This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
I remember in 2015 hearing about a book called Fashion and Jazz and thinking, “Obviously, I am the target audience for this book,” and purchased it immediately. However, I don’t know that you particularly need a deep knowledge of fashion to appreciate what the author has to say and the stories he conveys in this book. Alphonso McClendon‘s “Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation” is a deeper look into the social and political implications of dress and jazz, including race, class, and gender. These performers were jazz innovators, pop stars, and style icons who continue to inspire people (like me) even today and it’s worth taking a look at why and how they got there through the lens of fashion.
McClendon is a professor at Drexel University, with extensive experience in what I would call the nuts and bolts of the fashion industry, but it is clear from his bio, even beyond this book, that the intersection of fashion and jazz (and topics emanating from that intersection) are a passion outside of his work in today’s fashion industry. Of personal interest to me, he has an undergraduate degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, so now I’m curious as to any other ties he may have to my home state.
And, yes, you get an entire chapter on Billie Holiday (“Beyond the Gardenia”), one of jazz’s penultimate style icons, as well as coverage of Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, and he touches on so many others. The entire book is 150 pages long, so one could devour it in a single afternoon and I would say that’s an afternoon well spent.
This post was written by Lindy Shopper.
We are living in historic times and I want to make it clear that black lives matter – I have been posting on my other platforms, but then I remembered that I also have this blog, so I would be remiss if I did not make it abundantly clear that I support racial justice and dismantling systematic racism, across all of my platforms of speech. A blog about swing dance clothing, shoes, and other things swing dancers may be interested in purchasing doesn’t seem like a likely candidate for addressing any sort of critical issues, but many people have written about how important what we wear is (historically and now) and how we spend our money affects perceptions and economics.
I was reminded this week of the Harlem Candle Company by dancer Lindsay Kelly, who posted her cocktail in a glass imprinted with E. Simms Campbell’s iconic 1932 nightclub map of Harlem (as some of you may know about #quarantini consumption throughout the pandemic). I thought, how lovely, because you can enjoy the candle, then you can enjoy the glass, so you’ve doubled your enjoyment of this lovely gold embossed vessel featuring the Home of Happy Feet and so many other iconic locations within this map that were integral to this dance and this music that we love.
The company, owned by Teri Johnson, a woman with a resume that makes you want to pack your bags and go on a travel adventure with her, is based in New York and the candles are “inspired by the richness of Harlem…like music, the top, middle, and base notes of each Harlem candle tells a story while taking you on an olfactory journey through time and place. Drawing on inspiration from legends like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, the subtle scents and soft glows from Harlem candles instantly enhance your space while creating a sense of comfort and luxury.” I love that Teri draws inspiration for the scents from the very things that inspire us to dance.
I can’t help but think of one of Dawn Hampton’s signatures quotes – “the light is on” – and all sorts of things that came to mind when writing about candles involving light, the black lives matter movement, and supporting black artists and businesses. I’ll spare you my soup of thoughts at the moment, but take inspiration where you may right now – we have a lot of work to do.