Not all artificial flowers are created equal. Even more stunning than modern artificial blooms are those of yesteryear, reserved for hats and millinery, created with such detail and hues that can only come from the past or be made by hand. Jamie Sturdevant, the mastermind behind the Etsy shop Chatterblossom, has acquired stacks of boxes full of vintage millinery flowers and is using them to create floral clusters, headpieces, and fascinators for her shop. The results are stunning and perfect for pairing with your vintage dresses – like vintage fabric cut into a new dress, these unworn, unused flowers are just like getting a brand new hairpiece from the past. Even better, Jamie does custom work and can work with you to create a custom piece to go with one of your vintage ensembles. Here are some glorious pieces from her shop:
I ran across Kim Stewart’s Etsy shop, Nudeedudee, a few years ago when she was doing custom reproduction garments – at the time, she was one of the very few people with any 1930’s listings. I decided not to blog about her shop at the time because I try to keep the things I post on this blog under $200, but upon revisiting her blog I see that she is doing ready to wear in limited runs at great prices for reproduction garments made and sourced from materials in the USA.
You should definitely give her shop a once-over, then a twice-over – I feel transported looking at all her wonderful tropical prints in the middle of NC’s Polar Vortex/Snowmageddon/Hoth shutdown. I can pretend I’m in sunny California, shopping for vintage reproductions made from deadstock fabric…from the comfort of my laptop.
According to the shop description, the ready to wear is only temporary, as Kim needs “to switch gears to ready to wear in order to care for this little darling baby.” Get to shopping the goods while they last! Ethical bonus: “I donate a portion of the proceeds from this shop to humanitarian and environmental issues.”
I ran across Richard’s Fabulous Finds on the OcTieBer group on Facebook – he had posted a few suits of interest, so I bit. Clicking through to his Etsy page, I was struck by the presentation – everything looked cool, wearable, and pulled together. On closer inspection, it wasn’t just the goods, it was the presentation. A model (perhaps Richard himself?) had on most of the suits, and each suit was fully presented, with shirt, necktie, pocket square, possibly a boutonniere, so that the suit wasn’t JUST a suit, you could see it as an ensemble. I know a lot of men struggle with color and pairings and Richard has done the work for you, at least for starters. Here’s what I’m loving from his Etsy shop:
With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to think about what to wear to those holiday dances or, perhaps, Lindy Focus or Snowball for New Year’s Eve. I am in love with this 1940’s dress in fuschia – an unexpected color, but close-to-red and festively bright, with trimmings of sequins in the shape of…macaw? It looks like an eighth note at a distance…regardless, this dress would be the topic of conversation at any fête. It’s 20% off until the end of today when Fab Gabs’ sale ends!
I am happy to announce that Lindy Shopper has a new supporter in the form of Etsy store Swell Farewell Vintage – owner Kate Blank has put together a lovely little shop with items from all of our jazz age and swing era decades, and beyond. Kate’s love of all things vintage began early in her childhood and she even ran her vintage clothing business out of her dorm room in college! You can see her experience in her collection, which includes quintessential items from each decade represented. I also love that she has clothing items listed by waist size, which is so helpful in initially narrowing down what will fit from the shop.
Right now the shop features mostly women’s clothing, but Kate has plans to add more men’s ties, as well as more inventory overall. Not everything is listed, so if you are looking for something specific, Kate encourages you to message her with your sought-after items to see if she has anything in her inventory that would fit the bill.
At the moment, Swell Farewell Vintage is running a 15% off coupon – enter the code 15OFF at checkout – it applies to all items!
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.
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:
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:
It is so rare to find a man curating a vintage shop on Etsy, which is why I was delighted to discover that Las Vegas dancer Kyle Kettner is the owner the Etsy store Thrifty Vegas. I first met Kyle at ABW this past year as a participant in the 1930’s fashion show, one of the rare males who a) would actually participate and b) had his own fantastic wardrobe.
Thrifty Vegas is “Your one-stop shop for vintage kitsch, Americana, men’s classic style, shirts, neckties, accessories, jewelry, and Old Vegas.” This shop’s aesthetic is entirely male and I love the idea that men don’t have to wade through miles of dress listings to come across a solid tie or good pair of cufflinks. Kyle also posted a photo of some fantastic ties this week on Facebook that he acquired in San Francisco, which should appear in the store this week. Here are some other great items from the shop:
It’s about that time – the time of the year where we don our holiday finery for holiday parties and dances, which means it’s time to start planning our outfits now. Regular hair flowers are great, but not always the right tone for a seasonal outfit. I’ve gone so far as to pick some unknown berries and leaves from my yard and put them in my hair because I wanted to look festive. I’m not sure if the berries were poisonous, so this year…safety first.
