It’s about time to start planning what to wear for New Year’s Eve (or, if you are me, you’ve been planning since you knew you were going to Lindy Focus months ago) for Lindy Focus, Snowball, or perhaps your local scene has a special event. This may be the trickiest night of the year to dress yourself because you want to look like you’re on a red carpet, but you also need to be able to move and sweat like you’re running a marathon.
I took one look at Nancy Mac‘s collection of dresses and immediately thought these would make great NYE dresses for swing dancers – luxe fabrics in movement-friendly cuts with vintage silhouettes. This U.K. based company (if anyone was in doubt, the UK is KILLING IT with the repro brands) was founded by two sisters, Hannah and Sarah McMahon, and their about page reads like music to my ears and my closet: “Designed to flatter, Nancy Mac dresses and stand-alone separates are cut with care from luxurious fabrics and unique prints. Every piece in the range is inspired by the belief that true style stands the test of time. We love making beautiful yet affordable clothes that you will want to wear and keep in your wardrobe forever.”
Did I mention that I have a velvet problem, in that I can’t resist it? Specifically vintage silk velvet? Because it feels like buttah on your body, inside and out, but then come the rips I seem to be forever repairing…with a newer garment (which I also own in silk velvet, because problems) fabric deterioration becomes less of an issue and I’m just over the moon about Nancy Mac’s velvet dresses because they look so wearable, on top of that silk velvet feeling. Other fabrics look almost as enticing, such as viscose crepe, silk viscose, and just plain silk. Do you feel fancy? Because I feel fancy talking about all these fancy fabrics.
Let’s not forget that it gets cold in the mountains of North Carolina and in Sweden in December – Nancy Mac also has gorgeous coordinating jackets, shrugs, and coats to go with their dresses. There’s also a collection called Mint Julep…it’s like they knew I was coming…
Here is what I am loving from the Nancy Mac website:
Last month I attended the Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York and the first day of the event reached some of the hottest temperatures I have experienced in my life, with a heat index of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. My already blister-prone feet were properly welted with blisters by the end of the day, after extreme sweating, ample dancing, and walking and metro-ing to get to wherever I was going. My hosts, well-versed in foot ails after years of walking around NY and DC, presented me with a Band-Aid Friction Block Stick, which looks like a deodorant stick put through a shrink ray and the substance itself looks a bit like Crisco (but not greasy). This wasn’t going to help my existing blisters, but was told it would help prevent the next day’s rub on fresh skin from a different pair of shoes. I was willing to try anything at that point.
After a slightly lesser heat index the following day and with more dancing (Peabody!), I was happy to report that the friction stick appeared to have made a difference on my unblistered skin, keeping it blister-free throughout the day and preventing irritation with a different pair of shoes that had a different profile (oxfords I’ve worn a number of times –> never worn before by me secondhand Mary Janes). I’ve since acquired my own stick and used it on shoes that I know rub, on occasion, certain areas of my feet and also with a new pair of shoes, with great success. I’m curious to know if others have discovered this stick – if so, do share your review in the comments.
I love finding interesting undergarments to wear under my dancing clothing, and I particularly love slips for all the reasons outlined in this earlier blog post. In perusing ModCloth I noticed a number of slips in lovely colors, both full slips and half slips, and they are certainly worth mentioning here. I like the idea of these brightly colored full slips doubling as a camisole for the top (perhaps with a V-neck or wrap dress), and the same color poking out under a twirly skirt when you spin. Here are some of ModCloths under-goodies:
Don’t you hate it when you’ve been doing something your whole life and later discover that this thing you’ve been doing is harmful to something you love? My heart sunk to the bottom of the Marianas Trench when I read that my deodorant/antiperspirant, which I thought was great because it didn’t streak on my vintage clothing, was actually full of aluminum. Said aluminum not only made my dress shirt armpits sparkle with the most resistant strain of glitter herpes I’ve encountered to date, with an accompanying foul odor when the heat of an iron was applied, but it also caused a chemical reaction that made the armpits of some of my vintage clothing start to yellow/stain. How do I know this? There were casualties. Then research to determine the cause of said casualties. I never go down without a fight.
“Deodorants prevent odor-causing bacteria, while antiperspirants prevent sweat. To do so, antiperspirants rely on aluminum-based compounds, such as aluminum chloride, to cause cells in your sweat ducts to swell and block sweat from escaping. When these active ingredients (which also happen to be quite acidic) bond with your sweat, they’re prone to stain clothing.”
OH. MY. GOD.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky thus far with my antiperspirant not staining my clothing until recently, but I feel like this news should be broadcast, warnings posted in vintage clothing store dressing rooms, shouted from the rooftops. Maybe people don’t keep their clothing as long as I do, so it just doesn’t come up. Whatever the reason, I’m here to raise awareness of this issue and present some information on my journey to aluminum-free deodorant and stain/sparkle-free clothing.
We sweat a lot when we dance. We have to wear SOMETHING or our dance spaces will smell even more like locker rooms and foot cheese than they already do. I decided I could deal without the antiperspirant component of my underarm regimen, as I tended to select clothing for dancing that already doesn’t show at lot of soaked-through sweat, but the smell had to be UNDER WRAPS. But I had to change my deodorant fast, or suffer the consequences of damaging even more clothing.
I headed to the Internet to read reviews of aluminum-free deodorants and I found most reviews to be incomplete, overly-optimistic, and not descriptive enough. There were also options other than stick and roll-on, which sounded like a pain in the butt. Then I came across this article titled “Do Any of These Hippie Deodorants Work?” by Kat Stoeffel that was exactly what I needed – one person’s journey through a myriad of recommended deodorants with different applicators, brands, pros, cons, daily conditions, duration of effectiveness, and a ranking from worst to best. As everyone’s body chemistry is different, I went with her top two and was prepared to try others down the line if necessary.
Kat’s second highest recommendation, Le Couvent de Minimes Everyday Deodorant, is a French cologne which has alum stone as its active ingredient and dates back to 1862. True to Kat’s assessment, it did smell like a fancy Williams Sonoma hand soap, and would work as a nice unisex scent. Unfortunately, my skin had a sensitivity reaction to this deodorant. It did work well and I may try it again in a different season.
The deodorant with Kat’s highest seal of approval was Lavilin, an Israeli deodorant that featured images of athletes on the cardboard packaging around the bottle, which looked promising. I had to get used to wearing a roll-on, but it was usually dry by the time I finished drying my hair and I haven’t seen evidence of it leaving residue on my clothing when I remove it. It’s been working like a champ on regular office days for the past month. While it boasts 72 hours of coverage, I’d err on the side of caution when going to a swing dance – I would always reapply my old deodorant/antiperspirant before attending a dance, just to be safe, and that reapplication was needed with Lavilin if I wanted to continue to smell fresh at the end of the dance (per a self-sniff). Lavilin is my winner of the two.
Thankfully, it was just that easy, trying two and coming up with a winner. I am so relieved to have found a deodorant that has less of a negative impact on my wardrobe! If you have stories, recommendations, or other information about what works for you, please feel free to post it in the comments.
The guilt is immense. I’d like to say I have all the answers for my recovery plan, but I don’t. I’ve soaked the damaged red gingham dress in Oxyclean twice and the armpits are still yellow. I’ve used vinegar on a cranberry colored dress shirt and I can still see the glitter of aluminum embedded in the fabric. I did, however, manage to eradicate all glitter and stains from several white dress shirts following the advice of this video, using a paste of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide:
I probably need to try this on my cranberry shirt and gingham dress, but the peroxide has me worried it will bleach the color…need some more confidence…please feel free to insert confidence in the comments section, as well. 😉
I realize there are all sorts of warnings and cautionary things we can do to protect our vintage clothing (like not wearing it – but where is the fun in that?), but a change of deodorant was a fairly easy lifestyle change for me to make and it’s also made with an eye toward protecting the lifespan of my modern clothing, as well! Hopefully, I’ll never have to make a peroxide and baking soda paste again.
All Balboa Weekend celebrated its 15th Anniversary this year and I celebrated my 9th anniversary of attending ABW. This Balboa homecoming/family reunion is one that I look forward to every year for the friends, the amazing dancing, and the wonderful vintage shopping that is available in Cleveland. This year, my report will combine shopping inside and outside the hotel, since some brick and mortar stores set up booths at ABW and other remain in their brick edifices. All are worthy of mention and this year’s shops and vendors did not disappoint!
My partner in crime this year was Berkeley, California dancer Alisa Szatrowski – I’ll give an honorable mention to Jack Flaps, a wonderful brunchy place she discovered and where we fortified ourselves before a day of vintage shopping.
Our first stop is my always first stop, Sweet Lorain, and the owner Redwin Lewis welcomed us with open arms and escorted us back to the 30’s and 40’s area, where he showed us they had pulled additional racks of 30’s and 40’s clothing out just for ABW. *squee!* Soon, Alisa and I were lost in a jungle of clothing, amongst the close and very full racks, calling out to each other as if we were playing Marco Polo to try to find each other to show off choice garments. Sweet Lorain did not disappoint and Alisa and I soon had a dressing room full of things to try on, with another helpful employee pulling additional garments based on our selections. Seriously, an A+ for customer service. We both left with some wonderful pieces and warm fuzzy feelings about everything at Sweet Lorain.
Next stop was Chelsea’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes, which is an impressive warehouse full of clothing, and particularly has a large selection of menswear, which I wrote about more in-depth last year. We ran into dancer and DJ Bill Speidel and we did a quick run through the menswear, as I’m always shopping for certain dudes and the hubs. I left Chelsea’s empty-handed, but Alisa had great luck with late 30’s/early 40’s dresses in velvet and faille – dreamy!
The vendor market at ABW opens at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday and we were there even a little before that, with anxious vintage lovers already hovering over the booths.
The first booth you come to is Re-Mix Vintage Shoes and this booth was abuzz all weekend, with ladies buying shoes, trying on many more, and ogling the beautiful wares. The big hit this year was a new style, Gabriele, which is a low heeled 1930’s shoe with a t-strap, an alternative to the Balboa Style, with a slightly different shape and different colors. I would love to hear some reviews from the ladies who bought them and wore them this weekend – I did see Valerie Salstrom try them on the first day and then didn’t take them off as she continued to set up for the event!
Next in the line of vendors was Flower Child, which is comprised of several individual vendors that make up part of the brick and mortar store, and which takes up most of the hallway. They are always good about bringing in new inventory every day, taking requests, and having a nice selection of clothing, accessories, and some novelty items and knickknacks from the swing era. My favorite ABW find for this year came from Flower Child’s booth, a fully functional scales brooch, perfect for me as both a Libra and a lawyer – for serious, the scales have tiny chains and you could actually put things in the bowls and the scales would tip, SO COOL.
New to the vendor list this year was Sugar Shakers, the handiwork of Joanna Kassoulides Thibault, who got her start stitching chorus girl costumes for a troupe of the same name in Toronto and decided, after accumulating a wardrobe of costumes, that she would sell some of these versatile pieces. I love a good trumpet skirt and Joanna had a nice sampler of trumpet skirts, polka dot wrap blouses, bakelite-inspired earrings, as well as sharing a table with her husband Mike Thibault‘s handmade earrings and Vintage Jazz Art prints.
Next in the vendor lineup is ChatterBlossom, aka Jamie Sturdevant, who is local to me, but for ABW everyone can see her amazing handiwork up close, with flowers and headpieces made from vintage millinery flowers and jewelry made from vintage buttons. Seeing in person is even better, as I noted people running to their rooms for garments, trying to match a bloom to a dress, and (I know I’m a broken record on this, but) the colors in the vintage flowers are just so right for vintage clothing, for obvious reasons, and they are so much more exquisitely detailed than most modern artificial flowers I have seen. Jamie does custom pieces, too, so you can find the perfect bloom for that one of a kind vintage dress.
Holding down the end of the hallway was The Cleveland Shop, which had a nice selection of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, and jewelry. The owner would also bring in new items daily, and even brought in some divine tropical rayon fabric one day, that was gone before it could hit the market (I can’t wait to see that blouse, Jamie!). Oh, to have a warehouse full of endless vintage things to sell!
Each year the vendors at ABW are one of the things I look forward to most about the event and I truly appreciate the effort the vendors put into setting up, displaying, being there to sell, breaking it all down, and sometimes traveling great distances – I think Philip Heath, the owner of Re-mix Vintage Shoes, wins this year by flying in and shipping shoes from California, though past ABWs venders have flown in from as far away as the UK and Australia. We love that you do it and we’ll keep buying all the beautiful things. 🙂
Here are some more photos of all the lovely things:
A few months ago, I started looking for a solution to the blisters I get from shoes when I dance – not every shoe, but some of my faves that I didn’t want to get rid of because I would start the night just fine, then end the night with blisters without even realizing it until I took my shoes off. I have a bit of a narrow heel, so it tends to slide out of shoes. I’ve also been buying more European shoes lately, and the are not always offered in half sizes (37.5 here), so I end up with a slightly larger shoe to make sure it fits (38). However I looked at it – slightly larger shoes, stretched over the course of a dance, or rubbing blisters for whatever reason – I had a problem.
After some digging online, I came across the Pedag heel grips on Amazon.com – stick-on suede leather heel grips with a padded ridge to grip your heel. The number of reviews numbered over 200 and were overwhelmingly positive and detailed. I would recommend reading the reviews to see if your particular foot and/or shoe might benefit – I have Haglund’s deformity and the more I read, the more I realized that this was the product that would keep those shoes from rubbing once and for all.
And, thankfully, I was right – it doesn’t work for every problem shoe, but it has worked for all the dance shoes I have tried and a few pairs of non-dancing pumps. It provided just the right amount of space-filler to prevent the friction and I can control the placement to avoid or assist my Haglund’s bump. The suede works well as a gripping material and I have not had trouble with the adhesive not sticking to the shoes. No more blisters, yay!
One of the most annoying things about wearing shirts tucked in while we dance is that they tend to come untucked while we dance (one of the main reasons you will see me in dresses v. pants/skirts). One solution is to wear things untucked, but not every shirt was meant to be worn untucked and sometimes we want to look a little more polished. Aside from tucking things into your underwear (which isn’t foolproof), what other options do we have to keep our shirts tucked in?
I was scanning my Facebook news feed a few weeks ago and noticed that Philadelphia dancer and instructor Sascha Newberg had posted about military shirt stays as a possible solution. If you are not familiar with stays, they are elastic bands that attach on one end to your shirt tail and on the other end to your pants. They serve the dual purpose of keeping your shirt tucked in and your socks pulled up. If you are going for military precision, some sloppy shirts and droopy socks aren’t going to cut it.
I remember seeing these for the first time when my friend Joanna went to the U.S. Naval Academy. I commented on how impeccable she looked in her white uniform, how everything was just so, and she pulled up her pants leg to show me the stays. She said they took a little getting used to, that certain “spring” in her step, but after a while they just became part of the uniform.
What say ye? Shall we add a spring to our Lindy Hop steps? In the name of keeping shirts tucked in!
I’ve been meaning to seek out the items for this post for a couple of years and Memorial Day seems like a good time to share – following my last What’s Old is New featuring outfits from A Day at the Races, I’d like to look at some of the costuming choices in Groovie Movie and note where you may find similar items in modern times to hone your 1940’s-inspired dance pieces. As this was a film made during World War II and the film features some the male dancers at the end wearing military uniforms, this appears to an excellent film to highlight, in the spirit of Memorial Day. Jitterbugs, veterans, and those who served our nation with honor – we salute you!
I’m going to focus on some of the followers’ outfits at the end of the film because some of the earlier outfits were more…to prove a point or to further the narrative. 🙂 For military garb, that’s a bit of a can of worms. Visit your local army/navy surplus for inspiration, talk to your grandpa, or delve into the potentially very expensive (and very specific) hobby of collecting vintage uniforms.
I often write about undergarment options for coverage when we wear skirts, but what about what we wear under our bloomers or our pants? What about the material? What about all that gross sweating we do? Where dudes bring multiple shirts to a dance weekend, I bring multiple pairs of underwear because there’s nothing worse that sitting around or dancing in a puddle of your own sweat (along those lines, there’s nothing better than putting on a fresh pair of underwear after you’ve danced, especially between a main dance and late night – file that under my body odor commentary).
Cotton breathes, but it also soaks everything up. Synthetics can be icky in terms of odor and I usually don’t like they way the feel against my skin. Can we get some technology in here to engineer us some undies?
Montreal dancer Alisha Ruiss sent me a link to this great Indiegogo campaign for Thinx: Change Your Underwear, “where technology and fashion intersect to solve a global problem.” How is this underwear smart? You can check out the diagram to the right, and then listen when I tell you that it
1) Is leak/stain-resistant, anti-microbial, moisture-wicking and lasts for several years
2) Acts as back-up to traditional methods of leakage prevention during your period (but will not replace these during heavier days – they are working on creating this style next!)
3) Completely replaces liners on light days
Whaaaaaa?! So this is obviously super practical in real life, and in your dance life having that bit of extra protection there for potential leakage (because we move around a lot, just like athletes, and we sometimes lose track of time…) or just sweat absorption could make the world of difference in your comfort at a dance, on any day of the year.
“Beyond our own desire for the smartest underwear for our drawer, we found out that there was an even bigger problem for girls and women in the developing world.
Girls in the developing world are missing up to a week of school per month and using unimaginable things to manage their monthly cycle like twigs, leaves, newspaper, plastic bags or dirty rags. In Africa alone, 67 million girls have dropped out entirely which overwhelmingly leads to early marriage, pregnancy and a greater difficulty in raising themselves out of poverty.
THINX is part of the solution. For every pair of THINX you buy, you help fund the production of a 7-pad washable kit for a woman or girl in the developing world via our partnership with AFRIpads. This kit helps create local jobs and empower the economy while also helping keep girls in school during that time of the month.”
Can you imagine what these girls have to give up? I know I can’t – and I’ll remember this every time I take my ability to leave the house during my period for granted.
I am excited that smarter solutions are being developed, with women all over the world in mind. Looking forward to seeing more from this company.
BEHOLD! I give you this glorious new shoe from Johnston & Murphey – the Holbrook Linen Cap Toe! I can’t think of many other shoes more worthy of a linen or seersucker suit. Gents, this is one snappy shoe.
Because it’s never too early to start shopping for Halloween, New Year’s Eve, or a Gatsby-themed event, this Leluxe Clothing Nouveau Tabard on eBay is just begging to be picked up by some smart flapper – with the bidding only at $75.00, this $329.99 dress (YES you read that right, three hundred twenty-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents) is a crazy steal! Fits a wide range of sizes, those beads just seem to hug in all the right places. Auction ends October 5!
My friend Rebecca Brightly, formerly of Durham, now of Seattle, has written a book – The Beginner Dancer’s Survival Guide – incorporating essays from her popular Dance World Takeover blog and some new material to finish her thoughts on helping new dancers navigate their fears, community norms, and just about anything an experienced dancer may have forgotten or takes for granted. If I can, I like to dig into what I am writing about, and Rebecca was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her new book so I could read for myself.
A scan of the table of contents shows a broad range of topics, from what to do at your first lesson to a bit of Lindy Hop history for those who may not know the name Frankie Manning.
I found myself reading this and taking a trip down memory lane – all those times in the early years when I threw myself into a dip and I saw the fear in my lead’s bulging eyes as he braced himself for potential ground impact (Rebecca says: NEVER throw yourself into a dip). There are also some topics Rebecca discusses that I wished the more advanced dancers would also take up, like respecting the venue by cleaning up your mess (cups, kleenex, *AHEM*). There are other things that may never change that Rebecca covers in her book, like getting everyone to clap after every song the band plays in a night. Still, these things should be said; with the Survival Guide, perhaps Rebecca can guide a new generation of dancers through the maze of social norms so that they come out polished and relatively unscathed.
I appreciate the format of the book, the questions, the lists, and the recaps. When you are digesting a new topic it’s good to go over the main points what have been discussed. The only other book I have read in a similar format is a book on domestic violence (for work) and I still remember the main points outlined at the end of each chapter, which is so helpful when meeting with a potential client who may be in a DV situation. Thus, this format is particularly helpful when you need to think on your feet, be it at work or at a dance, to remind yourself of all the helpful material you just read. I imagine a mini-cartoon Rebecca sitting on my shoulder at a dance, reminding me to throw my cup away at the end of the night. Thanks, Rebecca!
Some of the absolutes listed in the book are the product of a seasoned dancer who knows the norms and opinions of the upper-level dancers. Does this mean that you should take everything said in the Survival Guide at face value? Perhaps not, but I believe Rebecca uses strong language to get her point across concerning her preferences. For example, to never do the pretzel – the pretzel is a pain in the butt, should probably not be a move that newer dancers should aspire to execute, but who knows when the pretzel renaissance may occur? I shudder to think, but stranger things have happened. Keep an open mind, embrace Rebecca’s sense of humor, and perhaps you may never have to learn what the pretzel is or how to maneuver it.
Rebecca also digs in the to the psychological aspects of newness to dancing, which I think is so important. If you don’t have a mentor, let Rebecca be your personal cheerleader – you can do it!
I won’t reveal anything else about the Survival Guide because you should check it out on your own. While this book is targeted at newer dancers, I think some not-so-new dancers could benefit from reading it as well. Or perhaps you know someone new in your community who is just getting started, but may have some trepidation about this whole dancing thing? This book could be a great gift, one that could make a difference.
You can purchase your own copy of Rebecca’s book on at Dance World Takeover for $6.95. If this is something you plan on sharing, Rebecca is offering a “Giver’s Edition” for $19.95, which allows you to share it with up to 10 people.
This is such a hot little 1940’s dress and manages, at the same time, to be really beautiful – the shape and the black satin make it foxy, while the amazing floral cutouts with pink insets soften the look, tied together by tone on tone embroidery. Delicious! Auction ends tomorrow, someone snap this beauty up!
I felt compelled to update you on the latest offerings from Trashy Diva, per my usual obsession, but also because my Scottish ancestry won’t let me ignore a good plaid dress. These plaids are bright and cheerful, in playful 1950’s silhouettes. I am particularly fond of the two piece beach set – if you are going to show your midriff, this is the way to do it, without the possibility of your underpants/thong creeping into the picture. Enjoy!
I am always so happy when one of our own embarks on a business venture that is an outgrowth of the love of Lindy Hop and vintage culture. Australian dancer Denise Cox has just launched an online store selling 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s-inspired clothing called Crimson Gardenia, with distribution in Australia for the moment, and plans of expanding to other corners of the globe and possibly a brick-and-mortar store. I met Denise two years ago at the Balboa Experiment, who traveled with a contingent of well-dressed Aussies, and I have been delighted to follow her process of getting this business off the ground via Facebook. I believe I participated in a survey at some point (market research!) and it is so exciting to see the final product launch!
It looks like Denise is off to a fine start, with some great coats, tops, and that awesome Retrolite jewelry from Classic Hardware. Definitely keep your eye on this website – Denise blogs about the creation of her business and an amazing government program that helped her realize her dream on her Crimson Gardenia blog and it’s a great story! I wonder if we have comparable programs like this in the U.S….? My hat’s off to you, Denise, keep me posted on your endeavors!