Tag Archives: tailoring

Are You a Fearless Follow or a Solid Sender?

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Wear it proud!

At last August’s Jazz Age Lawn Party I happened upon a booth for the upstart men’s clothing company The Original Prohibition Clothing Company and reported on some of the most beautifully tailored men’s clothing I have seen in person. The company’s owner and designer, Corey Miller, sent me an email last week to let me know that the website was now open for business and that their offerings are expanding and continue to expand (including expanding into women’s dandy-wear – paging Sam Carroll…)

While I don’t talk a lot about tee shirts on this blog, it’s a fact that most dancers wear tee shirts dancing most of the time, especially men. Corey has noted this and when he “looked around at most of the dance tee shirts, they identified your love for dance, but the shirts themselves weren’t lovely.” I like the way this man thinks – to add to the small pool of Lindy Hop merchandise available to us, TOPCC is now offering two tees – one for “Fearless Follows” and another for the “Solid Sender.” The design on the tees is certainly lovely, with vintage styling and iconic silhouettes. Now that I am the proud owner of a Fearless Follow tee, I can attest to the fact that this is one of the softest tee shirts I own – it will be a delight to wear!

Solid!

While you’re at TOPCC website, you should absolutely look around – there are fabulous things here, too fabulous, really. I pretty much want to buy everything here for my husband to wear! Impeccable jackets, Hollywood trousers, wonderful vests, variations on the collared shirt, newsboy caps, and even men’s ties in a Tommy gun pattern (to continue the theme – cheeky).

And thanks to Corey for designing with the swing dance community in mind – a rare thing, indeed!

A preview of the impeccable tailoring that awaits you inside The Original Prohibition Clothing Company website…

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Being Well Vested: Chat with Dancing Clothier David Lochner

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Vests don't have to be formal - see how great this tweedy vest looks with denim.

Unless you’ve been dancing under a rock, you’ve probably noticed an increase in the number of leads wearing vests at swing dances. The phenomenon is so prevalent in the Balboa community that Eastern Balboa Championships organizer and MC Chris Owens noted during one of the Balboa competitions at EBC 2011 that 10 out of 16 male competitors were wearing vests.

What makes a vest so great? Having worn a few myself, including a vintage one of Black Watch plaid wool my mother made in the 1970’s, I can tell you that a vest can really pull an outfit together; where something was just a shirt and pants (or skirt in my case), it becomes an ensemble with that one addition. It’s an upgrade without being too formal; it pulls things in at the torso without inhibiting movement; it leaves your arms free to do work, while the rest of you remains business. If fitted properly, it can make you appear more trim and elongate your silhouette. It looks great with or without a tie.

David Lochner in a vest on Governor's Island, NY

Since my experience with vests is limited, I asked one of the most dapper gents I know, dancer and clothier David Lochner of Philadelphia, PA, to weigh in on the topic:

“I wear vests for many reasons. They help keep you warm, they add a flair to one’s outfits, they help keep sweat off of a follow while dancing, and they help keep your tie in place. They also add a cleaner line by covering the bulk created by shirts becoming untucked, belt loops, and belts.

Social dancing is an art form and line and proportion are essential in art. But the line only comes when pants are worn properly at one’s natural waist. If the trousers aren’t worn at a proper height then the vest hinders this effort by allowing the shirt tail to peek out the back and destroy the look. Dancing is not only about the communication between partners but communication of beauty through movement and line to the audience watching.

I purchase vests where I find ones that fit. Being a long, they can be hard to come by, but I look at major retail stores, online, thrift shops, vintage stores, and eBay. Knowing one’s measurements can help ensure a proper fit. Also, taking along a man who knows menswear never hurts. Most women don’t know menswear so they can’t be reliably counted upon. (No offense!)* You don’t want something in style since style is constantly changing. It is important to take someone with you if you are not seeing a tailor since most salespersons will “Yes” you to death. Nothing is worse than buying a piece of clothing, then realizing it doesn’t fit properly while wearing it out for an extended period of time.

I hope this helped. I know my views are looked on as a bit harsh by some. But I say them because I take what I do, selling vintage menswear and swing dancing, very seriously.”

We believe you, David, and we salute you.

I think David has some great advice here, particularly about fit and style. I hadn’t considered that, with menswear, buying something fashionable now would limit wearability down the road, since menswear changes so little overall. However, the subtle details make a difference in menswear (skinny 50’s neckties, narrow 60’s suits, wide 70’s collars), so going with a classic, nondescript thrift store find may be a better choice in the long run than the trendy vest you may find at the mall.

Vest in action - Jaredan Braal with Gabriella Cook

There really is no go-to source for vests. In many cases, they come as part of a suit. In vintage and thrift stores, they are often orphaned pieces. In my area, the vintage store with the most vests is the least likely place to find something from the swing era. I also hear the mid-west has a great selection of vests, based on Jaredan Braal’s extensive vest wardrobe acquired during a single shopping trip in a mid-western city…

I find that if you are looking for a particular something, you will start to notice these things as you are out and about, so keep your eyes open and you may come across the vest you desire where you least expect it. If you see someone in a vest, ask them where they got it – you may get some ideas of your own about where to look in your area.

Incidentally, if you are in Philadelphia, you should make plans to visit Briar Vintage, a vintage store devoted entirely to menswear and manly “collectibles and oddities.” David is the manager of the store and I’m sure would be happy to help you “invest” in some great pieces for your wardrobe.

*None taken, David. You are the man. 😉

Vintage v. Repro

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

This is another article I’ve written for Yehoodi, with this topic at the request of the Yehoodi staff – enjoy!

Vintage or reproduction? The obvious answer is both, but I’d like to delve into the pros, cons, and considerations that go into the collection of both and the considerations that go along with the decision to wear each of them.

CRAFTSMANSHIP

Gorgeousness from Trashy Diva

Clothes made in the swing era were rarely mass-produced, and certainly not on the scale that clothing is produced today. The techniques for tailoring and the training that most women went through as a part of growing up to learn how to sew and mend their clothing is almost a lost art today, as is the art of tailoring men’s suits. So, while the clothing is old, it is usually very well made and, if in good condition, can be mended and altered with relative ease. The tailoring and details like pintucks, smocking, and embroidery can take many working hours to make, hours that modern retailers rarely put into their garments without passing on a lot of cost to the consumer.

That said, there are some reproductions that do provide these details, but they don’t come cheap. Trashy Diva, who mass produces dresses, puts a lot of thought into their reproduction garments, keeping the tradition of matching belts, contrast buttons, and interesting dressmaking details. Likewise, ordering something custom from a tailor or online custom clothing service will get you that quality, but you’ll also see that quality come out of your bank account.

DURABILITY

Here’s the big argument – what if I rip something? The fear of destroying vintage is something I dealt with for a long time, even after ripping the back out of two vintage dresses and seeing that they could be fixed without noticeable signs of mending. Obviously, reproduction garments will be more durable because the fabric is newer, but that doesn’t mean that the newer fabric won’t rip. Part of the durability issue, for both new and old garments, can be tackled by some careful considerations before purchase – does the fabric feel durable? Can I move in this (do some solo jazz steps in front of the mirror in the dressing room)? Does it fit me properly or is it too tight in one or some areas? Are there parts of the garment that could get in the way of dancing?

Even model and vintage clothing collector Kate Moss has had mishaps with her vintage - but look how gorgeous this gown is!

Reproductions will win this point, but not all vintage should be discounted. I’ve got some vintage crepe dresses that are indestructible and the construction of vintage men’s jackets really speaks for itself.

ORIGINALITY

Reproductions have come a long way since I started dancing, as clothing makers have begun to move away from the black, white, and red with polka dots color scheme and embrace prints, period colors, and period appropriate fabrics. I’ll continue to use Trashy Diva as an example because they do it so well on a large scale – some of the rayon prints they choose for their fabrics are so spot-on that it’s hard to tell if the dress is vintage or new. Other fabric choices, such as silk crepe or a knit that looks like wool jersey (but without the itch), are period appropriate, upgrade the look of the garment, and, in some cases like the jersey knit, provide a modern upgrade of a classic fabric that makes it even more wearable for today.

You can work with a dressmaker or tailor to make your vintage reproduction unique or an exact copy a garment. This does require you to become involved in the creative process of the garment by selecting fabrics, buttons, details, notions, and any considerations you have about the fit of the garment. It took me a while to become comfortable being a part of the creative process (what if the fabric I picked out looks bad?), but after spending a little time in a fabric store and familiarizing myself with fabrics used in both modern and vintage clothing, I was able to embrace the creative process as a new challenge – to collaborate with the tailor to put together a look, in a fabric and color/print I love, with a pattern I love, to create a new garment that is vintage by design with a reflection of my personal style.

With all this in mind, there is hope; however, the creativity of seamstresses and tailors past is far reaching and the patterns much more complicated – as the number of skilled sewers was higher, the patterns of the swing era were more complicated and counted on the person sewing the garment to make certain dressmaking leaps in creating the garment. I say this because my mother has made me a few dresses and even though she is an extremely skilled seamstress, her experience was primarily through the streamlined silhouettes of the 1960’s and 70’s, not the draped, detailed, side zippered, crazy seamed 1930’s and 40’s. What I’m getting at is that, on top of the already unique nature of these clothes and fabrics that are no longer made, you have a skilled population who more often embraced the task of clothing design/creation and the creative challenges that go along with it. I believe those creative challenges resulted in some truly original designs – some of them may fall short, but many of them are what makes owning vintage clothing such a pleasure in our mass produced world. I often use these creative choices of the past to inspire my own reproduction creations.

AVAILABILITY

The reproductions will win this point – even though vintage comes in all sizes, for the most part, it’s one of a kind and finding something with your measurements can be difficult. For men, vintage daywear is nearly impossible to come by. Reproductions, whether mass-produced or custom, are able to be replicated in multiple sizes. With the rise of Etsy, the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, and other web-based and local tailors who have taken an interest in making reproduction garments, reproductions of swing era clothing are more available now than ever.

FIT

Fit actually works three ways in this discussion. The best way to get something fitted is to have a reproduction made for you. In my opinion, the next best fit usually comes from vintage clothing, especially if you are going for accuracy. For example, Trashy Diva, while divine, mentions in some of their garment descriptions that they have raised the waist line to a more empire waist, which is neither period appropriate nor the most flattering cut if you have an hourglass shape or a small waist. Other reproduction makers will cut corners, either with tailoring or fabrics (stretch fabric, while sometimes helpful for movement, does not make a garment FIT any better if the garment is ill cut), to make a one shape fits all silhouette which really only flatters a certain body type that most of us do not have. Vintage garments are usually constructed in such a way that they can be modified, while mass produced reproductions are made without ample hems to be let out or seams that are surged and tight, without that extra 1/2 inch or inch of fabric that might be available to be let out to make something fit just right.

SUITABLENESS FOR DANCING

This can be pretty garment-specific, or even year-specific. I don’t see a lot of early 1930’s reproductions because the hemlines were lower and some of the skirt shapes not necessarily movement-friendly. When using an early 1930’s pattern to create a reproduction, I usually ask that the hemline fall just below the knee, instead of at mid-calf level so when I dance and compete people can see my legs. The designs of the late 1930’s through 1950’s are, overall, pretty dance friendly and I think most reproduction swing dance garments draw from this time frame. Reproductions usually come in more wash and wear fabrics, which is helpful to dancers because we sweat a lot. Only a handful of reproductions I’ve encountered seem to have issues with dance-ability, usually relating to fabric choice (silky/slippery, wool, synthetics that don’t breathe) or the cut of the sleeve or arm hole – I always do an over the head test with my arm to test a garment’s range of movement.

COST

Overall, vintage clothing is cheaper than buying a reproduction. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but generally, if a vintage dress costs more than the reproduction, it’s probably not something you’d want to wear to a dance to sweat in because it’s a quality piece. Most of the vintage I purchase for dancing is less expensive because it’s a common silhouette, in a common (usually durable) fabric, and it’s second-hand goods. Because it costs less, I won’t feel so bad if something happens to it on the dance floor. With reproductions, you are paying for the labor and fabric with today’s costs of producing, distributing, and marketing the garment. However, that added cost can mean piece of mind if you are truly concerned about ruining something vintage or if you are particularly rough on your clothing.

I’m sure there are other pros and cons and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic – feel free to chime in or let me know if you have any questions.

Why I Wear Vintage

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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.

Quality

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.

Fit

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.

Apparently this is what the masses/Google think of sleeves - leg 'o mutton is all we're going to get, after tattoo sleeves and laptop sleeves. I couldn't even find a photo of a regular dress sleeve. Boooooooo...

Coverage

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.

Unique

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

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.”

Letter sweater, 1940

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.

Ralph Lauren's version for fall 2011

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.

Sustainability

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.

Shopping Challenge: Norfolk Jacket

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Last month I put out the call for a shopping challenge, asking Lindy Shopper readers to send me on a mission for your heart’s desire, the garment you have been unable to find and add to your wardrobe. My first response was from Rich Werden, a fellow dancer and vintage clothing enthusiast who I met last year at All Balboa Weekend. One of his challenges (email subject line: “You want a challenge!?!?”) was to find a Norfolk jacket, or as Rich more aptly put it:

“The Coup de grace is a belt-back sport jacket that would actually fit me. The naming of this style is difficult: sometimes these jackets are called Action-Backs, Norfolk, or Bi-Swing jackets. The style was popular in heavy wools n’ tweed as an outdoorsman thing for going sport shooting in England, but of course, being a dancer, I wouldn’t want anything so heavy. Really, Nick Williams has an excellent white one that I have been jealous of for years! I can’t even find a place that would do one bespoke!”

Out of my element and, perhaps, out of my league, I set forth my online quest for this belt-back jacket. My first stop was eBay, to look for the right key words for my eBay searches, as the plan was to look online, but also have searches sent to me daily using the key words Rich gave me for this particular jacket. The term “Norfolk jacket” yielded the most results, almost all of them in tweed.

One of the jackets caught my eye, as it was in a lighter color and sans tweed, so I clicked through to view the auction description. The auction was for a vintage 1970’s Norfolk jacket, offered for sale by Bookster, a British company that sells vintage menswear, but also has their own retail web site for custom menswear – “Home of The Bookster Range, Craft Tailored in England from the Finest British Tweed, Wool and Linen Cloths at Accessible Prices.”

A promising start. I honed in on the word “linen” – yes, here’s a dancer-friendly fabric!

Bookster's Half-Norfolk Jacket

Not only does Bookster offer a “Half Norfolk Belt Feature” (among other lovely bespoke options), but they also offer their jackets in nine different colors of Irish Linen, including two stripes (you’ll have to scroll to the bottom for the linens).

I messaged Rich with the link, hoping that this was even close to what he wanted. Rich agreed that the linens would be the way to go. 🙂

The price is where things get squirrely. Everything is so customized and “bespoke,” down to the number of buttons, vents, regular v. comfort waistline, sleeve length, back length, pockets, shoulder pleats, yowza…I did a sample order, pretending to order a linen Norfolk jacket for my husband and the cost came out at around $550 U.S. This seems like a lot, but if this is THE piece you are missing and you will wear it until you are old and gray, I’d say it would be worth the investment. We do want to invest in some quality pieces, even though Lindy Shopper is always looking for a bargain. Or you could always settle for the disco-era Norfolk jacket they listed on eBay for $65.00.

As a side note, you can also order knickers from Bookster as part of your tweed or linen suit.

Matt Deckard's Action-Back

Rich upped the ante and found another website, Matt Deckard Apparel based in Los Angeles, offering several versions of the action-back jacket from this side of the pond. The photographs on this site give you an excellent idea of how the pieces will look in an ensemble – such classy gents! Prices range from $800 to $1,500 for a bespoke suit, so maybe the Bookster jacket isn’t looking so bad as an investment.

I’d like to thank Rich for this wonderful foray into menswear – I hope this information will help some of you in your searches as well!

Vintage Mythbuster: Vintage Clothing is Only for Tiny People

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I hear a lot of positive remarks about my vintage clothing, but there’s always a BUT when people who don’t own vintage clothing talk about buying it for themselves – “I’d love to have vintage clothing, but…” there’s always something stopping them. I’d like to address some of the myths and concerns that people have because there is a world of wonderful, one of a kind clothing out there and you can own a part of it.

The most common myth I have heard is that vintage clothing only comes in tiny sizes or that people were smaller back then and I can’t find anything to fit me. Yes, a lot of people were smaller back then, didn’t get enough calcium in their bones, and many people didn’t grow to some of the larger proportions we have today; however, that doesn’t mean that people in the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s came in one size: small. Just like today, there were people of all sizes, including YOUR size.

I’ve looked at photographs of my great-grandmother and great-grandfather from the 1930’s and she is bigger than he is. She certainly had clothing to wear every day of her life. While I don’t have any of her clothes, I am certain that she would be considered around a size 14 or 16 by today’s standards. These clothes existed!

So where do you find these not-25-inch-waist sizes? You just have to look for them and be patient. Your average vintage clothing store may not even carry 1930’s and 1940’s, much less 1920’s, clothing; if they do, they will probably only have a few garments or a very small section. They may only have one garment in your size or they may not have any. Out of the many vintage stores I visit every year I may only come up with 2 or 3 garments. If you live near a vintage store, make friends with the owner, tell him/her what you are looking for and give him/her your measurements. If you are traveling to an area with a vintage store you want to check out, call ahead – I’d rather not waste my time if they don’t carry clothes from the swing era or don’t have anything that would come close to fitting me.

As a side note to men: Men wear their clothing out. This is true back then, perhaps even more so than it is today. An exception is formal wear, which I seem to find in abundance. I wish you the best of luck, as it is generally harder for you to find garments than it is for the ladies.

This is a labor of love, if you are looking the old fashioned way; but this is the internet age. Ladies and gentlemen, the secret is eBay.

With eBay, the key to success is knowing your measurements. Items in your size are out there! For the ladies, know your bust, waist, and hip measurements, and maybe rib cage, shoulder, and arm circumference. For gents, the same, plus inseam for pants and chest, maybe a few other measurements depending on the garment (feel free to weigh in, fellow shoppers). Knowing your measurements is power with vintage shopping, as many garments come without size labels or were handmade. Even if they did come with a size label, those sizes are different than the sizes we have today. The tape measure never lies. If the seller does not have the measurements listed on an item you like, simply message the seller for the measurements you need. If you are concerned about not being able to try on the garment, I repeat, the tape measure does not lie. Get more measurements from the seller and ask questions if you have concerns.

Once you know your measurements, start looking for clothing that you like. Some sellers will try to label things with S, M, L, XL, etc., but these are never accurate – I have purchased dresses labeled M to XXL, so there is no universal set of measurements for these seller labels. Ignore them. They only make you feel bad about yourself. Even if the dress looks too small or too large, click on it. You never know what size the model/mannequin is or if the garment has been pinned to appear fitted.

Once you find an item you like, compare its measurements to yours. If even one of the item’s measurements is smaller than yours, it’s not going to work. A bad idea is trying to squeeze yourself into something vintage – there is no lycra or spandex in these garments. If the item’s measurements are the same or a couple of inches larger than yours (or for ladies if the skirt is full, it won’t matter) then it should work. If the one or some of the measurements are more than a couple of inches larger, you may be able to have a trusted tailor work on the garment to tailor it to your body, or it may arrive and you like the way it fits. I have fallen in love with dresses that were a bit too large and a tuck here and there or a belt made all the difference. Also, some sellers measure circumference and others lay the garment flat to measure it – if the garment is measured flat, make sure to double the flat measurement to compare with your measurements.

This is all fine and dandy, but where are the clothes? I find dresses every day on eBay that are in my size and larger than my size. To give you some perspective, I have a 30 inch waist, which translates to a modern size 8 or 10. I actually think buying vintage clothing is easier than buying modern clothing because with supposedly (but not actually) homogenized sizes, who knows how the garment is going to be cut in the hips, waist, or bust? Measurements take a lot of the guesswork out of fitting clothing. But I digress. I know people get sensitive about sizes being labeled large or plus sized, so I’m treading lightly here, but with the myth the bar is already set so high…if vintage clothing is only for tiny people (modern size 0, 2, or 4 for women, or for men, any chest size 38 or below? Sorry gents, I’m not sure), then any sizes above tiny will bust the myth, right? Let’s go with that. Here are some mythbusting items from eBay:

Blue 1930's Dress

1930's three piece tuxedo

1940's rayon dress with peplum

This 1950's suit is rad

1940's dress - check out the detail at the neckline

How sharp is this 1930's tuxedo?

1940's rayon dress

A.J. Machete & Sons Fine Tailoring

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Based out of Denver, Colorado, A.J. Machete & Sons offers bespoke, tailored menswear items of bygone eras through its Etsy store. While the suits are in the bespoke price range, their Etsy site does offer some more affordable garments and accessories that you may want to add to your existing swing dance wardrobe, such as custom vests, spats, cravats, and a 1930’s sports jacket.

They get a custom fit by using a muslin mock-up – if you’ve ever watched Project Runway or had something custom made before, you may be familiar with this process. Here’s their process for getting the right fit:

“First we get a rough idea of your measurements. You can measure yourself or a suit that you have. We would be glad to help you through this process and to mail you a cloth measuring tape, or, if you are in the Denver area, to measure you in person.
But even the most perfect measurements do not guarantee a good fit. All of our bodies are different shapes and sizes, moreover, we have different postures. A suit made from measurements is no better than a ready-to-wear suit…. it is unlikely to fit every aspect of your body smoothly. To remedy this, we first make the suit from a rough cotton muslin fabric and send it to you for feedback and (digital) pics.

Through examining the way that the muslin wrinkles and pulls, we can get an excellent idea of your figure and posture. At this point, we adjust the pattern based on your feedback and our knowledge and begin to create a suit that fits perfectly.”

Check out A.J. Machete & Sons’ blog, Denver Bespoke, for more examples of their handiwork.

Silk cravat/ascot, shown here in cranberry dupioni silk

Custom spats - not my first choice of fabrics, but if it's custom, I suppose the sky is the limit on fabric choices

Choose a 4 or 6 button vest

Four pocket high collared vest

Peak lapel vest

1930's style sports jacket