I don’t know what is going on in the UK, but they are acing the vintage reproduction market in almost all ways. Enter Cousin Jack Menswear, adding to the ranks of promising vintage offerings and showing the practical side of looking good. For example, pictured on the main page of their website is a pair of trousers with a fishtail back, espousing that said trousers “can be worn for cycling, jogging, fishing, hop skotch [but not scotch? I’ll defer, LOL], or even turning up a new spindle for that staircase.” While I don’t believe anyone is going to run a 10K in these trousers, I do like the idea that if you needed to break into a trot to chase a pet or maybe spend a couple of hours swinging out, that you would be secure in the breathability and range of motion of said trousers.
The collection is set up to be mini-capsule wardrobes, which I like because of the practicality – it’s easy to pick a suit, maybe a couple of waistcoats and shirts, a pair of braces, and a sweater vest and mix and match all of these pieces to create different looks. If you’re feeling extra fancy, indulge in a pair of plus fours and coordinating socks (thank you for putting these together) or a classic pair of striped pajamas. From the website:
“The idea was to create a collection of heritage inspired ‘looks’ that would appeal to many men rather than one style that would only appeal to one group.”
While not local to me, I love their emphasis on sourcing and manufacturing locally: “We manufacture either on site or in specially selected factories in the EU – where we are confident of the essential ethical standards. Our fabrics are selected from quality EU or UK based suppliers such as Abraham Moons in Leeds and Brisbane Moss in Todmorden.”
Cousin Jack is a spinoff of The House of Foxy, one of my favorite current brands, so I would wager that the garments are high quality, which is my experience with the multiple HOF garments I own.
If anyone has experience with this brand, please feel free to chime in and leave a comment below!
Every time I turn around, I hear about a new vintage reproduction company in the UK, which seems to be where I want to spend my dollars-into-pounds lately and the retail climate appears to be thriving for vintage-inspired clothing. Swing bandleader, guitarist, and dancer Glenn Crytzer tipped me off to Oldfield Clothing, “purveyors of fine British sportswear and accessories for ladies and gentlemen,” when he picked up a pair of their 1930’s workwear trousers, wanting something in a heavier weight for loading band equipment in and out at gigs. The Oldfield Clothing collection looks well-suited to incorporating its pieces into modern wardrobes, with vintage takes on standard clothing items like trousers and sweaters.
The trousers really shine – they offer five different cuts, ranging from the most vintage 1920’s golf knickers to the Keaton trousers that look like a standard pair of front pleated trousers (slightly lower rise than their other pairs, but probably higher rise than modern trousers, if you just want to dip your toe into the wading pool of reproduction trousers). There are a range of fabrics, from linen to corduroy and wool, so you can shop and dress seasonally. The workwear trousers Glenn picked are really special, not only for their durable fabric, but also for the details – buttons for braces, button fly, fish tail back, and cinch strap and buckle, to name a few.
Women’s offerings are limited to knitwear (specifically – but knickers, see above), but some really good pieces, like solid sweater vests and beautiful Fair Isle vests and a sweater. Other items that could be unisex include caps, leather goods, and a classic cream long sleeve polo shirt with two collar options.
The long-awaited women’s line from Prohibition Clothing Company is go – I saw the fruits of their labor at the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August and now you can order these great separates online. Everything – the Parker trouser, the Clara knicker, and the Margaret skirt – is perfect for fall and coordinates with the existing menswear/unisex accessories. The neutral palette will also compliment so many other clothing items and colors for fall. I am particularly excited about having a ready-to-wear option for knickers and the potential for lady dandy dance ensembles and tweed ride awesomeness. Take a gander, folks!
This shop comes to you courtesy of Laura Keat, who posted a photo album on Facebook detailing the sources of her most-asked-about items of clothing. I recognized all of her sources except for one – ViNSiNN. A Google search led me to a website written entirely in German. Not easily deterred*, I used Google translator so I could browse their shop and tell you about it…in English.
The founders of this retail site are Marina Fischer, Peter Bieniossek, and Lucy Flournoy, all swing dancers with a passion for the vintage aesthetic that comes with the dancing. Marina details her frustrations with attempts to locate vintage clothing, mostly sourced from America, and dealing with shipping, taxes, customs, and the waiting, only to find out that after such a great effort the garment wouldn’t work after all. Then came the resourceful idea to start a shop of vintage-inspired garments to sell in Germany. I am a firm believer in “if it doesn’t exist, you create it” and Marina picked up the ball and ran with it, along with business partner Peter, who shared similar frustrations, and Lucy Flournoy, whose paragraph did not translate well in the Google translator…but I can attest to Lucy’s sense of style, as I observed it when she was going to college in North Carolina and dancing at regional events.
This is definitely a store with the dancer in mind – as I browse through all the lovely dress, top, and skirt options, I notice lots of great modern takes on familiar vintage shapes, lovely details, lots of color, but the overarching theme is that all of these are dressing I wouldn’t hesitate to dance in. There are some great basics for men, even a pair of knickers. And the socks page is divine!
Now I have the reverse problem as Marina and Peter – how to get these items (reasonably) from Germany to the US? Anyone coming to ILHC? 😉 Faves listed below.
*I once used Babelfish to translate an entire transaction over the phone, in real time, into Spanish so I could order custom tango shoes from Columbia from a salesperson who spoke no English.
This kind of thing shows up so rarely that I couldn’t resist posting this set of a Norfolk jacket with matching knickers – 2 pairs! If you happen to rip a hole in the seat of your pants doing something awesome on the dance floor, you’ll have a spare. The size of this is very small for men, a 35 chest for the jacket and a 28 inch waist on the knickers, but those are also pretty standard lady sizes, so this little suit gets filed under ladies and gents. Whoever wears this is going to look badass.
I am still mourning the fact that my schedule will not allow me to attend either Jazz Age Lawn Party at Governors Island this summer. In honor of the June JALP this past weekend, here is a selection of 1920’s items inspired by the event on eBay:
In light of recent online discussions about gender roles in Lindy Hop and the recent Amendment/abomination passed this month in my home state, I decided to take up a suggestion made by Sam Carroll that I do a post on women dressing in menswear or dandy garb for dancing. Specifically,
“For my own sake, I’m interested in outfits which cater to the curvy woman’s body, but which are using traditionally ‘male’ items – eg jackets, waistcoats, trousers, hats, cravats, etc. Not women’s clothes, but men’s clothes for women. Or men’s clothes tailored for a woman’s body. Most of the ‘female dandy’ stuff I see about features ridiculously skinny, flat-chested women without hips. That’s not me, I’m not interested in that stuff. But it’s hard to find alternatives.”
I think this is a really cool concept, one that could be practical for dancing socially, traveling, or in performance where a female could be leading and/or want to fit into a particular role in the ensemble.
When Sam posed this question, a few things popped into my head:
– Like vintage clothing for men, the actual vintage options will be limited, but with ladies’ narrower shoulders it could open up more jacket options.
– Accessories are the key. Like many gents I know who dress in vintage or in vintage style, many of the main pieces they wear are regular menswear or reproductions and the accessories, which have usually survived and are more plentiful, take their outfit to the next level. It’s all in the details.
– Finding pants is going to be really hard. As someone who has pretty much given up on finding pants, it could be even harder for me to make a recommendation.
– Like any good dandy, you will need a tailor.
– Women’s clothing retailers offer some dandified options, if you know where to look.
So let’s break this down into the man uniform. Menswear is generally comprised of pants, shirt, jacket and/or vest, socks, shoes, belt or suspenders (but not both). Accessories could be a tie, a cravat, a tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin, etc. I’ll try to hit on most of these pieces and recommend ideas for sources (because that’s what we’re all about here – where the @#&* do I find it?):
Gonna get this one out of the way. Men’s pants are not made for women’s bodies and vice versa, but this doesn’t mean that men and women are made of one shape, or that men’s pants won’t ever fit. One of my favorite pairs of pants in college was a pair of men’s pants and I purchased a tuxedo for myself last year and didn’t have much trouble with the pants (although they cut a wee bit tight across the hips, more so than I am used to feeling). They fit me a hell of a lot better than these skinny jeans that are in style right now (which make me look like a linebacker) and give the illusion and drape of a proper pair of men’s trousers, in spite of the hip area.
My next suggestion is to find men’s pants that fit in the hips and have them tailored to fit your shape. This may not work for all men’s pants, but I believe it’s a viable option. Most nice men’s pants are cut to be tailored and taken in or let out.
There is always the option to have them made, which is my favorite because they are guaranteed to be made for your shape, in the fabric you like, and can be tailored to look like men’s pants. You can also have more options, like a higher waist to give it a more vintage look. Also, with the higher waist pant, it’s more likely to be a flattering cut for the female figure. I’m thinking specifically about the 13 button sailor pants the U.S. Navy used to issue as part of a uniform – those pants are universally flattering on just about every human I’ve seen wear them.
Finally, in rare instances (so rare that I can’t really point to a consistent source), I have come across wide or straight leg trousers in women’s stores that do sort of have a nod to menswear. The cut will be most important in this case, because womenswear is so squirrely and the cut may not be tailored enough to be truly dandy. Then, there is this sort of hybrid that is golf knickers, which are definitely more traditionally male, but also sporting female, and are made in women’s sizes at golfknickers.com (I would rock the Stewart plaid pair in a hot minute!).
I think most men’s shirts have comparable women’s shirts (tees, polos, button-downs). Sadly, I think a lot of modifications that retailers have made to women’s dress shirts to make them more…girly (?) have not worked out for the best. I am a lawyer IRL, so I deal with a lot of button-down shirts to wear under suits for court. I get miffed when I see that retailers have modified the neckline to show more cleavage – with that silly angle exposing more of the upper chest and removing the buttons so you no longer get to decide where your top button is located. Forget about wearing a neck scarf or a tie with it. And is it too much trouble to put a button across the peak of the bosom, instead of spanning it and causing a gap that must be safety pinned, lest your co-workers catch a glimpse of your bra? But I digress.
I have found a few good basics for button-down shirts. My favorite is Banana Republic because the fit is usually really good (efficient, professional) and they have nice variations on classic menswear for women, without sacrificing buttons or adding excess cleavage. It’s also one of the few places I’ve found women’s shirts with French cuffs for cufflinks – bliss! They even have a line of non-iron shirts, which is the only kind of shirts my husband will buy, but that I haven’t seen made available that often for comparable women’s shirts. A scan of the BR line shows some great dandy options for summer – long sleeve basics, a safari shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a fantastic long sleeve button-down in blue or pink with contrast white collar and cuffs!
I think it is important to buy shirts made for women, if at all possible. Generally, our shoulders are narrower and we need darts to highlight our feminine shape and streamline our look. Being a dandy is about looking tailored, not frumpy, and I think men’s shirts are just too much of an adjustment in shape when there are options available that do not require alterations or custom-made garments.
I am also not above shopping in the little boy’s section for shirts…which sometimes works out well. 🙂
Things start to get easier here. I’ve seen more women’s vests in recent history and there are always menswear-inspired jackets available. The key here is to mind your colors and materials – obviously, a pink boucle jacket is going to scream femme, but a linen, stripe, or tweed would be more along the lines of a dandy. I’d also experiment with vintage menswear and men’s vests, as there may be potential for tailoring them to fit, or with vests, cinching them if they are adjustable in the back. Again, the key is tailoring, keeping lines clean, and sticking to menswear basics.
This becomes a wee bit more difficult because Dancestore.com isn’t making men’s Aris Allens in smaller sizes anymore – finding menswear-inspired shoes is fairly simple, but finding leather soles is not. This is where the ladies with the larger feet have an advantage. I went through great difficulty to find boy’s size 5 black patent leather oxford ballroom shoes to go with my tuxedo (and the size chart was so off that I had to send them back 3 times for an exchange). That said, there are some boy’s ballroom shoes out there in basic black oxfords.
While I can’t vouch for the danceability of all the soles (there’s always the option of having things sueded), G. H. Bass has some great shoes right now for women that are a sort of twist on classic men’s shoes. I’m loving the Rachel Antonoff collection, which has things like clear/black patent wingtips, saddles shoes in lots of two tone color combos, and loafers with complimentary plaid panels. The Bass American Classics line for women almost looks like a collection of men’s shoes, with basic colors in loafers (tassled and penny; BONUS: leather sole) and saddle shoes.
This is where the fun starts. You could go with the traditional conception of matching your socks to your trousers, but one of the things I love about our male Lindy Hop counterparts is their fearless socks. So long as it matches your ensemble, feel free to experiment with stripes, argyle, prints, and color. This might be a good place to inject your femininity or sense of humor…
Belt, suspenders, tie, cravat, tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin…this is where there are comparable women’s products (belt, watch), or adjustable (suspenders), or we have unisex sizing (hats, caps), or it’s one size fits all (tie, cravat, cufflinks, pins, etc. I’m actually thinking vintage 30’s and 40’s ties might work even better on women because they are shorter than modern ties. This is where you have very few limits – go forth to the men’s section and conquer!
As with creating any look or ensemble, it’s important to do your research – look for inspirational photographs of men and women in menswear, or women in pants from the swing era. Pants were definitely not the norm and I think you will find that women took a lot of inspiration from the men when they embraced pants.
I hope this was helpful in some small way – please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or product recommendations for other burgeoning lady dandies!
While the Gentleman’s Emporium boasts primarily reproductions of Victorian and Edwardian garb for men and women, there are some things that remain timeless and, thus, useful to swing dancers aspiring for a vintage look from just beyond Edwardian times or for those who aspire to the high style of Mr. Bobby White. Gentleman’s Emporium makes it easy for buyers – if you aren’t sure what pieces go together, you can view the items by “Outfit” for a head to toe ensemble, grouped in clever characters like “Toby Greenwell – Newsboy,” “Professor Babcock – Man of Science,” “Dickerson Potts – Sportsman,” and numerous other rogues and gentlemen. The ladies also have characters and ensembles, but are, for the most part, not period-appropriate and not dance-able.
