Tag Archives: eBay

Loafers – Discussion on Men’s Swing Dance Shoes, Round 2

This post was written by Lindy Shopper and Bobby White of Swungover.

Every few years someone will post looking for men’s dance shoe recommendations, people who are serious about dancing and want to hear from their peers and instructors about what shoes work for them.  While women’s shoes are often specifically designated as dance shoes, as fewer and fewer women’s street shoes have leather soles, men have to navigate between classic men’s dress shoes and designated dance shoes to find their sole mate and this can get a bit tricky.

LOAFERS?!?

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Florsheim Dancer

The request du jour is about finding suitable dance loafers. “But why specifically loafers?” You might be asking. “Why is THAT a Bal thing?” To answer this, we’re going to go back to 1936 when Bass first released their “Weejun” loafer (Based on Norwegian fisherman’s shoes, which were themselves based on Native American moccasins.) They added a strap across the top of the simple slip-on, and it was the first time the loafer as we know it  came into being. They were soon nicknamed “penny loafers” because teenagers realized they could slip pennies in the holes of the loafer strap. Loafers became a huge fashion trend, becoming the casual shoe of many teenagers across America. (There are pictures of entire malt shops full of teenagers, all of them wearing loafers.) 

Many readers probably realize that 1936 coincides with when swing music was beginning to sweep the nation. So, in California, in those years when Balboa and Bal-Swing began being danced by casual teenagers, the loafer was one of their dance shoes. Gene Kelly himself wore loafers and danced in them all the time as part of showing his casual, down-to-earth persona.   

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Hopefully your interactions in loafers will be less awkward than Gene Kelly sitting on your floor in front of your couch while you read…note the women’s styling here with loafers, short socks, and a shirt dress.

Though many of the teenagers probably danced in loafers for practicing, or casually dancing at the beach-side pavilions, you don’t see many in the old films. This was probably for two reasons. Loafers, as a casual slip-on, were too informal for dances where teenagers liked to/were required to dress up (and the dance scenes in the movies tend to take place in those ballrooms). Secondly, they were not the best for when Lindy Hop came to the California scene in the late 30’s, which was more high-powered dancing where the feet needed a lot of support, and shoes needed to stay on in extreme circumstances.

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Kids these days…

However, when the original dancers were dancing at the restaurant and bar Bobby McGee’s in their older years (their twice-a-month get together), loafers were a common shoe on the floor — and we have footage of Maxie Dorf, Willie Desatoff, Hal Takier, and some of the pure bal dancers in them, so it seemed most of them owned a pair. (Imagine the stereotypical old man in loafers — the Bal Old Timers were that generation.) Nick Williams said loafers were also an easy way to get the flexible kind of leather-soled shoes that Old Timers like Willie Desatoff desired in his students— but we’ll have more on that below.

So, loafers weren’t a huge thing, but just enough of a thing. And when the new generation of Bal Dancers in the late ’90s learned from the Old Timers, loafers became a sort of Balboa slang, which grew in the scene and has been passed down ever since.  They’ve come to represent the casualness and smoothness of Balboa, as well as a tip of the hat to the old timers, even if the old timers were just old men who occasionally danced in their comfortable slip-ons. So that’s why loafers have a special place in the heart of the Bal scene. 

As an aside, loafers went on to become the shoe of choice for another coastal group of dancers, Carolina Shag dancers, who also appreciate a casual and smooth shoe.

Now then, back to the present.

After a good bit of discussion ensued on Jeff Liu-Leyco‘s Facebook wall for the request to find a good pair of dancing loafers, Bobby White offered to collaborate with Lindy Shopper on a post – so here, you get the benefit of the discussion and firsthand knowledge from one of swing dancing’s sartorial heroes.

THE THREAD

In the Facebook thread, swing dance instructorMickey Fortanasce recommended this classic pair of loafers, the Florsheim Dancer at $115. Given that Florsheim named these the “Dancer,” I think that bodes well. 

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This pair of Nordstrom loafers on eBay, referenced in Bobby’s post, is long gone

Allen Edmonds is always a name that pops up in these discussions, and their now discontinued (but still available sometimes on eBay)Bergamano loafer came up.  

But the holy grail of the loafers are the Nordstrom black tassel loafers and Bobby dropped the knowledge on everyone with the force of an eternal mic drop:

“Go to Ebay. Search for “Nordstrom Loafers Men Tassel [Black or Brown or Cream or just leave out a color] [your size].” Save this EBay search so that you will get notifications (possibly for the rest of your life — they can be hard to turn off). Eventually you will see loafers like this (below). There are many like them (some with netting/woven leather tops, likeDouglas Mathews rocks), some with pointy toes verses more square toes. Buy them. If you like tassels, keep them. If not, cut them off (like Nick Williams and I do). I present to you, the famous, the infamous, the eternal: the Nordstrom Loafer. The soles are one thin strip of leather, and minimal padding — which is why Willie liked shoes like these. You can really feel the floor in them (and, of course, your knees will too, if you pulse a lot). But that can easily be fixed with insoles, like Nick does (might need a half-size bigger in that case). They are tanks, and last a very long time. They are $200 shoes that will cost you $20-50 on eBay. They are seven-minute brownies in four minutes. Here endeth the lesson.”

THE TRUTH OF THE NORDSTROM LOAFER

In all honesty (Bobby speaking, here), the Nordstrom Loafers are fantastic, but they are not the only shoes out there like them. They just happen to fit the bill for the kind of loafer many of us Bal dancers like: Thin leather sole / classic loafer look / well-made so they will last a long time.

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A pair of Bobby’s well-worn loafers.

The Allen Edmond Bergamano is the same idea as the Nordstrom, and both Santiago and Johnston & Murphy have made leather-soled loafers that fit that bill that you might be able to grab on ebay. (The Johnson & Murphy ones are actually the ones Douglas Mathews rocks). If you get loafers like these and they don’t work well, you can almost always find a Bal dancer they will fit, so it’s not a big risk.

The other important take-away is that, if spending $100 + on a pair of new shoes is outside of your budget, thanks to Ebay, you can get an incredible pair of shoes for $15-$50 with a little bit of patience and an internet connection. 

ONE-PLY VS. TWO-PLY

Also, you don’t HAVE to get thin leather soles. You might have very good reasons for wanting otherwise. In fact, the biggest question every dancer looking for a pair of leather-soled shoes should probably answer for themselves (after fit, and probably alongside aesthestics) is one-ply leather or two-ply?

Here’s what we mean:

Single Ply or One-ply sole means the sole is made of one strip of leather. This is more formally called a “Single leather sole” — “One-ply” is Bobby slang. Technically the thickness of that leather sole van vary slightly, but rarely enough to make a big difference. The common Aris Allen men’s cap toe is an example of a single-ply dance shoe with lots of cushioning.

Two-ply, or formally “double leather sole” or “double sole,” means two pieces of leather stacked on top of each other for the sole. Two-Ply soles were made for walking around outside (like on cobblestones), daily work, and keeping your feet warm from the cold ground. Because of this and their bulkier look, they are considered less-casual, though by modern standards the general public doesn’t care about that anymore and you shouldn’t worry about it too much — it’s more important you have comfortable shoes for your dancing style. The men’s Saint Savoy is an example of a double sole, as well as the Stacy Adams Madison. (There’s even a triple leather sole, but there’s probably very little need for that in dancing.)

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Gene Kelly, casual mid-air.

Shoes like the Nordstorm loafer are one-ply and have minimal padding— you will feel the floor, and all the sensations of shuffling and sliding very clearly. The shoes will give you almost a barefoot sensation, cause the leather will move with the muscles of your feet on the floor.

However, because the swing dances are often athletic in nature, as well as involve some kind of pulsing, many of us choose to wear insoles with single-ply shoes, especially with the ones with minimalistic padding. You don’t have to, though — just know that you will have to dance very gently in them regarding your knees and feet. In single-ply shoes, you will smooth out your dancing (which is what the Old Timers wanted modern Bal dancers to do, anyway).

Shoes like the Florsheim Dancer Mickey prefers, or the now-defunct Bostonian leather-soled classic penny loafer (eBay!) are two-ply. You would choose these if you had a heavier pulse or more athletic dancing style in general (to cushion your knees and other joints), or, if you just liked the feeling of a heavier shoe and the weight it gives to your rhythmic experience, like swing dance instructorDavid Rehmenjoys.

There is no wrong answer, and you can plan your shoes based on the style of dancing you want to accentuate.  If you can’t decide on one ply or two ply, you can try both with a little patience and an eBay account.  You’ll be well on your way to being an old timer in no time and, as Bart Bartolo said, don’t forget to “keep it casual.”
Special thanks to Sylvia Sykes, Nick Williams, and David Rehm for their insight into the modern Bal history of the loafer!
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Costume Stock Liquidation Yields Excellent Reproductions on eBay

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

My eBay searches this week have been filled with good things and most of the items I have clicked on turn out to be really good reproductions from eBay seller portlandcostumes, who simply states the following: “Liquidating costume stock. I started in Ancient Greece and have finally worked my way up to the 20th century.” Some of these great dresses have zero bids and are starting the bidding at $20! Some have never been worn! I can’t even post all the awesomeness because I’d be posting everything, go (quickly!) check out this seller’s store:

1930's repro in cream burnout velvet NEVER WORN

1930’s repro in cream burnout velvet NEVER WORN

40's repro in green cotton print

40’s repro in green cotton print

Silk plaid 1930's repro with adorable collar and cuffs

Silk plaid 1930’s repro with adorable collar and cuffs

30's repro in white linen - how sweet is this?

30’s repro in white linen – how sweet is this?

30's repro and it has a matching jacket!

30’s repro and it has a matching jacket!

50's repro - $12!!!

50’s repro – $12!!!

No words...

No words…

Re-mix on eBay under $100

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Ladies! Ladies! I haven’t seen this many NIB Re-Mix shoes on eBay for these prices since the mid-2000’s. If you wear a size 9.5, 10, or 10.5, this could be your lucky day (but I haven’t even listed everything, there are other great deals in different styles and sizes! Go look!):

Charlotte in black/ivory, size 10, $79.99 etc.

Charlotte in black/ivory, size 10, $79.99 etc.

Bauhaus black, size 10, pricing same as above

Bauhaus black, size 10, pricing same as above

Strider in purple, size 10, lucky bastards...

Strider in purple, size 10, lucky bastards…

Boardwalk in brown and sand, size 10.5

Boardwalk in brown and sand, size 10.5

Bauhaus in cognac, size 10...

Bauhaus in cognac, size 10…

Strider in green, size 10

Strider in green, size 10

Aris Allen Cap Toes – $3.99 on eBay

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This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

The deals on gently used dance shoes just keep rolling in – this time, a pair of black Aris Allen cap to oxfords, size 10, for $3.99. Courtesy of a swing dance dropout:

“I purchased these shoes to wear at the “big dance” we attended after taking dance lessons. They were never worn for practice and when I wore them at the dance I wore street shoes until inside. They are in perfect condition. I got a new girl friend and so I don’t have to dance any more!! Shoe trees shown in the picture are not included.”

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure? 😉 Bless his heart…

Cream Leluxe Dress on eBay

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Obviously, the dress on the left. ;)

Obviously, the dress on the left. 😉

Your deal of the week is this cream Leluxe Clothing beaded dress on eBay, worn once by a bride to her engagement party, and is now selling dress plus slip with a starting bid of $119.00. A new dress from Leluxe Clothing will set you back $300-400 and then the matching under slip is another $50. If you are planning for a Gatsby themed dance/party, a wedding, or your New Year’s Eve ensemble, this would be a great option!

The other wonderful thing about these dresses is that they tend to fit a range of sizes because they are made of mesh. I’m trying to place the style, but it’s not matching up with any dresses on the Leluxe website – I’d probably use “The Charleston” dress as a frame of reference for sizing.

More Aris Allens on eBay

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

It’s been a while since I scoped out eBay for Aris Allens, there are a few good deals on the auction block this week:

Camel velvet oxfords, size 9.5, bidding at $26.95

Camel velvet oxfords, size 9.5, bidding at $26.95

Black t-strap heels, size 8, bidding starts at $14.99

Black t-strap heels, size 8, bidding starts at $14.99

Brown and white wingtips, size 10.5, buy it now $50.00

Brown and white wingtips, size 10.5, buy it now $50.00

1930’s and 40’s Suiting on eBay

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

All of a sudden, there was an influx of men’s 1930’s suits on eBay, including some lovely summer weight suits. Let’s get started:

Linen suit with belt back

Linen suit with belt back, size 36, starting bid $49.99

Palm Beach suit, size 40, bidding at $9.00

Palm Beach suit, size 40, bidding at $9.00

Another size 40 belt back suit, with accompanying cigar from that era?  Gross...LOL

Another size 40 belt back suit, with accompanying cigar from that era? Gross…LOL

Summer belt back suit, size 38, bidding at $86.00

Summer belt back suit, size 38, bidding at $86.00

1936 three-piece suit, size 38, bidding at $168.01

1936 three-piece suit, size 38, bidding at $168.01

Navy tux, size 42, Buy it Now for $135.00

Navy tux, size 42, Buy it Now for $135.00

Re-Mix Influx on eBay – Size 8

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

There’s been a flood of size 8 Re-Mix Vintage shoes on eBay – check it out! Most starting bids at $99.00, shoes are new without box.

Red patent leather Anita shoe

My favorite walking shoe - Dara, in black

Ginger heels in brown

Picasso wedges in green

Spectator wedge in brown and cream

Greta wedge in brown

Greta wedge in red

Greta wedge in green

This last pair are from a different seller and are pre-owned (but still fab!) - starting bid $94.99

Cheap Bakelite

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Ah, bakelite…beads, bangles, earrings and many other items made from “the world’s first synthetic plastic” are a hallmark of the swing era, and rose to popularity during the 1930’s because of bakelite’s affordability (as compared to fine jewelry). If only this were the case today – when I encounter bakelite in most antique or vintage stores, the price is usually heavily inflated, with bangles selling for over $100 each. Why do these sellers think they’ve found a gold mine? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t pay that much for any piece of plastic. It’s not THAT rare.

I began to grow frustrated with the prices in these stores, wanting some bakelite pieces to complete certain outfits, then I remembered my old friend eBay. eBay has sellers offering bakelite in abundance, at all price points, including some really great and affordable bakelite pieces. Here’s a sampling of what you may find in bakelite for under $15.00 on eBay:

Carved ivory bakelite bracelet, starting price $0.25!

This little bakelite horseshoe pendant just needs a chain - starting bid $0.99

Set of three bakelite bangles, bidding at $5.50

Swirled bakelite ring, starting bid $6.00

Interesting red bakelite brooch, starting bid $9.99

Green bakelite earrings, starting bid $9.50

Black Art Deco bakelite clamp bracelet, bidding at $12.50

Orange carved bakelite bracelet, starting bid $9.99

WWII Sailor Suit

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

File this under unisex: I found a great sailor suit this morning on eBay, advertised as World War II-era, and in a small men’s size with the signature 13 button pants that make everyone (male and female) look like they have an amazing bum. Obviously, this was originally a man’s uniform, but I love that they have a woman modeling it. 🙂 It’s also labeled as being in perfect condition, which is pretty amazing. My only complaint is that it is without rank, but perhaps one could go to your local Army-Navy store or eBay and find some period-appropriate insignia? Still adorable!

