It is uncanny how many swing dance shoe companies have popped up in the past 5 or so years, to the point that I apparently can’t keep up with them on this blog and I’ve fallen behind on sharing this information. With the search for the perfect dance shoes always in motion, let’s add some more options to the buffet, shall we? In no particular order…
I believe I found this brand on Instagram, maybe even one of those rare targeted ads they show that is actually relevant to my interests. I can gather from Facebook and Instagram that the company is based in Detroit, Michigan, that you place orders online, and they have four t-strap models in several colors that come with 3 heel height options, as low as 1 inch for dancers looking for a flatter shoe. Otherwise, I suppose you’ll have to email them for more information! Check out their Facebook and Instagram for a multitude of lovely photos and options and below is a primer on how to purchase/initiate contact.
COMFY DANCE SHOES
This is another Instagram find, @comfydance_shoes, featuring a boot and a t-strap dance shoe, available in some unique and versatile colors, all made in Mexico. I found even less information readily available, so hit that message button and send these dance shoe makers your questions if you find that these shoes strike your fancy.
ALL HEELS ON DUTY
All Heels on Duty is marketing to the WWII reenactment scene, but I know a solid-for-dancing heeled Oxford is on a lot of people’s wishlists since Dancestore stopped making their classic heeled oxfords. I haven’t purchased a pair, but as soon as I get another WWII themed gig, I’m going to need a brown pair and this company is a top contender – they appear to be faithful reproductions of 1940s service oxfords, with leather uppers and hard leather soles. Intriguing to me, the interiors are lined with sheepskin and are lightly padded, which would make these a welcome dance-friendly upgrade from some of my original 1940s oxfords. With a heel height of 1.5 inches, this is basically the perfect height for a weekly dance, moving equally between Balboa and Lindy Hop. Available in 6 colors (pictured below), all great neutrals. They also have the service pumps, but I find pumps difficult for dancing, so my focus here is on their oxfords.
If anyone has experience with any of the shoe brand in this blog post, feel from to share your feedback with us by leaving a comment below – cheers!
I attended my very first California Balboa Classic – aka Cal Bal – last month and I’d say I don’t know what took me so long, but I have another hobby that managed to conflict with this event year after year. I made the decision to choose Cal Bal this year and Cal Bal did such a great job welcoming me with open arms that I didn’t want to leave. It’s also the first event I’ve attended in several years that I was not hired as a musician, so there was ample time for dancing between DJ shifts, which I have sorely missed and desperately needed.
To set the vendor scene, you need to understand the layout of the hotel – this is a hotel event, but this is not your typical hotel. The Hyatt Regency Newport Beach is more of a complex, with lovely outdoor spaces connecting separate buildings, taking advantage of what are usually mild temperatures in southern California. The ballroom was a separate building within the hotel complex and to enter the ballroom, one had to walk down a little path and through a large covered-but-open-to-the-air space. It was a bit chilly at night, so the covered outdoor space had some temporary walls and heaters, as well as couches for sitting (basking) under said heaters, a snack station, a cash bar, and all the vendors for the event. Had the temps at night been a little warmer, the vendor location would have been truly ideal – during the day it was lovely.
Cal Bal had some great merch this year – you’ve already seen my post about the Kendra Dandy designed scarves and pocket squares, and there were also pins, bags, and tee shirt designs (one even featuring the Rendezvous Ballroom). I was elated to see a green tee shirt with musicians on it, so that came home with me! If you aren’t sure how to style your large Kendra Dandy Cal Bal scarf, Cleveland dancer and instructor Alexis Davila posted an awesome/adorable/creative video on Facebook of several different ways to wear it on your head – I believe you can still order one, it looks they are up on the Cal Bal web store.
At this point, I’m blessed that Re-mix Vintage Shoes owner Philip Heath knows me by sight and always gives me a little tidbit to keep me coming back for more. This year, the buzz was the production of a gold Opera model, which had previously been relegated to suede (which I don’t prefer to try to maintain) – since metallics are my go-to neutral, this was a delightful new development and I was excited that this particular model fit my particular feet, having never previously tried on any Opera model.
I didn’t notice the new addition to the men’s shoes (maybe a Fairway or a variation thereof? I’m not seeing it on the website) until Nicholas Centino posted the photo below of their gloriousness, but there’s a new two tone brown oxford with perforations that is so subtle and lovely. I’m also not seeing them on the Re-mix website, so pick up that phone…
Next stop in the circle of vendors was the new-to-me Swankys Vintage, who appeared to have mostly menswear and some women’s items, with a mix of Swankys reproductions and vintage clothing, with a very 1940’s/50’s California aesthetic in terms of styling and color palette. The reproductions were almost seamless with the vintage at first glance, the textures, fabrics, and colors were so spot on. Lots of clothing that evoked comfort, ease, and fun, as well as some really nice looking classics, like tweed trousers with a buckle back. It was so nice to see more of a focus on menswear, which tends to be minimal to non-existent in terms of vending at events.
I’ll also give an honorable mention to the gent who set up a mostly vintage men’s shop for Saturday night, who I asked for a business card and he said this was his last vending spot ever and that he was liquidating his collection and selling it to another vintage seller. It is hard work running these vendor spots/booths at events, carting around inventory, being present to run the shop, paying vendor fees and for hotel rooms, so my hat’s off to all the vendors – whether you’re still in the game or getting out, this is an important part of events and I’m appreciative of everyone who shows up.
I’m always excited to see Jenna Applegarth‘s Applejacks shoes at events, as I’ve probably learned more from her than anyone about the extensive and often frustrating process of designing, producing, and shipping dance shoes – I’m completely invested in this storyline and here for all subsequent chapters. Remember that this is a labor of love each time you buy a dance shoe made by swing dancers for swing dancers! I know several of us are eagerly anticipating the new models (I swear I saw green on Instagram), but the models out right now are particularly well-suited to Balboa. One of my friends noted that she didn’t necessarily know what she’d wear with the rose gold shoes, but that they felt so good on her feet that it didn’t matter. Good thing metallics are neutrals!
Next up in our tour of vendors was Swingbird Fashions, who I have previously blogged about in terms of an Etsy shop, but since that post this brand has expanded greatly and wonderfully. I am terribly sad that I was not able to meet the creator of these garments, Leea Kuronen from Denver, Colorado (it’s hard to be at your booth at every minute of the day, I completely understand) because I was smitten with everything – the colors, the fabric selection, and all the lovely details. There’s this one green dress with white soutache detail that is absolutely to-die-for – I saw both Teni Lopez-Cardenas and Heather Ballew had purchased one of these dresses and wore them in competitions that very weekend. It’s an I NEED TO WEAR THIS NOW kind of dress! Lovely trousers, skirts, blouses, and dresses all around – this corner of the room made me smile.
Across the room Loco Lindo represented with their line of crepe printed dresses, blouses, skirts, pants, and, of utmost importance, their Venice Beach clip dress, recreated from the one worn by Genevieve Grazis in said clip, she of the many gored twirly skirt. It’s honestly super gratifying to see a whole line of them on a rack, knowing the history behind the dress and the process of getting this dress reproduced – get your twirl on and your shuffle on, let’s do this! On a related note, I’m sad I missed the crunchy sound of shuffling on sand the Monday of Cal Bal where everyone met on the beach near the site of the former Rendezvous Ballroom – living that beach clip dream…
Sharing the space with Loco Lindo was Jen Gomez of Bandini St., who typically also shares a space at Camp Hollywood. It’s a great idea, to share space, share labor, and have that symbiotic relationship of pairing dresses with hair accoutrements immediately. This is probably going to be super personal to my preferences, but I was particularly happy to see pairs of hair flowers that were an ideal size (Goldilocks here, not too big, not too small…), flat – but with enough texture to be interesting, and a color gradient so that it goes with various shades of whatever color it represents. VERY SPECIFIC. I need to go through my closet to see what I might need, as these are available on the Bandini St. Etsy shop in several colors.
Finally, we’ve reached the lovely Saint Savoy booth at Cal Bal, with a candy colored array of heels and flats. While their Riviera model remains the most popular and is available in a wide array of colors, I heard lots of talk about their oxfords for women being particularly comfortable. A few other notes: 1) I’m pretty sure their Grace shoe in Neptune is one of the most beautiful dance shoes ever made. I own a pair and I only wear them for singing because I would Gollum-style freak out if anything ever happened to them; 2) I’m having feelings about their The Whip oxford in Mulled Wine because I had a pair of Doc Martens in high school with a similar color gradient and broguing (a whole different level of nostalgia); and 3) it was nice to see their Grand Prix t-strap dance flat in person – loving all the variety in heel heights, thank you, more of this from dance shoe makers, please. 🙂
And that’s a wrap – I hope I haven’t missed anyone! I loved all the vendors, thank you again for your time and energies in attending Cal Bal and creating products with the swing dance community in mind.
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!
The shoe blessings runneth over and, while this vintage reproduction shoe company doesn’t appear to be directly marketing to the swing dance community, all signs point to it being a default winner – Memery, a UK-based company, is making reproduction shoes from the 1920’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s with leather soles (but also a vegan option) and they are lovely, in some classic colors and some unexpected colors. While it appears that they are getting a start on their shoe lines, it looks like they are off to a strong start, particularly with their 1940’s pump, which comes in six scrumptious suede colors and two heel heights (3 cm/1.18 inches and 6.7 cm/2.6 inches). This is definitely a shoe company to watch!
I attended my 12th All Balboa Weekend this past weekend and, although I didn’t compete, DJ, run a fashion show, or run a band, I still managed to fill my weekend with so many good things and people even though I came there “just to sing.” Of course, no trip to Cleveland would be complete without a bit of vintage shopping, both on-site and in town. You can check out past blog posts for the scoop on Sweet Lorain and Chelsea’s Costumes, the former being my favorite vintage store of all time and the latter being a great place to score some inexpensive and awesome menswear.
At the Holiday Inn, the vendors did not disappoint this year. There are always a few new items of ABW merchandise each year, including baseball tees with the phrase “I’d rather be doing Bal” and a cute silhouette of Bal dancers on a solid tee and a striped tee. If you’ve looked at the ABW baby tees and thought you didn’t have a use for such things, have you considered that your dog may look adorable in just such a tee? A sweet pup named Luna came to hang out at the event (who may be the most calm and tolerant dog I’ve ever seen) and did a little photo shoot for us and everyone’s heart melted just a little bit.
Re-mix Vintage Shoes was out in full force with an array of Bal-friendly footwear in colors to suit just about any outfit. I didn’t see any new models, but that doesn’t particularly matter when you are dealing in the classics and when you want to replace that pair of gold Balboas that you’ve worn out that not even a gold Sharpie can salvage at this point to make them look like you didn’t put them through a meat grinder…it always makes me happy to walk by this table and see people excited about buying a pair of Re-mix shoes.
De Fils en Perles returned with even more gorgeous beadwork and whimsy. Classic Art Deco-inspired cuffs abound, a new series of rings were added, along with a number of butterfly designs (which were super popular and sold out last year), and (for funsies) some 8-bit characters from Super Mario Bros. and some Minions. The detail here is scrumptious, with no two pieces alike.
Dancestore made an appearance, although I should really call it the Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) booth because it’s more than just Dancestore shoes, it’s also a collection of vintage and vintage-inspired items (such as castoffs from Nina’s incredible shoe collection), as well as hand-crafted items made by Laurie, such as knitted caps for newborns.
Victor Celania set up a booth for his successful custom menswear business, Established Sartorial – based in Austin, Texas, victor has clients both within and outside of the swing dance community and decided to try a vendor booth at ABW. Victor is also the bandleader of the Waller Creek Vipers, whose debut album Bespoke Bounce is hot off the presses and you could pick up a copy at his booth while you drool over all the lovely menswear fabrics.
Jamie Sturdevant of ChatterBlossom was busy every time I rolled by her booth and I think people are finally in the same place I have been for a while, bringing Jamie garments and getting her expert opinion on just the right color, texture, and scale to complete your look. I say complete because I never quite feel right with just my plain hair at a dance event anymore, a flower just elevates an already special night of music and dancing. I also spotted a number of men picking up her boutonnieres, which delights me to no end.
Holding it down at the end of the hallway were the ladies of Flower Child, who informed me that this is their favorite event to collect things for throughout the year, and you can tell that they know their audience well. I find myself revisiting this area multiple times throughout the event, to look for myself and to marvel at how well-curated it is, to the point that I picked out a couple of things with specific people in mind and those people ended up buying those garments. They get us. I saw that they had more separates this year for women, gorgeous blouses, and my favorite piece of clothing was a light turquoise gabardine jacket that Victor picked up for himself.
That’s all for now – save your pennies for next year and join us at All Balboa Weekend for excellent dancing, music, and shopping!
The shoe news just keeps coming, Re-mix Vintage Shoes has some new goodies for us – a limited edition teal/blue color combo in their popular Balboa style (but only 16 pairs total – don’t hesitate if you need these in your life) AND a brand new style called Starlet. I love love love the new Starlet shoe, anything with a wide low heel and cutouts is good in my book. It has the same heel as the Gabrielle shoe, I just hope it doesn’t share the same width issues for my fat feet…feel free to weigh in on fit/stretch in the comments after you’ve worn yours for a few months. 😉
I’m excited to bring you my first ever Lindy Shopper vendor report from my very first Camp Hollywood! I have been wanting to attend this event for years and life always found a way to keep me away from dancing in California. I was able to attend half of the event (Sunday and Monday), to sing with Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, and even attending half of the weekend was awesome, but I’m afraid my vendor report has some holes because not all vendors are at their tables all the time and our schedules didn’t always coincide.
Camp Hollywood has the largest dedicated space for vendors of any event I have attended, it’s an entire hotel ballroom, plus a side room with a clothing vendor and hair salon pop-up. If the airline had lost my luggage, there were no worries about covering my needs for the weekend.
Let’s take the tour, shall we?
My first stop was Vintage Blue Moon, which arguably held the largest vendor space and was a treasure trove of both men’s and women’s vintage – the men’s section was at least as large, if not larger, than the women’s section. There was enough inventory that I felt transported, I’ve been in some brick and mortar shops with smaller inventory than what owners Robert and Kristi Alvarez brought to the LAX Marriott. The selection was carefully curated for its swing era audience, and even had a good selection of 1920’s clothing and accessories, which they brought this year after getting requests last year. I picked up a 1940’s suit for my day job that is reminiscent of something Tilda Swinton would have worn in her turn as gossip column twins in Hail, Caesar! and I couldn’t be more pleased.
All the Shiny Things occupied most of the vending space in the center of the ballroom and I’m afraid I didn’t get a chance to chat with the owner of this space, but the array of costume jewelry from so many decades past was vast and colorful – I get easily overwhelmed by jewelry counters and this was like the King Kong of jewelry selections. I loved all the colored bangles, if you were looking for a match, you’d probably find it here. Now looking at this photo and wishing I had more time to figure out what colors I need!
I was excited to see Loco Lindo again, who had come to All Balboa Weekend several years ago, and see what owner/designer Linda Marrone had been up to since then. I’ve been following her line of clothing on Facebook, but it’s always nice to see things and chat in person. Her washable and danceable crepe dresses (great for work, too!) were already selling well and she was out of several sizes in some prints, but I managed to snag a dress in my size in a tropical print that I’d seen on her website and liked from afar. Her corner of the ballroom was cheerful and bustling, a credit to Linda’s designs and her personality as she chatted with the dancer/shoppers. Like Trashy Diva, her prints come in limited runs, so don’t tarry when making your decisions about what to buy.
The ever-classy Chloe Hong occupied a good portion of the vendor ballroom, with the largest selection of items I’ve seen at an event to date. In addition to her custom tailoring and racks of samples, she carried two colors of the famous Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers logo tee, as well as a rainbow selection of her low-heeled t-strap shoes, which are fast becoming ubiquitous on dance floors all over the US (and I can say this, having seen them at dance events on the east coast and the west coast on the same weekend). Gracious and kind, it’s always a joy to see her at events and see the beautiful custom work she does for dancers.
Occupying an end cap of the All the Shiny Things center island in the vendor ballroom was Electro Flapper – Get Dolled and Dapper, featuring vintage hairstyles, brow shaping, and lashes by owner Brittany Leavitt. I didn’t get to spend time chatting with Brittany, but I do love seeing these services at dance events, whether its for a special updo or routine maintenance that you simply haven’t had time to get to until it’s right there in front of you at a dance weekend and you’ve got an hour of free time. Check out the amazing and perfect vintage ‘dos on her Facebook page and get inspired to make an appointment for CHXI.
Because there were so many vendors, two vendors had to set up in a conference room next door to the vendor ballroom. The first of these is Pepperpie Vintage, which had a mix of swing era goodies and clothing from more recent decades. Again, I just had enough time to run by and snap some photos, thankfully with the permission of owner Perrin Iacopino – but, alas, I couldn’t find a website or a Facebook page for this shop, so if anyone in the know can direct me I will be happy to link to where we can find Pepperpie Vintage information in the future.
Sharing the space with Pepperpie Vintage was a “Hair Bar” run by Kimmery Michelle Thompson of Shear Attitude Hair Salon, offering up-do’s, down-do’s, a mix of both, hair accessories, and color streaks. The Hair Bar looked so inviting, with a lighted sign, vintage pink bonnet dryer, and a glorious Art Deco vanity that just begs for finger waves to be done in view of its glorious circular mirror. I didn’t get to see Kimmery in action, but you can see her work on her lovely Instagram page, @_kimmerydoesmyhair. Two great hair stylists at this event!
We return to the vendor ballroom to visit Saint Savoy’s table – no one was at the table when I was in the ballroom, but it’s no secret that I love dancing in their shoes, having blogged about them several times before on this blog. Since I didn’t acquire any new and interesting tidbits, I’ll share all my previous Saint Savoy posts so you can see the love.
Also no secret is my love for Re-mix Vintage Shoes and, while I didn’t get to visit the mothership, owner Philip Heath had an extensive selection of footwear, including wedges, which are not usually a part of his All Balboa Weekend display (which is the only other time I have seen Re-mix shoes en masse at an event). I got to chat with Philip for a bit about his recent travel to Italy to sell shoes at an event, his visit to the shoe factory that makes these glorious shoes in Spain, and about the construction of the reproduction 1940’s wedges. Did you know that not just the leather outside of the shoes is modeled after vintage shoes, but also the inside construction of the wedge sole? We talked about the flexibility and give of the leather for each style, particularly the two most popular styles, which right now are the pleated toe wedge and the Vogue wedge. Philip noted that even the finishing touches are the same on these shoes, with a stitched edge on the pleated toe and a ribbon edge on the Vogue, both of which affect the structure of the shoe, how it fits, and how the leather stretches (or in the case of the Vogue, how it doesn’t stretch as much because of the ribbon). This explains why my bunioned/bone spurred feet gravitated toward the pleated toe wedge as my favorite pair of Re-mixes for dancing! Close seconds in the most-popular-Re-mix-wedges-for-dancing category were the Picasso wedge, which I find has similar give to the the leather as the pleated toe, and the Greta wedge, which Philip noted that many people with difficult feet were surprised at how well this shoe worked for them and stretched with them. I had been having some anxiety about another dance shoe company discontinuing all of their wedges (maybe hanging on to them past their smell-by date) since I mostly wear wedges to my local weekly dances, but I feel so much better after this conversation with Philip about selecting Re-mix wedges that are going to be right for my foot for dancing.
Last, but certainly not least, instructor/dancer/visual artist Mickey Fortanasce has created a follow-up deck to his original Legends of Swing deck of playing cards (sold at Lindy Focus this past year), with the second edition featuring swing dance legends from the west coast, including Jean Veloz, Hal Takier, and Ray Hirsch. Two important things to note: 1) “ALL profits from the sale of these cards will be donated to worthy organizations The LA Burrito Project doing outreach feeding and donating supplies to the Los Angeles homeless, andBlack Lindy Hop Matters, an organization based in Baltimore, MD which works to build welcoming communities and advancement opportunities for black dancers and advocates for cultural integrity, recognition and respect for African American people and heritage” and 2) you can still purchase a deck from the Camp Hollywood website while supplies last!
I know I am missing at least one vendor, but I wasn’t in the ballroom when the vendor was there to get permission to take photos, so my apologies! (EDITED to add that Jen Gomez of Bandini St. came forward to note the missing vendors, one of which was her table of accessories and shoe bags that was a part of the Loco Lindo booth and I had taken a picture of her shoe bags and not realized it was a separate vendor. Check out her Etsy shop, full of lovely hair accessories. The other vendor I missed was A Walk Thru Time Vintage and Costume Annex, selling vintage clothing and costumes. Thanks, Jen!)
Much love to you, Camp Hollywood, for providing such ample space for vendors and for providing four days of shopping, social dancing, competitions, classes, and so much more. ❤
This will be a very brief post, but I felt it warranted a full-fledged Lindy Shopper post because I know it will make some people very happy – Re-mix Vintage Shoes is now offering U.S. women’s size 5 in the following styles: Anita, Balboa, Charleston, Emily and Emily 2.0! These are all popular styles for swing dancing, which I’m sure is more than a happy coincidence. 🙂