It’s a banner week – a new Trashy Diva print is coming out tomorrow and today I open up my Facebook feed to find that Simon James Cathcart has not only restocked his amazing vintage style bamboo fabric polos, there are even more colors (!!!) and he’s added these fantastic 1930’s trousers to the website!
Men and dapper ladies, let’s talk about these trousers – from the website: ”
SJC has just woven 50mts of 16oz Cream English 100% wool flannel, so do not hang about here. This fluffy ecru coloured cloth is thick but soft and billows like the sails of a yacht in the breeze when one moves.
Crafted into a 1930’s loose cut trouser that features deep pleats, a wide leg and a high rise fit. The pants feature a button down coin pocket flap, side adjustors, sturdy pocket bags, sunburst corozo buttons, suspender buttons, deep fly front and belt loops.
They come in a long untailored length so you can add your own 2″ cuffs on them to suit.
Judging by the outstanding quality of the cloth, the high desirability of the cut, the incredible price these pants will go fast.”
Have you had dreams of Fred Astaire’s wardrobe? This looks like a good step toward his day-wear. Pick from cream or gray fabric, then add striped socks and your desired footwear…
‘Tis the season for horse racing and large hats and the Lindy Hop community will always be tied to “the races” by way of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers’ appearance in the Marx Brothers’ film. What better way to celebrate than by picking up a very limited edition horse race print blouse, courtesy of Jitterbuggin’? The stylized horses and be-hatted spectators on this reproduction blouse are just perfect for a dance or your local Derby festivities. And when I say limited run, I mean she only made three of them and one of them has already sold! (Kim, please make more! <3)
“Keeping cool even when your swingouts are on fire” is the motto of SwingGene’s Folding Hand Fans, the brainchild of Albuquerque dancer Amber Templeton, who came up with her own fan design after watching the slow demise of a hinged fan over the course of three larger swing dance events. Your average fan was not made to withstand being thrown into a dance bag, possibly kicked/shuffled/stepped on at a dance, shaken vigorously and then perhaps tossed hastily aside as someone asks you to dance, then maybe living in your dance bag, which may then live in your hot car with your stinky dance shoes…you get the idea. Really beautiful fans tend to be fragile and the robust lifestyle of a Lindy Hopper calls for something more.
Amber uses fabric or duck tape as the main material for the fan, with a more traditional wooden structure to make it collapsible. This is a pretty novel use of duck tape, in my opinion, and I’ve seen some pretty sweet colors and pattern available for options. Fabric offers nearly endless options – from the Etsy site: “I have some ambitious goals for the future on how to really customize, embellish, and trick out the fans. For now though I just really want to make each customer the perfect custom fan. There are so many cool designs and patterns I feel like everyone should have the fan that they dream about.”
So what you see is just a sample – feel free to contact Amber for your custom, durable swing dance fan!
Tampa, Florida dancer Tom Blair tipped me off to Dapper Designs, an Etsy store that specializes in bow ties, hair bows, and other swing-inspired accessories, made by another Florida dancer, Margie Sweeney. There are a few things I really like about this shop:
1. The bow ties are available in four different styles: classic, diamond point, and those skinny nod-to-the-1950’s bow ties in both straight and wide straight. Let’s not deny that this period in history happened and that one does not have to look like a gift wrapped package to call it a bow tie. Options are always welcome.
2. The neck-wear extends to women, so we can all get a jump on our neck-wear wardrobes to give the guys a run for their money during OcTieBer. I especially like the custom cross-tie, being reminiscent of some Girl Scout neck piece I may have worn and I think it would look fab with a blouse, a 30’s skirt, and a jaunty hat.
3. The fabric selection for the custom ties has a little something for everyone – from classic plaid to dots to geometric patterns to a faux bois print.
And there you have it! Lots of custom options for guys and gals, handmade by one of our own.
(Edited to add that David Lochner has informed me that “the “cross tie” is called a “continental” in menswear and the straight bows are “batwings” – I learn something new every day! 🙂 )
If you’re a dandy, lady dandy, or you just want a pair of really stylish shoes, it looks like this is the year of the oxford (featuring the wingtip) at Urban Outfitters. They are offering an array of styles, price points, and an unparallelled offering of color. Here are my faves (and I’m only scratching the surface here):
While searching for 1930’s reproduction clothing, I stumbled across Electric Gypsy, a UK-based retailer of handmade reproduction clothing from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. For each decade, there are a few choice garments made with a selection of fabric options, and I was excited to see that they went as far back as the 1930’s. Don’t let the psychedelic graphics on the website fool you, there is good swing era-inspired stuff here.
From the website: “At Electric Gypsy we also have our own label of handmade vintage and retro inspired clothing. We use a mixture of original vintage fabrics and kitsch cool new fabrics. Many pieces are one-off or short runs, so you are guaranteed to find something that is unique and original, whether it be a 1960’s inspired shift dress or a 1950’s Rockabilly skirt with a modern twist. Each item is individually handmade by us in the UK. We create our designs by modernising vintage patterns, designing our own patterns from scratch and customising old vintage clothing.”
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.
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!
I’m excited to announce that the Yehoodi staff has invited me to contribute featured content to the Yehoodi website. This is my first article for Yehoodi, which I am also publishing here on Lindy Shopper for your use and enjoyment.
Following the Why I Wear Vintage post, Evan Philips requested an entry on how to take care of your vintage clothing and I am happy to oblige. Taking care of any wardrobe requires some maintenance if you want to keep it looking nice. Vintage clothing sometimes requires a little more effort to keep it looking fresh, but if you are careful in your choices for maintaining your vintage garments, you can enjoy them longer and with less worry.
For this article, I consulted with the all-knowing Movie Diva, Laura Boyes, who has experience working with the costume collection at the North Carolina Museum of History. I’ll share my observations from experience, but Laura will be providing the pro tips!
So you bought an article of vintage clothing, wore it to a dance, sweated in it for three hours, and now it’s a little ripe. You’d like to know how to clean it, but there’s no convenient garment tag telling you if it’s dry clean only, hand wash, or wash cold/tumble dry low. Think about what you have in your closet that is in the same fabric – what instructions for care are on that garment? Now, consider that this garment is vintage and, as a precautionary measure, what method of cleaning would be a bit more delicate than that, just in case?
Identifying the fabric is very important. Unless a garment is made of cotton, I will be sending it to the dry cleaners, and even the cotton garments sometimes get sent there if I’m particularly squeamish about hand washing the garment or putting it into my washing machine on the hand wash setting. If I am washing a garment myself, I always hang it up or lay it flat to dry, rather than putting it in the dryer. Laura recommends washing your vintage clothing in a gentle detergent, such as Orvus WA Paste, “a synthetic anionic detergent with a neutral pH which will remove most common dirt and stains.” You may be able to find this at farm supply stores, as it is used to shampoo show horses.
Finding a dry cleaner you trust is worth its weight in gold. You want to find someone with years of experience – don’t cheap out on this just because the $1.99 cleaner is near your house. Do some research, make calls to find out how long they have been in business, if they have worked with vintage and antique clothing, and be willing to sign your life away for them to clean it because most of them won’t want the liability of having to deal with you if the garment deteriorates. Usually if a place has been in business for a long time, they will have a good reputation and will also have older clientele who may have some of these older fabrics and older items that need some extra care when cleaned. I feel truly lucky to have found an amazing dry cleaner in Chapel Hill, NC, Plaza Dry Cleaners. Not only are they the oldest dry cleaners in town, one of their cleaners has taken classes in clothing preservation at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. I’ve been using their services for 6 years now and they have yet to ruin one of my vintage items; in most cases, the garments come out looking even better, with fewer stains and a fresher look to the fabric.
When you take a garment into the dry cleaners, you will need to make a few declarations about the garment so that they know that you are educated about the garment, so they have the information they need to make an informed decision about cleaning the garment, and so they are on notice that this is a special care item. If you know the decade, tell them how old the garment is, note in advance the flaws you are aware of (spots, holes, etc.), indicate whether or not you want them to try to get the spot out, and tell them what you believe to be the correct fabric. If you don’t know what kind of fabric you have, someone there will be able to identify it.
They may not want to clean the item for fear that the process will do something to the fabric or that something on the garment will be harmed in the process. I will say that this situation is pretty rare and limited to uncommon garments, like a 1920’s velvet dress with a jeweled piece or a 1930’s rain coat. In this situation I usually ask if there is some other way I could clean the garment myself or ask if hand-washing would damage the garment. If I really want the item cleaned and do not care if the garment could be harmed in the process, they will usually have me sign a waiver stating that I have been informed of the potential consequences and waive their liability.
Unless you are wearing vintage every day, the cost for your vintage dry cleaning shouldn’t be prohibitive. I might have two items per month that I take out for cleaning.
In those extremely rare cases where the garment can’t be cleaned, don’t wear those garments dancing or in places where you will sweat a lot. Hang them up after you wear them and let them air out for a few days before storing them again.