Top 10 Places You Should Be Shopping for Swing

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

(Another article for Yehoodi – enjoy!)

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.

1. Dancestore.com

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…

5. eBay

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.

6. Etsy

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.

Gray Three Piece Suit

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I am still hunting three piece suits for my husband and I came across this lovely gray specimen today on eBay – it’s not vintage (in a swing era sense), but I thought the lines on this suit were really nice. Specifically, note how the jacket has a waist – I find it remarkable that American menswear has digressed to the point that it is so relaxed that it no longer appears to have a waist. I can imagine that no one wants to look like a giant rectangle, regardless of gender. It’s so nice to see a jacket with a defined waist, something that shows the fit and perhaps adds a slimming effect. It’s not a bad price either, with a buy it now of $175.00.

Allure Original Styles on Etsy

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I’ve been following Allure Original Styles for a while, from her initial offerings through eBay as seller buddhaboogie (which is still used to sell what appears to be samples), to a full-fledged Etsy store where you can purchase custom made reproduction swing era garments. Allure Original Styles distinguishes itself from other reproduction sellers by creating an extensive line of pants and complimentary blouses. The fabrics range from wool gabardine to light-medium weight denim, to cover both dressy and casual pants needs. I am probably most excited about having wide leg denim options – while I love to dress up, sometimes you have you wear jeans for more casual occasions and shopping for jeans is only a step above shopping for a swimsuit on the loathsome activity scale. What could be more comfortable for everyday wear than a pair of flattering wide leg lightweight denim jeans?

There are also some great dresses and other separates from the store. So much to love here…I might learn to love wearing pants again:

Adorable - high waist belted denim trouser with contrast top stitching, complimentary seersucker blouse with neck tie *drool*

1940's reproduction overalls - so stinkin' cute

Classic wide leg trousers with side buttons

30's/40's belted skirt

Desperately want this dress in my size...

1930's blouse - love the bow and the zig zag seam below the bust line

1930's sailor skirt with fantastic seam detail

Sailor shorts! There are also pants available in a similar style

Tuxedo Junction

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Comic strip of unknown origins, featured in Town and Country Magazine, January 2012

While reading my mom’s copy of the January 2012 issue of Town and Country, I ran across a comic strip detailing the history of the tuxedo – not normal comic book fare, so I was intrigued. Here’s your history lesson for the week: according to the strip and Wikipedia, the word tuxedo comes from the Lenni-Lenape Native American tribe (also known as the Delaware Indians), who were allegedly called Tuxedo (meaning “he has a round foot” (which may be in reference to the wolf), “place of the bear” or “clear flowing water”) by their enemies the Algonquins. The Lenni-Lenape lived near a lake which they named “Tucseto,” which later became known as Tuxedo Lake, and the area where they lived was called Tuxedo.

How does a tribe of Native Americans and a lake relate to the modern formal suit? In 1885, Pierre Lorillard IV developed a piece of land his grandfather owned in Tuxedo for a summer resort for the wealthy and well-to-do, naming it Tuxedo Park. He then “organized the Tuxedo Club and the Tuxedo Park Association, as hunting and fishing preserve (and society), and surrounded the property with a high game fence. In 1886, he built a club house, which saw the debut of the short dinner jacket, which soon became known as the Tuxedo jacket. Eventually, the Tuxedo ensemble, featuring the short dinner jacket, became the accepted dress for formal affairs. To give you some perspective on the class of people who frequented the Tuxedo Club, the “Blue Book of Etiquette,” written by Emily Post, was “based on what she observed inside the great stone gates of Tuxedo.”

I am amazed that the basis for modern formal menswear originated as far back as the 1880’s, but this demonstrates how the tuxedo has withstood the test of time.

As the modern Lindy Hop community matures, I see more dancers donning a tuxedo (or part of a tuxedo) for New Year’s Eve, specifically at Lindy Focus (alas, I will miss my first Lindy Focus in six years!). Just adding a bow tie to a black suit can elevate your look, or wear a vest/bow tie combo for maximum mobility.

