He may not know it outright, but Simon James Cathcart is here to serve swing dancers – that is, serve up classic, rare, and sought-after reproduction menswear pieces in great fabrics. His latest offerings are all cotton, which means it’s all breathable and washable for us sweaty dancer types.
The workwear cotton stripe is being offered in four pieces, a belt back jacket, a waistcoat, a pair of trousers, and a cap, all inspired by 1920’s workwear. From the website:
“SJC has woven this exclusive cloth, which recreates the striped pattern from a pair of genuine 1920’s work-wear trousers in the company’s collection of vintage clothing. The cloth has been brushed on the inside for warmth…”
The details on these pieces are wonderful, as per usual – notice all the careful seams and generous use of pockets. Of interest to dancers would be the note about ample room in the thigh of the trousers, which translates to more room for your legs to move about unrestricted.
Finally, you just need some basics and SJC is, again, delivering the goods – what’s more basic than a pair of chinos or a pair of jeans? The workhouse chinos come with all the casual air of a weeknight DJ’ed dance, but have all the details you expect from period trousers, such as buttons for braces, a cinched back, and a nice V at the back of the waistband.
Cotton = breathable = sweat and dance to your heart’s content! Keep it comin’, Simon!
I will continue to sing Simon James Cathcart’s praises – his fall releases thus far consist of matching separates in salt and pepper or Dutch blue chambray, inspired by nineteen teens, 20’s, and 30’s workwear, and I think the concept of purchasing mixing and matching pieces you like is brilliant, not to mention all of these could be worn separately or together as a suit. And all the pieces are great – two jackets (belt back or Norfolk style), two styles of trousers with proper buttons at the fly and for braces (narrow or wide leg), a waistcoat in each color, and a dart cap in each color.
But what to wear with your new workwear? How about a work shirt in 4 different colors, two stripes and two solids? SJC gives you a great jumping off point for many different workwear inspired looks. Add some work boots or oxfords, add a tie to dress it up, add a henley to dress it down…
ALSO, there’s a 40% off sale on those magical chinos that everyone keeps looking for on my blog (high waist, wide leg, breatheable, danceable), as well as the summer weight flannel trousers (which I think would be more perfect for fall around these parts), the signature zig zag neckerchief, and the vintage style polos in bamboo fabric that every dancer needs as part of their wardrobe of comfort and style.
Every time I turn around, I hear about a new vintage reproduction company in the UK, which seems to be where I want to spend my dollars-into-pounds lately and the retail climate appears to be thriving for vintage-inspired clothing. Swing bandleader, guitarist, and dancer Glenn Crytzer tipped me off to Oldfield Clothing, “purveyors of fine British sportswear and accessories for ladies and gentlemen,” when he picked up a pair of their 1930’s workwear trousers, wanting something in a heavier weight for loading band equipment in and out at gigs. The Oldfield Clothing collection looks well-suited to incorporating its pieces into modern wardrobes, with vintage takes on standard clothing items like trousers and sweaters.
The trousers really shine – they offer five different cuts, ranging from the most vintage 1920’s golf knickers to the Keaton trousers that look like a standard pair of front pleated trousers (slightly lower rise than their other pairs, but probably higher rise than modern trousers, if you just want to dip your toe into the wading pool of reproduction trousers). There are a range of fabrics, from linen to corduroy and wool, so you can shop and dress seasonally. The workwear trousers Glenn picked are really special, not only for their durable fabric, but also for the details – buttons for braces, button fly, fish tail back, and cinch strap and buckle, to name a few.
Women’s offerings are limited to knitwear (specifically – but knickers, see above), but some really good pieces, like solid sweater vests and beautiful Fair Isle vests and a sweater. Other items that could be unisex include caps, leather goods, and a classic cream long sleeve polo shirt with two collar options.
I haven’t done anything for the gents in a while, so here we go – I have found myself shopping for menswear recently, as I assemble my golf outfit for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. I was on my high school’s golf team, so this is not entirely for show, and definitely about the love for the game and the clothes. That said, I’d more likely be dancing than swinging a club at the lawn party in August, so I’ll need something that can take the sweat and reduce the heat. I asked David Lochner, my favorite sartorialist and go-to for menswear advice, where I should acquire the perfect 1920’s-style golf cap and his immediate and only response was “Monsivais.”
Damian Monsivais, in addition to crafting superb caps, is a collector of clothing and accessories from 1900 through the 1930’s. From the website, a proper introduction: “Caps where all the rage during the early years but are so difficult to find in good sizes. All men of trades owned one, from farmers to the Prince of Wales. Mostly made of wool and lined with silk. Today’s modern caps are nothing like they made in the 1920s and 1930s so I took it upon myself to make some reproductions for myself and now I offer them here to the public whom share the same liking and want a period correct look.”
Right now Monsivais Caps is transitioning from an Etsy page to an independent website, so to get a bigger picture of the business, go look at both, then order from the independent website. The fabric selections are even broader than shown, so if you are looking for something specific, as I was looking for summer-weight fabrics in specific colors, simply start a conversation. You can also supply your own fabric and have it made into a fabulous cap.
Upon consultation with Mr. Monsivais and a mailing of fabric samples, we are going with a nice cream linen with a brown check in a “simple one piece crown” that I am very excited to acquire. I will do a follow-up post once I’ve worn the cap with the golf ensemble.
In the interim, I invite you to take a gander and these gorgeous cap offerings – oh, the seaming!
Menswear can be a difficult world to navigate and, if you are just starting to accumulate your dress wardrobe, figuring out which pieces will be essentials, what colors to get, which fit, etc. can add to the confusion. The Original Prohibition Clothing Company is here to help, with a pretty awesome deal – a jacket, two pairs of trousers, three shirts, two bow ties, and a hat, all made-to-measure for your body, with your choice of fabrics and colors, and a helping hand to guide you through these choices to create what is, in essence, the framework for a fabulous wardrobe. At $998.00, this is a lot of bread to throw down at once, but it is an overall 20% savings off these individual items, and they are made for you, in the USA, to your specifications and measurements. If I were a dude, I’d start saving right now and treat myself at Christmas. 😉 (Update: Deal runs through September 1 – rethink Christmas present, get your monies together soon!) See details below (from their Facebook page):
At last August’s Jazz Age Lawn Party I happened upon a booth for the upstart men’s clothing company The Original Prohibition Clothing Company and reported on some of the most beautifully tailored men’s clothing I have seen in person. The company’s owner and designer, Corey Miller, sent me an email last week to let me know that the website was now open for business and that their offerings are expanding and continue to expand (including expanding into women’s dandy-wear – paging Sam Carroll…)
While I don’t talk a lot about tee shirts on this blog, it’s a fact that most dancers wear tee shirts dancing most of the time, especially men. Corey has noted this and when he “looked around at most of the dance tee shirts, they identified your love for dance, but the shirts themselves weren’t lovely.” I like the way this man thinks – to add to the small pool of Lindy Hop merchandise available to us, TOPCC is now offering two tees – one for “Fearless Follows” and another for the “Solid Sender.” The design on the tees is certainly lovely, with vintage styling and iconic silhouettes. Now that I am the proud owner of a Fearless Follow tee, I can attest to the fact that this is one of the softest tee shirts I own – it will be a delight to wear!
While you’re at TOPCC website, you should absolutely look around – there are fabulous things here, too fabulous, really. I pretty much want to buy everything here for my husband to wear! Impeccable jackets, Hollywood trousers, wonderful vests, variations on the collared shirt, newsboy caps, and even men’s ties in a Tommy gun pattern (to continue the theme – cheeky).
And thanks to Corey for designing with the swing dance community in mind – a rare thing, indeed!
