I’m feeling what Bloody Edith is putting down. Specializing in reproductions of the 1930s through the 1950s, Bloody Edith has distinguished itself from other reproduction brands by offering pieces (lots of great separates) that I haven’t seen in colors that I also haven’t necessarily seen and everything looks lovely and wearable. Based in Milan, Italy, their website is mostly in Italian, so I’ll stick to the Etsy page for links to purchase.
From the Philosophy section of their website:
“Each garment is designed and hand made by crossing a taste for the past to the advantage of a new item. In the roman tailoring shop are born dresses with floral theme stealing the colors of Hawaii, high-waisted trousers with a characteristic cuff that remind us of the big screen’s divas, screwed jackets and animalier shirts. This is not a simple reproduction of the Forties and Fifties fashion, but a unique replica of the trends that have left an indelible mark in the history of costume, to return to woman the pleasure of a single item, freeing her from the trends imposed by a market fashion plagued by the products in series.”
I like this idea of trends leaving a mark on history – as we all know, nothing is ever new in fashion, as it constantly draws references from the past. I also like the idea of being free of trends. Style blogs often preach basics, but basics are informed by personal style, body shape, the needs of the wearer, and beyond. Basic never has to be boring if it’s something you reach for in your closet over and over.
Of particular note are the excellent knits – knitwear used to be completely evasive and that has been slowly changing in the reproduction business, but is still not quite there as compared to other clothing items offered. I prefer natural fibers and was delighted to see knits in cotton and wool.
My only complaint is the size range – I am a very average size, even smaller than the actual average size woman in the US, and I clicked on several bottoms and probably won’t fit into the largest size. The 1950s jeans offered are not commensurate with actual 1950s jeans I own, which have a generous waist/hip ratio to accommodate a number of different hip measurements. I am assuming this is a modern accommodation, since the majority is so used to wearing tight denim, which I shall never understand.
They really deserve a standing ovation. I’ve been following Sweden based clothing company Emmy for several years after their high quality winter cardigans came on my radar and have picked up a couple of pieces from each twice yearly collection since then, but the Spring/Summer 2021 collection took my breath away. Timely titled “Homebound Holiday,” it’s far from leggings and tees – it feels more like a collection of hope, for all sorts of occasions and things I want to do outside of my home and look fabulous doing it.
The collection takes inspiration from so many early 20th century sources, from Edwardian day wear to 1940s sportswear. If you like mixing and matching eras, this is a fab collection. The color coordination is superb – there are so many capsule wardrobes that could be put together from the collection with the purchase of a few pieces to mix and match to create multiple outfits. Also, part of Emmy’s philosophy is that all of their collections will coordinate with past collections so that you are building a wardrobe rather than starting over with new color schemes each season, so if you’re thinking about jumping in, I can assure you that the water is fine.
I am perhaps most excited about the bottoms in this collection, which can be difficult for summer plus dancing. If you are not a skirts person, I would highly encourage you to take a jaunt to the Emmy pants and shorts page and behold the summer weight fabrics in colors and neutrals. The Hayworth Holiday shorts are beyond adorable, and if, like me, you struggle with thigh circumference with shorts, the adorable pleats in the front look like leg liberation. I can’t resist a romper, so of course there are four to choose from. The addition of belt loops to the romper is brilliant to accommodate a variety of waist sizes and to give the option of a cinch when you need it and taco room when you don’t. There are three styles of trousers to accommodate styling preferences, two that can be paired with braces (that you can also buy on the website). Finally, there are adorable overalls in two neutrals and two candy colors that make me smile.
I could go on and on about everything, but I need to trust that you will go and see for yourself. I believe there’s something for everyone in this collection and look forward to wearing my pieces in the future for work, dancing, play, hanging out, visiting, exploring – everything we haven’t been able to do in the past year.
I don’t know what is going on in the UK, but they are acing the vintage reproduction market in almost all ways. Enter Cousin Jack Menswear, adding to the ranks of promising vintage offerings and showing the practical side of looking good. For example, pictured on the main page of their website is a pair of trousers with a fishtail back, espousing that said trousers “can be worn for cycling, jogging, fishing, hop skotch [but not scotch? I’ll defer, LOL], or even turning up a new spindle for that staircase.” While I don’t believe anyone is going to run a 10K in these trousers, I do like the idea that if you needed to break into a trot to chase a pet or maybe spend a couple of hours swinging out, that you would be secure in the breathability and range of motion of said trousers.
The collection is set up to be mini-capsule wardrobes, which I like because of the practicality – it’s easy to pick a suit, maybe a couple of waistcoats and shirts, a pair of braces, and a sweater vest and mix and match all of these pieces to create different looks. If you’re feeling extra fancy, indulge in a pair of plus fours and coordinating socks (thank you for putting these together) or a classic pair of striped pajamas. From the website:
“The idea was to create a collection of heritage inspired ‘looks’ that would appeal to many men rather than one style that would only appeal to one group.”
While not local to me, I love their emphasis on sourcing and manufacturing locally: “We manufacture either on site or in specially selected factories in the EU – where we are confident of the essential ethical standards. Our fabrics are selected from quality EU or UK based suppliers such as Abraham Moons in Leeds and Brisbane Moss in Todmorden.”
Cousin Jack is a spinoff of The House of Foxy, one of my favorite current brands, so I would wager that the garments are high quality, which is my experience with the multiple HOF garments I own.
If anyone has experience with this brand, please feel free to chime in and leave a comment below!
It didn’t occur to me that I might be able to write an International Lindy Hop Championships fashion report this year, but there was enough chatter about wardrobe in the chat that I couldn’t help myself and I started taking notes on a post-it as I watched the competition unfold on my laptop. Two things that I believe have had an obvious impact on what people wear at ILHC – obviously the pandemic, as evidenced by some participants wearing masks in their routines and dancing on a variety of surfaces (grass, concrete, tile, carpet), and the move from August to November, which notes changes like sleeve length, fabrics, and color palette. I particularly loved Ukraine’s Curly Girly Trio for their cozy outfits and fall colors.
Speaking of sleeves, the star of ILHC this year was sleeves – specifically long sleeves, flowing and billowing, drawing attention to and highlighting movement, while simultaneously practically facilitating movement with their shape that allows a wider range of movement than, say, a standard modern woman’s dress shirt. This is a beautiful choice for all of these reasons and it’s a period-appropriate choice for the swing era, also for all of these reasons – we see performers from the 1930s and 1940s wearing these shirts for reasons beyond style…but also style.
Another trend involves drawing the attention of the eye – white. Wearing white, particularly against a darker backdrop, tends to draw the eye toward the white, which is advantageous, say, when you are wearing white shoes and doing some incredible footwork. We saw a number of dancers sporting white Adidas sneakers, which can be credited to Skye Humphries’ influence, but also saw a number of white suits. An entire team of them, in fact – Italy’s Milano Swing Team showing us all how it’s done with incredible tailoring and double breasted jackets, perhaps a nod to Remy Kouakou Kouame and Vincenzo Fesi’s routine from 2014. See also, followers’ sleeves…
Along those lines, I saw a few dancers drawing attention with a pop of yellow or chartreuse on a shoe, shirt, or skirt, which has a similar effect. Who doesn’t need a little pop of sunshine and joyful color as we head into a fairly quarantined winter? I loved Yuyu Yeonjeong You’s yellow blouse (also with the signature sleeves, in the Advanced Solo Jazz and Charleston finals) against a plain white backdrop and also loved that several Lithuanian dancers used a room with a yellow/chatreuse backdrop, which reverse highlighted the neutral tones worn by Pamela Gaizutyte and Tadas Vasiliauskas in the Invitational Classic Lindy Hop division.
Building on all of the above – sleeves, white, and yellow – we’re going to add a skater punk aesthetic to the mix. As many of us came to swing through the punk/ska scene and also lived through the baggy pants of the groove era, seeing Sakarias Larsson come onto the screen with Frida Segerdahl and then completely throw down in the Invitational Classic Lindy Hop division was a cheer-inducing moment. Note that his choice of attire isn’t haphazard just-rolled-out-of-bed skater punk, it’s Lindy Hop because of his choices – white Converse All-Stars to draw your eye; loose light colored trousers rolled up for efficiency of movement; a loose, but not ill-fitting yellow shirt (again, drawing attention), and a black knit cap that coordinates with with his socks and keeps his hair out of his face. This is how you do it, folks. I’m calling it a trend because we also saw Barcelona dancer Aurelien Darbellay sporting a similar aesthetic and, also, throwing down. Note Frida in the signature blouse, with a ruffle detail – all the shirts are slightly different and these details prevent this trend from becoming repetitive.
I’ll end with a note about the medium – i.e. video, which has essentially thrust many of us into the role of amateur filmmakers, with considerations like lighting, backdrop, angles, everything that goes into creating a cinematic experience all an added challenge in presenting the competition videos. You don’t need a drone or a crew to get good results, but you do need to be thoughtful in some of your choices. One of my favorite videos from ILHC was from Argentina, with dancers Eugenia Diaco and Santiago Arana creating a single visual backdrop that was geometric and dynamic, with contrasting and abstract clothing (a nod to Groovie Movie?), a checkerboard floor, a band of black highlighting upper leg/lower torso movement, and a skyline in the far background. They didn’t make the cut for the screen cap of the video for the Open Classic Lindy Hop Finals (Grace Babbes and Kevin Nguyen ARE adorable), but you can find them at the 16:32 mark.
It cannot be overstated the impact COVID-19 has had on all aspects of our swing dance community and, while our old way of life seems distant at the moment, I see friends and colleagues finding new ways to both support themselves and endear them to us. New Orleans based swing dance instructor Mia Goldsmith Halloran and jazz trombonist Charlie Halloran are two of my favorite people – I have been an ardent admirer of Mia’s dancing for so many years and Charlie is an incredible and versatile musician with whom both my husband and I have enjoyed sharing the stage – and I watched them on social media as they, like so many friends, figured out their next steps.
They did an adorable series of YouTube music videos (Quarantunes) and Charlie’s trombone duet with his neighbor from their respective porches went viral. Then I saw Charlie had gotten a sewing machine, which has become one of the central pieces of my pandemic activities, and cheered him on. Then Mia messaged me that she was starting an online vintage clothing business and we discussed logistics.
As is common with people with excellent taste, both of them have already excelled in their offerings.
Mia launched Golden Levee Vintage last month as an Instagram-based shop at @goldenleveevintage – I know Mia has collected vintage clothing for a long time and, like anyone who has, you likely have enough vintage to open up a de facto shop. Beyond that, it looks that she may have been collecting in earnest to start a vintage shop, which has been a dream of hers. Mia’s initial offerings in the past two months have been an excellent mix of 1940s through 1990s vintage, with a distinctly wonderful Mia viewpoint – even the later vintage has the nod to a prior era (hello, 90s tropical rayon does 40s dress I missed out on because I am SLOW) and everything is cheerful, embracing color. If Mia’s shop was a mood board, it would evoke words like tropical, comfort, dance-friendly, lounge, elegant, fun, light, color, whimsical, basically an aspirational wardrobe for my fantasy life in New Orleans. Follow her and watch for more goodness!
Charlie and his new sewing machine created Crescent Pennant Co. (@crescentpennantco), with handmade pennants in classic style featuring mostly New Orleans locations. This might seem like a hyper-local focus to some, but since New Orleans is the cradle of jazz, the locations have meaning to a wider audience – particularly if you know what it means to miss New Orleans. My absolute favorite pennant he’s created thus far is for Armstrong’s Secret 9, Louis Armstrong’s baseball team. Within weeks of launch, local boutiques were already buzzing and he’s been working hard to fill orders and create new custom designs.
Follow these two Instagram accounts for more goodness in the future – cheers!
Every so often a company reaches out to me for a product review and it’s usually not a good fit for my blog, but when I saw JJ Suspenders pop up in my inbox I was intrigued. Then I went to the website and there were loads of lovely braces and I thought, “Is this a mistake? Or is this marketing?”
As a lurker in several menswear groups on Facebook, the distinction between braces and suspenders was a critical one, it meant needing buttons sewn in your trousers versus simply clipping them on; it also meant a level are sartorial in-the-know-ness (you may call it snobbery) about the type of person who wears one over the other. While I prefer a set of braces because I’ve watched my husband struggle with his clip-ons for tuxedo gigs (both to put them on and have them stay on) and I’m particular enough to want that added level of security/not wanting a hassle, I know that the thought of sewing buttons into one’s trousers (or paying someone to do it), for some, is like that extra thing that’s not worth someone’s time, effort, and resources. I understand that not everyone shares my priority for absolute security in trousers being held up by elastic straps. I’m not at the level of wearing both braces and a belt, though, so I’m still within reason.
BUT I DIGRESS, back to the lovely package that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago. JJ Suspenders was very patient with me, because I already owned most of the colors I wanted and they were out of the burgundy, they waited until they got some more burgundy pairs in stock, notified me, and shipped me the pair. As I opened the box, I was confused again – there were both clips AND leather attachments on the ends of the straps. First thought, surely no one is THIS paranoid (takes a breath, looks closer); second thought, this is genius, they are delivering both so that you can choose and simply remove the type of trouser attachment you don’t want at the moment, with the option to reattach if/when you do, via a sturdy snap. This means they can be worn with all of your trousers, at any time.
The packaging and extras are all so thoughtful – a small sewing kit with buttons (perhaps to immediately encourage non-sewers to pull up a YouTube video on how to accomplish the sewing of braces buttons onto trousers – the question of where do the buttons come from seems to be novel to my husband, so I’m glad they’ve eliminated this hurdle); two extra sets of suspender clips; and a lovely canvas bag to put it all in.
While I usually prefer a wider elastic, I opted for the narrower braces this go around and was pleasantly surprised at their sturdiness and quality. The attachments are leather and the snaps sturdy. I wore these all day with great comfort and would say these are a win for me. I look forward to wearing them more this fall when I have more fall colored clothing items to coordinate.
The website has a large selection – from leather in seven colors to solids, stripes, tweeds, and a few patterns, I believe this to be a great resource for people who may be embarking on their first pair of suspenders/braces and for seasoned braces veterans. The prices are on par with quality braces makers, like Trafalgar. Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure I know of another quality brand of braces maker – and the lack of quality options was the impetus for JJ Suspenders coming into existence. From their website:
“It started in 2014 when founders Jackson and Josh were shopping for suspenders to wear at a friend’s wedding and after visiting dozens of shops all they could find were a handful of generic, outdated and overpriced suspenders. When looking for alternatives online, they quickly found that about 90% of the suspenders on the market were low quality and mass-produced by the same factory. The only suspenders that met Jackson and Josh’s quality standards were from a very old company in England. But with this came high shipping costs, outdated designs, and poor customer service.”
My communications with JJ Suspenders have been exemplary – my contact, Misha Inglis, has been professional, courteous, and friendly and I am delighted that they found me and reached out to me out of the blue. It is clear they are striving for quality and I appreciate and applaud their mission to provide quality braces and suspenders – both, actually, at the same time.
P.S. Yes, that is my 1964 Vespa 90 kitted to a 129 cc engine. I’ve enjoyed riding it more during the pandemic, since other hobbies have been on the back burner.
I got a gut punch the other day when someone posted online about Loco Lindo’s collaboration with someone/something named Scout (feel free to explain this to me, I couldn’t locate info on the website), everything in seersucker and 40’s inspired. I was looking at a vintage romper I owned – same pattern, same material, only the romper in my closet was starting to get snug and uncomfortable for dancing. THIS WAS MY CHANCE AT REDEMPTION. I didn’t hesitate to place an order for the Carolina Romper (they are coming for me, DIRECTLY). It arrived and has all the bells and whistles of my vintage romper, only the new one is green (old one was red) and it fits me so comfortably. Check out this collection on the Loco Lindo website – the romper comes in green and blue and the collection features other pieces, like a 40’s dress, 40’s skirt, and tie top, all of which look really comfy and come in green, blue, red, and yellow.
