I feel like the turnaround time on my dance travels has been too quick, but I’m heading back up the east coast to Washington, D.C. this weekend for the International Lindy Hop Championships. This will be my first time at this event, so I’m not sure about vendor opportunities, but I will report back if I find anything interesting. Au revoir!
One of the biggest challenges for me this year has been finding costumes for The Carolina Fascinators, an all-girl jazz performance troupe that I organize. When I started thinking about costumes I contacted Casey Schneider of Sister Kate to find out where they had been finding costumes, because the Sister Kate girls always look so put together – and by that I mean, from head to toe, each girl looks like she is in a professional costume with a well-thought-out thematic that goes with the routine and the music. Casey agreed that this was not an easy task and that the Sister Kate girls were lucky to have some really creative and talented seamstresses in their ranks.
I’m no great seamstress, but I was determined to find costumes that would evoke the swing era and not fall prey to the “sexy” Halloween costumes or gaudy modern “jazz” costumes. Where do I find that Busby Berkeley-inspired costume today and not pay an arm and a leg for a custom costume?
I later ran into Kristen Minsky, of the Minsky Sisters, at an event she organized in Durham for her cabaret, Chifferobe. For one of her performances she wore a fully sequined dance costume that was very 1920’s and looked like it was custom made for her. In a way it was, and it wasn’t – she ordered it from Sequin Queen, an online retailer of sequin dresses and costumes, who have samples you can choose from, but then everything else, from the fit to the sequin color, is customized for your needs. If this looks like drag queen garb, that’s because it is (even RuPaul gave this place a nod on her show, Drag Race) – but if you push aside the Suzanne Sugarbaker pieces, you can find some gems here. The prices are amazing for custom, sequin dresses and some of the samples are made with a stretch base, to allow for less-restrictive movement. I’d love to see more sparkle in swing dance performances and I think some of these costumes would work well for performance teams as well as solo jazz and Charleston.
Someone posted on Yehoodi this week asking about where to find skirts for a dance team, either to be made or to order. This post jogged my memory and I immediately thought of Swing Outfits, a website that sells custom, made to order clothing for men and women from 1930’s and 1940’s patterns. Swing Outfits offers some wonderful options for just about any basic swing garment you could think of in an almost endless selection of fabrics.
Swing Outfits has a section of their website devoted to dance team shopping. I understand that selecting an outfit that everyone agrees on is nearly impossible; however, Swing Outfits offers some sound advice on selecting a team or couple’s costume:
“For couples that dance regularly in competition or performance it is especially important to have a costume. It is one thing to dance at a party, and a different thing to dance on a stage before an audience. It is not enough to just have nice clothes on each individual performer – you need to look like a unified couple.
What makes a good stage costume for a couple? First of all, your costume must be tailor made for you – we will need measurements from both dancers. You will also need to select a fabric and a design for your costumes. Pictured below are three sets of costumes: Silk, Polka Dots, and Plaid/Stripes. Within each set are a number of elements that you can select for your costume, and each will be made from the same material you have chosen.”
The website then walks you through three easy steps to select pieces for your performance outfit. The beauty of these pieces is that they can be mixed and matched with anything – with each other or with something you might find at Target or H&M.
Another great thing about having team costumes made for the team members is that you avoid the one-pattern-fits-all problem that you encounter when purchasing something from a retail store. Having personally experienced the pain of not fitting into the mold of a chosen team costume, I would personally rather pay more and get something that fits perfectly, that I don’t have to pay someone to alter, and that I might actually wear again dancing.
Which leads to my next point – you don’t have to be on a dance team to wear and enjoy an outfit from Swing Outfits! Make sure to browse their selection of patterns, then their selection of fabrics, and think of the endless possibilities. The Libra in me may never be able to decide…