It’s that time of year again, time to don your best blooms for a celebration of cheer, color, and beauty during the winter month of February – with the blessing of Patron Saint Billie Holiday, 2012 will be another great year for Floweruary.
From Kerry & Philly:
Hey everybody, A few of us were planning on using this year’s Floweruary as a way to do some good.
The Commitment: Put away a dollar (or some amount of $, whatever you can spare) each day you participate in Floweruary. The Point: At the end of the month, we’ll give our Hair Flower Dollars to the Lindy Hopper’s Fund. It may not be a lot from each individual, but together we can certainly make an impact.
I’m not (yet) rolling in the dough, but I would love to do something to help the Lindy Hopper’s Fund. I hope you all think about joining in on this. Even if you’re a ten cent-er, go ahead and be proud with your ten cents!
Swingoutly, Kerry and the Philadelphians.”
There you have it! Looking forward to participating and seeing all the lovely hair accessories. 🙂
This past weekend I attended a wonderful dance and workshop weekend in Norfolk/Virginia Beach, VA called Be My Jazz Baby and blissed out on two nights of dancing to Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society. Be My Jazz Baby worked to bring in vendors, who set up their wares along the inside of the dance studio room where the Saturday night dance was held. This seemed to facilitate more interaction between the vendors and the dancers. Some of the vendors were old favorites and others were new to me.
First in the lineup, Sharon Crawford was there with her needle, thread, and supplies, whipping up custom Creations by Crawford for people on the fly, as well as vending some ready-to-wear items. Sharon prefers to create custom pieces for people, based on what they are wearing or something they own, which is entirely practical and takes the guesswork out of knowing what you’ll pair with one of her floral or feather pieces.
Next we had a new addition to our regional vendors, Norfolk-based Kelsie McNair and her collection of vintage dresses, shoes, ties, and other sundries from With Lavender and Lace. It’s always wonderful to welcome the vintage clothing community into the swing dance community and I think Kelsie was pleased with the response.
Dancestore.com, by way of Kara Fabina, was present to vend their quality dance shoes to anyone who needs or wants (or desperately needs because their shoes are falling apart) a new pair of swing dance shoes. I’m excited to see Aris Allen as a consistent vendor and events – after going through a patent leather oxford boy’s ballroom shoe nightmare this week, being able to try on the shoes is worth its weight in gold.
Also new-ish to the vendor squad (but not new to the Raleigh Durham dancers) is Hairzapoppin, the floral creations of Kristy Milliken. Kristy is probably her own best advertising, as she always has a bevy of blossoms tucked into her impeccable updo. Not to mention the Lite-Brite sign, acting as a beacon to draw you to her table…
Vintage Visage came next, which I first encountered at Jammin’ on the James in Richmond, VA this past fall. Wares include reproduction and vintage items, like hats, gloves, fans, hair accessories, ties, and purses, that little something extra you may need to complete your outfit. Kathryn Ann Meyer, the curator of the Vintage Visage collection, graciously let us use one of her hats to draw names for the competition – thanks again for that!
Finally, Be My Jazz Baby had a roving vendor – Caroline Langdon, dolled up in a gorgeous cigarette girl ensemble, peddled vintage ties and other vintage goodies from her tray instead of cigarettes on behalf of Moderlux, a vintage clothing and furniture store in Hampton, VA. Sadly, Caroline and I were both so busy that I didn’t catch sight of her wares, but she’s provided this information on the store: “Modernlux is a truly unique little store I operate with owner/founder Gary MacIntyre located in the heart of old Hampton at 47 East Queens Way (23669). We specialize in Mid-Century design including housewares, household gadgets, furniture, objets d’art, and, naturally, fashion – for both men and women!”
Thanks to Bill Speidel and Victor Celania for hosting a lovely weekend of dancing and shopping!
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.
It’s about that time – the time of the year where we don our holiday finery for holiday parties and dances, which means it’s time to start planning our outfits now. Regular hair flowers are great, but not always the right tone for a seasonal outfit. I’ve gone so far as to pick some unknown berries and leaves from my yard and put them in my hair because I wanted to look festive. I’m not sure if the berries were poisonous, so this year…safety first.
I’ll credit Philly dancer Caroline Gleeson for the tip about May Bell Creations, the Etsy store of Caroline’s friend, Mary Hadzimichalis. Mary has created some really lovely holiday hair ornaments, some that are more floral (like that elusive poinsettia I’ve been wanting) and others sparkle, and most do both. I think she’s done a fantastic job with the materials and making the pieces look festive without being kitschy. Here’s what I love: