I was excited to see some new vendor faces and an old favorite return to the International Lindy Hop Championships this year. Particularly, with a focus on menswear – it is so easy for women to find good dance clothing, but most of our vendors (who are mostly women themselves) cater to women. This year, the men and women had some great vendors to choose from, from pieces you could take home to custom-made garments to order.
Did I mention my love for Chloe Hong? After her stint at All Balboa Weekend, I was suprised (read: elated) to see her back in the U.S. after such a short time. Not only did she clean up on the dance floor, she set up shop at ILHC to take custom orders for her wonderful selection of women’s skirts and classic men’s suiting. Just going through her fabric swatches makes me happy! If you have never considered ordering something custom and you find yourself at an event with Chloe Hong, I would recommend at least looking into ordering a custom piece – she can get your measurements in person and has lots of experience dressing dancers for a range of movement (she counts Bobby White, Thomas Blacharz, Pontus Persson, Laura Keat, Jeremy Otth, and Juan Villafane as customers, and I could go on…)
Returning for another year (have they been at ILHC every year?) is Forties Forward, with an array of lovely hair blooms, feathers, and accessories. One can never have too many hair accoutrements and I was also pleased to see that Forties Forward shared their table with A Woopie! Handmade Bowties (another menswear vendor!), which had a nice array of ties and even included some adorable instructions on how to tie the ties! I always need a little help when I tie my ties, so an adorable instruction card on my vanity beats, say, that YouTube tutorial I have to pull up every time I do this…
Perhaps the most impressive display belonged to Brown & Williams Clothiers, who specialize in vintage British menswear – yes, they import and they curate a stellar collection, a portion of which was on display at ILHC. I wish could sport the amazing jackets, sweaters, and trousers I spotted in their booth (none of them small enough!) – a seriously delicious collection for anyone who digs British style, collegiate style, boating, and especially tweed. If you are interested in checking out some of their stock, it looks like the best way to purchase is through their Etsy site – that green and white crested blazer *drool*…
While I’m helping organize/run Frankie 100 NC this weekend, I’ll definitely have one eye on New York to see what amazing videos and news come out of the main Frankie 100 celebration. Already, I see friends posting photos and experiences, including shopping – I think the most eagerly anticipated Frankie 100 merch is the reproduction Whitey’s Lindy Hopper jacket, which FROMChloehong took preorders for several weeks ago.
It was no surprise to me that the master of vintage collegiate style, Bobby White, posted a photo of his acquisition of the jacket (I would do the same thing – it’s exciting, it’s here, it’s real!), but there was more! Chloe also had custom bags made just for the jacket with the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers logo, as well as tee shirts. I was ecstatic to see the tees, not only because they would be available at a much lower price point than the detailed wool jacket, but also because the tees themselves are reproductions of sorts from the Keep Punching Big Apple routine! I say of sorts because it looks like the tees in the video are a lighter color with a darker graphic – Bobby says there is also a yellow tee available with a darker graphic, so you can get that Keep Punching look. 🙂
Thanks to Bobby for sharing his loot and to Chloe for keeping the surprises coming!
I recently went to see The Great Gatsby (2013) and the thing that bothered me more than the horribly anachronistic female costuming and the inflatable zebras were the men’s pants. They were obviously out of place – poorly tailored stove pipes that wrinkled/puddled around the ankles and calves, much in the way that a pair of skinny jeans would on a hipster. David Lochner tells me they used Brooks Brothers’ Milano Fit Trouser, their “slimmest fitting trouser with a lower rise and a plain front.” Something about this description seems like the antithesis of 1920’s menswear. That the film would sacrifice historical accuracy for a modern marketing opportunity is no surprise, but it got me thinking about high waist pants. Is this really the best they can do? When I search for high waist pants, what are retailers offering these days?
The pre-qual to these questions is how we got out of the fashion of wearing high waisted pants in the first place. Whenever I wear modern pants while I am dancing, they slowly inch their way downward or pull unnecessarily on my legs when I wear a belt. Doesn’t it make sense that our bottom garments would be better served by being secured at the narrowest point on our body? As someone with an extremely short inseam, why would I want to make my legs look shorter?
Quoting Nick Wooster of Bergdorf Goodman, “men have become so comfortable with low rise that it’s like bringing back the pleated pant; it took years to get men out of them and now we are showing men how good they can look in them. He sighed, “Men are creatures of repetition and when they get conditioned to like something it takes a very long time to change that.”
Quoting Robert Bryan, stylist, “Nothing looks worse than a long torso with short legs, a look created by pants that rise only to the hips, or these days, considerably lower,” he demurred. “Furthermore, it seems only natural that trousers should rise at least to the natural waist where they can rest for support on the hips and drape from there,”
In closing, “So, men, it is up to you daredevils that want to look tall, erect and sophisticated to bring back this iconic staple to our wardrobes.”
Support and drape sounds beautiful and practical for dancing…so where do we find these high-waisted pants?
Well, a lower rise appears to have overtaken all modern retailers – I asked two of my favorite male sartorialists, Bobby White and the aforementioned Mr. Lochner, about where they find high-waisted trousers with modern retailers and it is just as I feared: nowhere. Sure, you can find waists that are higher in comparison to low-rise pants, but not pairs, for example, like the ones Marlon Brando is sporting in the photo to the left. Mr. Lochner added, “Even the old men’s section at Macy’s lowered the rise.” Your options are to order something made for you, seek vintage sources, or spend countless hours searching for that one elusive pair in a shop and buy every pair they have in your size.
I found a nice selection of high waisted 1950’s pants at the Rusty Zipper, including some sweet looking Army slacks.
A Google search of “men’s high waisted pants” revealed a few, perhaps, not-quite-so-high-but-higher-than-low-rise options:
Cator Sparks says he picked up a pair of Levi’s 517’s, which he says are the pants the cowboys wear. Aside from describing the seemingly endless zipper, I love that Mr. Sparks talks about how he hasn’t felt this comfortable in a pair of pants since he bought a pair of custom made tuxedo pants.
Emporio Armani has this pair, but they don’t look particularly high-waisted to me, rather somewhere just above a low rise.
Dickies, classic purveyors of work-wear, offers this trouser – added bonus: hidden expandable waist and extra pocket on the leg.
And there you have it – with the passing of generations that wore high-waisted pants and the wearing-down of the waistline, so to speak, to more low-rise trousers being en vogue in subsequent generations, we have run out of a resource. If you have resources for high-waisted pants, please feel free to share them here in the comments section below. I know others will thank you for it!
BEHOLD! I give you this glorious new shoe from Johnston & Murphey – the Holbrook Linen Cap Toe! I can’t think of many other shoes more worthy of a linen or seersucker suit. Gents, this is one snappy shoe.
I’m certain there are many arguments against wearing vintage clothing and I’ve probably heard most of them:
“I can’t afford it.”
“It’s too fragile.”
“Vintage clothing doesn’t fit my shape.”
“Wearing other people’s old clothing is gross!”
In spite of the naysayers, I’d like to share my love and philosophy about vintage clothing and perhaps refute some misconceptions or perceptions about vintage clothing in the process. I’ve come up with a list of reasons why I think vintage clothing is worth adding to my wardrobe and why I enjoy vintage clothing so much.
If you are looking for sheer quantity of clothing, then vintage clothing probably isn’t right for you, unless you make a lot more money than I do in a year. What I am looking for is quality clothing, something that fits well, is made with nice materials, and will withstand the test of time. I’ve watched a lot of What Not To Wear in my life and Clinton and Stacy always talk about spending a little bit more on clothes to get items that will look more luxurious and quality to improve your overall appearance, clothing that you can wear for years, not just this season.
Not all vintage clothing is deteriorating and some of it is in quite durable condition, especially if you find a dead stock item or a person who had items that were well-cared for and rarely worn. The fabrics used in the first half of the 20th century seem more luxurious, the prints and colors more desirable, and the cuts of clothing more flattering. It’s the details that really get me, details that are overlooked by modern clothing designers (or at least the modern clothing I can afford) – bias cuts, goring in skirts, the impeccable cut of a man’s jacket, the use of buttons, beautiful belt buckles, pintucks and pleats, the use of contrast fabrics, the matching of prints, the use of ribbons and other embellishments, beaded details, a snap closure to hold that tab or collar down, structure in a collar or sleeve to make it retain its shape, and on and on. I love getting a new vintage garment and turning it inside out to see how it is made. There are elements in some of these clothes that you can only find in modern designer and couture clothing, which leads me to my next point…
More quality for less money
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I don’t spend any more on a vintage dress than I would in a modern retail store. That said, I generally pay less for a vintage garment that has more tailoring and details than I would for a comparable new dress. The same holds true for all used clothing – with new clothes you are paying for the new-ness of the garment, the salaries of the people who made it, and the company who is marketing the clothing. If I can get the same or better details for less money and the only difference is that the garment is old or used, I’m going to go with the more cost-effective option.
I’ve talked in the past about how vintage clothing was made for people of all sizes, not just tiny people, but I also find that vintage clothing just fits me better than modern clothing and is often easier to tailor than modern clothing. Modern clothing is made for the most common size, whatever that happens to be, and doesn’t take into account that everyone has a different bust/waist/hip ratio. If you are a little bigger on the top, bottom, or middle, that ratio isn’t going to work for you, especially if something is supposed to look “fitted.” Checking size charts can be deflating, especially if your bust, waist, and hip measurements land you in 3 different sizes. With vintage clothing, I find that the ratio can be more forgiving – generally fuller skirts, belted waists that can be cinched, and more ample areas in the bust because of how the garment was supposed to be worn. With eBay and online vintage stores, I am able to search for garments that fit my exact measurements, making fit even less of an issue.
I don’t like strapless or spaghetti strap dresses because I want the comfort of supportive undergarments; however, I am hard pressed to find dresses with sleeves, even in the winter, in modern retail stores. They want you to buy a jacket to go over it, or you have to find a cardigan. What if I want sleeves and a cardigan because I’m cold? I just find the whole thing impractical. I generally find it easier to find a vintage dress with sleeves in my size than I do finding a dress with sleeves at the mall – I think that’s saying a lot.
If you buy an article of vintage clothing, the odds of someone else having this exact article of clothing is slim to none. Much of the clothing of the swing era was hand made, not mass-produced, but even the mass produced items are rare and far flung. I’ve only come across a couple of items in multiples, one being a dressing gown I found at both Design Archives in Greensboro, NC and on eBay and the other being a 1940’s dress I wore at Lindy Focus last year that several people insisted was exactly the same as a dress owned by Naomi Uyama. Aside from those rare exceptions, my vintage wardrobe remains one-of-a-kind and I think there’s value in finding your own style via these unique garments.
Personal style can be maintained via vintage clothing without having to change your entire wardrobe to the stereotypical “vintage” look. I have friends who can pick out both modern and vintage garments and say “This looks like you!” Clearly, there would be major differences in the garments, but there are certain elements that make up personal style that can translate across the decades – cut, shape, color, and decorative notions are a few that come to mind. Sometimes people have trouble discerning whether or not a garment I wear is vintage, but I think the general consensus is that, whatever I am wearing, it is very “me.”
It’s been done
Designers are inspired by the designs of the past. It’s that simple. You can look at just about any garment and relate its shape and design to some article of clothing created in a past decade. In my opinion, most of the time, the past did it better.
Feeling good about yourself
I’ll admit it, I feel really special when I wear vintage clothing. Clothes from the past tended to be more dressy than today’s jeans and tee shirt uniform (which I do still wear), so when I wear something vintage it’s because I’m going somewhere special, so I want to look special. Maybe I want to be going somewhere special every day, so I try to wear vintage dresses as much as possible so I feel better about myself, even when I’m not going somewhere special. Vintage clothing can definitely elevate your look, your mood, and your surroundings, and I find that people smile more at me when I wear vintage.
I feel like there’s been a lot of talk about sustainability and being conscious about the environmental impact of our clothing purchases and, while I didn’t initially purchase vintage clothing for this purpose, it’s certainly an incentive to continue to do so. I like to think that I am rescuing this clothing from the garbage heap, keeping its wonderfulness alive while eliminating its clutter and deterioration in a landfill.
As for vintage clothing being gross, well…I guess I’ll just have to be gross. There’s nothing like a trip to the dry cleaners to make an old garment feel new and get out that musty attic smell. 😉
I’ll agree that this is a labor of love. I think some people get frustrated because they treat a vintage clothing store like they would treat a store at the mall. When you are shopping for vintage clothing you have to shift your approach, know that not everything comes in your size, and be patient. Just like any good wardrobe, building it takes time. I’ve been collecting vintage clothing for over a decade now and I’m just now getting to the point where I feel like I have a vintage outfit for almost every occasion. The result – a wardrobe that I love and adore – has been worth the wait.
Are you looking for that perfect vintage-looking cap, one that’s less Kangol and more newsboy circa 1932? Look no further than the eBay store ZaSu Caps, a treasure trove of vintage style hats and caps, including newsboy caps, alpine caps, railroad engineer caps, a pith helmet, and some WWII reproductions.
The maker of these hats, Ralf Reynolds, is also one of the Reynolds Brothers, a trad jazz duo from that packs a mean, swinging punch. Further, “Ralf has the distinction of being the only person ever to have a 30 year career as a professional washboard player.” Check their website – how adorable are these guys?
From Peter Loggins, via Facebook (who tipped me off about the hats): “These are the cats that seriously influenced my dancing, practicing every day to their Futuristic Junglism CD, songs like Pigmeat stomp. Fun, down to earth, historical knowledge, John Reynolds also played in Mora’s Modern Rhythmists, and is a hell of artist, and Ralf Reynolds makes the hats I wear!!! Zasu Caps…I remember the night I first met Ralph, he had just moved back to California, and went to the Derby, with a duffel bag full of hats. I can’t remember how many I bought, but it was every one that fit me…”
Find ZaSu Caps on Facebook and become a fan! Watch the video below, and you’ll become a fan of the Reynolds Brothers as well. 🙂
The seller of these 1940’s reproduction Hollywood style high waist pants proudly displays them in this eBay auction and reports that he/she made these pants from a real 1940’s pair with the same specs. Very cool! It’s always nice when clothes are worn by someone, rather than a mannequin, and these pants look pretty sharp on the model. The seller, johnny-jays-vintage, reports that they are made from a lightweight gray wool and are lined in black cotton. It also looks like there’s room for alteration, so these pants could fit a range of sizes. A great basic to add to your wardrobe!