Since their launch a few years ago, I’ve been a supporter of Royal Vintage Shoes, an offshoot of American Duchess, creating reproduction vintage shoes from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. My one complaint was that these wonderfully crafted shoes with leather uppers did not have leather soles – until now! For Spring 2019, Royal Vintage has made the transition to leather soles and I’m so excited about the offerings, all of which can be added to your dance shoe wardrobe. The new leather soled collection will be available for pre-order on their website starting on April 25, 2019. I particularly love the wedges, the heeled oxfords, and I’m delighted they are re-issuing their two tone Lillian Mary Janes (although I’ve already purchased the rubber soled version from a previous collection, womp womp). Enjoy their “Foxtrot Summer” collection, aptly named to now cut a rug!
I can’t find a record of previously blogging about this company, but I was aware of Made in Lindy shoes through several Texas swing dancer acquaintances, who purchased Made in Lindy shoes and recommended them on Facebook a few years ago. Fast forward to 2019 and former Texas/now North Carolina dancer Allison Lemley was wearing a pair of her Made in Lindy shoes at the weekly Lindy Lab dance, so of course we started talking about her shoes. I took a gander at the offerings on the Made in Lindy Facebook page and fell in love with a red pair of Mary Jane heels with a heart cutout – I mean, just look at this cuteness!
Made in Lindy is based in China and the orders are placed via Facebook page chat and payment through PayPal. I had a very helpful exchange with Made in Lindy, where I began by inquiring about a shoe and pricing – the shoes I ordered were $99.00 (including shipping) and the turnaround for an order is about 3.5 weeks for production and delivery. I was offered an array of color options and, even though I wanted the red shoe from the photo, I was even offered two different reds to choose from. I could specify 3cm, 4cm, or 5cm heel height. Customer service asked about my sizing and offered advice. I received a confirmation message when they received my payment and another message when the shoes were shipped with tracking information.
While I still find it a little odd to place orders through Facebook (even though I have done it many times now through Chloe Hong’s Facebook page) it helped to have the recommendation of a friend and that the customer service was so well-done.
Now for the shoes! They arrived a couple of days before Lindyfest (along with an adorable orange satin shoe bag with pink lettering), so of course I packed my brand new pair and a backup pair in case of new shoe blisters. I don’t often get to dance at events anymore because I’m singing, but Lindyfest was a mix of DJ’ing and singing for me, so I got ample dancing in on the two nights I was DJ’ing and not singing. The Made in Lindy shoes were wonderful for mostly Lindy/some Bal and, for the first time in a long time with any pair of shoes, I did not get blisters (which was extra great, since I had forgotten to pack my friction stick). I found the foot bed to be slightly wider than some of my other pairs of dance shoes and the 4 cm heel was comfortable and stable (photo of heel and sole after one night of dancing below). Excited to have a new pair of dance shoes I love in my selection, I may even get over the loss of my beloved Aris Allen wedges (RIP). Would buy again!
If you aren’t following American Duchess on Facebook, I would recommend jumping on this train immediately – they are posting photos of fabulous shoes from the past and allowing people to vote on them to determine which pair(s) go(es) into production! Once the votes are tallied, you can pre-order these shoes. How cool is that!?
They are calling these vote-and-order shoes “exclusives” and are running votes in “cycles.” Cycle 1’s winner – the Harlow pump – has already come and gone in terms of pre-orders (oh, but LOOK at them!). Cycle 2’s winner is a reproduction of a gorgeous Edwardian triple strap shoe called the Belleclaire that could definitely lend itself to dancing. Imagine all those bows in a solo jazz routine, drawing attention to your lovely feet! You can pre-order the Belleclaire on the American Duchess website through December 15.
Cycle 3 is up for vote right now and I’m excited to say that a shoe idea I submitted is up for vote! I submitted the 1930’s/40’s two tone pumps in white and brown with the swoop on the front (go vote for them, please, this shoe is gorgeous with an amazing sculpted Art Deco heel!), which is up for vote alongside a pair of Marie Antoinette’s shoes, some sweet 1870’s two straps, and several other delicious jazz age/swing era shoes. Whatever wins will be made in 3 different colors. This is so exciting – cast your vote for fabulous footwear today!
The most common questions I field in person and online are about dance shoes – this is our one essential piece of “equipment” or “gear” (since street shoes are only occasionally made in a way that they can be an option), so it stands to reason that shoes would be the primary topic of discussion about what we put on our bodies when we dance. I’ve written about swing shoes before for Atomic Ballroom, but that was over 3 years ago, so it’s probably time for an update. Instead of doing another overview, I’m going to write about my favorite dance shoes of the moment – my go-to shoes for a variety of situations and ones that I would recommend to others. I’m also going to photograph them so you can see how much they are loved.
This is my main shoe right now – gold goes with almost everything and these are so nice and broken in that I just can’t pass them over. They are my most flexible pair and, with a low heel, are ideal to transition back and forth from Balboa to Lindy Hop/Charleston. The addition of a gel pad at the ball of my foot has combated any discomfort for lack of shoe padding. They are starting to look pretty bad because of so many people stepping on the toes, but a gold Sharpie is helping to keep up appearances.
I bought these shoes years ago at Lindy Focus from Nina’s mom, Laurie Gilkenson, who was cleaning out some of Nina’s vast vintage shoe collection. I was told that they were the model for Dancestore.com’s mesh oxford, which explains also why I love that shoe so much, as well (but the original is still my fave). The leather on these shoes is so broken in, the sole is the perfect consistency, and the mesh keeps things cool and flexible. They are very worn and the polish has come off the heel and I don’t care. This is another wonderful 2 inch heel that’s great for a dance where you have to do everything – it’s a bit thicker than the Re-mix Balboa heel, so if I’m stepping into uncharted dance territory, I’ll opt for the thicker heel. This is also me advocating for wearing vintage shoes for dancing – they don’t have to be in pristine cosmetic condition. If the shoe is still solid structurally and fits, wear it!
#3 – The dance where there is no Balboa: Aris Allen Mary Jane wedge
I am sad that these are no longer in production (except in brown), but this is my lazy comfort shoe – I am so used to wearing heels when I dance that the wedge is as low as I usually like to go, but I do appreciate the groundedness of full contact with the floor. Stability is key here. If I wore these for long, they would rub and leave blisters on my heels, so I added some Pedag leather heel grips, which solved the problem.
#4 – Practicing solo jazz OR Lindy Focus Day 4 late night: Keds
When I am working on solo jazz movement or routines, I want to start out not worrying about my personal balance or lines or anything other than focusing on basic movement and learning. I do have personal balance issues and, when I don’t have another person to help with that, I tend to want to be in flats. I also have my limits with heels and anything longer than a regular dance weekend just makes my feet want to give up. I would probably wear Keds more often, but my heels slip out of them and I have to wear thick socks with them to keep them on, so vanity and convenience can sometimes override my dance shoe selection.
I haven’t done a post about Aris Allens on eBay in a while, but if you aren’t doing regular searches for these shoes, then here are some great deals for some used, some barely worn, dance shoes on eBay:
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:
I’m going to begin chronicling pairs of shoes that I would shell out lots of money for, if only they were wider than 2.5 inches at the ball of the foot. I don’t know what sort of lives these 1920’s women led, but they must not have taken a step barefoot in their lives, have subjected themselves to foot binding, and been carried around in a sedan chair.
If you have narrow feet, for the love of everything wonderful, please start buying all these amazing vintage shoes!
I have three pairs in desperate need of reproduction this week (Re-mix Vintage Shoes, I hope you are taking notes. 😉 ):
Continuing the shoe theme of this week, for a limited time Dancestore.com is offering their 1940’s velvet and mesh Mary Jane for $49.95. Regular retail price is $69.95, so this is a significant reduction in price! No word on how long the sale will last…
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, which featured pairs of Mary Jane flats in a rainbow of colors, I am posting another pair of Mary Jane flats, only this pair is vintage. Etsy seller kittyvonpurr has posted a lovely pair of red 1940’s/1950’s flats, size 11. The seller says it best: “Topstitched in black, rounded toecap, asymetrical front opening, double adjustable strap, faille piped collar and a short chunky heel. A DARLING pair of vintage shoes…super cute, in a rare size and red!” Darling, indeed.
I came across Tic-Tac-Toes dance shoes in the early 2000’s when I decided that I wanted a pair of bronze Mary Janes to dance in. Finding cute dance flats was already a giant chore, but somewhere in my internet searches I stumbled on the Tic-Tac-Toes website. I ended up with a pair of their “Shag” shoes (presumably Carolina Shag) in bronze and was a very happy camper – the shoes are lightweight, with leather soles, and come in 38 colors. That’s right – THIRTY-EIGHT COLORS.
Thus, if you are looking for a very specific color of dance shoe, Tic-Tac-Toes may be the very place to look. They have a number of styles they have designated for Lindy Hop, such as saddle shoes, two-tone t-strap wingtips, and t-strap heels, but really any of their dance shoes could work. If you are worried about heels, all of the Tic-Tac-Toes shoes have a wide heel and there’s nothing on this website over 2 inches.
The shoes are made in Gloversville, New York for men and women, and come in narrow, regular, and wide widths. The soles and upper parts of the shoes are leather. According to the Tic-Tac-Toes website, “We proudly use only domestic finished leather in our dance shoes. Because we do not use backers between our leather upper and our soft foam and tricot linings, our leather will stretch and mold to the shape of your foot thereby adding to the comfort of the shoe. In addition, our leather has a durable top coating of urethane which allows for easy cleaning and less scuffing.”
I know the blog has been heavy with shoes from eBay as of late, but I can’t resist posting all these Remix Shoes and Aris Allens. For the price of a new pair of shoes, I could have two or three pairs (and given the price of Remix shoes, three or four pairs) for the price of one. Here’s this week’s lot of goodies (I’m showing the Remix photo instead of the seller’s photo so you can see more of the detail on the shoes):
Someone should snatch up these black and white Mary Jane Aris Allens, size 7.5 at this great price! I’m disappointed that the seller has inflated shipping, but even at $15.99 a pair of worn-once Aris Allens is a great deal.