After securing one of these reasonably priced dance dresses recently, it arrived with an unfortunate waistline that could only be remedied with a belt. I wanted something with elastic, but also something that was plain, but not too plain, resiliant, thick enough, and with an interesting buckle. I basically create the impossible in my head and then try to find it – it hones my hunting skills, but can be frustrating at times.
Fortunately, after a quick search on Amazon.com, I arrived at a belt that I think a lot of Lindy Hoppers may appreciate – Malco Modes Ribbed Cotton Stretch Belt. It met and exceeded the requirements – 100% cotton, simple-but-not-boring buckle, wide enough (but not too wide), elastic, durable, and available in 24 colors. I will be back for more colors, you can be certain of that.
Some of the reviews said the belt looked cheap and the fabric was cheap, but I think that depends on your point of view and the purpose of the belt. I wouldn’t wear this with shantung silk, clearly, but I would say the fabric is more durable cotton than “cheap” – think cotton work-shirt or uniform. With that durable, ruched cotton I feel very comfortable sticking in as many safety pins as needed to keep that belt securely in place.
(Another article I have shared with Yehoodi – thank you for having me as a guest commentator for the ILHC broadcast!)
Wonder Woman wears a belt that creates a very prominent focal point for her outfit. Now, imagine Wonder Woman in a Lindy Hop competition. Imagine that with each swingout, the belt moves just a little bit to the right as a result of her movement and her lead’s contact, and then more to the right, and you begin paying attention to where the center of the belt is going instead of her dancing. By the time the spotlight is over the belt is almost halfway around her back, so that she no longer looks like the Wonder Woman that hit the floor at the beginning of the comp – she looks like a hot mess, shirt and skirt askew, having been pulled a little bit along with the belt.
I saw this happen in almost every competition at ILHC 2012, especially during the multiple Lindy Hop prelims on Saturday afternoon with multiple dancers. I also saw bra straps come out during spotlight dances, skirts that were too tight so that they either inhibited movement or rode up on the dancer’s body until there was room for movement, and shirt tails that came out of the skirts (or trousers for the gents). But the belts were the most egregious – wide swaths of leather, elastic, and metal making an orbit around the waist of so many dancers it was an epidemic.
Why is this so bad? This is the INTERNATIONAL LINDY HOP CHAMPIONSHIPS, the Olympics of our dance, if you will. When you have reached this level of competition there are certain expectations of presentation because you want people to focus on you and your abilities, not focus on something falling off your outfit or costume. You will be on YouTube for the world to see as one of the best swing dancers in the world. There is a level of professionalism that is expected at this point in the competition and a level of presentation that is higher than just wearing street clothes as you would wear them on the street. The visual distraction of a wardrobe malfunction and the accompanying anxiety of the viewer as the malfunction occurs is not the desired result in any performance – what if an Olympic ice skater had a bra strap fall down in the middle of a routine? I would wager that the television commentary would be less about her performance and more about whether or not she was coming undressed.
This problem is easily addressed, but requires some planning:
MAKE SMART CHOICES
When you are buying clothes for dancing or deciding what to wear in a competition, make good choices. Don’t wear clothing that inhibits your movement – make sure to do a motion test on your clothing, can you move your arms and legs in the way that you need to in order to effectively dance the way that you do? Buy clothing that fits you and is secure on your body – clothing that is too big can get caught on things or fall off, make it harder to find points on your body that need to be found by your partner, and, if large enough, can create drag that can dull your movement, either physically or visually. Don’t have too many straps or appendages hanging off that might get caught in something or accidentally grabbed. You get the idea – you want to be beautiful and interesting, but also efficient.
DO A DRY RUN
As someone who has had a wrap dress come untied in the middle of a spotlight, I can not stress enough the importance of doing a dry run. Before you dance in an outfit in a competition, please take that outfit for a spin on the floor at a dance prior to the competition. I promise that the wow factor of a new dress is completely lost when something goes wrong with the dress. There are things you can’t even anticipate that could happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
SECURE YOUR CLOTHING
Safety pins are your best friend. Plus, safety pins are usually in plentiful supply at competitions if you forget your own. Every belt that rotated this past weekend could have been secured to the shirt, dress, or pants of the wearer.
I mentioned this to someone and they were afraid of putting holes in their belt, but the secret is that you don’t put holes in your belt – with the elastic belts (which were most of the infractions this weekend), you simply gather a group of threads from the inside of the belt with the pin, then pin it to your garment. Do this in at least two places. If you are worried about piercing your belt, garment, or whatever, then don’t wear it. Seriously. Find something else to wear or find a something that you can secure. This is more of an issue with larger belts or belts that have prominent buckles or decoration. Skinny monotone belts can probably slide by unnoticed from a distance.
The security doesn’t end with belts. I pin stray bra straps, especially when I am wearing sleeveless garments. I pin necklines to my bra to make sure they don’t move. I pin shirts to my underwear or bloomers when I am wearing skirts or that rare pair of pants. I have even pinned my dress, slip, and bra together because the centrifugal force of the weight of the dress would pull it off my shoulders. At any given time I have 2 to 8 safety pins holding my outfit in place for dances.
Ultimately, you don’t want to have to worry about your clothing when you are competing, you already have enough worries. You also don’t want the audience to worry about your clothing, you want them to see your amazing dancing. This goes for any competition, not just ILHC. Make sure that the focal point remains you, that your clothing enhances your dancing rather than inhibits it, and that you project the polished look of a professional dancer, regardless of your division or level.
I know we’re reaching the end of tweed season, but when something rare pops up the season of acquisition simply doesn’t matter – here, we’ve got two jackets that popped up on eBay this week. First, we have a J. Peterman reproduction Edwardian style tweed Norfolk jacket, size 38, with the classic belted back, square front pockets, and a nice feature where you can actually button up the jacket all the way (those lapels are not just for show!). Second, a nice Pendleton wool tweed Norfolk jacket, size 40, with elbow patches and a nice rainbow fleck to the tweed. Prices: $20.00 starting bid and $39.99 Buy It Now, respectively – steals, I say!
Last week I embarked on a quest for nude seamed stockings. I have little patience for wading through lingerie websites, so I solicited Facebook for ideas. When Kate Patsky declared “This is like finding the Holy Grail…” I knew I had a real shopping challenge on my hands; thus, I headed to the Stockings HQ chat forums to ask the experts/fetishists where I could find the Holy Grail. Stockings HQ is a lingerie website based in the UK that also hosts chat forums where people can share stocking info, pictures, and talk about…anyway, they were most helpful during my last hosiery dilemma, finding stockings for a Sally Bowles costume that would be period appropriate and fit my short legs, and they delivered yet again. One of the forum regulars recommended What Katie Did and I’ve been in love ever since.
What Katie Did makes beautiful reproduction and vintage-inspired bras, panties, girdles, corsets, stockings, slips, swimwear, and much more. I loathe most “vintage-inspired” undergarments because they are skimpy and not at all what was actually worn. What Katie Did has gone to the heart of the matter, reproducing things that are such rare finds, like fully fashioned stockings, bullet bras, 1940’s bras (which were just coming into the modern age of the bra), and different kinds of girdles so you can get your Joan Holloway on. If you really want a vintage look, then the next step beyond just the clothes are the foundation garments. Think about how your underwear selections change with what you wear and how that affects your shape and the way the clothes fit, then apply that to your dance dresses. What Katie Did goes further and actually improves the reproduction by eliminating discomfort and taking garments, like that 1940’s bra that probably did little to lift and support, and upgrading them to modern standards. If this sounds dull, like a conversation you’ve had with your grandmother, never fear! There are also plenty of skimpies and pretties on the website for everyone, and I know some burlesque girls who might find some goodies here.
From the website: “Founder and head designer Katie Halford has had a deep and abiding love affair with 1940s and 1950s fashion her entire adult life, but though the clothing was always fairly easy to come by, the appropriate undergarments were not. Her quest for the perfect bullet bra, the most authentic stockings and the firmest foundation garments, led to the development of her own collection, over ten years ago. And since then, thanks to her abiding passion, What Katie Did has been at the very forefront of the vintage revival that’s only recently come into the public eye.
On this website, in our London boutique, and in the glossy pages of our catalogue, retrophiles, vintage queens and lingerie lovers who appreciate the art of a circle-stitched cup, a wasp-waist, or a flash of fully-fashioned seam, can find everything their hearts’ desire.
We create and produce beautifully cut, high-quality and affordable undergarments, corsetry and hosiery inspired by the 1940s and 1950s. Our designs are based on vintage patterns, adapted only slightly for modern figures, using authentic fabrics and even old-fashioned production methods wherever possible. We’re proud of our close-knit team, high standards and enthusiasm for great customer service, all of which which have earned us fans worldwide, and led to What Katie Did being worn by stars as lofty as Claudia Schiffer and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks. But really, we make our beautiful lingerie for every woman, so she can look and feel like a bombshell, any day of the week.”
I don’t often get excited about underwear, but I am excited to try out some of these gorgeous things. Here’s what I’m loving:
It was a banner day for listing dresses of the swing era on eBay! Let’s get started:
I am not usually accepting of lace clothing, but for this dress I overcame my stigma about lace looking matronly or overdone. The color is cheerful, the cut impeccable, and it comes in a wearable size. Just look at the goring on that skirt! I bet it twirls like a dream…