I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.” Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town. You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.
At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year. There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee. If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee? A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.
Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit. I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.
De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy. Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions. The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.
Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.
Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW. Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.
Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look. I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing. I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.
Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well. I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments. They get us. I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.
That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!
One does not simply recover from Lindy Focus – even if you manage to escape the plague, reset your sleep schedule, unpack and do the mountains of laundry, there are still all the YouTube videos to watch, the photographs to see, and the new people to find and connect with on Facebook and all of this takes a bit of time. As you can see, it is January 10 and I am just now getting to this post!
It was the best year for vendors yet at Lindy Focus, primarily because almost the entire main front lobby was converted to a vendor area, with the smaller lobby registration/vendor area remaining as a secondary area. I posted a preview of the vendors before Lindy Focus, so I won’t go into too many details about the ones I have already written about, but there were some additions to that list I would like to highlight, then I’ll post all my photos:
Mickey Fortanasce, who is not only an great instructor and competitor, but also an incredible graphic artist, created an entire set of playing cards using the likenesses of swing dance legends like Frankie Manning, Dawn Hampton, Jewel McGowan, Dean Collins, and many more to create and truly beautiful and unique piece of functional and fun artwork. “For cutters and shufflers,” of course. 😉 Photos below, I’m not sure how many of these are left, but it doesn’t hurt to reach out to him to find out. (UPDATE: You can purchase packs of cards at this link –> http://www.kellyandmickey.com/legends-of-swing-playing-cards)
Artist, writer, and dancer Irena Spassova was on hand with her adorable artwork, with prints and coloring books (!) to take home, as well as commission work offered at the event! What a great idea to grab a coloring book and run back to your room for a little de-stress time mid-event. I always see Irena with a smile on her face and her artwork is just as infectious.
San Francisco instructor Ann Mony has created a set of jazz step playing cards, which look to be great for both new and veteran dancers alike, for solo dancing or dancing with others or with a class, and there are already plans to expand the deck! You could get a set at LF or you can order them on Etsy – follow Shimmytown on Etsy to get updates on expansions.
Ryan Calloway returned to Lindy Focus with his fantastic original jazz prints, featuring great dancers and musicians alike! To up the ante this year, I spotted Ryan backstage making sketches, so perhaps we shall see the fruits of his artistry at LF 2017 – to tide you over until then, you can pick up a jazz print on his Etsy page.
Hilary Mercer of photography fame is also a seller for Lularoe – she was selling in the secondary lobby near registration before the Savoy Shop set up and was thereafter selling in her room, and I am aggravated with myself that I did not get a photo of her Lularoe spread, because it was rather impressive in magnitude. Follow her for Lularoe on Facebook and marvel at this combination of stellar photographer and colorful attire, essentially match made in heaven.
I apologize tenfold if I have somehow missed someone or missed a detail, Lindy Focus was a wonderful and time-consuming 2 p.m. to 4 a.m. job for me this year, which kept me away from the vendor areas except when I was passing through – please let me know what may be missing and I’ll amend this post!
It was another banner year for the International Lindy Hop Championships, now in its 9th year, and full of life, energy, and joy that only swing dancing with people who love these dances with every fiber of their being can bring.
This year’s ILHC was very different for me than in previous years, primarily because I was only singing with Jonathan Stout‘s bands on Friday and Saturday night, whereas in previous years I had competed, DJ’ed, participated in the Yehoodi broadcast, and also sang, usually 2-3 of these at various times over the course of the weekend. Consequently, I cannot say that I was in the ballroom as much as I had been in the past, but I received a request for a trend report, so I will tell you what I was able to see while I was there:
Trashy Diva: TD has been around for a while and there would always be a token dancer in a TD dress (usually Mia Halloran (as in the video below) or Valerie Salstrom), but this year the TD was out en masse. As my gaze scanned the dancing crowd each night, there were numerous ladies sporting TD’s signature printed rayon dresses and it made my heart sing! You all looked amazing – at one point, I happened upon a cluster of three women in TD chatting in the hallway and there’s nothing that makes me happier than fashion bringing people together.
Cropped tops: This trend was a pleasant surprise, seeing adorable cropped tops paired with everything from floaty skirts to high waisted trousers, and always impeccably assembled with the rest of the outfit. Everything from right at the top of the waistband to about three inches above the waistband, so some were just a peek when you lifted your arm to turn and others were more intentionally part of the ensemble’s silhouette.
High waisted tapered leg pleated front pants: Ubiquitous, for a second year in a row. My distaste for this trend remains, but at least they all fit you well, no one looked uncomfortable.
Women in ties: Neckties, bow ties, and I think I even spotted a Continental – ladies, won’t you join me during OcTieBer?
Men: I’ve got nothing, it looked rather more of the same, except that well-dressed men are always in style. Nevermind, keep looking amazing, don’t change. 😉
If you attended, I’d love to hear what other trends did you noticed while you were there – feel free to leave a note in the comments.
I’m also going to give honorable mention to Diana Smith, who wore my favorite clothing item of the weekend, a black floral romper that, at a distance looks like it’s made from a a nice vintage floral, but upon closer inspection has Captain America’s shield nestled in the beds of flowers! Click on the photo to make it larger so you can see the detail – brilliant nod to the Captain America back story and the victory prints of the 1940’s. Did I think to get a photo of Diana in this romper? No, because I’m a terrible reporter and I think I got her in trouble during sound check because we were both working when I started geeking out about her romper…so you’ll have to settle for the Kohl’s model at right. Unfortunately, this romper is no longer available at Kohl’s! *sigh*
There were not as many vendors at ILHC as in the past, and I particularly missed seeing Chloe Hong, but there were 4 vendors offering goods and services to the masses in the hallway of the event and they should be noted because they are noteworthy!
Holding down the largest vendor space was Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) with both Dancestore’s line of dance shoes for men and women, as well as vintage shoes and clothing. I noticed that Dancestore has a new colorway in their Aris Allen men’s wingtip, a nice brown and cream. I also died when I saw that Laurie had several pairs of 1920’s shoes, just the loveliest things in satin that my feet will never fit into! Also, vintage velvet…so many lovely things…
Across from Laurie was the Junebug Shop, the custom clothing endeavor of Anna Yergat, who had her designs on display, as well as a line of geometric beaded jewelry in just about every color – so you could order an entire accessorized ensemble at her table. The Junebug Shop Etsy page carries Anna’s custom designs as well as some vintage clothing items. Anna’s designs look romantic and dance-worthy, vintage nods with modern twists.
Finally, the Vinspire Salon at ILHC was staffed by Destinee Cushing (hair) and Lani Barry (makeup), offering full services faces and quoifs all weekend, if you could even get one – they were so popular there was a wait list! One could say that having hair and makeup done, either professionally by these two or by other means (self, friend) was also a trend this past weekend and rightly so – this is quite possibly Lindy Hop’s biggest and most broadcast performance opportunity of the year and it’s a time to shine, look vibrant under all those bright lights, and look and dance your best.
And that’s a wrap! I love coming to ILHC for the energy and the inspiring dances I see all weekend, there’s a little something here for everyone, even if you aren’t competing. Sometimes it’s good just to take it all in.
If you haven’t been to Dancestore.com in a while, you should spend a few minutes checking out their new selection of shoes. I knew Dancestore was working on a pair of mesh and leather Aris Allens, but I did not know they had other men’s styles and new women’s shoes up their sleeve, as well. They were kind enough to invite me to test out a few pairs and I’m happy to share my report with you about the women’s shoes (and direct your attention to some of the men’s shoes I think are worthy of a look-see).
The first pair I decided to try was their new saddle shoe. I personally think saddle shoes are adorable and if you showed up to a dance in a 40’s skirt, blouse, sweater vest, and saddle shoes, I’d think you were completely awesome. And adorable. Very collegiate, no? I think most people associate saddle shoes with the 1950’s and poufy skirts, but they date back to 1906 when Spalding introduced them for tennis and squash players and reached their height as a trend that spanned 20 or so years, from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
I have been looking for a pair of saddle shoes for myself for some time, but have failed to find any with leather soles (like the pair from my childhood), only that spongy “crepe” sole which I find not as well-suited for dancing. Dancestore has introduced a great compromise – a saddle shoe with a hard rubber sole that has been sueded. I opted to try the brown tweed version of their saddle shoe, which has a soft tweedy fabric covering most of the shoe with brown faux leather covering the “saddle” part of the shoe. They came with two pairs of laces, a thicker set and a thin set. When I first tried on the shoe it felt a bit stiff, but after only a couple of dances, the stiffness wore off at the points where I needed movement. The shoe itself was very comfortable, the rubber sole flexible, and I didn’t worry about the shoes as I danced in them. I wore them with socks, which was a nice change for me, and they looked great with the collegiate outfit I described above. 🙂 The only criticism I have, which is more of a personal preference item, was that the footbed was not super cushioned – this is not something that bothers me, but some people prefer a cushioned footbed. Given the shape of the shoe, it would be easy to add an insole or inserts for an easy fix. I normally wear a 7 in Aris Allens and needed a half size larger because I wanted to wear socks with them.
The second pair I tried is actually a style that has been out for a while, but since I don’t normally wear flats for dancing, I hadn’t had much incentive to try out the Aris Allen Athletic Mary Janes. I know there is a population of dancers out there who don’t wear heels who are looking for a Keds alternative, so I thought I’d try them out. The biggest pros for me with this shoe were the wide sole and the cushy insole. The shoes themselves felt of regular width, but the width of the sole seemed wider than the sueded Keds I owned, which in turn made my ankles less prone to roll and just gave me more overall security in feeling “grounded.” The insole on these shoes is cushy in all kinds of good ways – giving without being squishy; soft, yet resilient in its mesh design; arch support with good placement of said support. The strap was ample, so they remained on my feet, and the wingtip styling is adorable. I also had to go a half size up with this shoe for it to fit comfortably. I am hopeful that, like the white mesh oxfords, I’ll be able to shine these up with Windex when they get dirty.
