have to look for it. I photographed just about every swing-era item I could find, and some 1950’s dresses – my partner in crime, Beccy Aldrich, and I had a fun time scouring these stores and I am proud of our efforts. What is waiting to be unearthed in your corner of the world?
Our first stop, after sleeping in, was for brunch at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, which was recommended to my by Andy Nishida (foodie, dancer, alum). On the outside and inside it looks benign, a typical local, greasy spoon, but then you look closer at the menu and see tons of good eats, then there’s a chalkboard listing 20 different delicious pies, THEN you see in the menu that any pie on that delicious list can become a shake! The line at Hamburg Inn No. 2 was not to dine in, it was full of college students waiting for their shakes. And rightly so, it’s a fantastic way to have two desserts in one and, with it only available in size large, is an ample meal replacement. Beccy, my husband Lucian Cobb, and I split a chocolate bourbon pecan pie milkshake and it was divine.
We sent Lucian to the hotel for a nap and headed to our first stop, the White Rabbit, a wonderful little eclectic boutique with a selection of gifts, handcrafted items, and new and vintage clothing. In the back of the store were a few racks of vintage clothing and Beccy and I each found wonderful plaid 1950’s dresses (both of which were too small for our respective waists, meh). That was the extent of danceable vintage, so we ventured out to locate the next shop…
…which was a consignment shop called Revival. As far as consignment shops go, Revival is very hip and was packed with shoppers. They carry consignment and new clothing, as well as a couple of racks of vintage clothing, new and old accessories, gifts, and some other lovelies, knick knacks, and a cake plate of cupcakes for sale. Beccy found the only pre-1960’s item, which was a cheerful yellow 1950’s dress, which also ended up being tiny. They had some fantastic sunglasses, reminiscent of 1930’s sunglasses, and a lovely umbrella, but little else that would interest Lindy Shopper. Onward!
Our next stop was Ragstock, which I was warned is a chain store and we were not likely to find anything early 20th century here. They were right, however, Ragstock had a huge selection of generic Keds in every color and the sales clerk gave us a great tip on another place to try, so we ventured…
…to Artifacts, which was an antique store with some vintage clothing and a lot of cool other stuff. If I had larger luggage I would have come home with two Art Deco era cake carriers. This is the only store where we found swing era garments, one gorgeous 1930’s velvet suit/dress and a faille late 30’s/early 40’s dress in crimson with rhinestones. Deflated that the red dress was too small, I consoled myself with cheap bakelite bangles, which I purchased at a fraction of the cost of bakelite at other vintage/antique stores. They even had a collection of bakelite scottie dog pencil sharpeners which were, oddly, more expensive than the bangles. Rare? I have no idea, but the bangles were more useful to me anyway.
Tomorrow I’m hopping on a plane to Iowa for my first Midwest Lindy Hop event, the Hawkeye Swing Festival. The impetus to attend was to tag along with my trombone playing husband, who will appear in all bands that weekend except the Careless Lovers (since they have a t-bone of their own). I’m looking forward to meeting and dancing with new people and perhaps running into some friends I don’t see often enough. Are you ready, Iowa? I’ve been ready for you for about two weeks, catching myself humming Music Man songs under my breath.
I keep hearing rumors that the Midwest is the last great, mostly uncharted frontier for vintage swing era clothing, so this trip has me eager with anticipation. I’ve been digging for information about where to shop in Iowa City and have received some vague leads – Ragstock? Revival? My partner in crime this weekend, Beccy Aldrich, has a lead on a place called White Rabbit. We shall see…hopefully, a report will ensue when I return. 🙂
The Jazz Age Lawn Party never ceases to amaze me, with its charm, beauty, number of well-dressed people, and even its power over mother nature. It is such a rare opportunity to dance entirely to 1920’s music and the quality of music was superb, thanks to Michael Arenella’s Dreamland Orchestra, the Gelber and Manning Band, and the twin Victrola turntables operated by DJ MAC. It was a beautiful weekend under the trees on Governor’s Island – the storms that threatened New York were held at bay until Sunday afternoon, when Michael Arenella commented from the bandstand that the rain couldn’t stop the festivities and called a tune with “rain” in the title to mock the threatening weather; it was then that the sky opened up, with only a few warning drops before the downpour sent everyone scurrying for cover.
This event has grown every year and this year it seemed to double in size from last year’s impressive turnout. I also noticed that the event organizers take note of how they can improve the event from year to year; for example, in an attempt to combat bystanders loitering on the dance floor and eventually taking it over, they roped off the dance floor area (which was someone effective, but there will always be chattel who don’t understand that a dance floor is for DANCING, not for standing or ogling). There were also more vendors this year, so let’s get to the list!
There simply couldn’t be a JALP without the classic and delicious cocktails made with St. Germain Liqueur, a cocktail confection made from elderflowers picked in the Alps. There was a rush on the cocktails, primarily due to an online coupon deal that offered all you can drink St. Germain for the day, and by the end of day one they were sold out of liqueur. Never fear, they replenished the supply for day two and the delicious festivities continued.
Kreamland Ice Cream was on hand with scoops of ice cream in classic flavors, the perfect treat on a hot August day. In the photograph at right you can see an example of the signs the JALP crew added to distinguish the different administrative and vendor tables, which were especially helpful with the throngs of people in attendance.
Another improvement I noticed was a table set up with helpful items to get you through the day. Forgot your parasol? Need sunscreen or a tissue? Wishing you had a fan to escape the heat? Making these items available for purchase was a great idea! And isn’t the display lovely?
It was interesting to see a modern vendor, such as Yelp, have a table at JALP, but then Yelp is a very useful resource. Yelp sponsored a vintage photo booth at the event, with photographs taken by Tsirkus Fotografika, “an ongoing non-profit, public arts project based in Philadelphia, PA, designed to bring the creative process directly to communities and document populations at their most lively. Employing a mobile portrait studio and trailing-edge technologies such as analog film, old-fashioned “hot” lighting, and large format equipment, Tsirkus follows in the footsteps of itinerant photographers who would travel from town to town making portraits on-the-spot.” I now wish I had waited in line to get my photograph taken – perhaps next year.
Next in the line of vendors was Odd Twin, a Brooklyn-based vintage store with wares available from the jazz age and beyond. I will display more photographs below of the vendors’ wares, but I will note that I was particularly smitten with a two tone brown 1940’s suit that was displayed on the end of their hanging rack. Drool…
Sharing a vendor table were Necks Tuesday and hyc Creative letterpress. Necks Tuesday might be the most creative name for a bow tie company I’ve ever encountered. This Brooklyn-based company asserts that bow ties are a “facet of traditional menswear,” but are now “often an element of a forward, contemporary look.” What’s old is new again, eh? I can get behind this philosophy. Their ties are available in a number of wonderful muted tones and patterns that are sure to go with much of a man’s wardrobe and make a stylish statement without being too loud.
hyc Creative letterpress displayed an endearing collection of thoughtful printed cards, stationery, bookmarks and prints. From their website: “hyc Creative is the creation of Dawn Hylon Lucas-Carlson. A small private press founded in 2006. We print Letterpress greeting cards, bookmarks, coasters, prints, and invitations using a mix of found vintage blocks and fonts, hand carved linoleum blocks and newly created designs. Everything is hand-printed on a Kelsey 6 x 10 Excelsior Press.”
Next in the lineup is The Original Prohibition Clothing Company, a company specializing in custom menswear. What I like about TOPCC is the wear-ability of the garments and the attention to detail. These clothes could be in a fine menswear store just about anywhere, you could wear the clothes anywhere, but they would be that piece that stands out as superb amongst the modern suits, with just enough nod to vintage to appear authentic. Details like fan pleating out of a belt back Norfolk jacket or a black and white Bette Davis printed on the inside of a newsboy cap make these items truly stand out against the competition. Their website is still under development, but I look forward to this company making their products available to the masses. Until then, you can browse some of their accessories available in TOPCC eBay store.
The Fine and Dandy Shop.com had a wonderful showing of men’s accessories – ties, pocket squares, handkerchiefs, cufflinks and other man jewelry, flasks, pocket watches, and even a vintage Boy Scout’s guide. Fine and Dandy has a fairly comprehensive website and I’d recommend that you gents check out their fantastic selection, including their ties, which are made in New York. See photographs below.
After all this menswear, I arrived at my favorite vendor of the weekend, Noble Savage Vintage, who displayed exclusively pre-1940’s clothing and accessories for women. This table and rack were a dream come true, with beautiful beading, gauzy dresses, satin 1920’s shoes, and vintage lace galore. My friend Elizabeth picked up a wonderful 1930’s dress in a gauzy chiffon floral that was perfect for Day 2 of the lawn party.
I’ll end this tour-de-vendors with The Village Scandal, one of last year’s wonderful vendors who had amazing cloches and the must-have fascinator of the event. This year, their entire inventory must have been must-have because, by the time I made it out to their table, it had been ransacked. Their positioning near the entrance may have helped add to the chaos of what happened to their table, but I am pleased to see that they did so much business.
There were other vendors, but they did not have signs and I was unable to speak with the vendor representative (so many people!). I hope to return to this event next year and make it a priority to get to the event earlier to scope out the vendors’ wares. Until then, I leave you with these photos: