By now you probably think I am a broken record posting about new swing dance shoe companies, but take a second to consider the history of our options over the past 20 years and how bananas this is right now that within the past year so many new shoe companies have emerged focusing on shoes for swing dancers and who made their presence known all over the world via social media. It’s awesome! I have another company I’ve yet to blog about after this post, as well.
I first heard about Swingz Begoña Cervera from swing dance instructor Jenna Applegarth, who posted a photo of her feet on Facebook in a most delicious pair of red glitter dance heels from this company. The company appears to be based in Spain and owned by Lindy Hop enthusiasts, whose “aim is to express the beauty and feminity through hand-made shoe-manufacturing, achieving a perfect mix of music and dance, and allowing you to personally and uniquely choose the shoes you most like to wear in your performances.”
More from the website about what makes their shoes special:
“Our shoes have a wide toe box for your greater comfort, providing the space you need to stretch and flex your feet easily. They are also reinforced with both, a protective heel and toecap to prevent being hurt while you are dancing. Swingz are firm-looking and well-fitting to help you keep balance when you dance, but also soft and comfortable inside to carefully protect your feet at all times.
From the minute you order your shoes until you receive them, we commit to a creative manufacturing process which involves the selection of details, such as the choice of materials, colour, style and heel height. Always supported by our personalised advice, we want your shoe to be unique and able to fit you as you deserve.”
The 2016 collection is online for you to view and customize, but Swingz also has a selection of in-stock items if you need some shoes ASAP. US buyers, the exchange rate is looking good right now…
Here’s what I’m loving from their 2016 collection:
In many ways I am still recovering from Lindy Focus 2015, the swing village that camps out at the Crowne Plaza in Asheville, with all manner of dancing and services that pop up to cater to a population that would prefer not to leave the hotel, lest they miss too much dancing, live music, performances, and classes. To help with our self-containment of joy, 2015 saw service providers such as massage therapists, shoe repair, tailors, the Jack and Jill Salon for hair cuts and styles, a caricature artist in the lobby, and two hotel room pop-up restaurants (Midnight Di-Noshery and Taco Focus) to serve food after the main dance that were, after two nights, axed by the hotel administration and replaced with food trucks, arranged by Lindy Focus to fill the void and the empty bellies of the masses.
There were retail vendors, as well! Let’s start with the Savoy Shop, a mix of consigned clothing from campers, vintage and thrifted duds with dancers in mind, and the home of the shoe repair service at Lindy Focus. Michelle Morrison has run the shop for the past several years and has this down to a science. I love seeing things in the Savoy Shop one day, then seeing them on the dance floor the next! I even spotted one of my own consigned dresses in the crowd one night and it made my heart soar to know it had found a wonderful new home. Of particular note this year, the Savoy Shop offered the largest selection of tie clips I have ever seen in one place – surely something for everyone!
Dance instructor and artist Ryan Calloway was on hand this year, not only throwing down in the Superheroes of Swing finals, but also selling his wonderful jazz dance and music prints, offering giant, colorful books of his prints to flip through while you chat with the artist himself. Rather than having to worry about crushing your brand new artwork on the flight home, Ryan offered to ship the prints you purchase for free to your home starting on December 28 and ran the special through January 4 in case you decided you wanted a print after all. If you missed out on decorating your walls with his signature style, you can order his glorious prints online from his Etsy page.
I’m going to give a shoutout to Forties Forward, making another appearance on this blog as my most prolific vendor – perhaps it’s because we are both from the Southeast and travel to the same events, or perhaps it’s because they have a great product and the get-up-and-go to make it to some of the best events in the USA. I imagine they do a great business at Lindy Focus, particularly around New Year’s Eve, for the perfect fishing touch to an ensemble. This year feathers were a trend at Lindy Focus and they offered some great feather options with sparkly jewels as the attachment piece, in addition to their signature blooms.
Revive Fashions made, I believe, its debut this year at Lindy Focus, with the crafty Zoe Lechucita creating “custom made hair pieces, feather corsages, and tie pins” on site, while you wait or while you dance and come back to check on it later. 🙂 It was so great to see Zoe picking up the custom torch from Sharon Crawford, ensuring that you can have something custom made to match your ensemble for New Year’s Eve.
Another newcomer to the vendor program this year was Juniper Jewelry Designs, the work of Maddie FitzGerald, who was interviewed this year for the Lindy Focus blog about her jewelry designs, so I’ll direct you to the blog post for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Maddie and her jewelry. Maddie’s sense of humor is evident in her notes left on the vendor table (see photo at left) and her collection is serious, with an extensive line of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, small and large, simple and intricate, a little something for everyone (as I like it!). You can check out her work on her Etsy page, which is really only a small sampling of the large display she had at Lindy Focus.
Last, but certainly not least, I was so happy to see Dancestore.com return to Lindy Focus, thanks to the efforts of Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom). At any event there are shoe casualties, and Lindy Focus is, perhaps, well-equipped to deal with some repairs, but sometimes there are catastrophic shoe failures that only a new pair will fix and you only have so much room in your suitcase. At an event with 1,000+ dancers, it is critical to have a vendor like Dancestore.com present and on site, not just to fulfill wishlists and fill out shoe basics, but to turn a tragedy into a happy ending!
I’m also going to insert a shameless plug for Beastly Beauties, who was not a vendor this year at Lindy Focus, but who made my feathered headdress that I wore on Ellington night – I am in awe of and eternally grateful for the efforts of this wonderful Raleigh-based designer.
And there you have it! I hope I have not missed anyone, as I didn’t have as much time this year to shop and hobnob with all the sellers. If I have missed anything, please let me know and I will amend this post. Happy hopping and shopping, everyone!
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!
I was excited to see some new vendor faces and an old favorite return to the International Lindy Hop Championships this year. Particularly, with a focus on menswear – it is so easy for women to find good dance clothing, but most of our vendors (who are mostly women themselves) cater to women. This year, the men and women had some great vendors to choose from, from pieces you could take home to custom-made garments to order.
Did I mention my love for Chloe Hong? After her stint at All Balboa Weekend, I was suprised (read: elated) to see her back in the U.S. after such a short time. Not only did she clean up on the dance floor, she set up shop at ILHC to take custom orders for her wonderful selection of women’s skirts and classic men’s suiting. Just going through her fabric swatches makes me happy! If you have never considered ordering something custom and you find yourself at an event with Chloe Hong, I would recommend at least looking into ordering a custom piece – she can get your measurements in person and has lots of experience dressing dancers for a range of movement (she counts Bobby White, Thomas Blacharz, Pontus Persson, Laura Keat, Jeremy Otth, and Juan Villafane as customers, and I could go on…)
Returning for another year (have they been at ILHC every year?) is Forties Forward, with an array of lovely hair blooms, feathers, and accessories. One can never have too many hair accoutrements and I was also pleased to see that Forties Forward shared their table with A Woopie! Handmade Bowties (another menswear vendor!), which had a nice array of ties and even included some adorable instructions on how to tie the ties! I always need a little help when I tie my ties, so an adorable instruction card on my vanity beats, say, that YouTube tutorial I have to pull up every time I do this…
Perhaps the most impressive display belonged to Brown & Williams Clothiers, who specialize in vintage British menswear – yes, they import and they curate a stellar collection, a portion of which was on display at ILHC. I wish could sport the amazing jackets, sweaters, and trousers I spotted in their booth (none of them small enough!) – a seriously delicious collection for anyone who digs British style, collegiate style, boating, and especially tweed. If you are interested in checking out some of their stock, it looks like the best way to purchase is through their Etsy site – that green and white crested blazer *drool*…
“Keeping cool even when your swingouts are on fire” is the motto of SwingGene’s Folding Hand Fans, the brainchild of Albuquerque dancer Amber Templeton, who came up with her own fan design after watching the slow demise of a hinged fan over the course of three larger swing dance events. Your average fan was not made to withstand being thrown into a dance bag, possibly kicked/shuffled/stepped on at a dance, shaken vigorously and then perhaps tossed hastily aside as someone asks you to dance, then maybe living in your dance bag, which may then live in your hot car with your stinky dance shoes…you get the idea. Really beautiful fans tend to be fragile and the robust lifestyle of a Lindy Hopper calls for something more.
Amber uses fabric or duck tape as the main material for the fan, with a more traditional wooden structure to make it collapsible. This is a pretty novel use of duck tape, in my opinion, and I’ve seen some pretty sweet colors and pattern available for options. Fabric offers nearly endless options – from the Etsy site: “I have some ambitious goals for the future on how to really customize, embellish, and trick out the fans. For now though I just really want to make each customer the perfect custom fan. There are so many cool designs and patterns I feel like everyone should have the fan that they dream about.”
So what you see is just a sample – feel free to contact Amber for your custom, durable swing dance fan!