The final pair I tried is definitely a new style for Aris Allen and was the one I was most excited about – the d’Orsay sandal. I have admired the Aris Allen d’Orsay satin t-strap since they launched a few years ago, but never bought a pair because the 3 inch heels were just too high for me for dancing. I hoped that they would create a similar pair with a lower heel and was elated to see the d’Orsay sandal with a 1 5/8 inch heel.
I selected a black satin pair to try out. Initially I got a size 7, but couldn’t fit my foot in the shoe, so I exchanged them for a 7.5. I got the 7.5 on my foot, but because I have a weird foot* the part of the shoe around where your foot enters the shoe near the ball of the foot was too tight. I enlisted the help of my friend Tiffany Linquist, another size 7 lady, to test the shoes for me, as her foot fit into them without the same problem. Another dancer, Heidi Reule, also tried out the fit of the shoe and did not have the same problem.
After about 5 dances, Tiffany came back over to me – the short end of the strap had broken on the d’Orsay sandal. We were pretty mortified, because we both have Aris Allen shoes that we love and know that they can make quality products. We brainstormed about the shoe and here’s what we came up with:
– The quality of the shoe appeared to be good – the materials used appeared to be quality, the overall aesthetic of the shoe was very good, the cutouts added to the comfort at the ball of the foot, and the insole was soft and comfortable.
– The heel height and width were ideal for Charleston, Balboa, and Lindy Hop.
– While the ball of the foot was very flexible, the arch was not – it was stiff and the shoe itself was very narrow at the arch. Tiffany’s feedback was that the shoe was very comfortable while she was dancing on her toes, but not while she was standing still. The arch, overall, felt and looked very narrow and, when she was wearing the shoes, she said it felt like her arches were dancing off a cliff (i.e. not secure).
– The arch support in the shoe felt like it was too far forward in the shoe.
– We were surprised that the strap broke (the small part with the buckle, not the long part with the holes for the buckle) until we noticed that there was no elastic on the strap. The absence of elastic, combined with the stiff arch appeared to put unnecessary strain on the strap, which likely caused the break. There is only so much thread can hold without some give to that tension.
That said, I hope that Dancestore does not give up on this style – I would still love to own a pair of shoes in this style and heel height – I hope that they take this feedback and make some improvements to this lovely shoe – a little elastic and some love in the arch would help what is, otherwise, a good shoe.
MEN! If you are still reading, you are dedicated – there are good things for you, including a much anticipated mesh wingtip in brown tones, a sweet white wingtip that looks like it may give Re-Mix’s version a run for its money (at half the price), and dance loafers in black, white, and a “Michael Jackson” edition in black with a special rubber insert in the heel that was specific to a pair of shoes worn by the King of Pop. I notice in the descriptions for the white wingtips and the loafers that they have taken feedback from dancers to heart and made these pairs with a thicker sole than the regular Aris Allen dance shoes – the result is something more like a quality pair of dress shoes and requires a bit of a break-in period. Not a bad thing if you are looking for a more quality pair of shoes. Men, I would take the time to read the descriptions of these shoes, as they have taken the time to describe their qualities in a fairly in-depth way to help you make a decision about what shoe would be right for you.
I love where Dancestore is going with their men’s shoe line – I think the aesthetic is spot on and the focus on quality materials and listening to user feedback is a step in a great direction. I think there are some improvements that could be made with the women’s shoes – aside from the aforementioned satin sandal, I would also like to see more leather shoes in the women’s shoe line and would like to continue to be able to buy leather wedges, which are a staple of my dance shoe wardrobe. I see that my staple wedges are being phased out, which is a shame because there are no viable alternatives, in my experience, that have the same wonderful, flexible sole as my Aris Allens. I am on my second pair of tan Rugcutters (since purchasing my first pair circa 2003/4?), and would still be on my first pair if they hadn’t smelled so terrible after 5 or 6 years that I had to throw them out. I wore them to death, almost every night, until I could afford to expand my shoe wardrobe and buy more wedges. I love them, please don’t get rid of them! *grovels and clings to your leg*
I would like to thank Dancestore for involving me in a review of their products. I am a staunch supporter of their shoes because I believe that they are a great entry point for dancers to buy dance shoes at more affordable prices and are one of the few places offering viable social dance shoes in flats. I hope they continue to make shoes that I love and experiment with new styles and adjustments to make the shoes that they have even better for dancing.
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*I have weird feet, so not every shoe works. I am the genetic product of a father with narrow feet and mother with tiny feet, a high arch, and Haglund’s deformity – the result (in me) is a narrow heel, a disproportionately wide ball of the foot, and the Haglund’s knob on the back of my heels. I also have a Tailor’s bunion and have had two surgeries to repair a toe I mutilated in my youth by falling down the stairs, breaking my toe, and then stuffing the broken toe into toe shoes before it healed. Needless to say, I must have very comfortable footwear and my health insurance has labeled me as having a pre-existing condition.
Because men’s dance shoes so rarely appear on eBay, I’m passing along this gently used pair of men’s brown and white Aris Allen wingtips, size 12. Starting bid is $25, but you could buy them now for $32 (plus a very reasonable $4.50 shipping).
It was another glorious weekend of competitions, inspirational figures (young and old), and a celebration of movement to some of the hottest jazz in the US – I’m talking about the 2012 International Lindy Hop Championships, held in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. The swanky Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel was the swanky backdrop for this event and the bright and shiny decor only added to the vibrancy of the event.
Were there vendors? You bet! I only wish there had been more vendors, as it appeared that they were fewer in number from last year. The most noticeable absence was Carol Fraser and her army of My Heinies, fabulous shoes, and accompanying Model J Vintage that filled up a prominent space in the vendor area at ILHC 2011. As a consolation, I did notice that every follow who showed her heiny in a comp had it securely covered. 🙂
Dancestore was there with an entire inventory of their staple shoes, but of serious note was the introduction of a new (wait for it)…trumpet skirt! While it’s not the trumpet skirt we know and love, it’s still a nice variation on the theme, with beautiful Art Deco-inspired seaming on the front. The twirl factor is good! The only con, in my opinion, is the material – it is a very stretchy/drapey jersey instead of the more substantial stretch suiting-type material of the trumpet skirts of my crusade. The new skirts are great if you want something to ball up and throw in your suitcase, but are not so good if you have hip, bum, or belly bumps, or if you want to tuck in your shirt. I am still eagerly awaiting the return of the more substantial trumpet skirt. In the vein of more substantial fabrics, Dancestore also had a fantastic new red wiggle dress (also not available on the website yet).
Next door, Laurie Gilkenson (also known as Nina‘s Mom), set up a table that was a mix of fabulous and/or quirky Nina clothing castoffs, fabulous vintage shoes, Mobtown Ballroom tee shirts, various DVDs from instructors, and anything else anyone else happened to want to sell. My favorite item on this table was actually the Mobtown Ballroom tee, which not only embodied the rebellious spirit of Mobtown, but also managed to be patriotic and historic – highly appropriate for an event in our nation’s capital!
Mike Thibault set up a display of his wonderful swing and early jazz prints from his Vintage Jazz Art website. I noticed a couple of new prints, including a colorful print a flapper with a trombonist and saxophonist and (most notably) another print of a photograph of the Savoy Ballroom featuring a mob of dancers and Erskine Hawkins on the band stand. Mike said that he was working with the photographer’s son and that this relationship may yield some more choice photographic prints! We’ll definitely stay tuned, especially if there is more Savoy Ballroom and trombone player goodness to be had.
Forties Forward was on hand to make sure the dancers were appropriately and florally decorated. I have several of their flowers and they are some of my favorites. These gals know that the blooms need to stay relatively flat to be practical for dancing and for this Lindy Shopper salutes you.
Last, but most certainly not least, the adorable and incomparable Dawn Hampton was intermittently manning her own table of CDs and DVDs of “The Unforgettable Hampton Family.” Sadly, I did not get photographic evidence of this!
And that’s a wrap on the vendors, but stay tuned for two more ILHC-related posts. I hope events will continue to have vendors and promote Lindy Hop commerce amongst businesses and the participants who need/want these unique products. ILHC, see you next year!
I, and hundreds of other dancers around the world, need your trumpet skirt. I have mentioned this in passing, on this blog, on your Facebook wall, and I have waited patiently for years for you to have the trumpet skirt in my size. Yet, the stock does not replenish; nay, it has withered down to one size and I fear that in your haste to produce goods that are on trend you have overlooked that your trumpet skirt has been a staple in the Lindy Hop and Balboa communities for years. There’s a new generation that needs to experience the trumpet skirt and an older generation that needs to replace their worn out threads.
OK, I may be exaggerating about hundreds of other dancers around the world (ladies, feel free to chime in), but I do want to make my case for the trumpet skirt on my behalf, as well as on behalf of other dancers who I have heard make statements like “I need another trumpet skirt” or “I’d buy one in every color.” The black trumpet skirt is a wardrobe staple in that it can be worn with just about any color blouse or shirt; it twirls, but not enough to show your undergarments; it drapes so nicely; it gives the wearer a waist and a nice curvy shape. It is one of the few skirts that looks great on many body types. It is such a versatile piece and it’s easy and comfortable to wear. If I can’t figure out what I’m going to wear, the trumpet skirt is there.
I wear my trumpet skirt to work because it looks sharp and professional. I am looking down at my black trumpet skirt today and it looks a little sad because I’ve had it for so long, almost a decade. I’d love to buy another one to replace it. I went searching for a black trumpet skirt online and on every website that had one listed, you know what it said? OUT OF STOCK. Everyone wants this skirt!
I will continue to be patient in the hopes that you will consider producing these skirts again and, when you do, I’ll have cash in hand to buy two black trumpet skirts, just in case this happens again.