In light of recent online discussions about gender roles in Lindy Hop and the recent Amendment/abomination passed this month in my home state, I decided to take up a suggestion made by Sam Carroll that I do a post on women dressing in menswear or dandy garb for dancing. Specifically,
“For my own sake, I’m interested in outfits which cater to the curvy woman’s body, but which are using traditionally ‘male’ items – eg jackets, waistcoats, trousers, hats, cravats, etc. Not women’s clothes, but men’s clothes for women. Or men’s clothes tailored for a woman’s body. Most of the ‘female dandy’ stuff I see about features ridiculously skinny, flat-chested women without hips. That’s not me, I’m not interested in that stuff. But it’s hard to find alternatives.”
I think this is a really cool concept, one that could be practical for dancing socially, traveling, or in performance where a female could be leading and/or want to fit into a particular role in the ensemble.
When Sam posed this question, a few things popped into my head:
– Like vintage clothing for men, the actual vintage options will be limited, but with ladies’ narrower shoulders it could open up more jacket options.
– Accessories are the key. Like many gents I know who dress in vintage or in vintage style, many of the main pieces they wear are regular menswear or reproductions and the accessories, which have usually survived and are more plentiful, take their outfit to the next level. It’s all in the details.
– Finding pants is going to be really hard. As someone who has pretty much given up on finding pants, it could be even harder for me to make a recommendation.
– Like any good dandy, you will need a tailor.
– Women’s clothing retailers offer some dandified options, if you know where to look.
So let’s break this down into the man uniform. Menswear is generally comprised of pants, shirt, jacket and/or vest, socks, shoes, belt or suspenders (but not both). Accessories could be a tie, a cravat, a tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin, etc. I’ll try to hit on most of these pieces and recommend ideas for sources (because that’s what we’re all about here – where the @#&* do I find it?):
Gonna get this one out of the way. Men’s pants are not made for women’s bodies and vice versa, but this doesn’t mean that men and women are made of one shape, or that men’s pants won’t ever fit. One of my favorite pairs of pants in college was a pair of men’s pants and I purchased a tuxedo for myself last year and didn’t have much trouble with the pants (although they cut a wee bit tight across the hips, more so than I am used to feeling). They fit me a hell of a lot better than these skinny jeans that are in style right now (which make me look like a linebacker) and give the illusion and drape of a proper pair of men’s trousers, in spite of the hip area.
My next suggestion is to find men’s pants that fit in the hips and have them tailored to fit your shape. This may not work for all men’s pants, but I believe it’s a viable option. Most nice men’s pants are cut to be tailored and taken in or let out.
There is always the option to have them made, which is my favorite because they are guaranteed to be made for your shape, in the fabric you like, and can be tailored to look like men’s pants. You can also have more options, like a higher waist to give it a more vintage look. Also, with the higher waist pant, it’s more likely to be a flattering cut for the female figure. I’m thinking specifically about the 13 button sailor pants the U.S. Navy used to issue as part of a uniform – those pants are universally flattering on just about every human I’ve seen wear them.
Finally, in rare instances (so rare that I can’t really point to a consistent source), I have come across wide or straight leg trousers in women’s stores that do sort of have a nod to menswear. The cut will be most important in this case, because womenswear is so squirrely and the cut may not be tailored enough to be truly dandy. Then, there is this sort of hybrid that is golf knickers, which are definitely more traditionally male, but also sporting female, and are made in women’s sizes at golfknickers.com (I would rock the Stewart plaid pair in a hot minute!).
I think most men’s shirts have comparable women’s shirts (tees, polos, button-downs). Sadly, I think a lot of modifications that retailers have made to women’s dress shirts to make them more…girly (?) have not worked out for the best. I am a lawyer IRL, so I deal with a lot of button-down shirts to wear under suits for court. I get miffed when I see that retailers have modified the neckline to show more cleavage – with that silly angle exposing more of the upper chest and removing the buttons so you no longer get to decide where your top button is located. Forget about wearing a neck scarf or a tie with it. And is it too much trouble to put a button across the peak of the bosom, instead of spanning it and causing a gap that must be safety pinned, lest your co-workers catch a glimpse of your bra? But I digress.
I have found a few good basics for button-down shirts. My favorite is Banana Republic because the fit is usually really good (efficient, professional) and they have nice variations on classic menswear for women, without sacrificing buttons or adding excess cleavage. It’s also one of the few places I’ve found women’s shirts with French cuffs for cufflinks – bliss! They even have a line of non-iron shirts, which is the only kind of shirts my husband will buy, but that I haven’t seen made available that often for comparable women’s shirts. A scan of the BR line shows some great dandy options for summer – long sleeve basics, a safari shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a fantastic long sleeve button-down in blue or pink with contrast white collar and cuffs!
I think it is important to buy shirts made for women, if at all possible. Generally, our shoulders are narrower and we need darts to highlight our feminine shape and streamline our look. Being a dandy is about looking tailored, not frumpy, and I think men’s shirts are just too much of an adjustment in shape when there are options available that do not require alterations or custom-made garments.
I am also not above shopping in the little boy’s section for shirts…which sometimes works out well. 🙂
Things start to get easier here. I’ve seen more women’s vests in recent history and there are always menswear-inspired jackets available. The key here is to mind your colors and materials – obviously, a pink boucle jacket is going to scream femme, but a linen, stripe, or tweed would be more along the lines of a dandy. I’d also experiment with vintage menswear and men’s vests, as there may be potential for tailoring them to fit, or with vests, cinching them if they are adjustable in the back. Again, the key is tailoring, keeping lines clean, and sticking to menswear basics.
This becomes a wee bit more difficult because Dancestore.com isn’t making men’s Aris Allens in smaller sizes anymore – finding menswear-inspired shoes is fairly simple, but finding leather soles is not. This is where the ladies with the larger feet have an advantage. I went through great difficulty to find boy’s size 5 black patent leather oxford ballroom shoes to go with my tuxedo (and the size chart was so off that I had to send them back 3 times for an exchange). That said, there are some boy’s ballroom shoes out there in basic black oxfords.
While I can’t vouch for the danceability of all the soles (there’s always the option of having things sueded), G. H. Bass has some great shoes right now for women that are a sort of twist on classic men’s shoes. I’m loving the Rachel Antonoff collection, which has things like clear/black patent wingtips, saddles shoes in lots of two tone color combos, and loafers with complimentary plaid panels. The Bass American Classics line for women almost looks like a collection of men’s shoes, with basic colors in loafers (tassled and penny; BONUS: leather sole) and saddle shoes.
This is where the fun starts. You could go with the traditional conception of matching your socks to your trousers, but one of the things I love about our male Lindy Hop counterparts is their fearless socks. So long as it matches your ensemble, feel free to experiment with stripes, argyle, prints, and color. This might be a good place to inject your femininity or sense of humor…
Belt, suspenders, tie, cravat, tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin…this is where there are comparable women’s products (belt, watch), or adjustable (suspenders), or we have unisex sizing (hats, caps), or it’s one size fits all (tie, cravat, cufflinks, pins, etc. I’m actually thinking vintage 30’s and 40’s ties might work even better on women because they are shorter than modern ties. This is where you have very few limits – go forth to the men’s section and conquer!
As with creating any look or ensemble, it’s important to do your research – look for inspirational photographs of men and women in menswear, or women in pants from the swing era. Pants were definitely not the norm and I think you will find that women took a lot of inspiration from the men when they embraced pants.
I hope this was helpful in some small way – please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or product recommendations for other burgeoning lady dandies!
