There are so many great things about this 1940’s dress on eBay – I see a lot of black crepe 1940’s dresses with studs or sequin appliques, but this dress takes it up a notch. Not only are the studs gold stars, they are set in a way that forms a lovely trim on the sleeves and the illusion of a scalloped peplum on the hips. I think this might be the most flattering placement of ornamentation I’ve seen for the hips in a while. Bravo!
I have anticipated checking out Alexandria’s Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods since April, when I heard of its opening shortly prior to DCLX and the wonders that awaited me – rumors that the owners have a warehouse where items are pulled for Hollywood movies, that the inventory has real swing era stuff, GOOD stuff, and I was salivating. As I ditched the Saturday afternoon DCLX dance to head over to Alexandria I got a text message from Bill Speidel that the shop was closed. Oh, the disappointment!
Thankfully, I had already planned to attend the International Lindy Hop Championships in August, so I knew I’d get a second chance. I messaged the store’s Facebook page a few days prior to the event to make sure that they would be open and should I send my measuremnets. The answers were yes and yes, and I was elated.
I planned to go on Friday of ILHC and at the Thursday night dance I met Beth Midavaine, who had also planned to take a trip to Amalgamated with Bill Speidel, but Bill had bailed on her, so it seemed that fate would have it that we go shopping together. We headed to Amalgamated the next day with Jason Sager and arrived at the store at noon on the dot. The store was closed. I was frantic. We went next door to a knick knack store owner, who didn’t know why the shop wasn’t open. As we regrouped on the sidewalk, the door opened to Amalgamated and it was, after all, open for business. *phew!*
It took us three hours to get through everything in the store and try on the rack of clothes that Beth and I accumulated through our collective digging through the store. The store itself is small is square footage, but packed with everything good – there was no small rack where the few swing era items were delegated – the entire store was pre-1960’s, so 100% of their inventory was everything that you would want to see in a vintage store. It was glorious! The men’s section rivaled the women’s section in size and magnificence (who has an entire rack devoted to two tone Ricky Ricardo jackets?) and a men’s shoe section that took up an entire table, and included children’s shoes (tiny leather and mesh oxfords!). Owner Shelley White took us through boxes in the back room filled with delicate 1920’s beaded dresses, there were racks of glorious dresses and gowns, plus some very practical items that would be perfect for dancing. The women’s shoes had a good selection of larger women’s sizes, which was great for Beth, who picked up a pair of fantastic 1940’s heels.
I don’t think words or photos will do this place justice, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Until then, check out some of our finds below:
I had the honor of working on the committee that produced All Balboa Weekend‘s first 1930’s Vintage Fashion Show this year. The committee was comprised of Valerie Salstrom, Shannon Sheldon, Shannon Butler, Victor Celania, and myself, with some consultation about accuracy from the reigning queen of vintage, Heidi Rosenau. The idea was that we would put out the call for people attending ABW to submit photos of themselves in 1930’s clothing that they either own, inherited, or borrowed and we would decide on themes based on the contents of the submissions to put together a complete show. We would also take people who were interested in modeling and put them in extra vintage clothing, provided by myself and Valerie.
The plan worked. We had enough models, clothes, and themes to put together a cohesive fashion show. Having never actually coordinated a fashion show, I was relieved when Shannon Sheldon stepped up to the plate at our meetings to expertly organize the execution of the show, down to charts of participants, clothing, what rack their garments would hang on, who they would enter with, in what order, who had a quick change and would get priority near the rack, and who needed help changing. I love organization! Victor and I cat-walked in the lobby to make sure the music was right for each theme. After a single run through with the participants we hoped everything would go according to plan.
We knew there would be a bit of a time crunch getting everything in, but when it came time to put on the show everything ran so smoothly that I think we came in under time! The themes/vignettes were beachwear, sleepwear, collegiate, picnic, day wear, cocktail, and evening wear. In addition to helping organize the show, I also participated in the show, in a floral day dress and straw hat and a green velvet evening gown with matching cape. I also had one of those quick changes and it was so fast that, even with two people dressing me and not changing shoes I barely made it out in time for the vignette! I have to hand it to the people who do this every day, getting people dressed, re-dressed, and parading them around a room is hard work!
Thank you to everyone who participated and made this wonderful! Special thanks to Remix Vintage Shoes for sponsoring the fashion show and giving all participants a discount on their lovely shoes, as well as the vintage store Flower Child for providing the participants with props for the show.
Here are some photographs of the fashion show, courtesy of Patrick Hovan (P.S. if there are more photos I haven’t seen them, but would love to post more here! Please let me know if you find others):
Sweet Lorain (formerly Suite Lorain, now under new ownership) is one of those rare places where there are entire racks devoted to 1930’s and 1940’s clothing, rather than being relegated to a few rare items on the wall or stuck in the middle of a mound of polyester. In fact, Sweet Lorain skirts the issue by focusing exclusively on “Deco to 1960’s.” It’s a huge store, with tons of furniture, housewares, knick-knacks, clothing and accessories, and maybe some random items from a past era you’ve never even thought about. The dresses, evening gowns, coats, and other swing era garments are comparably plentiful and in an array of sizes. There were so many things to see that my partner in crime, Elizabeth Tietgen, and I spent several hours there, long enough for the store owner to offer us each a bottle of water!
We were told that the store had been hoarding swing era items for the ABW participants and people were dropping off things to sell to the ABW’ers the morning of the day we went to Sweet Lorain, namely a pair of 1940’s low heeled sandals that Elizabeth took home and a green 1930’s raincoat that came home with me.
I have heard stories about Sweet Lorain for years from my vintage tailor/couturier, Laura Boyes, who grew up in Cleveland. She and her daughter have had great luck in this store during their visits and Laura has even seen buyers from Anthropologie using their corporate card to purchase items from Sweet Lorain to copy or as inspiration for their designs. Understandably, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this visit to Sweet Lorain and it did not disappoint.
Did I think to take photos of what we bought? No, of course not, but Elizabeth left with a bevy of blue and white items, including a 1950’s sundress, a 1930’s day dress with matching bolero, black 1940’s shoes, tap shoes, and an aqua velvet 1930’s gown, and I left with a gray 1920’s dress, a seersucker romper of unknown decade, the 1930’s raincoat, a tie for the Boy, and a Bakelite bangle. Quite possibly the best trip to a vintage store EVER. Did I mention the prices here are amazing? This store will be a must-do for all subsequent ABWs.
Here are some of the other goodies I found at Sweet Lorain (I apologize for posting photos from my phone, I forgot my real camera):
I know this dress isn’t danceable, but surely Lindy Hoppers go to formal events sometimes, right? And when they do, I’d like to envision them wearing something like this gorgeous liquid gold dress on eBay…it was too good not to post!
Run, don’t walk, to Winston-Salem, NC to experience the gorgeous vintage clothing and treasures at Putting on the Ritz. The store owner Hans Hauser has a lifelong passion for vintage clothing and accessories and it shows in every square inch of the house he has converted into a vintage clothing store. Through his vintage consignment sources, friendships with vintage collectors, and his own efforts to retrieve specific pieces from faraway locations, Hans has collected one of the best, if not the best, vintage clothing and accessories collection for sale in the state.
I met Hans about 5 years ago when my friend Sharon Ferris directed me to this treasure trove. I purchased a 1940’s bathing suit that I wore to VBLX that year for the battleship dance. Even though I had not seen him in 5 years, he knew immediately who I was today and pulled out the picture I sent him of me in the bathing suit from behind the countertop. My friend Laura Boyes and I ended up exploring the shop and chatting with Hans for about 3 1/2 hours – excellent company and excellent vintage!
The shop is jam packed full of a mix of vintage, designer consignment, and glitzy clothing. The list of notables is long: straw boaters, men’s 50’s hats, Yves Saint Laurent black satin pumps, a white fur capelet, 50’s prom and day dresses (some with matching jackets), 30’s and 40’s gowns worthy of an MGM movie, flowered 40’s day dresses, a velvet trimmed 40’s suit, wide brim ladies hats, art deco costume jewelry, wedding dresses from the Victorian era through the 50’s, delicious 40’s platforms, bias cut lingerie, and a burnout velvet 20’s dress that came home with me.
If you are interested in any of the clothing items I have posted or would like to know more, please contact Hans Hauser at (336) 659-9944. He is happy to work out arrangements over the phone and he also does layaway.
Putting on the Ritz
304 Harvey Street
The shop is open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 6:00 p.m. and on Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
P.S. Pardon my unmade face – I think it’s easier on the clothes if I don’t wear makeup when I try on vintage clothing.
It was a banner day for listing dresses of the swing era on eBay! Let’s get started:
I am not usually accepting of lace clothing, but for this dress I overcame my stigma about lace looking matronly or overdone. The color is cheerful, the cut impeccable, and it comes in a wearable size. Just look at the goring on that skirt! I bet it twirls like a dream…