***UPDATE 4/5/12, 4:33 p.m. EST***
I’ve got their attention! If you want to see Dancestore.com make the trumpet skirt again, please go to their Facebook page, find my post (as Laura Windley), and “Like” it! You’ll see where they have responded and given this instruction. We can do this!!! http://www.facebook.com/ArisAllen
Inspired by Rebecca Brightly’s “Top 20 Online Resources For Becoming a Bad-Ass Swing Dancer” (and delighted to be included in her list!), I decided to come up with a list of my own. Unless you are a regular reader of the Lindy Shopper blog, it may be hard to determine what sources may be most helpful to get you started in your swing dance shopping endeavors.
I usually try to stay away from lists because I find that they can become outdated quickly (stores no longer in business, styles no longer relevant, etc.), so we are going to say that this is my top 10 list as of the date of publication. Most of these sources have been tried and true for me, so hopefully the list will withstand the test of time, at least for a few years.
This is kind of a no-brainer if you’ve been dancing for any length of time, but if you are just starting out you may not know where to find dance shoes. Most people outside of the swing dance community see character shoes as an option and I’ve definitely seen newer dancers show up in ballroom shoes, but it shows a level of commitment to the dance when you invest in your first pair of swing dance shoes.
Dancestore.com provides the work-horses of my dance shoe collection, as well as thousands of other dancers, with their Aris Allen line of shoes – shoes that are comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and offer vintage styles that work well with both vintage and modern outfits. I think we sometimes take Dancestore.com for granted – when I have worn my Dancestore shoes outside of the swing dance community, they tend to garner a lot of attention because they don’t look like shoes that are available anywhere else – and really, aside from a couple of other vintage repro shoe makers, they aren’t. Dancestore does the swing dance community a great service with their products and makes it easy for us to point new dancers in their direction and say THIS is where you should get your first pair of dance shoes.
2. Re-Mix Vintage Shoes
Let’s say you’ve accumulated a few pairs of Aris Allens in great neutral colors, but you’ve just acquired an outfit that requires some color or something extra fabulous in the way of footwear – Re-Mix Vintage Shoes is the next step. Offering an array of vintage styles from swing-era decades with divine details and fabulous color, Re-Mix is the place for the most stylish reproduction shoes I know of online.
3. Your local vintage store
If you are blessed with a wonderful vintage store in your area, then you already know this is a great place to shop. More likely, your vintage store does not stock swing era clothing or men’s clothing and is full of polyester, but don’t be discouraged! It is important to check in on these places for two reasons – first, you never know when they might get something in stock that you would die to have; second, if the store owner doesn’t know that there is a demand for these things, he or she probably won’t buy it from a seller or an estate. It is so important to develop relationships with the vintage store owners in your area and tell them what you are looking for in terms of clothing. Then, when something does come across their desk, they will have you in mind, they might even give you a call to let you know that something has come in, and they also might give you a better price on it because of that friendship and loyalty. Don’t assume you can come into a store and tell them you are a swing dancer and that they will instantly know how serious you are about collecting vintage clothing – to them, you are no better than the random college girl or boy looking for something to wear to a theme party. Distinguish yourself!
4. Your local thrift store
This is mostly for the gents, although ladies may find a diamond in the rough every now and then. But, seriously, menswear hasn’t changed so much in the last century that you can’t go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any local thrift store and find a sportcoat, old pairs of dress shoes, entire suits, pants, just about everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying it new in a store AND with a cut and quality that is more likely to be in line with that of the swing era. It must pain most men to spend money on clothing because I talk about thrift store shopping (usually after hearing a complaint about needing more vests, pants, etc.) to dozens of men every year, only to hear the lamest excuses. You obviously went somewhere to buy those jeans and that tee shirt…and if you didn’t, you should tell the person shopping for you about the thrift stores…
I post a lot of items on Lindy Shopper from eBay because there are so many good things at good prices, if you are patient and willing to look. I spend the time looking on eBay because it’s worth it – I don’t have lots of vintage resources locally and it’s more efficient to shop on eBay because you simply type in your search terms and – voila! – what they have available pops up on your screen. Because eBay has continuous auctions and it’s not practical to search for the same items every day, you can save your search terms if you don’t find what your are looking for and have eBay email you when something you want does pop up on eBay. It’s that simple. For example, I get daily emails for 1940’s dresses and sometimes I go through the listings (looking at the most recently listed items), but other items, like 1930’s suit in size 40 (for my husband) only pop up every few months. Yes, it can be hit or miss and auctions can go for astronomical amounts, but even with the gamble it is still the best place to find the most rare items and the quickest way to find specific items, new and old.
I am addicted to Etsy for many things. It’s almost as good as eBay for vintage finds (usually pricier), but it’s even better for new items that people have hand-crafted. If I can dream it or find it in a vintage photograph, someone on Etsy can make it. Etsy is my go-to source for hair flowers, fascinators, and affordable reproduction garments. Some Etsy sellers have ties to the dance community, like Jitterbuggin and Allure Original Styles, while others, like Time Machine Vintage and Raleigh Vintage simply have a love for vintage and reproduction clothing.
7. Your relatives’ closets (or anyone within earshot at least 40 years older than you)
The odds are favorable that you have a relative who was alive during the swing era, and the odds are pretty favorable that they have kept things from that era (being products of the Great Depression in some fashion – anyone else’s grandparents have giant freezers full of food?). I have been the recipient of so many items, mostly accessories, that relatives have given me that they didn’t want to get rid of, but were delighted to give to me knowing these items would be used and loved. Once word got out that I was looking for vintage items, other people (aunts, friends of grandparents) started digging through their closets or finding things at yard sales (for pennies!) that I might like. Even people I’ve encountered and simply had a conversation with about my vintage clothing has yielded items from closets, lovingly tucked away for years, but brought out for me because they thought I might like the garment and get some use out of it. The key here is to talk to people – a simple “Hey Grandpa, do you have any old suits you don’t wear anymore?” or “Grandma, do you have any jewelry from the 1940’s?” Even if they don’t give it to you, it can make a nice connection or revive some stories from the past. 🙂
8. My Heinies
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of covering your butt at swing dances. If you are not vintage-inclined and are buying the very short dresses that are in style now, don’t assume that the dance floor won’t be able to see your underwear. We all see it and I, especially, SEE it. Dancer Carol Fraser is a saint with her dance pants, My Heinies, developed based on her years of experience as a dancer and instructor, with the dance community and clothing styles in mind. There’s something for everyone on the My Heinies web site and I would encourage ladies who wear skirts and dresses to invest in this product so that you can dance uninhibited and free from worry that the entire room will see your private parts.
9. Vintage stores at out of town dance events
For me, the grass is usually much greener on the other side, so I take the opportunity when I travel to out of town swing dance events to visit that town’s vintage stores. Before I travel to a new city, I like to ask one of the local dancers where they recommend shopping (and if it’s worth it to try), or I’ll check to see what information I can find on the internet and, if it’s not apparent from the information on the web, give the store a call to find out if they carry swing-era merchandise. I relish every trip to Cleveland for All Balboa Weekend for the event and for Cleveland’s vintage stores, and I can’t wait to get back to Portland and Seattle. By the way, anyone know of any good vintage shops in Iowa City? Hawkeye Swing Festival, I’m coming in April…
10. Clothing swaps
One of the best places to get clothing and shoes for swing dancers could be other dancers. The ladies in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill swing dance community have been organizing periodic clothing swaps for the past couple of years, which include all clothing and accessories, but have been particularly helpful in passing around dresses and shoes that are good for dancing. That dress you are tired of wearing is brand new to someone else, so rather than give it to Goodwill, why not take it to the clothing swap and find it a new home? I’m always delighted when I see other girls in dresses that don’t fit me anymore, and they are always grateful for the garment. It’s a win-win.
It’s already wonderful that the Eastern Balboa Championships is just a short drive away, but this year EBC really had the feel of a top notch swing dance event, brimming with a level of excitement and enthusiasm that is almost unrivaled. EBC already felt like a Balboa family reunion, bridging the gap between All Balboa Weekends, but this year it felt like EBC really came into its own as an event. The new hotel for this year’s EBC, the North Raleigh Hilton, provided a lovely ballroom space, a big hallway with chairs and tables for vendors, registration, and for hanging out, and there were no shortage of extra rooms for practice space. There were competitions for everyone and I am proud of the newer Raleigh/Durham Balboa dancers, some of them only dancing Balboa for a few weeks prior to the event, taking the challenge head on and entering their first amateur competitions.
This year, EBC grew from one vendor to four vendors. The solo repeat vendor, and one that is near and dear to my heart, is the Vintage Collective (Andi Shelton, Claire Villa, and Laura Churchill Pemberton), who paid attention to what was bought and who purchased it last year, then went out to their sources to find even more of these vintage goods that swing dancers wear. The result was four large racks of clothing from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, both men’s and women’s apparel, three tables of accessories, and a giant shoe rack. The Vintage Collective was only set up for one day, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and I was there with my fellow vintage poachers at 9:00 sharp, freshly rolled out of bed and ready to commence with the hunt.
I intended to go grab the goodies I wanted, then go back to bed, but it was so exciting trying on clothes with my friends and choosing outfits for people that it was lunchtime before I knew it. I think Rita Shiang got my two favorite dresses of the day – a 1930’s sailor dress with red trim and a 1940’s brown floral rayon dress with amazing draping and a fishtail attachment in the back, you know, for sass. Again, I forgot to take photos of all this good stuff until the end of my shopping visit, I got so wrapped up in the experience…
Next, we have Dancestore, the anchor vendor of any major swing dance event and one that is continuously welcome, as they continue to provide reasonably priced, reproduction dance shoes that are essential to any swing dancer’s wardrobe. At one point, Frankie Hagan stopped dancing and came up to me to show me that his heel had come off his shoe. About 10 minutes later he came back up to me to show off his new pair of Aris Allen cap toes. THIS is only one of the great reasons to have a shoe vendor at your event. Another is to be able to actually try on the shoes to ensure a good fit. Then, at the dance on Sunday night, Kara Fabina announced that Dancestore would be selling their entire inventory at the event for 40% off for the next 15 minutes. YES!!! There was a rush to purchase the discounted shoes and even I decided to replace my pair of white mesh oxfords that I had danced a hole through the toe – at 40% off, how could you not?
Creations by Crawford is Sharon Crawford’s name for the hair flowers, fascinators, boutonnieres, and other clothing ornamentations she makes. I was a bit confused when I saw Sharon’s vendor space, as there were a few items for sale, but it mostly looked like a craft studio, with supplies everywhere. Then Bill Speidel showed me his boutonniere and explained that Sharon had made it custom to go with his outfit. I looked over and Sharon confirmed, as she furiously sewed together one of her creations for a customer. This is a new approach and one that can work at a weekend event – you have a bit of a captive audience if the shopper is there for the weekend, why not make something to go with what they are wearing if they have the time to wait? By the end of the dance you can have a custom piece that you know will work with something you have.
Finally, we have Vintage Visage, the brainchild of Kathryn Meyer, who had a fantastic display of vintage-inspired hats and accessories for sale, including hair flowers, fancy gloves, hats for ladies and gents, and the ever essential fan. Whoever has the foresight to sell fans at dances is always tops in my book. If you are looking for Kathryn and her wares after EBC, she is a regular vendor at Richmond’s Second Saturday dances.
And that about wraps it up for another great year at EBC! Here are some supplemental photos of the vendors:
There are a few really good deals on eBay right now for Re-mix Vintage Shoes and Aris Allen dance shoes. For starters, there is a pair of worn-once Remix Deco shoes in the gray suede/black leather combo, size 9, with a starting bid of $10.00. These shoes retail at $194.00, so $10.00 just seems crazy. My guess is that the bidding will go higher than this, but any Remix shoe to be had under $50.00 is a major win.
The next Remix deal isn’t as good, comparatively, but it’s still a pretty awesome deal – $89.99 starting bid for a pair of silver pleated toe wedges, size 11. I love Re-Mix wedges and silver seems to go with everything. 🙂
Finally, the best deal of the week as a pair of lovely Aris Allen white satin 1930’s heels, size 10, with a starting price of $0.99. That’s right, 99 cents! The shipping is more than the cost of the item, but even then, it still puts you in a pair of dance shoes for less than $15. Winning!
On the heels of their white wingtip, Dancestore.com has introduced a black wingtip oxford to their line of Aris Allen dance shoes. This is most certainly a welcome addition and one that, I believe, may be picked up by people outside of the dance community. At $74.95, this pair of basic black dress shoes is less than half the retail cost of most new pairs of black wingtips with leather soles.
I had the pleasure of dancing and competing at this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships, held just outside of Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. The event was a unique mix of swing dancers, in varying styles of dance, from around the globe. I think the event is best summed up by saying that ILHC is where you can see all those people you see dancing on YouTube – but there’s nothing better than seeing it live, as a video can’t quite capture the energy these couples and teams generate or the dynamic in the room.
(I apologize in advance for the quality of the photographs, as I forgot my real camera and had to use my phone)
Like most large swing dance events nowadays, ILHC had its own set of vendors, most of which I would categorize as the “essentials” providers – shoes, bloomers, hair flowers, and vintage/vintage-inspired clothing. Baltimore-based Dancestore.com was there with a lineup of Lindy and Bal-friendly shoes, including their new pair of white wingtips, which look gorgeous in person. Nina Gilkenson‘s mom, Laurie Gilkenson, was on hand, selling shoes for Dancestore, as well as vintage odds, ends, clothing, and shoes from Nina’s vintage shoe collection. If you wore a size 6.5, it was definitely your lucky day! More photos below of this and the other vendors.
My Heinies, in grand fashion, occupied the largest vendor space, with racks of colorful bloomers in all styles, as well as a beautiful collection of dance shoes for men and women. I noticed a particularly lovely pair of men’s two tone brown wingtips that garnered a lot of attention from the leaders in attendance, as well as some new to-die-for red heels in the collection. I noticed a number of followers in the competitions wearing My Heinies…and some who didn’t, but that’s another story…
Working the booth with My Heinies was Model J Vintage, the Etsy store of New York dancer Joy Grad, which specializes in “a lifetime of collectibles directly to you from my personal closets and new adventures.” She turned up the volume for ILHC, offering a collection of both dance-ready and exquisite vintage and reproduction items from her collection and from Carol Fraser‘s closet. I swore I wasn’t going to buy anymore gowns, but I couldn’t pass up a 1940’s gown made of green silk, with a chevron bodice and velvet bow – it was a triple threat and I didn’t stand a chance. 😉
Last, but certainly not least, Mike Thibault of Vintage Jazz Art set up a gorgeous display of his framed prints, which are simply stunning in person. If you have an empty spot on a wall in your home, consider filling it with a daily reminder of your awesome dance hobby…
Thanks to everyone who organized the event and to those sold their wares at IHLC! I hope to return next year!
The presence of vendors seems to be growing at larger Lindy Hop and Balboa events, presenting sellers with a unique opportunity to reach a targeted (and sometimes captive) audience. It can be difficult to fly into an event and not have the time to experience local vintage stores, or order online without trying something on, or maybe your dance shoes choose that weekend to fall apart. When the vendors come to you, the event becomes even more accommodating, convenient, and special.
As far as vendor lineups go, All Balboa Weekend this year has had the most vendors I have seen at any single event. Does this surprise the swing dance community at large, with Balboa dancers having a reputation for dressing up? Probably not. 🙂 There were three shoe vendors (four if you count the vintage store that brought some choice 1940’s pumps), a ton of dresses, hair accessories, bloomers, and a smattering of vintage goodies. Here’s a list of the vendors, in the order in which you would approach them entering the hallway of the event:
I’ve been singing Carol Fraser’s praises for months, but she has seriously outdone herself again. I don’t think I’ve seen that many bloomers in one place, with dozens of patterns in the My Heinies signature styles. Carol’s exclusive line of footwear from Worldtone, developed for swing dancers, is even more developed at this point and it was apparent that the styles available at ABW are targeted to be good colors and styles for dancers. I found the new shoes VERY appealing and was pleased to see that some of the focus group shoes had made the final cut. She also carried a number of one-of-a-kind styles – featuring more colors, patterns, and detailing – that were just breathtaking. I also noticed a number of follows sporting fancy hosiery from this vendor, both on the social dance floor and in competitions. Top it all off with one of the lovely hair flowers Carol sells and you’ve got a winner.
REMIX VINTAGE SHOES
What can I say? Remix Vintage Shoes makes the most drool-worthy reproduction shoes out there, with dance-friendly heel heights and soft leather galore. There are always a few new models and colors, as well as some shoes that may not be made anymore (i.e. Remix is looking for a new manufacturer for the Balboa t-strap, so if you’ve been on the fence get them NOW because we don’t know when they will be available again!). I had the high honor of having my vintage two-tone oxfords photographed by Philip Heath, the owner of Remix – perhaps there will be a reproduction made and named after Lindy Shopper? *swoon*
Shannon Sheldon is the mastermind behind both the execution of a flawless 1930’s fashion show and the line of adorable hair flowers known as Bombshell Baubles. Shannon personally tests each flower to make sure that, no matter how much your head shakes, the flower will not fall out. As someone who has abandoned flowers mid-dance because they simply could not stay in place, I salute you! Etsy store coming soon…
Flapperfly makes cute, crafty, and recycled items, such as earrings, hair accessories, fabric bags, charm necklaces, and has some vintage finds worthy of the cuteness of this vendor. I only wish I had seen Flapperfly’s wares out more often at the event, I feel that I am lacking in accurate commentary. Please check out her Etsy site for goodies, especially the sequin sparrow barrette, which is my favorite.
Loco Lindo saw some heavy traffic at ABW, and for good reason – their line of dresses and skirts are flirty and practical, made from an infinite number of crepe prints, both modern and vintage reminiscent. The best parts about this kind of crepe are the nod to vintage crepe fabrics (common in swing era clothing), the comfort and wearability of the fabric, and the washability – no dry cleaning necessary, just throw it in the washer and hang it up to dry. The crepe travels well, being somewhat wrinkle-resistant, which is good news for traveling swing dancers. I would also file these dresses under dance and work-appropriate, so there’s double duty potential. I picked up a lovely gray and white polka dot dress with smocking detail at the shoulders – it is so rare to find dresses with smocking – superb!
The staple of almost every swing dancer’s wardrobe, Dancestore‘s shoes are always well received at dance events and tend to be the anchor vendor with their vast inventory. I think I spent most of the weekend in their white mesh oxford. They were not at ABW the entire time, so I am afraid I am remiss of additional tidbits relating to the event or new products. I will use this opportunity to reiterate Teni Lopez-Cardenas‘ plea to make the trumpet skirt available in more colors (and sizes) – please! I’ve been waiting for years for the black trumpet skirt to be in stock in my size.
More hair accessory cuteness, this time from Follow Fashions‘ Ohio based designer, Lisa Curry. As you can see from the photo, there are wonderful flowers and feather fascinators, in lots of color options, shapes, and sizes. I am particularly grateful to see the smaller flower options, for short haired follows, for embellishing up-do’s, and perhaps for use as a boutonniere. Special thanks to Follow Fashions for outfitting some of our 1930’s fashion show participants with hair accessories!
The token actual vintage vendor at ABW was Flower Child, who looked like they had been hoarding swing era goodies for us for a while, as there were some really choice items available for purchase. Things that stuck out in my mind were some great 1940’s cocktail dresses, pumps and wedges, bakelite jewelry at not outrageous prices, vintage sewing notions, a fairly substantial menswear and accessories section, gorgeous hats, and the 6 yards of 1930’s printed cotton the ladies brought for me to look at after I told them about some of my dresses being handmade. These ladies were diligent and stuck it out all weekend, into the wee hours of the nightly dances. Special thanks also goes out to Flower Child for letting the 1930’s fashion show borrow some of their accessories – such lovely things!
And those are the vendors! Stayed tuned for more possible future ABW-related blog posts.