The Eastern Balboa Championships, in its final year, brought out the best in everyone who attended – there was so much positive energy at this event, plus the usual shenanigans, that it was radiant with awesome. Way to go out with a bang!
The vendors added to the shine, as the vendor area showcase several local businesses with a serious fan base. Creations by Crawford has become a staple of swing dance events in the southeast and beyond, known for her custom hair pieces, but perhaps most brilliantly for her lapel art, which elevates and distinguishes the lapels of men’s jackets, with metal, feathers, fabric, and touches that are elegant without being femme. Sharon had a truly delicious selection of jewels to choose from, as the basis for her designs.
Raleigh Vintage, whose online fan base has reached international proportions, returned, with a large vendor space filled with 1930’s and 40’s dresses, separates, menswear, accessories, shoes, and a 1933 World’s Fair tie clip for everyone. They always curate a superbly appropriate collection to bring to EBC, with an eye for durable vintage to withstand the tests of the dance floor. Of particular note was a collection of men’s socks with fantastic colors and details. This year’s display also featured a sale rack of items with minor flaws and majorly discounted prices. And there was much rejoicing.
Chatterblossom made its EBC debut this year, with a collection of hand crafted hair accessories and jewelry, with a vintage-inspired aesthetic. With a welcoming and eye-catching display, it was hard to resist the rings, necklaces, blooms, and flapper head bands in the collection. Already a successful blog and Etsy shop, I hope to see Chatterblossom at future swing dance events, well stocked with tons of goodies, especially red flowers (there are never enough in red!).
This menswear resource tip is from Christine Hall of the Decophile group on Facebook – Darcy Clothing, previously The Vintage Shirt Company, has expanded from shirts to include a much broader range of reproduction menswear and accessories from the 18th century to the early 20th century. This is a huge span of time, but there are plenty of 20th century goodies from this UK company to place in your closet.
“The clothing is largely made specially for us and is taken directly from original garments. The shapes and fabrics are uncompromisingly genuine. We only ever use natural fibres in any pre C20th garments. The construction methods however take advantage of modern mass production techniques which means that we can supply costume designers with the authenticity they require at an affordable price.”
One of the most annoying things about wearing shirts tucked in while we dance is that they tend to come untucked while we dance (one of the main reasons you will see me in dresses v. pants/skirts). One solution is to wear things untucked, but not every shirt was meant to be worn untucked and sometimes we want to look a little more polished. Aside from tucking things into your underwear (which isn’t foolproof), what other options do we have to keep our shirts tucked in?
I was scanning my Facebook news feed a few weeks ago and noticed that Philadelphia dancer and instructor Sascha Newberg had posted about military shirt stays as a possible solution. If you are not familiar with stays, they are elastic bands that attach on one end to your shirt tail and on the other end to your pants. They serve the dual purpose of keeping your shirt tucked in and your socks pulled up. If you are going for military precision, some sloppy shirts and droopy socks aren’t going to cut it.
I remember seeing these for the first time when my friend Joanna went to the U.S. Naval Academy. I commented on how impeccable she looked in her white uniform, how everything was just so, and she pulled up her pants leg to show me the stays. She said they took a little getting used to, that certain “spring” in her step, but after a while they just became part of the uniform.
What say ye? Shall we add a spring to our Lindy Hop steps? In the name of keeping shirts tucked in!
I have anticipated checking out Alexandria’s Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods since April, when I heard of its opening shortly prior to DCLX and the wonders that awaited me – rumors that the owners have a warehouse where items are pulled for Hollywood movies, that the inventory has real swing era stuff, GOOD stuff, and I was salivating. As I ditched the Saturday afternoon DCLX dance to head over to Alexandria I got a text message from Bill Speidel that the shop was closed. Oh, the disappointment!
Thankfully, I had already planned to attend the International Lindy Hop Championships in August, so I knew I’d get a second chance. I messaged the store’s Facebook page a few days prior to the event to make sure that they would be open and should I send my measuremnets. The answers were yes and yes, and I was elated.
I planned to go on Friday of ILHC and at the Thursday night dance I met Beth Midavaine, who had also planned to take a trip to Amalgamated with Bill Speidel, but Bill had bailed on her, so it seemed that fate would have it that we go shopping together. We headed to Amalgamated the next day with Jason Sager and arrived at the store at noon on the dot. The store was closed. I was frantic. We went next door to a knick knack store owner, who didn’t know why the shop wasn’t open. As we regrouped on the sidewalk, the door opened to Amalgamated and it was, after all, open for business. *phew!*
It took us three hours to get through everything in the store and try on the rack of clothes that Beth and I accumulated through our collective digging through the store. The store itself is small is square footage, but packed with everything good – there was no small rack where the few swing era items were delegated – the entire store was pre-1960’s, so 100% of their inventory was everything that you would want to see in a vintage store. It was glorious! The men’s section rivaled the women’s section in size and magnificence (who has an entire rack devoted to two tone Ricky Ricardo jackets?) and a men’s shoe section that took up an entire table, and included children’s shoes (tiny leather and mesh oxfords!). Owner Shelley White took us through boxes in the back room filled with delicate 1920’s beaded dresses, there were racks of glorious dresses and gowns, plus some very practical items that would be perfect for dancing. The women’s shoes had a good selection of larger women’s sizes, which was great for Beth, who picked up a pair of fantastic 1940’s heels.
I don’t think words or photos will do this place justice, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Until then, check out some of our finds below:
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!
It’s already wonderful that the Eastern Balboa Championships is just a short drive away, but this year EBC really had the feel of a top notch swing dance event, brimming with a level of excitement and enthusiasm that is almost unrivaled. EBC already felt like a Balboa family reunion, bridging the gap between All Balboa Weekends, but this year it felt like EBC really came into its own as an event. The new hotel for this year’s EBC, the North Raleigh Hilton, provided a lovely ballroom space, a big hallway with chairs and tables for vendors, registration, and for hanging out, and there were no shortage of extra rooms for practice space. There were competitions for everyone and I am proud of the newer Raleigh/Durham Balboa dancers, some of them only dancing Balboa for a few weeks prior to the event, taking the challenge head on and entering their first amateur competitions.
This year, EBC grew from one vendor to four vendors. The solo repeat vendor, and one that is near and dear to my heart, is the Vintage Collective (Andi Shelton, Claire Villa, and Laura Churchill Pemberton), who paid attention to what was bought and who purchased it last year, then went out to their sources to find even more of these vintage goods that swing dancers wear. The result was four large racks of clothing from the 1920’s through the 1940’s, both men’s and women’s apparel, three tables of accessories, and a giant shoe rack. The Vintage Collective was only set up for one day, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and I was there with my fellow vintage poachers at 9:00 sharp, freshly rolled out of bed and ready to commence with the hunt.
I intended to go grab the goodies I wanted, then go back to bed, but it was so exciting trying on clothes with my friends and choosing outfits for people that it was lunchtime before I knew it. I think Rita Shiang got my two favorite dresses of the day – a 1930’s sailor dress with red trim and a 1940’s brown floral rayon dress with amazing draping and a fishtail attachment in the back, you know, for sass. Again, I forgot to take photos of all this good stuff until the end of my shopping visit, I got so wrapped up in the experience…
Next, we have Dancestore, the anchor vendor of any major swing dance event and one that is continuously welcome, as they continue to provide reasonably priced, reproduction dance shoes that are essential to any swing dancer’s wardrobe. At one point, Frankie Hagan stopped dancing and came up to me to show me that his heel had come off his shoe. About 10 minutes later he came back up to me to show off his new pair of Aris Allen cap toes. THIS is only one of the great reasons to have a shoe vendor at your event. Another is to be able to actually try on the shoes to ensure a good fit. Then, at the dance on Sunday night, Kara Fabina announced that Dancestore would be selling their entire inventory at the event for 40% off for the next 15 minutes. YES!!! There was a rush to purchase the discounted shoes and even I decided to replace my pair of white mesh oxfords that I had danced a hole through the toe – at 40% off, how could you not?
Creations by Crawford is Sharon Crawford’s name for the hair flowers, fascinators, boutonnieres, and other clothing ornamentations she makes. I was a bit confused when I saw Sharon’s vendor space, as there were a few items for sale, but it mostly looked like a craft studio, with supplies everywhere. Then Bill Speidel showed me his boutonniere and explained that Sharon had made it custom to go with his outfit. I looked over and Sharon confirmed, as she furiously sewed together one of her creations for a customer. This is a new approach and one that can work at a weekend event – you have a bit of a captive audience if the shopper is there for the weekend, why not make something to go with what they are wearing if they have the time to wait? By the end of the dance you can have a custom piece that you know will work with something you have.
Finally, we have Vintage Visage, the brainchild of Kathryn Meyer, who had a fantastic display of vintage-inspired hats and accessories for sale, including hair flowers, fancy gloves, hats for ladies and gents, and the ever essential fan. Whoever has the foresight to sell fans at dances is always tops in my book. If you are looking for Kathryn and her wares after EBC, she is a regular vendor at Richmond’s Second Saturday dances.
And that about wraps it up for another great year at EBC! Here are some supplemental photos of the vendors:
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.
I love magazines that do the “real” v. “steal” spreads – taking designer and runway ensembles and translating them into more affordable pieces to create the same or a similar looking ensemble. I’ve been wanting to do this on Lindy Shopper, but instead of designer, take looks from iconic Lindy Hop photographs or videos and create an ensemble using modern pieces of clothing. I love doing this for Halloween costumes, but it does take patience to find each piece.
So here we go! For the first ensemble in this series, I’m looking to A Day at the Races, the classic Marx Brothers film from 1937 featuring Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. For the most part, the dancers appear in street clothing, but there are two follows wearing bias cut plaid skirts that really pop on the silver screen, the bold pattern contrasting with the more solid colors on the extras in the background. It’s no secret that I love plaid and this is a great use of plaid to draw attention to these two follows.
For the most part, the two outfits are the same: bias cut plaid skirt, white socks, dark shoes, and a collared blouse/sweater. The first plaid skirted follow has a low heeled t-strap shoe and a wing collared short sleeve sweater, while the second has a low heeled oxford and a collared blouse, which may or may not be under some sort of short sleeved sweater. The white socks also help draw attention to the follower’s footwork, especially with the t-straps.
It’s always interesting to see exactly what pieces come together to make up an ensemble. Sometimes it’s more simple (or more complicated) than you think. I had no trouble finding the skirt or the shoes, but the tops were quite difficult and I’m still empty handed on the lace trim collared shirt. Here’s what I was able to dig up to help achieve this look:
EBay seller son-of-an-ironworker popped up in one of my searches for vintage ties. To my delight, I found not only a clever collection of vintage bow ties, but also some other great accessories, like 1940’s/50’s patterned socks, deadstock socks, and a 1930’s Planter’s Peanuts necktie. Check it out…
I’m a firm believer that you can find just about anything on the internet, if you search diligently. The Vintage Shirt Company, based out of the UK, supplies shirts and accessories for use in period costume dramas; everything from the 1700s to the present day. A huge thanks to Lindy Shopper for pointing out this site to me.
According to their “About Us” page, “All the stock is adapted from original garments to ensure an authentic period look. Close attention has been paid to the detailing and standard of finish which means they can confidently be used in film work. We also stock a range of traditional underwear and useful accessories.”
This company features a ludicrous number of stiff, detachable collars. Detachable collars? According to the common legend, the detachable collar was invented by Hannah Lord Montague in Troy, NY in 1827; she found that the only soiled part of her husband’s shirts were the collars, so she snipped off the collar, washed it, then sewed it back on. Nowadays, detachable collars are largely unnecessary as they are very formal and very tedious. If you’re looking to dress in a 1920s to 1940s style, detachable collars are a bit old-fashioned, even for you; detachable collars are more of a turn-of-the-century style. The World Wars forced more practicality into men’s clothing, so attached collar shirts became the norm.
It’s interesting to see shirt designs from the 1920s onward, if only so you can notice that things have remained largely unchanged since then. The “dress shirt” as we know it, was standardized by that time. Only the fabric, patterns and proportions have oscillated with the times.
As you can see, this is a pretty simple striped dress shirt, one that you might be able to find in a dozen different places.
The true advantage of this store, then, is that it is a great one-stop shop for vintage inspired accessories. They’ve got a killer collection of braces (suspenders), sock garters, scarves, handkerchiefs and gloves. These are the sorts of details that can take your looks to a higher level. Keep in mind that this one-stop shop is going to be on the pricier side, especially since they’re shipping from the UK.
I think these socks rock and are quite a rare find, not only because they are such old socks that have never been worn, but also because they are vertical striped yellow and white with blue toes, heels, and top. Fantastic!