Tuxedos are more attainable, thanks to the advent of eBay, but even thrift stores have tuxedos, sometimes castoffs from formal wear stores or a donation that simply doesn’t fit or isn’t used (and is usually rarely worn, so it good condition). You can often acquire a vintage tuxedo for less than the cost of a vintage suit because they are the garment that was worn least and survived the decades. It amazes me that people spend money to rent tuxedos when for the same price or less you could buy one.

Here are some lovelies on eBay and Etsy to make your New Year’s Eve classic and well-dressed:

1930's tuxedo with a faille shawl collor, size 42, buy it now $65.00

1930's tuxedo with tails, white vest, and white tie, size 38, $75.00 starting bid - paging Fred Astaire...

1940's tuxedo, button fly, size 40, buy it now $30.00

1950's shawl collar tuxedo on Etsy, $98.00

1940's tuxedo, size 44, $65.00

Cheongsam

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

After finding this gorgeous dress on eBay, I was inspired to post about cheongsam (plural cheongsams?). I have loved these sexy Asian dresses since I saw the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as a kid. Also known as “qipao” in Mandarin, the cheongsam has a long history that overlaps with the jazz age and swing era.

According to Wikipedia, the original qipao was wide and loose, and meant to cover a woman’s shape, but “the modern version, which is now recognized popularly in China as the “standard” qipao, was first developed in Shanghai in the 1920s, partly under the influence of Beijing styles. People eagerly sought a more modernized style of dress and transformed the old qipao to suit their tastes…it was high-class courtesans and celebrities in the city that would make these redesigned tight fitting qipao popular at that time. In Shanghai it was first known as zansae or “long dress” (長衫 – Mandarin Chinese: chángshān, Shanghainese: zansae, Cantonese: chèuhngsāam), and it is this name that survives in English as the “cheongsam”…as Western fashions changed, the basic cheongsam design changed too, introducing high-necked sleeveless dresses, bell-like sleeves, and the black lace frothing at the hem of a ball gown. By the 1940s, cheongsam came in a wide variety of fabrics with an equal variety of accessories.”

Case in point, the amazing 1940’s cheongsam pictured at above/right, with a gorgeous silk pattern, double piped seam along the neck with fantastic toggles going all the way down the side of the dress. While the trend originated in China, this dress was made in Japan. I also see that the bust/waist/hip ratio on this dress is a little more forgiving than the versions sold today, which leave little room in the hips. Someone buy this dress because you will look so elegant in it!

If you’d like a new cheongsam, there are multitudes of them on eBay and other internet retail sites, some as cheap as $10.00. When I had to come up with an inexpensive costume for The Carolina Fascinators, I remembered that I’d been wanting one of these dresses and how they came in an array of colors, sizes, and prices on eBay. These dresses are not made of silk, obviously, but if we are going to sweat in them, perhaps a cheap dress isn’t such a bad idea. These dresses are visually stunning, in great colors and prints, and come in a variety of styles (sleeves, sleeveless, knee length, calve length, halter, etc.).

There are a few drawbacks that we discovered – they are cheaply made and we had to sew the snaps back on, reinforce the toggles, and if you don’t get the right size you may split a seam while dancing. Those slits are there so you can move, because this is supposed to be a form fitting dress. The cut on these dresses was not conducive to any of our shapes – narrow hips meant ordering a size that fit the hips and all of us had to have them tailored to take them in at the waist, or bust, or both. However, it was worth the tailoring and mending because the dresses looked amazing in the end.

Also, don’t get hung up on the size labels. This girl needed an XXL for the hips. Those of you that know me know that the booty is not THAT big. Buy the size you need, based on the size charts provided.

I’ll leave you with a video clip of my initial inspiration. As an FYI, if you want Kate Capshaw’s sequin cheongsam, Sequin Queen will make you one for $250.00. 😉