Almost everything can be fixed. Many times, if you look closely at a vintage garment, you can find places where it has already been fixed or altered by the previous owner. Earlier generations mended holes in garments, rather than discarding them, because resources and clothing were more limited. I find that vintage garments tend to take a mending much easier than newer garments because of the way the garments were constructed.
Order of operations number one is to find a tailor who has either worked with vintage clothing in the past, works with fine fabrics, and/or has been sewing for longer than you’ve been alive. I once made the mistake of handing over a silk 1940’s suit in a strawberry print for my mom to reinforce the seams on the sleeves and, having never worked with silks, made the mistake of putting the suit under the needle of her Singer sewing machine on the regular setting. She might as well have put it under the knife, because the silk shredded into a million pieces. I should have told her to hand sew the sleeves, but this is a lesson in assumptions – don’t assume that every tailor will know how to fix your garment. Ask lots of questions and err on the side of caution.
I found my vintage tailor through a locally owned fabric store that sells fine fabrics and other fabrics for clothing. The had a list of people they recommend for people who want custom made items, with a description of each person’s areas of expertise. After talking with the ladies in the store about what I was looking for, they were able to make recommendations as to which tailor(s) would be best for the job.
You may have noticed that article of clothing purchased new that you wear frequently for a period of several years may begin to fall into disrepair, or even fall into disrepair after one season if not well made – remember this when you are cursing that newly discovered hole in your 1940’s pants or dress. The tendency for modern clothing is to get rid of it – throw it away or donate it to a thrift shop, because there will always be something to buy new. The approach to wearing vintage clothing is entirely different and is rooted in that era’s sensibilities. There may be more vintage clothing, but the supply is not replenishing, so repairing a vintage garment becomes an act of preservation.
To preserve your vintage clothing, you sometimes have to think outside of the box, or ask your tailor to be creative. If a button falls off, there’s no little plastic baggie with an extra button for you to sew on and finding a matching button is impossible. So, you find new button and use this opportunity to make the garment even better – something as simple as buttons can change the entire look of a garment, and you can update the garment with new buttons or find vintage buttons on Etsy, eBay, or a few other online resources. I had a 1940’s dress with terrible buttons on it and just switching out the buttons took the dress from matronly to swing-worthy with just a few stitches.
What if there’s a giant hole? Your tailor may be able to harvest some fabric from a hem or inside part of the garment to create a seamless patch, or come up with another way to cover the hole.
What if the seam split? Get your tailor to sew it up and perhaps reinforce it.
You get the idea. 🙂
Moth balls smell like old people. Vintage clothing was once worn by old people and stored by old people. Why is vintage clothing still around? I’m not going to credit moth balls with saving all vintage clothing from moths, but I am going to credit it with maintaining a good portion of my wardrobe and the portion of my wardrobe inherited from others who used moth balls to keep their clothing free from holes. I initially shunned moth balls because of my mother’s over-use of the moth ball when I was growing up – she would toss a whole box into a closet and stuff them in drawers, until every time you tried to wear something that hadn’t been just laundered, you’d come out of the house smelling like a great-aunt. When I went to college I stayed far away from moth balls until I pulled my favorite red wool dress out of the closet to wear at Christmas and discovered two large moth holes in the shoulder; a deeper dig into my wardrobe and I discovered even more casualties. In tears on the floor of my bedroom, I vowed that the moths would never claim another victim from my closet.
Moderation is key. I don’t need moth balls to protect everything, so I have a moth ball section in my closet. I use a hanging moth ball basket I got at the grocery store, which initially came with moth cakes, but I can also fill with moth balls. The moth cakes/balls dissipate over time, so you do have to refill them from time to time. The hanging basket allows me to group my most vulnerable clothing (wools and other natural fibers) in one section of my closet and hang the basket in the middle of that group. It has limited the extreme moth ball smell to a smaller group of garments, which I then air out a few days before I plan to wear them.
Let’s talk about hangers – next to moths, wire hangers are your clothing’s worst enemy. Wire hangers are too sparse to hold clothing without almost penetrating it and, over time, the wires begin to rust and that rust is corrosive to clothing. I’ve seen countless casualties created by wire hangers, where the rust stains have eaten holes in the garment and you can see exactly how that garment was hung on the wire hanger. Please invest in plastic, wooden, or fabric covered hangers for your clothing. Plastic and wooden hangers are good for everyday clothing. If you have a more delicate item, such as mesh, chiffon, or other sheer fabric, pick up a few padded, fabric covered hangers.
If an items is particularly fragile or the weight of the garment is too much for the straps or shoulder of the garment, consider storing the garment folded in a drawer, with ample space and nothing stored on top of it (i.e. don’t cram it into an already full drawer). According to Laura, it’s also a good idea to have some acid free tissue paper on hand to line drawers, separate layers, stuff hats, or pad hangers, as needed.
If you have clothing that is from the 1920’s or older, Laura states that these garments should be stored flat. “If you buy one of these boxes (and keep it under your bed, or on a closet shelf) and layer in between with acid free tissue, it will preserve your dresses from the stress of hanging. You would probably want to store items this way that you wear only occasionally.”
The rest is common sense: Don’t leave things where your pets have access to them; men, hang up your ties, don’t leave them on the floor; don’t store things where they might get soiled; etc.
If you have any further questions about this topic, please feel free to ask! We want to keep these articles of vintage clothing alive and wearable as long as possible.
When we buy vintage clothing we are supporting sustainable fashion, but there are other ways to be an eco conscious fashionista – in addition to vintage clothing, bolts fabric made in past eras to create clothing exist unused and potentially wasted, until someone like Dig For Victory scoops up these glorious bolts and gives them a new life.
From her Etsy page: “Dig For Victory! is a sustainable fashion label that creates limited edition and one-off pieces from vintage fabric. From elegant harlequin dresses and classic prom frocks to cartoon print playsuits, Dig For Victory! celebrates the history of fashion to be found in a wealth of vintage textiles.”
Celebration is an accurate description of her clothes, and I was immediately drawn to one of her dresses in an Etsy collection for its vibrant colors, and was delighted when I saw that her shop was full of joyfully colored garments.
The best part? You can get a vintage patterned garment made from vintage fabric like new for you. Sustainable and more durable! Here are some of my favorites from the Etsy store:
Emerald City Vintage on eBay has done it again, this time offering this fantastic 1940’s rayon dress with a print of ladies in gowns in silhouette, with a background of fans. How girly is this? The scene depicted in the fabric sort of screams gossip in the powder room, with the ladies checking their hair and bustles. I think it’s a really interesting piece because of this unique fabric and the way it is used on the bodice and at the hem. Pockets are also helpful and I like the way the skirt pleats come down from the pockets.
I do love 40’s style tropical fabrics and this dress, regardless of what decade it hails from, is as hot as a tropical heat wave. Check out the lines on the bust, the smocking in the back for a custom fit, a little draping and slit in the front, and, to top it all off, it looks like you can wear it either strapless or as a halter. Give Carmen Miranda a run for her money, sans the fruit basket hat! Starting price: $9.95.
First things first – there’s nothing trashy about Trashy Diva. This New Orleans-based outfit carries classy goods for ladies, from shoes to clothes to accessories. I know I already mentioned Trashy Diva in my blog entry for Atomic Ballroom, but I want to shout it from the hills how amazing their dresses are now that I own one!
One of my favorite concepts is for retailers to take vintage patterns and make them into current clothing (this will definitely be a recurrent theme on lindyshopper.com). This solves two problems:
1) My need to look like a vintage doll at swing dances; and
2) My need for durable, danceable clothing that doesn’t inhibit movement and won’t disintegrate if I sweat in it.
My mother, who grew up sewing her own clothes with the clean lines of 1960’s clothing, has made me a few dresses from vintage patterns, but after seeing her worry about messing them up and fretting over the tucks and gathering (they came out beautifully, Mom!), I have been able to give her a bit of a break, thanks to retailers and dressmakers like Trashy Diva. I should also mention that finding suitable fabric to make these clothes is very difficult, if not impossible in North Carolina. That Trashy Diva is able to find such wonderful fabrics for these dresses is truly amazing to someone who doesn’t live near Mood or some other purveyor of fine fabrics.
The fit on these dresses is impeccable. I know my measurements and Trashy Diva delivered to my doorstep a comfortable dress that required no alteration. I purchased one of their rayon dresses and the pattern on the fabric and texture were spot on. My only complaint is that the garment must be dry cleaned, which may not be required for some of their other fabrics.
The Trashy Diva website mimics the real life Trashy Diva store, which I have heard (but not actually witnessed – one day!) are actually three stores in New Orleans, one carrying dresses, one with lingerie, and another with shoes, accessories, etc. You should take your time and explore this website, as there are wonderful surprises at every click.
Unfortunately, the website is set up to where I can’t link you to individual items, but here are some of my favorites, if you’d like a scavenger hunt: