I can’t resist a silver dance shoe and this 1930’s pair listed by FabGabs on Etsy is just perfect (except for the size – too narrow for me!) If you are a size 7 or 7.5 narrow you can pick up these gorgeous low-heeled beauties!
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!
If you haven’t been to Dancestore.com in a while, you should spend a few minutes checking out their new selection of shoes. I knew Dancestore was working on a pair of mesh and leather Aris Allens, but I did not know they had other men’s styles and new women’s shoes up their sleeve, as well. They were kind enough to invite me to test out a few pairs and I’m happy to share my report with you about the women’s shoes (and direct your attention to some of the men’s shoes I think are worthy of a look-see).
The first pair I decided to try was their new saddle shoe. I personally think saddle shoes are adorable and if you showed up to a dance in a 40’s skirt, blouse, sweater vest, and saddle shoes, I’d think you were completely awesome. And adorable. Very collegiate, no? I think most people associate saddle shoes with the 1950’s and poufy skirts, but they date back to 1906 when Spalding introduced them for tennis and squash players and reached their height as a trend that spanned 20 or so years, from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
I have been looking for a pair of saddle shoes for myself for some time, but have failed to find any with leather soles (like the pair from my childhood), only that spongy “crepe” sole which I find not as well-suited for dancing. Dancestore has introduced a great compromise – a saddle shoe with a hard rubber sole that has been sueded. I opted to try the brown tweed version of their saddle shoe, which has a soft tweedy fabric covering most of the shoe with brown faux leather covering the “saddle” part of the shoe. They came with two pairs of laces, a thicker set and a thin set. When I first tried on the shoe it felt a bit stiff, but after only a couple of dances, the stiffness wore off at the points where I needed movement. The shoe itself was very comfortable, the rubber sole flexible, and I didn’t worry about the shoes as I danced in them. I wore them with socks, which was a nice change for me, and they looked great with the collegiate outfit I described above. 🙂 The only criticism I have, which is more of a personal preference item, was that the footbed was not super cushioned – this is not something that bothers me, but some people prefer a cushioned footbed. Given the shape of the shoe, it would be easy to add an insole or inserts for an easy fix. I normally wear a 7 in Aris Allens and needed a half size larger because I wanted to wear socks with them.
The second pair I tried is actually a style that has been out for a while, but since I don’t normally wear flats for dancing, I hadn’t had much incentive to try out the Aris Allen Athletic Mary Janes. I know there is a population of dancers out there who don’t wear heels who are looking for a Keds alternative, so I thought I’d try them out. The biggest pros for me with this shoe were the wide sole and the cushy insole. The shoes themselves felt of regular width, but the width of the sole seemed wider than the sueded Keds I owned, which in turn made my ankles less prone to roll and just gave me more overall security in feeling “grounded.” The insole on these shoes is cushy in all kinds of good ways – giving without being squishy; soft, yet resilient in its mesh design; arch support with good placement of said support. The strap was ample, so they remained on my feet, and the wingtip styling is adorable. I also had to go a half size up with this shoe for it to fit comfortably. I am hopeful that, like the white mesh oxfords, I’ll be able to shine these up with Windex when they get dirty.
The final pair I tried is definitely a new style for Aris Allen and was the one I was most excited about – the d’Orsay sandal. I have admired the Aris Allen d’Orsay satin t-strap since they launched a few years ago, but never bought a pair because the 3 inch heels were just too high for me for dancing. I hoped that they would create a similar pair with a lower heel and was elated to see the d’Orsay sandal with a 1 5/8 inch heel.
I selected a black satin pair to try out. Initially I got a size 7, but couldn’t fit my foot in the shoe, so I exchanged them for a 7.5. I got the 7.5 on my foot, but because I have a weird foot* the part of the shoe around where your foot enters the shoe near the ball of the foot was too tight. I enlisted the help of my friend Tiffany Linquist, another size 7 lady, to test the shoes for me, as her foot fit into them without the same problem. Another dancer, Heidi Reule, also tried out the fit of the shoe and did not have the same problem.
After about 5 dances, Tiffany came back over to me – the short end of the strap had broken on the d’Orsay sandal. We were pretty mortified, because we both have Aris Allen shoes that we love and know that they can make quality products. We brainstormed about the shoe and here’s what we came up with:
– The quality of the shoe appeared to be good – the materials used appeared to be quality, the overall aesthetic of the shoe was very good, the cutouts added to the comfort at the ball of the foot, and the insole was soft and comfortable.
– The heel height and width were ideal for Charleston, Balboa, and Lindy Hop.
– While the ball of the foot was very flexible, the arch was not – it was stiff and the shoe itself was very narrow at the arch. Tiffany’s feedback was that the shoe was very comfortable while she was dancing on her toes, but not while she was standing still. The arch, overall, felt and looked very narrow and, when she was wearing the shoes, she said it felt like her arches were dancing off a cliff (i.e. not secure).
– The arch support in the shoe felt like it was too far forward in the shoe.
– We were surprised that the strap broke (the small part with the buckle, not the long part with the holes for the buckle) until we noticed that there was no elastic on the strap. The absence of elastic, combined with the stiff arch appeared to put unnecessary strain on the strap, which likely caused the break. There is only so much thread can hold without some give to that tension.
That said, I hope that Dancestore does not give up on this style – I would still love to own a pair of shoes in this style and heel height – I hope that they take this feedback and make some improvements to this lovely shoe – a little elastic and some love in the arch would help what is, otherwise, a good shoe.
MEN! If you are still reading, you are dedicated – there are good things for you, including a much anticipated mesh wingtip in brown tones, a sweet white wingtip that looks like it may give Re-Mix’s version a run for its money (at half the price), and dance loafers in black, white, and a “Michael Jackson” edition in black with a special rubber insert in the heel that was specific to a pair of shoes worn by the King of Pop. I notice in the descriptions for the white wingtips and the loafers that they have taken feedback from dancers to heart and made these pairs with a thicker sole than the regular Aris Allen dance shoes – the result is something more like a quality pair of dress shoes and requires a bit of a break-in period. Not a bad thing if you are looking for a more quality pair of shoes. Men, I would take the time to read the descriptions of these shoes, as they have taken the time to describe their qualities in a fairly in-depth way to help you make a decision about what shoe would be right for you.
I love where Dancestore is going with their men’s shoe line – I think the aesthetic is spot on and the focus on quality materials and listening to user feedback is a step in a great direction. I think there are some improvements that could be made with the women’s shoes – aside from the aforementioned satin sandal, I would also like to see more leather shoes in the women’s shoe line and would like to continue to be able to buy leather wedges, which are a staple of my dance shoe wardrobe. I see that my staple wedges are being phased out, which is a shame because there are no viable alternatives, in my experience, that have the same wonderful, flexible sole as my Aris Allens. I am on my second pair of tan Rugcutters (since purchasing my first pair circa 2003/4?), and would still be on my first pair if they hadn’t smelled so terrible after 5 or 6 years that I had to throw them out. I wore them to death, almost every night, until I could afford to expand my shoe wardrobe and buy more wedges. I love them, please don’t get rid of them! *grovels and clings to your leg*
I would like to thank Dancestore for involving me in a review of their products. I am a staunch supporter of their shoes because I believe that they are a great entry point for dancers to buy dance shoes at more affordable prices and are one of the few places offering viable social dance shoes in flats. I hope they continue to make shoes that I love and experiment with new styles and adjustments to make the shoes that they have even better for dancing.
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*I have weird feet, so not every shoe works. I am the genetic product of a father with narrow feet and mother with tiny feet, a high arch, and Haglund’s deformity – the result (in me) is a narrow heel, a disproportionately wide ball of the foot, and the Haglund’s knob on the back of my heels. I also have a Tailor’s bunion and have had two surgeries to repair a toe I mutilated in my youth by falling down the stairs, breaking my toe, and then stuffing the broken toe into toe shoes before it healed. Needless to say, I must have very comfortable footwear and my health insurance has labeled me as having a pre-existing condition.
Like all great Balboa events, it appears that Korea Balboa Weekend has a dance shoe vendor, Balboa Sin, with the added bonus that you can order these shoes from their event website. I’d love to hear from some of the Korean dancers how they like the shoes. It looks like you can custom order your heel height, which is my favorite customization, since I like my heels in the 2 inch range. I am pretty much in love with all of the offerings on the website, but here are some of my super faves:
Ever since my grandmother told me about dancing a hole through the sole of her red snakeskin pumps in one night of dancing during WWII, I have been pining for a pair of my own. While these are neither pumps nor red in color, this pair of snakeskin (or “python” as the seller lists) 1930’s oxfords is a pretty awesome curiosity (although, with the slight platform, would you place them as 1940’s?). The condition is remarkable and so is the pattern and the way the pattern is placed on the shoe.
I also love hearing about companies that are still in business from the swing era, with this pair originating overseas:
“This is an extraordinary find – a pair of vintage 1930s real python skin shoes, made by the famous bespoke Hong Kong shoemakers Kow Hoo. The company opened in Shanghai in 1928, and moved to Hong Kong in 1946. They still make bespoke, handmade shoes today – the last firm to do so in Hong Kong: www.kowhoo.com/hk”
Aside from Re-Mix Vintage Shoes‘ retail location, I was not aware of a retailer specializing in dead stock shoes – until now. I happened upon A Vintage Sole and was delighted to find an entire website devoted to dead stock shoes from many eras, including the swing era. I was immediately awash with questions of “how…?” “where…?” “what..??!” Just amazing.
This site is also a haven for irregular widths – it is apparent that the buyer found whole sets of stock for a certain shoe, sometimes in multiple colors, and almost always in multiple widths. You can search their inventory by size, width, and color. The only criteria missing would be decade. 🙂
So, back to my questions – thankfully, there’s FAQ page to satiate my curiosity:
“Where do you buy your shoes? We find people with vintage shoes to sell. If they are in mint condition, we’re interested. We’re pretty open-minded when it comes to our sources. Keep in mind that all of our shoes are still in the box and have never been worn.”
The owner, Libby, sounds like a kindred spirit – “A Vintage Sole began with a love of shoes. From there it grew into a bit of an obsession. I searched high and low for authentic vintage shoes. One pair became two. Two pairs became four. Four pairs became eight until I had so many shoes I had to pass them on to you…Growing up in the Midwest, I also loved the thrill of spending weekends driving around the many small towns filled with antique shops hiding vintage gems. Have you ever been to a garage sale, second-hand store, or antique shop and found something that was so amazing you had to get it even though it wasn’t quite right for you? When you picked it up you thought, “My friend would love this!” That’s how I feel. I know you’ll love what I’ve found for you. Who wouldn’t love an authentic pair of gorgeous, vintage shoes? The shoes I sell have never been worn! It’s time they had their moment in the spotlight because they are too beautiful to stay boxed up forever. a Vintage Sole offers footwear in limited quantities that enables your shoes to be as unique as you are. We celebrate individuality and flair. Love for great shoes is a passion to share. From me and the rest of the staff of a Vintage Sole, we hope you truly enjoy your shoes!
New colors! Free shipping through December 31! We’ll start with one of my favorite Re-Mix Vintage Shoes styles, the Balboa, which appears to have received a slight redesign along the toe cutouts. The wonderful pepper/palm green combo is back, and they’ve added two new colors – a butterscotch/taupe combo and silver! I’ve been waiting for these to come out in my favorite metallic. 🙂 I don’t see the new colors on the website, so I’m going to post the graphic from my email with all the information and photos of the lovely new shoes, in other styles as well. Enjoy!
News flash! Emily, the adorable brogued t-strap heel launched by Re-mix Vintage Shoes earlier this year, has expanded color offerings, adding brown and black as more practical/seasonal options to the lovely cream and ultramar blue. In light of the possible phasing out of the Balboa shoe, these are welcome t-strap additions to the Remix line! I can’t seem to pull the photographs on my email and they aren’t up on the website yet…but I promise there’s a pair in black.
I had the pleasure of dancing and competing at this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships, held just outside of Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. The event was a unique mix of swing dancers, in varying styles of dance, from around the globe. I think the event is best summed up by saying that ILHC is where you can see all those people you see dancing on YouTube – but there’s nothing better than seeing it live, as a video can’t quite capture the energy these couples and teams generate or the dynamic in the room.