If you’ve ever been to I Heart Bal or if you know Richmond-based instructor Erica Vess, you know what an incredible artist she is and how she is able to hone in on the most adorable and instantly relatable ideas and translate them into marketing and merchandise for her event. I have only been to half of the I Heart Bal events, but I buy merchandise every year because I want it, it’s so good. I was delighted to see a one-off design this morning from Erica in my Facebook feed, featuring a punk rock kitty with punk rock font saying SWING MEOWT. This appeals to every fiber of my being.
From Erica on Facebook: “You can support our studio during the shutdown with this sweet merch I just dropped into our fundraising store. Bonus: you’ll also be supporting another local small business, Itty Bitty Press, who has lost tons of orders during this time.”
HERE FOR THIS SWEET MERCH, ERICA. TAKE MY WALLET. 😉
With the pandemic in full effect along with the accompanying isolation and cancellation of all activities, I was thinking of ways to use my time away from dancing and singing and stay connected. Thinking about how we are all essentially broadcasting communications via the Internet from our homes – our personal and intimate spaces – and how these are our reference and existence points for the time being, I thought about sharing more of my personal space with all of you. I am often asked by visitors to my home to see my closet, so it seemed that was the natural place to go for a first episode and for the title of this web series.
I have other ideas for episodes, but I want to see how this first episode is received, so we shall see. I am also open to suggestions for episode topics and garments/shoes you might like to discuss, feel free to post them in the video comments on YouTube.
Also, please click SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel for episode updates and to help with monetization of my YouTube account – please and thank you!
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.
The Triangle dancers are in a flurry preparing for the inaugural Bull City Swingout (July 12-14, 2019) and we are so excited to share with you all the lovely things our area has to offer – doing my part here and sharing all of my local vintage clothing and jewelry haunts. While the event is walkable within downtown Durham, North Carolina, if you want the full vintage shopping experience, you will need to venture out in a car – however, there are two vintage stores in the downtown area, so even if you don’t have a car you won’t miss out. I’ll start with the stores closest to the event and work our way (distance-wise) out from there.
213 W. Main St. (2 blocks from the Durham Armory)
Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dolly’s is a vintage clothing store and gift shop, offering both men’s and women’s clothing in addition to some fun Durham merch, cute gifts, and some downtown necessities (i.e. umbrellas in case you forgot yours, socks for jurors who get cold at the courthouse). Most of the clothing will be 1950’s-1980’s, but there are a few Art Deco gems hanging around – there’s a brown crepe and sequin evening gown and matching bolero from the 1930’s in there right now that better go home with someone! Dolly’s is only two blocks away from my office and is my haven when I need a cheerful place to be during a lunch break – say hi to Larisa Harrison, the owner, or maybe local artist Anna Wallace will be working that day. This is also where I take most of my vintage clothing that no longer fits.
GIBSON GIRL VINTAGE
1001 W. Chapel Hill St.
Open 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. (closed on Mondays, open ’til 8 p.m. on Thursdays)
Owner Sara Spissu opened Gibson Girl Vintage a few months ago and she’s already got a full shop with more inventory coming in all the time – every time I go in, there’s new things to see, which is all very exciting. Gibson Girl has both men’s and women’s clothing, as well as a good bit of furniture and housewares. Like Dolly’s, it will mostly be 1950’s-1980’s clothing, with a sprinkling of earlier clothing – there’s a lovely yellow lace 1930’s dress and some hawt black 1940’s pumps (size 7.5) in there right now that I wish fit me! It’s about a 20 minute walk from the Durham Armory – if you decide to take that hike, there are some other great things within this block of the city, like the Durham Co-op Market, Grub (a yummy restaurant), and a Joe Van Gogh coffee shop.
CARLISLE & LINNY VINTAGE JEWELRY
112 S. Churton St.
Tuesday – Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday – Monday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you like vintage jewelry, Carlisle & Linny is the stuff dreams are made of, stocking Victorian through 1970’s jewelry, and not in a token way – there are so many Art Deco pieces that I spent about two hours in the store the first time I went, mulling over the pieces I should buy. I am fairly indecisive, particularly when there are so many lovely things…regardless, this tiny shop is packed to the gills and there’s even more in the back. If you are looking for something specific, reach out to owner Lindsley Bown ahead of time to see if she might have something – her inventory is deep, jewelry is small, so it takes some effort to find things. This shop is about a 17 minute drive from the Durham Armory and downtown Hillsborough is adorable – there are several good restaurants and a wonderful chocolate shop, Matthew’s Chocolates, within a couple of blocks of the shop.
If you attended the Eastern Balboa Championships, you may already be familiar with Raleigh Vintage, as they were our wonderful lobby vintage vendors who saved all their good swing era stuff all year for our selection. You can also get a nice selection of their inventory on their website, but obviously nothing beats going in person and being able to try things on. This shop is a 30-35 minute drive from the Armory and can be a little hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for – the entrance is down a ramp, between a shop and a parking lot, look for a door and a Raleigh Vintage sign at the bottom of the ramp. Once you’re inside, it doesn’t even feel like you are in a basement, the space is a light and airy salon with a selection of Victorian through 1970’s clothing and accessories that reflects the excellent taste of the owners, Andi Shelton and Isaac Panzarella. It’s also a few doors down from my favorite Triangle bakery, The Cupcake Shoppe.
FATHER & SON ANTIQUES
302 S. West St.
Monday – Saturday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Father & Son is a Raleigh institution, predating any of the aforementioned shops and was one of those places before the downtown area started revitalizing that was an admirable and crowded mix of excellent junk, vintage clothing, and awesome furniture. They have moved to a location that is less crowded and less dank and it is just not the same and my heart will always belong at that old location. Father & Son tends to be better for menswear than women’s clothing, but it’s still worth a trip, particularly if you love mid-century furniture – they always have a beautiful selection and furniture makes up about half the store. This shop is also about a 30-35 minute drive from the Durham Armory.
The newest contender in the swing dance shoes and apparel market is Swing It, based in Krakow, Poland. A quote from their Facebook page caught my eye, so we’ll start with that: “We believe in slow fashion philosophy – natural materials, quality and comfort.” If this quote had the word adorable in it, it might be directly targeted at me. I’m seeing this term “slow fashion” come up more often and, as I become the old lady I was always destined to be, I find myself drawn to this idea that fashion should slow down a little – as a vintage clothing wearer, this seems innate, but in terms of buying new garments made now (but in the vintage style – we’re full circle), this is a new term that applies to a very old concept, of buying quality things you love to last you for a long time. I think slow fashion is easier for people who have developed their own sense of personal style, but then you’re here, reading this blog post, so maybe you have that or maybe you aspire to that more permanent sense of style. Perhaps you’re here to augment your current style. If you’re comfortable in yourself, comfortable in your quality clothes, and are sweating it out on the dance floor in natural fibers, what more do you need from a garment? Whatever the reason, I’ve digressed far afield, so let’s return to Poland where this new swing dancer-focused brand resides.
I always try to start on a company’s about page, to get a flavor for what the company goals are and what makes it tick. Swing It produces reproduction clothing and shoes from the 1930’s through the 1960s, based on original patterns, with all of the clothing made in Poland. Goals are quality, great appearance, and customer satisfaction, but also personal satisfaction, as the owners of this company, Basia and Greg, design things they want to wear. I believe in this concept – if you like it and are excited about it, certainly there are others who will/are, too.
The men’s shoes are cap toes or classic brogues, with your basic brown tones as well as a more adventurous color/combination for each style (I see you, dark green cap toes!).
The women’s shoes are also oxfords, in lovely suede in two of my favorite colors – purple and green. It’s almost like they called me…
This year was my first full Camp Hollywood experience, flying in before the event began and flying out after the event ended, and after I got my obligatory In-N-Out Burger fix, I headed to the vendor area to hover and watch the magic unfold in the vendor area. The vendor area was comprised of an entire ballroom, a large adjacent conference room, and a large Camp Hollywood merch table where you could purchase both camp swag and music from the bands and musicians performing over the course of the event. This is definitely the largest vendor area at any event I have attended – I marveled at it last year, but this year I understood. The traffic in Los Angeles is so bad that you almost don’t want to leave the hotel, or at least not to go somewhere outside of a 5 mile radius. I looked into some sightseeing on Friday – maybe a vintage car museum or a Frank Lloyd Wright house – but the 12-15 miles to get there would take over an hour at 10:30 a.m., which I was neither willing to spend the time nor the money to accomplish at that point, especially with evening band obligations. So, the shopping comes to you!
I did manage an excursion with fellow vintage enthusiast Brettie Page, who had a car at Camp Hollywood – through some careful planning on her part and a small window of time on Monday where the traffic would only take about a half-hour, we rushed over to Paper Moon Vintage. I don’t have a full report because, when one has the challenge of an hour in a vintage store, one must be focused, particularly when said vintage store has a great selection of swing era items. Brettie and I both left with garments – she an incredible 1940’s bathing suit in shimmering white with gold stars and me with a silk 1930’s garden party dress – which is just about all you can ask for in a successful run to a vintage shop. I also left with this swell Jo Stafford pin – like, how often do you come across 1940’s band merch? Like, never. The cherry on this sundae was that everything in the store was 15% off.
Back at the LAX Marriott on the first day of the event, I hovered near the ballrooms and enough friends were volunteering at the Re-mix Vintage Shoes booth that I got pulled in with some lovely chatting and managed to be their first purchase of the weekend. Some day I will visit the mothership, but it was still great to chat with owner Philip Heath about shoes, pick up the shoes I had reserved, and check out all the new gorgeous purple shoes and a selection of wedges (which he doesn’t usually bring to All Balboa Weekend, the only other dance event Re-mix attends as a vendor). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Starlet shoe will actually fit my feet, even though I believe it’s on the same last as the Gabrielle, which my feet are entirely too fat to wear – another pair to go on the wishlist!
My second stop of the trip, in the brief window between sound check and downbeat, was to hit up the Vintage Blue Moon booth and I’m so glad I did! Apparently, the vintage expo at the Queen Mary didn’t happen this year and Vintage Blue Moon was having a magnificent sale on jewelry, both vintage and some excellent reproduction “Bakelite” jewelry. The first pass yielded a Bakelite scottie dog brooch, a 1930’s rhinestone ukulele brooch, and a matching repro necklace and earrings set in peppermint stripes. I returned later to go through the clothing and there were some truly special pieces – in particular a 1930’s black satin (that heavy/heavenly indestructible kind) jumpsuit with appliqués (dying/gasping), really excellent 1920’s dresses, 20’s/30’s lingerie, and an impressive wall of menswear.
As I’m running through the vendor area, I notice a dress – CAN IT BE – it’s the Beach Clip dress! As we’ve talked about on this blog, I knew the Beach Clip dress (originally owned and worn by Southern California dancer Genevieve Grazis) was being reproduced for sale by Loco Lindo and recently heard that it would be debuted at Camp Hollywood, but I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. Having examined it up close and inside out, I was so excited to finally see this project come to fruition and to see an entire rack of these dresses in wonderful prints on comfortable and washable rayon crepe. I made a beeline for the Loco Lindo booth after the main dance ended and was relieved to find several prints still available in my size, including a scottie dog print. (Fate? Fate.) Loco Lindo owner Linda Marrone and her crew did an incredible job with the design, translating a fairly complicated late 1930’s dress into the garment I ultimately purchased, which will be comfortable and movable for dancing, with the same amazing twirl from that gored skirt. You could also buy a Beach Clip skirt, and, of course, any of Linda’s other wonderful dresses, skirts, pants, and blouses in that wonderful crepe fabric. The “Venice Beach” skirt is already on the website and I hear the dress will be posted for sale in short order. Very special thanks to Jennifer Halsne, who essentially unearthed this dress, brought it to national attention, and then worked with Loco Lindo to make this reproduction happen! For more on the story of the Venice Beach/Beach Clip dress, visit Jennifer’s blog, Swing Sleuths.
Sharing the vendor area with Loco Linda was Bandini St., selling a variety of head bands, hair flowers, shoe bags, and ideally situated next to the door leading to the main ballroom across the hall. Let’s say you’ve already picked up a pair of Re-mix shoes, snagged a dress from either Loco Lindo or vintage dress, then you can put the finishing touches on your ensemble and/or buy a nice shoe bag to protect your new shoe investment. I had thoughts about WHAT IF THE AIRLINE LOSES MY LUGGAGE and then I realized that I’d be at Camp Hollywood where I could replace everything except my underwear.
All the Shiny Things! Occupied the center of the main vendor ballroom with an intense amount of jewelry for just about anyone or anything. I noted on the evening of the A Bug’s Life theme that it would be easy to stop by the ATST booth and instantly upgrade your outfit to tonight’s theme by purchasing one of many insect brooches or small pins to be worn on a dress or lapel or collar. I particularly loved the rainbow display of bangles – lucite, bakelite, other plastic, who knows? But if the color fits…
Need a hairstyle to get you through the weekend or maybe want to do something special for the Saturday night dance? The stylists from Hush Hush Bang Bang had you covered, offering an array of services from blowout to a full updo or glam waves.
A Walk Thru Time Vintage is the last stop in the main vendor area ballroom, offering a mix of swing era vintage, later vintage, and costume pieces. I particularly loved that they created a tiki/tropical vignette, as we were surrounded by palm trees poolside at the Marriott and it just seemed right that you might want to pick up something festive to wear by the pool or to the special poolside live music on Monday.
Across the hall in a conference room I found a Lip Sense booth, which was a collaboration among Iris Tarou (who was also vending at Lindy Focus this past year, Tawnie Gadd, and Lisa Cleveland. I am a big fan of budge-proof lip color for dance events for obvious reasons (short = face sometimes accidentally grazing lead’s shirt during Bal, also having to be dressed before dinner because of time constraints) and I am not above forgetting cosmetics! I also love the combined effort of these dancer/business women, which means the booth stays open more often for shoppers and they can alternate dance time!
The remainder of the conference room was a bit less defined, so I apologize if I credit a garment to the wrong vendor. Both Pepperpie Vintage, who was at Camp Hollywood last year, and Rare Revival Vintage carried a mix of swing era vintage and dance/fab appropriate later vintage items, mostly women’s items. In the very back was a men’s corner by Purple Peacock Vintage, with some truly fabulous menswear pieces, like a 4 piece suit (extra pants, y’all), other swing era three piece suits, and the cutest light blue and white polka dot braces (that I really considered buying even though I don’t own any pants that could accommodate them).
If I’ve missed anyone, please give me a shout! There’s so much going on at Camp Hollywood and the vendor area is no exception – save your pennies to do some serious shopping at next year’s event!
There are any number of reproduction companies making 1950’s-inspired clothing, but very few that have been quite this incisive or referential to the designs that set the aesthetic for the following decade – I am, of course, referring to Christian Dior’s “New Look” collection from 1947 (which cast of the shackles of wartime austerity in favor of a “new” silhouette for women) and the most recent collection from UK-based clothing company Miss Candyfloss, which they have playfully named “Amour Fou.” If you need a little lift in your day, I recommend taking a gander at the MCF Fall 2018 look book highlighting this collection, it is pure joy and beauty of design and the models look comfortable and beautiful in their garments.
While I find most New Look skirts to be too full for my liking for dancing, I certainly appreciate this glorious aesthetic and MCF has nailed the look with modern takes on fabrics and shapes. For me and my dancing wardrobe, the separates in this collection really shine, as well as the overall color palette being versatile and so lovely for fall and winter. While I don’t love all the synthetic fabrics (in general), I can very much appreciate their washability and wearability for dancers – the design is so good here, I’m willing to break my own rules and add a few pieces from this collection to my own.
MCF started releasing portions of this collection on August 15 and some items are already sold out. According to their Facebook page, they will continue to post items through November, as there are so many looks in the book that it will take that long to get all of them up on the website.
I can’t pull photos from the look book, but here’s what I’m loving from what they’ve posted for sale on the website thus far:
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!