In the alternative to the ensemble approach, the Gentleman’s Emporium lists their stock individually in categories, so if you are looking for a vest, you need only click on the proper category. This is probably going to be the most effective way to buy pieces to re-create 1920’s and 1930’s looks via this website. I’m treading lightly here, as menswear is not my forte, so if I’ve listed something that is just not in the realm of comprehension during the jazz age, I apologize.
Here’s what I think might be useful from the Gentleman’s Emporium:
Two interesting specimens popped up in my eBay searches this week. First, herringbone knickers/plus fours and a matching jacket, which the seller is dating 1930’s or 1940’s, but someone who knows menswear better than me might have a better handle on their decade of origin. In any case, knickers are awesome and here’s a whole suit for your day on the links, night on the dance floor, or the next tweed ride – 39 jacket and 31 waist.
In honor of my trip to visit Knickerrocker this weekend and DJ at his and Bill Speidel‘s monthly dance event, The Southside Stomp, I decided to profile golfknickers.com, purveyors of men’s and women’s short pants, fancy socks and other classic golf attire. Arguably, if these knickers are made for a sport, wouldn’t they also be ideal for dancing? I’d like to think so.
Golfknickers.com has a clear purpose: “We specialize in our full line of men’s plus fours or golf knickers (knickers). To complement the knickers our company has a full line of matching socks, caps and shirts; allowing us to deliver the complete outfit to our customer. Our customers’ include Corporations, Golf Courses (outfitting Staff and Patrons), School Golf Teams, Tournaments and avid golfers around the world. We are committed to growing the game of golf by encouraging players to wear the game the way it was meant to be played.”
The way it was meant to be played. I’m already a fan – promoting dressing well and in a classic way is just what we do on this blog, as well. 🙂
Now for the goods! Just about everything on this site is vintage inspired and could be worn at a dance. Obviously the knickers are the highlight, with the men’s models in 20 colors of microfiber gabardine and cotton/linen, 6 plaids in cotton/linen, 4 plaids in a wool blend, and some models with matching caps. The microfiber knickers are a steal at $69.95. Ladies can choose from 6 colors and 3 plaids (although shouldn’t they be offering some lovely 1920’s-inspired golf dresses and cloches, a la Jordan Baker? *sigh*)
Having trouble deciding? Golfknickers.com anticipated that the unlimited combinations could be overwhelming, so they have collections of ready to go outfits, that include knickers, shirt, sweater vest, socks and cap already expertly matched – just pick a color. If you’d like to create your own look, but aren’t sure how the pieces will look together, the site offers a virtual model where you can try different color combinations.
Someone posted on Yehoodi this week asking about where to find skirts for a dance team, either to be made or to order. This post jogged my memory and I immediately thought of Swing Outfits, a website that sells custom, made to order clothing for men and women from 1930’s and 1940’s patterns. Swing Outfits offers some wonderful options for just about any basic swing garment you could think of in an almost endless selection of fabrics.
Swing Outfits has a section of their website devoted to dance team shopping. I understand that selecting an outfit that everyone agrees on is nearly impossible; however, Swing Outfits offers some sound advice on selecting a team or couple’s costume:
“For couples that dance regularly in competition or performance it is especially important to have a costume. It is one thing to dance at a party, and a different thing to dance on a stage before an audience. It is not enough to just have nice clothes on each individual performer – you need to look like a unified couple.
What makes a good stage costume for a couple? First of all, your costume must be tailor made for you – we will need measurements from both dancers. You will also need to select a fabric and a design for your costumes. Pictured below are three sets of costumes: Silk, Polka Dots, and Plaid/Stripes. Within each set are a number of elements that you can select for your costume, and each will be made from the same material you have chosen.”
The website then walks you through three easy steps to select pieces for your performance outfit. The beauty of these pieces is that they can be mixed and matched with anything – with each other or with something you might find at Target or H&M.
Another great thing about having team costumes made for the team members is that you avoid the one-pattern-fits-all problem that you encounter when purchasing something from a retail store. Having personally experienced the pain of not fitting into the mold of a chosen team costume, I would personally rather pay more and get something that fits perfectly, that I don’t have to pay someone to alter, and that I might actually wear again dancing.
Which leads to my next point – you don’t have to be on a dance team to wear and enjoy an outfit from Swing Outfits! Make sure to browse their selection of patterns, then their selection of fabrics, and think of the endless possibilities. The Libra in me may never be able to decide…
Polish up the nine iron because it’s time to get your knickers on and hit the links…or the dance floor. EBay seller hotclubduparis (location: Savoyville, Italy) has posted a matching vest and knickers set in a lovely menswear stripe with a little red in the stripe. Knickers are perfect for showing off your clever socks, no? Whoever wins this auction will be my hero.