While the Gentleman’s Emporium boasts primarily reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian garb for men and women, there are some things that remain timeless and, thus, useful to swing dancers aspiring for a vintage look from just beyond Edwardian times or for those who aspire to the high style of Mr. Bobby White. Gentleman’s Emporium makes it easy for buyers – if you aren’t sure what pieces go together, you can view the items by “Outfit” for a head to toe ensemble, grouped in clever characters like “Toby Greenwell – Newsboy,” “Professor Babcock – Man of Science,” “Dickerson Potts – Sportsman,” and numerous other rogues and gentlemen. The ladies also have characters and ensembles, but are, for the most part, not period-appropriate and not dance-able.
In the alternative to the ensemble approach, the Gentleman’s Emporium lists their stock individually in categories, so if you are looking for a vest, you need only click on the proper category. This is probably going to be the most effective way to buy pieces to re-create 1920’s and 1930’s looks via this website. I’m treading lightly here, as menswear is not my forte, so if I’ve listed something that is just not in the realm of comprehension during the jazz age, I apologize.
Here’s what I think might be useful from the Gentleman’s Emporium:
Are you looking for that perfect vintage-looking cap, one that’s less Kangol and more newsboy circa 1932? Look no further than the eBay store ZaSu Caps, a treasure trove of vintage style hats and caps, including newsboy caps, alpine caps, railroad engineer caps, a pith helmet, and some WWII reproductions.
The maker of these hats, Ralf Reynolds, is also one of the Reynolds Brothers, a trad jazz duo from that packs a mean, swinging punch. Further, “Ralf has the distinction of being the only person ever to have a 30 year career as a professional washboard player.” Check their website – how adorable are these guys?
From Peter Loggins, via Facebook (who tipped me off about the hats): “These are the cats that seriously influenced my dancing, practicing every day to their Futuristic Junglism CD, songs like Pigmeat stomp. Fun, down to earth, historical knowledge, John Reynolds also played in Mora’s Modern Rhythmists, and is a hell of artist, and Ralf Reynolds makes the hats I wear!!! Zasu Caps…I remember the night I first met Ralph, he had just moved back to California, and went to the Derby, with a duffel bag full of hats. I can’t remember how many I bought, but it was every one that fit me…”
Find ZaSu Caps on Facebook and become a fan! Watch the video below, and you’ll become a fan of the Reynolds Brothers as well. 🙂
In honor of my trip to visit Knickerrocker this weekend and DJ at his and Bill Speidel‘s monthly dance event, The Southside Stomp, I decided to profile golfknickers.com, purveyors of men’s and women’s short pants, fancy socks and other classic golf attire. Arguably, if these knickers are made for a sport, wouldn’t they also be ideal for dancing? I’d like to think so.
Golfknickers.com has a clear purpose: “We specialize in our full line of men’s plus fours or golf knickers (knickers). To complement the knickers our company has a full line of matching socks, caps and shirts; allowing us to deliver the complete outfit to our customer. Our customers’ include Corporations, Golf Courses (outfitting Staff and Patrons), School Golf Teams, Tournaments and avid golfers around the world. We are committed to growing the game of golf by encouraging players to wear the game the way it was meant to be played.”
The way it was meant to be played. I’m already a fan – promoting dressing well and in a classic way is just what we do on this blog, as well. 🙂
Now for the goods! Just about everything on this site is vintage inspired and could be worn at a dance. Obviously the knickers are the highlight, with the men’s models in 20 colors of microfiber gabardine and cotton/linen, 6 plaids in cotton/linen, 4 plaids in a wool blend, and some models with matching caps. The microfiber knickers are a steal at $69.95. Ladies can choose from 6 colors and 3 plaids (although shouldn’t they be offering some lovely 1920’s-inspired golf dresses and cloches, a la Jordan Baker? *sigh*)
Having trouble deciding? Golfknickers.com anticipated that the unlimited combinations could be overwhelming, so they have collections of ready to go outfits, that include knickers, shirt, sweater vest, socks and cap already expertly matched – just pick a color. If you’d like to create your own look, but aren’t sure how the pieces will look together, the site offers a virtual model where you can try different color combinations.