(I apologize in advance for the quality of the photographs, as I forgot my real camera and had to use my phone)
Like most large swing dance events nowadays, ILHC had its own set of vendors, most of which I would categorize as the “essentials” providers – shoes, bloomers, hair flowers, and vintage/vintage-inspired clothing. Baltimore-based Dancestore.com was there with a lineup of Lindy and Bal-friendly shoes, including their new pair of white wingtips, which look gorgeous in person. Nina Gilkenson‘s mom, Laurie Gilkenson, was on hand, selling shoes for Dancestore, as well as vintage odds, ends, clothing, and shoes from Nina’s vintage shoe collection. If you wore a size 6.5, it was definitely your lucky day! More photos below of this and the other vendors.
My Heinies, in grand fashion, occupied the largest vendor space, with racks of colorful bloomers in all styles, as well as a beautiful collection of dance shoes for men and women. I noticed a particularly lovely pair of men’s two tone brown wingtips that garnered a lot of attention from the leaders in attendance, as well as some new to-die-for red heels in the collection. I noticed a number of followers in the competitions wearing My Heinies…and some who didn’t, but that’s another story…
Working the booth with My Heinies was Model J Vintage, the Etsy store of New York dancer Joy Grad, which specializes in “a lifetime of collectibles directly to you from my personal closets and new adventures.” She turned up the volume for ILHC, offering a collection of both dance-ready and exquisite vintage and reproduction items from her collection and from Carol Fraser‘s closet. I swore I wasn’t going to buy anymore gowns, but I couldn’t pass up a 1940’s gown made of green silk, with a chevron bodice and velvet bow – it was a triple threat and I didn’t stand a chance. 😉
Last, but certainly not least, Mike Thibault of Vintage Jazz Art set up a gorgeous display of his framed prints, which are simply stunning in person. If you have an empty spot on a wall in your home, consider filling it with a daily reminder of your awesome dance hobby…
Thanks to everyone who organized the event and to those sold their wares at IHLC! I hope to return next year!
I’m jumping out of my chair with excitement because the Balboas are back! At least for a limited run, that is – the Balboas in the ivory/parchment combo are available, along with the brown combo and black. If you’ve been on the fence about one of these pairs of shoes, get off the fence right now, sell an organ, take out a loan, and get them while they are in stock because LS has on good information that these shoes will no longer run in their current design.
In other glorious Remix news, the men’s captoe oxford is also available in a new color, a soft brown leather. The popular Anita shoe will be made in metallics – muted gold and silver – which I love because metallics go with so many things and make your footwork shine! Also available in a new color is the Strider, a 1930’s/40’s oxford, which breaks away from muted tones and now comes in a cheerful purple.
I don’t know if I had time to mention this style when they launched, but Remix’s Emily shoe is a lovely brogued t-strap shoe that is simply a knockout. Available in ivory and a bright blue they are calling “Ultramar Blue.” Using my Google skills (rather, looking for a photograph to post), I also found this shoe available in brown at Shoostore.com.
While not as epic or as extensive as the 70% off sale, this latest discount endeavor from Mod Cloth is no less worth mentioning. Use the code JUST4U between now and Friday, June 3, to get 50% off any of the items in their sale collection called You and Retro Too Sale. Here are some goodies from the sale:
I know this item is a bit tangential, but I wanted to post these 1920’s tap shoes from eBay for several reasons. First, how many pairs of dance shoes do we come across that are this old? Regular shoes are already hard to come by, but shoes made specifically for dancing are even rarer, given the amount of wear and tear on any pair of dance shoes. You can see that this pair was definitely worn.
I also love that they are silver, which leads me to believe these were performance shoes and not practice shoes. Who would have worn these and what kind of fantastic, shiny show were they in? Or if they weren’t in a show, that they had silver practice shoes is pretty awesome, no?
Finally, I love the holes for the ribbons to tie the shoes on. When I was a little girl taking tap lessons my tap shoes had these ribbon holes and I thought having the bows on my feet were lovely. Think of the ribbon possibilities…any color!