“Let your shoes live up to your dancing. Send me your shoes, and I’ll turn them into art that represents you. Send me a conversation, to get the ball rolling on your inspiration and preferences, then purchase through the Etsy shop.”
It’s just that simple! Blues instructor and DJ Mike “the Girl” Legenthal will take your plain, canvas dance shoes, or anything from “formal shoes to steampunk coats to home decor” and make it all about you after some design consult with you about who you are and what you’d like to see on your item. I love the idea of decorated canvas shoes – I have a pair of Vans slip-ons that a tattoo artist friend drew pin-ups on for me – and I was excited to see that Mike is offering to do this, with an obvious focus on the swing dance community. You can purchase through her Etsy shop, but the bulk of her work is on display on the Artsy Toes Facebook Page. Check it out and enjoy her wonderful, whimsical shoe designs!
Two spring sales worth posting about! First, the Original Prohibition Clothing Company is offering a great sale dubbed the “Spring Made-to-Measure Event” – with a focus on spring/summer weight fabrics (hello, tropical weight woolens and linens), the following price cuts:
Unconstructed Jackets were $348, now $298
Full-Rise Trousers were $188, now $159
Fine Cotton Shirts were $88, now $75
Prices valid through March 31st, 2014. There are so many “3 season” suits and heavy suits out there, it seems that for dancing that the most practical splurge would be for a summer suit, no? If you don’t like ironing or wrinkling, my vote is for the tropical weight wool. Remember, wool is a natural fiber that breathes…
Next, a wonderful sale from the I-can’t-believe-this-is-a-thing retailer A Vintage Sole, selling dead stock/never worn vintage shoes – here are the details:
“Enter ‘Benzie’ in the discount box at checkout and receive 15% OFF your entire order. By doing so, you’ll be lending a very helpful hand to those in real need.
When you use the Benzie code, we will donte 5% of your order to the Benzie Food Partners, our local all volunteer food bank.
Visit aVintageSole.com to learn more about our $hop-$ave-$upport program and the huge impact your purchase will make for those in Benzie County, Michigan.”
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):
I recently went to see The Great Gatsby (2013) and the thing that bothered me more than the horribly anachronistic female costuming and the inflatable zebras were the men’s pants. They were obviously out of place – poorly tailored stove pipes that wrinkled/puddled around the ankles and calves, much in the way that a pair of skinny jeans would on a hipster. David Lochner tells me they used Brooks Brothers’ Milano Fit Trouser, their “slimmest fitting trouser with a lower rise and a plain front.” Something about this description seems like the antithesis of 1920’s menswear. That the film would sacrifice historical accuracy for a modern marketing opportunity is no surprise, but it got me thinking about high waist pants. Is this really the best they can do? When I search for high waist pants, what are retailers offering these days?
The pre-qual to these questions is how we got out of the fashion of wearing high waisted pants in the first place. Whenever I wear modern pants while I am dancing, they slowly inch their way downward or pull unnecessarily on my legs when I wear a belt. Doesn’t it make sense that our bottom garments would be better served by being secured at the narrowest point on our body? As someone with an extremely short inseam, why would I want to make my legs look shorter?
Quoting Nick Wooster of Bergdorf Goodman, “men have become so comfortable with low rise that it’s like bringing back the pleated pant; it took years to get men out of them and now we are showing men how good they can look in them. He sighed, “Men are creatures of repetition and when they get conditioned to like something it takes a very long time to change that.”
Quoting Robert Bryan, stylist, “Nothing looks worse than a long torso with short legs, a look created by pants that rise only to the hips, or these days, considerably lower,” he demurred. “Furthermore, it seems only natural that trousers should rise at least to the natural waist where they can rest for support on the hips and drape from there,”
In closing, “So, men, it is up to you daredevils that want to look tall, erect and sophisticated to bring back this iconic staple to our wardrobes.”
Support and drape sounds beautiful and practical for dancing…so where do we find these high-waisted pants?
Well, a lower rise appears to have overtaken all modern retailers – I asked two of my favorite male sartorialists, Bobby White and the aforementioned Mr. Lochner, about where they find high-waisted trousers with modern retailers and it is just as I feared: nowhere. Sure, you can find waists that are higher in comparison to low-rise pants, but not pairs, for example, like the ones Marlon Brando is sporting in the photo to the left. Mr. Lochner added, “Even the old men’s section at Macy’s lowered the rise.” Your options are to order something made for you, seek vintage sources, or spend countless hours searching for that one elusive pair in a shop and buy every pair they have in your size.
I found a nice selection of high waisted 1950’s pants at the Rusty Zipper, including some sweet looking Army slacks.
A Google search of “men’s high waisted pants” revealed a few, perhaps, not-quite-so-high-but-higher-than-low-rise options:
Cator Sparks says he picked up a pair of Levi’s 517’s, which he says are the pants the cowboys wear. Aside from describing the seemingly endless zipper, I love that Mr. Sparks talks about how he hasn’t felt this comfortable in a pair of pants since he bought a pair of custom made tuxedo pants.
Emporio Armani has this pair, but they don’t look particularly high-waisted to me, rather somewhere just above a low rise.
Dickies, classic purveyors of work-wear, offers this trouser – added bonus: hidden expandable waist and extra pocket on the leg.
And there you have it – with the passing of generations that wore high-waisted pants and the wearing-down of the waistline, so to speak, to more low-rise trousers being en vogue in subsequent generations, we have run out of a resource. If you have resources for high-waisted pants, please feel free to share them here in the comments section below. I know others will thank you for it!
One of the first things on my Facebook feed this morning was a photo of a pair of red and a pair of green wingtip Keds, made by St. Louis dancers Beccy Aldrich and Kayce Maureen. I love a DIY project and the shoes were so adorable I couldn’t resist posting them here.
They got the idea from Pinterest, which linked to this site in a language unknown to me. However, the photographs take you step by step through the process so you can make a pair of your own! Beccy adds that they used fabric pens to create all the patterns on the shoe, and supplemented with white fabric paint to highlight the dots in the brogueing. We’re not sure what the turquoise pen is in the photo.
If you’re going to Lindy Focus, you’ll get to see the green pair and red pair in person – nice job, ladies!
If there’s one thing we need to wear as dancers, it’s appropriate and comfortable footwear. Shoes that fit you well can make a positive difference in your dancing; conversely, shoes that are ill-fitting can negatively impact your dancing and potentially cause health problems. So what do you do when you can’t find a pair of shoes that fits because of the width or shape of your foot?
I’ve had a couple of requests about dance shoes for irregular feet widths, specifically dance Keds and Balboa shoes. While I wear a regular width shoe, I just barely missed the genetic gift of narrow feet from my father and paternal grandmother, who both have very narrow feet (Granny wears a AAAA). Finding narrow shoes in retail stores seems to be an extinct possibility for them, so both of them have had to order shoes from catalogs that offer narrow and wide width shoes. This can get pretty expensive, considering my dad had to wear a suit and dress shoes every day to work and my grandmother loves to dress up.
However, these shoes do exist! I’ll start with the Keds, because that is easy – Keds makes narrow and wide widths of their Champion Oxford, the quintessential Lindy Hop shoe of the past few years. Keds makes them in AAAA (super narrow), AA (narrow), B (medium), D (wide), and EE (extra wide) widths. You are a bit limited in the colors available, but the classic white and black are there, as well as navy, blue, red and tan.
The process to get them to dance shoes is the same – buy Keds and either glue the suede/leather sole them yourself or take them to a cobbler to be sueded/leathered.
You can buy the different widths from the Keds website, but I found that finding the different widths was easier and they were cheaper on the Maryland Square website (which is the catalog my Granny uses). Also, the EE width did not appear to be available on either website, but was available in the paper catalog, so if you are looking for this width you will probably need to place a phone order with Maryland Square.
My suggestion for different widths of Balboa shoes and for men looking for an oxford for dancing is to buy a custom pair of tango shoes. Tango shoe makers tend to offer vintage-inspired styles of shoes and will create a custom pair for your feet using actual measurements of your feet. The cost is more than a pair of Aris Allens, but generally less than a pair of Re-Mix Vintage Shoes. I ordered a custom pair from Mr. Tango Shoes a few years ago and had a very positive experience. The fit of my custom shoes was unparalleled. On top of the width/shape, you can also customize the colors in both two-tone and mono-tone, the heel height and width/shape, the type of sole, the arch support, cushioning at the ball of the foot, and whether or not you want a platform. Another friend has had a good experience ordering custom shoes from Guaranteed Fit Tango Shoes.
If you have narrow feet, the vintage shoe world is your oyster. I would encourage you to look for vintage shoes on eBay and in vintage stores. Always ask whoever is working in the vintage store if they have narrow shoes because they don’t always put them out, and ask your local vintage store to be on the lookout for your size – often, stores will turn down shoes that are narrow because they don’t believe they will sell. Let them know you are the person who will buy these shoes!
Also, if you have wide or narrow feet and have found something that works for you, please feel free to share your experience or source here – I know there are others who would like to have this information. 🙂
One of the biggest challenges for me this year has been finding costumes for The Carolina Fascinators, an all-girl jazz performance troupe that I organize. When I started thinking about costumes I contacted Casey Schneider of Sister Kate to find out where they had been finding costumes, because the Sister Kate girls always look so put together – and by that I mean, from head to toe, each girl looks like she is in a professional costume with a well-thought-out thematic that goes with the routine and the music. Casey agreed that this was not an easy task and that the Sister Kate girls were lucky to have some really creative and talented seamstresses in their ranks.
I’m no great seamstress, but I was determined to find costumes that would evoke the swing era and not fall prey to the “sexy” Halloween costumes or gaudy modern “jazz” costumes. Where do I find that Busby Berkeley-inspired costume today and not pay an arm and a leg for a custom costume?
I later ran into Kristen Minsky, of the Minsky Sisters, at an event she organized in Durham for her cabaret, Chifferobe. For one of her performances she wore a fully sequined dance costume that was very 1920’s and looked like it was custom made for her. In a way it was, and it wasn’t – she ordered it from Sequin Queen, an online retailer of sequin dresses and costumes, who have samples you can choose from, but then everything else, from the fit to the sequin color, is customized for your needs. If this looks like drag queen garb, that’s because it is (even RuPaul gave this place a nod on her show, Drag Race) – but if you push aside the Suzanne Sugarbaker pieces, you can find some gems here. The prices are amazing for custom, sequin dresses and some of the samples are made with a stretch base, to allow for less-restrictive movement. I’d love to see more sparkle in swing dance performances and I think some of these costumes would work well for performance teams as well as solo jazz and Charleston.
It’s back to reality, post-Experiment, but while I was away I did have a chance to chat with instructor Bobby White about some of his impeccable garments. He directed me to Magnoli Clothiers as a great source for vintage reproduction three piece suits. I must agree with Mr. Whi-te on this one, as the tailoring and fabrics look spot on.
Magnoli Clothiers is more than just menswear, it “is dedicated to the reproduction of vintage clothing, historic garments and popular film costumes. These reproductions, however, are not costume pieces, but tailor-made, high-quality clothing…any piece of mens clothing that you can provide images of can be reproduced. We can copy a garment you already own, or, by analyzing various images, we can reproduce any article from photograph or film stills.” The sky is the limit, or you can choose from their impeccable sample suits, pants, leather jackets, sport coats, shirts, vests, shoes, hats, and accessories.
The prices are no bargain, but for custom pieces…consider this an investment in looking awesome. Reasonably priced vintage repro menswear is hard for Lindy Shopper to find, but I am on a reproduction kick right now so I thought it best to share. Did I mention shipping is included in the price? That helps a bit.
Here are some of the great pieces you might want to own:
I’ll keep the shoe theme going for another post…I stumbled upon Johnson Shoes in one of those lists of vintage clothing and shoe resources where most of the links are no longer working. Fortunately, the Johnson Shoes link still worked and I discovered a wonderful resource for 1930’s through 1950’s shoes for men and women. Based in the UK, Johnson Shoes has been selling hand crafted shoes since 1983.
From the website: “We always carry black, brown and white dance shoes, but all our ranges come in all colours. Different soles are available according to your needs. Whilst some styles and colours are in stock due to the fact we offer high quality handmade footwear so it can take a number of weeks to produce your shoes. We offer quality not speed.
Whether you want to dance all night or be comfortable all day we make quality footwear that caters for your needs. Whether you choose from one of the many designs you see on our site or design what you want it’s all in with the price.
Johnson shoes are dance orientated. We have jazz, rock and roll, swing, balboa and lindy-hop shoes, ballroom, and latin shoes, 40s jive, ceroc, leroc, salsa and jive shoes.
You can choose from a wide range of materials including, leather, suede, nubuck, patent, pony, non-leather and a choice of soles, leather, eva, suede , crepe and non-leather. We do all the above footwear from size 3 including half sizes to a ladies size 9 in selected styles and up to mens size 13”
You had me at Balboa…
In addition to custom footwear, Johnson Shoes carries some styles in stock, which are sold through the Rock and Roll Products website. The styles available in stock are also the styles you can customize.
Here’s what I’m loving from the site (there are no individual links, for some reason – sorry!):