As most ladies know and Tim Gunn has spoken out about, the clothing options for women over a certain size range are particularly limited, even though they make up hundreds of thousands of shoppers in the US and beyond and spend significant sums on clothing for themselves. Compound limited selection with a preference for vintage styles and your options are even more limited.
I’ve had my eye on New Vintage Lady’s Etsy site for some time and I did a post on her in 2011, but I’m excited to see that she keeps showing up on my radar and continues to expand her line of vintage patterns, offering fantastic designs that are all the things we love about jazz age and swing era clothing, with all the wonderful details that make them great (and she has a great eye! I love her selections, artwork, and fabric choices). This latest endeavor is via Kickstarter, in an effort to expand her size range to cover bust sizes from 40 inches to 52 inches, as well as improving her existing patterns in terms of graphics and descriptions. Offering a range of sizes is a lot of work – often, you only find one vintage pattern of a certain dress and it comes in the size you found, not a range, and it’s not simply a matter of adding inches around to increase the size, of course it’s MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT, in that way that all of our bodies are a complicated mix of measurements.
The obvious rewards here are reaping the benefit of the new patterns once the Kickstarter is funded, but if you don’t sew there is an AMAZING reward – the New Vintage Lady will make you a dress, one of HER garments from the Kickstarter! What could be more amazing and more personal and more lovely than that? (I see she also does men’s trousers *ahem* maybe…if you ask nicely?) If you’ve ever wanted a reproduction dress to your specifications with your fabric choices and you haven’t done this for yourself, this is a great opportunity to help not only yourself, but others of a certain size range to gain access to these wonderful patterns.
There’s so much to love, go check out her line and video and consider backing this project!
I happened upon Laura Bakker’s Catalogue of Fashion website in one of those lists – THOSE lists, that purport to have links to all the repro goodness, but ultimately and eventually the links stop working as websites go out of business (which is why I won’t maintain one of THOSE lists on this website). HOWEVER, every now and again you find a true gem, still in business, with fantastic garments.
With a degree from the Art School of Maastricht in her pocket and a love of movie costumes from the 1930’s through the early 1950’s, Laura got to work making her line of unique and individualized fashions. From the website: “Everything is made by only me, the patterns, the clothes and all the applications. Every item is made only once, my little personal war against all the big productions 😉 I wish to offer all the ladies & gentlemen something special.”
The menswear offerings include great shirt and trouser basics that look comfortable for dancing. The women’s clothing is all about the details and you can see on each piece how it is unique and how Laura has left her own mark on each piece, with buttons, trim, contrasting fabrics, inset panels, and even hand-painted details.
This, the coldest winter I’ve experienced in my life living in North Carolina, just won’t go away – Mother Nature teased us with 60 degrees today, followed by a forecast of snow tomorrow. Since I’m still digging around for more woolens to wear, here are a couple of cozy Norfolk/action back jackets on eBay for the gents to bundle up with until these winter storms pass:
I am often curious about men’s footwear, specifically for Lindy Hop and Balboa. You see everything from sneakers to wingtips, but the options for shoes made specifically for dancing are drastically more limited than women’s options. My friend Matt Mitchell from Austin, Texas posed this question on Facebook: “Looking to retire the Aris Allens. What shoes would you recommend? Nick, David, Jeremy, Mickey, and any other lead?” I’d like to know the answer to this myself!
Jon Tigert chimed in first with his endorsement for Pronto Uomo brown leather oxfords, adding that “they are mostly a clothes company, but the shoes hold up great and are super comfortable.” A quick search of the internets revealed very little in the way of offerings for purchase, but if you are looking for tuxedo shoes for this year’s Lindy Focus, their patent leather tuxedo shoes are available at Men’s Wearhouse. A search of eBay shows that there are a lot of these shoes being sold used, which translates into savings for you.
Nick Williams‘ shoe of choice has been discontinued, Nordstrom brand loafers, but Jeremy Otth posted a link to a pair of loafers from Nordstrom that could fit the bill. Nick says that this particular loafer is different in terms of design, so his search for a new favorite dance shoe continues. David Lee adds that he is wearing the new Nordstrom loafers, which were a little hard on his feet until he bought inserts, and they are now great.
Andreas Olsson favors these sweet Moreschi Italian loafers, acknowledging that they are pricey, but that they are very comfortable and extremely durable. He’s still wearing the pair he bought in 2006.
In terms of general brand recommendations, Carl Nelson recommends Florsheim because they fit his feet well. Jason Swihart* perfers Allen Edmonds, but adds that “any quality men’s shoes with a flexible, not-too-heavy leather sole (if the heel is rubber, you can have it replaced)” is good. Jeremy says that Stacy Adams shoes are good if you like a thicker sole, but he prefers the Nordstrom loafer so he can “feel the floor.”
Other general tips:
– Buy shoes that fit your feet.
– Shoe trees and leather treatment can help make shoes fit you better.
– Vintage shoes are a viable option, especially if you have narrow feet.
– If you find a pair of shoes you like and they aren’t leather on the bottom or on the heel, you can always find a cobbler and have them soled in leather or suede.
I found this discussion very useful and broadening in terms of knowning what options are available to men. It appears that classic men’s shoe makers/retailers are the most viable options outside of the Aris Allen brand. Thanks to all who participated in this conversation for your feedback and the results of your trials and errors.
* Mr. Swihart appears on the Lindy Shopper blog with the permission of his legal counsel.
The 9th annual Eastern Balboa Championships was another rousing success, with perhaps even more shenanigans, planned and unplanned, than usual. A highlight of the weekend was dressing in tweeds for the mock English hunt, led by Bobby White, where the tweeded and costumed EBC gentry gave organizer Chris Owens a sporting head start before we unleashed the Nerf guns on him. Perhaps the best part of the weekend for me was performing with my band, the Mint Julep Jazz Band, for the Friday night dance, receiving rave reviews for our performance, and launching a Kickstarter for our first CD. 🙂
The vendors were out again this year, but in spite of not having a shoe vendor, the vendor area certainly looked full. Raleigh Vintage was back with their fabulous trunk show of 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s clothing, as well as a full rack of tweed for some last-minute-pre-hunt shopping. Some of my favorite pieces from the collection are shown below, and I managed to do some Christmas shopping for my husband, as well. My favorite purchase for him was a 1933 World’s Fair tie clip and Raleigh Vintage had a set of three of them, in blue, white, and black. They also had some excellent ladies’ jewelry this time, bakelite, Art Deco necklaces, and clever pins. There was a hilarious pin with maracas and a plaque that said “Hasta Manana” that I loved – but what do you wear with this? I am pondering…
Following the success of their booth at All Balboa Weekend, The Cleveland Shop made the long journey to North Carolina with an impressive display of vintage dresses, separates, menswear, shoes, hats, and other vintage sundries. I especially appreciate that they brought books on vintage make-up and hair, which can be a chore to figure out without a tutorial. Favorites included the red shoes pictured at left, tons of wonderful rayon floral 30’s and 40’s dresses, and a plaid suit that I would wear loud and proud if I were a dude. I do hope their trip down here was fruitful and that they will return to us next year from the land of vintage with even more goodies.
Last, but certainly not least, Sharon Crawford of Creations by Crawford is the hardest working vendor at these events – most of her creations are custom made for you, during the weekend, and are sometimes being made for a dance that night. Sharon’s vendor table is also a social hub, so you can enjoy the warm, friendly conversation as she creates wonderful pieces made from vintage jewelry, feathers, ribbon, and other tiny pretty things. I’m willing to say that Sharon gets a lot of business from men, as well, and can create the perfect boutonniere to go with any jacket or ensemble.
Don’t miss out on the 10th anniversary party next year, the celebration is going to be huge and full of pranks, I’m sure!
While fall is upon us, I couldn’t help posting this fantastic 30’s/40’s belt back summer weight suit, size 40 jacket with a 33 inch waist in the pants. Man, this suit looks great – I had hoped it would fit my husband, but there’s less than an inch to let out in the pants. Now that I’m not hoarding it, someone else should pick it up. 😉
You can thank Dandy Wellington for the tip on this book, “Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion,” a sort of in-depth primer on dressing for men. I think this topic is not discussed as often as say…sports or hunting, but it is, nevertheless, an important aspect of manhood – would James Bond be as awesome in jeans and a tee shirt? Maybe, but then he wouldn’t be James Bond.
As I do not have a copy of this primer, I will rely on some other reviews to give you an idea of the contents of this book:
“Part tutorial, part celebratory, GENTLEMAN covers all men’s fashion issues, literally from head to toe. From styles of underwear and the joy of custom-made suits to stuff I don’t even think about much less own like umbrellaas and handkerchiefs, the book schools you on all you need to know about becoming a sharp-dressed man.” – Rod Lott
“If a 360-page guidebook to pajamas (Page 334), English suits (92-101) and walking canes (260) is not your idea of beach reading, stop right here. But if men’s-wear minutiae tickle your fancy — the anatomy of a waxed-cotton hunting coat, anyone? — slip the new, second edition of Bernhard Roetzel’s “Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion” into your valise (251). The illustrated volume teaches you everything necessary to fashion yourself into a bona fide fop, from your made-to-measure underwear (42) to your Falcon pipe (239).” – Jonathan S. Paul
“This book is very classic, from the cover, to the photos, to the sections on bowlers and top hats. If you want to know the proper ways to wear certain clothing, where to wear it, and the history of why its worn that way, then Gentleman is the book for you. Written with a focus on the English Gentleman this book is a sort of staple or all-inclusive guide that will last you a lifetime.” – The Urban Gentleman
This book is also Dandy Wellington approved – it all sounds good to me!
I hear a lot of questions about how to isolate the decade, or portion of a decade (or in rare instances, the year), in which a particular garment was made. How do you identify the date of a garment based on the details, fabrics, notions, etc. included the garment? My initial answer is to do your homework, but my learning mostly consisted of shopping for vintage with my mother, asking her to identify the decade, and having her point out different identifying details. I can’t loan out my mother to all of you, so you’ll have to learn the old fashioned way: book learning (or in the 21st century, the Internets).
Kim at Time Machine Vintage directed me to the Vintage Pattern Wiki to get some ideas for dresses, but I was delighted to see that you could search their extensive directory by the type of garment and also by year. I see other compilations of patterns for sale that usually group by decade, but I’m just anal retentive enough to want to add more mid-1930’s dresses to my collection, or to want to make sure that late 20’s/early 30’s dress is actually late 1920’s. Regardless of your OCD level or absence thereof, this website is a useful resource for anyone who would like to learn and understand more about the fashions from each of the swing era decades, down to the year. Another great feature of this site is menswear and children’s clothing included in the patterns, which is not something I run across very often.
Enjoy this resource, I’ve already spent portions of two evenings going through the early 1940’s stuff – this could take a while!
I know we’re reaching the end of tweed season, but when something rare pops up the season of acquisition simply doesn’t matter – here, we’ve got two jackets that popped up on eBay this week. First, we have a J. Peterman reproduction Edwardian style tweed Norfolk jacket, size 38, with the classic belted back, square front pockets, and a nice feature where you can actually button up the jacket all the way (those lapels are not just for show!). Second, a nice Pendleton wool tweed Norfolk jacket, size 40, with elbow patches and a nice rainbow fleck to the tweed. Prices: $20.00 starting bid and $39.99 Buy It Now, respectively – steals, I say!
Men tend to wear their dance shoes out, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this eBay listing for a pair of black cap toe Aris Allens, size 11.5, gently used. They look to be in great condition and, with a $24.99 starting bid, much cheaper than a new pair. Anyone looking for a replacement or an inexpensive addition to your dance shoe collection?
Unless you’ve been dancing under a rock, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of leads wearing vests at swing dances. The phenomenon is so prevalent in the Balboa community that Eastern Balboa Championships organizer and MC Chris Owens noted during one of the Balboa competitions at EBC 2011 that 10 out of 16 male competitors were wearing vests.
What makes a vest so great? Having worn a few myself, including a vintage one of Black Watch plaid wool my mother made in the 1970’s, I can tell you that a vest can really pull an outfit together; where something was just a shirt and pants (or skirt in my case), it becomes an ensemble with that one addition. It’s an upgrade without being too formal; it pulls things in at the torso without inhibiting movement; it leaves your arms free to do work, while the rest of you remains business. If fitted properly, it can make you appear more trim and elongate your silhouette. It looks great with or without a tie.
Since my experience with vests is limited, I asked one of the most dapper gents I know, dancer and clothier David Lochner of Philadelphia, PA, to weigh in on the topic:
“I wear vests for many reasons. They help keep you warm, they add a flair to one’s outfits, they help keep sweat off of a follow while dancing, and they help keep your tie in place. They also add a cleaner line by covering the bulk created by shirts becoming untucked, belt loops, and belts.
Social dancing is an art form and line and proportion are essential in art. But the line only comes when pants are worn properly at one’s natural waist. If the trousers aren’t worn at a proper height then the vest hinders this effort by allowing the shirt tail to peek out the back and destroy the look. Dancing is not only about the communication between partners but communication of beauty through movement and line to the audience watching.
I purchase vests where I find ones that fit. Being a long, they can be hard to come by, but I look at major retail stores, online, thrift shops, vintage stores, and eBay. Knowing one’s measurements can help ensure a proper fit. Also, taking along a man who knows menswear never hurts. Most women don’t know menswear so they can’t be reliably counted upon. (No offense!)* You don’t want something in style since style is constantly changing. It is important to take someone with you if you are not seeing a tailor since most salespersons will “Yes” you to death. Nothing is worse than buying a piece of clothing, then realizing it doesn’t fit properly while wearing it out for an extended period of time.
I hope this helped. I know my views are looked on as a bit harsh by some. But I say them because I take what I do, selling vintage menswear and swing dancing, very seriously.”
We believe you, David, and we salute you.
I think David has some great advice here, particularly about fit and style. I hadn’t considered that, with menswear, buying something fashionable now would limit wearability down the road, since menswear changes so little overall. However, the subtle details make a difference in menswear (skinny 50’s neckties, narrow 60’s suits, wide 70’s collars), so going with a classic, nondescript thrift store find may be a better choice in the long run than the trendy vest you may find at the mall.
There really is no go-to source for vests. In many cases, they come as part of a suit. In vintage and thrift stores, they are often orphaned pieces. In my area, the vintage store with the most vests is the least likely place to find something from the swing era. I also hear the mid-west has a great selection of vests, based on Jaredan Braal’s extensive vest wardrobe acquired during a single shopping trip in a mid-western city…
I find that if you are looking for a particular something, you will start to notice these things as you are out and about, so keep your eyes open and you may come across the vest you desire where you least expect it. If you see someone in a vest, ask them where they got it – you may get some ideas of your own about where to look in your area.
Incidentally, if you are in Philadelphia, you should make plans to visit Briar Vintage, a vintage store devoted entirely to menswear and manly “collectibles and oddities.” David is the manager of the store and I’m sure would be happy to help you “invest” in some great pieces for your wardrobe.
If there’s one thing we need to wear as dancers, it’s appropriate and comfortable footwear. Shoes that fit you well can make a positive difference in your dancing; conversely, shoes that are ill-fitting can negatively impact your dancing and potentially cause health problems. So what do you do when you can’t find a pair of shoes that fits because of the width or shape of your foot?
I’ve had a couple of requests about dance shoes for irregular feet widths, specifically dance Keds and Balboa shoes. While I wear a regular width shoe, I just barely missed the genetic gift of narrow feet from my father and paternal grandmother, who both have very narrow feet (Granny wears a AAAA). Finding narrow shoes in retail stores seems to be an extinct possibility for them, so both of them have had to order shoes from catalogs that offer narrow and wide width shoes. This can get pretty expensive, considering my dad had to wear a suit and dress shoes every day to work and my grandmother loves to dress up.
However, these shoes do exist! I’ll start with the Keds, because that is easy – Keds makes narrow and wide widths of their Champion Oxford, the quintessential Lindy Hop shoe of the past few years. Keds makes them in AAAA (super narrow), AA (narrow), B (medium), D (wide), and EE (extra wide) widths. You are a bit limited in the colors available, but the classic white and black are there, as well as navy, blue, red and tan.
The process to get them to dance shoes is the same – buy Keds and either glue the suede/leather sole them yourself or take them to a cobbler to be sueded/leathered.
You can buy the different widths from the Keds website, but I found that finding the different widths was easier and they were cheaper on the Maryland Square website (which is the catalog my Granny uses). Also, the EE width did not appear to be available on either website, but was available in the paper catalog, so if you are looking for this width you will probably need to place a phone order with Maryland Square.
My suggestion for different widths of Balboa shoes and for men looking for an oxford for dancing is to buy a custom pair of tango shoes. Tango shoe makers tend to offer vintage-inspired styles of shoes and will create a custom pair for your feet using actual measurements of your feet. The cost is more than a pair of Aris Allens, but generally less than a pair of Re-Mix Vintage Shoes. I ordered a custom pair from Mr. Tango Shoes a few years ago and had a very positive experience. The fit of my custom shoes was unparalleled. On top of the width/shape, you can also customize the colors in both two-tone and mono-tone, the heel height and width/shape, the type of sole, the arch support, cushioning at the ball of the foot, and whether or not you want a platform. Another friend has had a good experience ordering custom shoes from Guaranteed Fit Tango Shoes.
If you have narrow feet, the vintage shoe world is your oyster. I would encourage you to look for vintage shoes on eBay and in vintage stores. Always ask whoever is working in the vintage store if they have narrow shoes because they don’t always put them out, and ask your local vintage store to be on the lookout for your size – often, stores will turn down shoes that are narrow because they don’t believe they will sell. Let them know you are the person who will buy these shoes!
Also, if you have wide or narrow feet and have found something that works for you, please feel free to share your experience or source here – I know there are others who would like to have this information. 🙂