I’ll credit Philly dancer Caroline Gleeson for the tip about May Bell Creations, the Etsy store of Caroline’s friend, Mary Hadzimichalis. Mary has created some really lovely holiday hair ornaments, some that are more floral (like that elusive poinsettia I’ve been wanting) and others sparkle, and most do both. I think she’s done a fantastic job with the materials and making the pieces look festive without being kitschy. Here’s what I love:
There are vintage stores that seem like they have everything but the kitchen sink; then, there are vintage stores that are “curated,” full of carefully selected items that may evoke an era or perhaps only carry the choicest items. I could tell that Dear Golden Vintage on Etsy was one of these stores, even before I read the store description – the collection of items in this Etsy store is truly choice, and selection of things more lovely than the last.
Dear Golden Vintage sets a beautiful scene with clothing and accessories and you should definitely peruse all the online offerings, but here are my favorites:
This is another article I’ve written for Yehoodi, with this topic at the request of the Yehoodi staff – enjoy!
Vintage or reproduction? The obvious answer is both, but I’d like to delve into the pros, cons, and considerations that go into the collection of both and the considerations that go along with the decision to wear each of them.
Clothes made in the swing era were rarely mass-produced, and certainly not on the scale that clothing is produced today. The techniques for tailoring and the training that most women went through as a part of growing up to learn how to sew and mend their clothing is almost a lost art today, as is the art of tailoring men’s suits. So, while the clothing is old, it is usually very well made and, if in good condition, can be mended and altered with relative ease. The tailoring and details like pintucks, smocking, and embroidery can take many working hours to make, hours that modern retailers rarely put into their garments without passing on a lot of cost to the consumer.
That said, there are some reproductions that do provide these details, but they don’t come cheap. Trashy Diva, who mass produces dresses, puts a lot of thought into their reproduction garments, keeping the tradition of matching belts, contrast buttons, and interesting dressmaking details. Likewise, ordering something custom from a tailor or online custom clothing service will get you that quality, but you’ll also see that quality come out of your bank account.
Here’s the big argument – what if I rip something? The fear of destroying vintage is something I dealt with for a long time, even after ripping the back out of two vintage dresses and seeing that they could be fixed without noticeable signs of mending. Obviously, reproduction garments will be more durable because the fabric is newer, but that doesn’t mean that the newer fabric won’t rip. Part of the durability issue, for both new and old garments, can be tackled by some careful considerations before purchase – does the fabric feel durable? Can I move in this (do some solo jazz steps in front of the mirror in the dressing room)? Does it fit me properly or is it too tight in one or some areas? Are there parts of the garment that could get in the way of dancing?
Reproductions will win this point, but not all vintage should be discounted. I’ve got some vintage crepe dresses that are indestructible and the construction of vintage men’s jackets really speaks for itself.
Reproductions have come a long way since I started dancing, as clothing makers have begun to move away from the black, white, and red with polka dots color scheme and embrace prints, period colors, and period appropriate fabrics. I’ll continue to use Trashy Diva as an example because they do it so well on a large scale – some of the rayon prints they choose for their fabrics are so spot-on that it’s hard to tell if the dress is vintage or new. Other fabric choices, such as silk crepe or a knit that looks like wool jersey (but without the itch), are period appropriate, upgrade the look of the garment, and, in some cases like the jersey knit, provide a modern upgrade of a classic fabric that makes it even more wearable for today.
You can work with a dressmaker or tailor to make your vintage reproduction unique or an exact copy a garment. This does require you to become involved in the creative process of the garment by selecting fabrics, buttons, details, notions, and any considerations you have about the fit of the garment. It took me a while to become comfortable being a part of the creative process (what if the fabric I picked out looks bad?), but after spending a little time in a fabric store and familiarizing myself with fabrics used in both modern and vintage clothing, I was able to embrace the creative process as a new challenge – to collaborate with the tailor to put together a look, in a fabric and color/print I love, with a pattern I love, to create a new garment that is vintage by design with a reflection of my personal style.
With all this in mind, there is hope; however, the creativity of seamstresses and tailors past is far reaching and the patterns much more complicated – as the number of skilled sewers was higher, the patterns of the swing era were more complicated and counted on the person sewing the garment to make certain dressmaking leaps in creating the garment. I say this because my mother has made me a few dresses and even though she is an extremely skilled seamstress, her experience was primarily through the streamlined silhouettes of the 1960’s and 70’s, not the draped, detailed, side zippered, crazy seamed 1930’s and 40’s. What I’m getting at is that, on top of the already unique nature of these clothes and fabrics that are no longer made, you have a skilled population who more often embraced the task of clothing design/creation and the creative challenges that go along with it. I believe those creative challenges resulted in some truly original designs – some of them may fall short, but many of them are what makes owning vintage clothing such a pleasure in our mass produced world. I often use these creative choices of the past to inspire my own reproduction creations.
The reproductions will win this point – even though vintage comes in all sizes, for the most part, it’s one of a kind and finding something with your measurements can be difficult. For men, vintage daywear is nearly impossible to come by. Reproductions, whether mass-produced or custom, are able to be replicated in multiple sizes. With the rise of Etsy, the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, and other web-based and local tailors who have taken an interest in making reproduction garments, reproductions of swing era clothing are more available now than ever.
Fit actually works three ways in this discussion. The best way to get something fitted is to have a reproduction made for you. In my opinion, the next best fit usually comes from vintage clothing, especially if you are going for accuracy. For example, Trashy Diva, while divine, mentions in some of their garment descriptions that they have raised the waist line to a more empire waist, which is neither period appropriate nor the most flattering cut if you have an hourglass shape or a small waist. Other reproduction makers will cut corners, either with tailoring or fabrics (stretch fabric, while sometimes helpful for movement, does not make a garment FIT any better if the garment is ill cut), to make a one shape fits all silhouette which really only flatters a certain body type that most of us do not have. Vintage garments are usually constructed in such a way that they can be modified, while mass produced reproductions are made without ample hems to be let out or seams that are surged and tight, without that extra 1/2 inch or inch of fabric that might be available to be let out to make something fit just right.
SUITABLENESS FOR DANCING
This can be pretty garment-specific, or even year-specific. I don’t see a lot of early 1930’s reproductions because the hemlines were lower and some of the skirt shapes not necessarily movement-friendly. When using an early 1930’s pattern to create a reproduction, I usually ask that the hemline fall just below the knee, instead of at mid-calf level so when I dance and compete people can see my legs. The designs of the late 1930’s through 1950’s are, overall, pretty dance friendly and I think most reproduction swing dance garments draw from this time frame. Reproductions usually come in more wash and wear fabrics, which is helpful to dancers because we sweat a lot. Only a handful of reproductions I’ve encountered seem to have issues with dance-ability, usually relating to fabric choice (silky/slippery, wool, synthetics that don’t breathe) or the cut of the sleeve or arm hole – I always do an over the head test with my arm to test a garment’s range of movement.
Overall, vintage clothing is cheaper than buying a reproduction. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but generally, if a vintage dress costs more than the reproduction, it’s probably not something you’d want to wear to a dance to sweat in because it’s a quality piece. Most of the vintage I purchase for dancing is less expensive because it’s a common silhouette, in a common (usually durable) fabric, and it’s second-hand goods. Because it costs less, I won’t feel so bad if something happens to it on the dance floor. With reproductions, you are paying for the labor and fabric with today’s costs of producing, distributing, and marketing the garment. However, that added cost can mean piece of mind if you are truly concerned about ruining something vintage or if you are particularly rough on your clothing.
I’m sure there are other pros and cons and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic – feel free to chime in or let me know if you have any questions.
This weekend I’m heading to Portland, Oregon for some non-dance-related business, but I will be meeting up with Etsy seller, Portland native, and swing dancer Kim Cullins (aka Jitterbuggin) for some vintage shopping. Expect a report when I get back…
I’ve highlighted the adorable reproductions made by Etsy seller Jitterbuggin in the past, but I think she’s really hit her stride with these new (since my last post) matching 1940’s jumper and blouse sets in blue and green. I’m linking to the jumpers, as the blouse must be purchased separately, and all are available in multiple sizes.
Everything about the sets is just fantastic, the pocket details on the jumpers, the line of the skirts, the fabric choices for both the jumpers and the blouses (especially the airplanes!), and the contrast collar and sleeve bands on the green blouse. On top of that, Jitterbuggin shows you how to wear it by styling her models to the hilt, with period hair, hosiery, shoes, red lips, hair flowers, and bakelite accessories. Very Groovie Movie!