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:
There is a lot of documented history about the creation and performance of The Big Apple line dance in the 1939 film “Keep Punching” – if you don’t know this story already, take a gander at Wikipedia, The Lindy Circle, and Savoy Style. It’s the story of a dance within a dance craze! I love this clip for its energy, the individual style (dancing and clothing) of each of the dancers, and also because they keep it simple and functional – this clothing is obviously their own normal street clothing, with the exception of the coordinating Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts. I imagine this is a snapshot into what they might wear on any given night of the week out at a dance (compare to the more fancy street clothing/costumes in Hot Chocolate (Cottontail) or the outright dance costumes in The Harlem Congaroos clip). There is an array of interesting clothing in this clip – from the dancers to the more fancy daywear/cocktail attire of the actors/extras to the orchestra in tails.
There are so many pieces of clothing worn by the dancers in this clip that are accessible today, so let’s dig in:
First, those custom Whitey’s Savoy Lindy Hoppers tee shirts – we don’t have the light background with the darker graphics, but Chloe Hong has reproduced this graphic on dark blue and dark red tees that you can order from her website. Since none of us hold a candle to the original Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, we can view these shirts as aspirational/inspirational, a tribute to these original dancers and innovators. I love that some of the tee shirts in the clip are worn as-is and others are worn over another shirt, as layers. This makes me think of the ever present battle of sweat management – if that tee shirt has to last through a day of many film takes under hot lights, you might need that base layer to keep things fresh on the outside.
Since men’s reproduction knitwear is still a bit of an outlier, your best collared “undershirt” solution to get the look from the video is to pick up one of Simon James Cathcart’s short sleeved polos with that distinctive spearpoint collar – they are also made of wicking bamboo fabric, so extra helpful with sweat management. Available in nine colors and I wouldn’t be surprised if SJC was going to release some more in the future. Even though the men in this clip are wearing the spearpoint collars, these polos are also great for women, I have a few and I love them.
A few of the women in this clip looks like they may be wearing either some sort of collared or uncollared blouse underneath their tee shirt or they may be wearing a scarf tied loosely around their neck and tucked in a bit at the tee shirt collar. The House of Foxy’s 1940’s shirt in crepe would give a similar effect to the pointed collar blouses in the clip, with just the top points peeking out and the crepe being flexible enough to work around the tee shirt collar and lay right. One of the women is wearing a belt with her flared skirt and it looks awesome, but the video quality is such that I can’t tell if the belt is leather, fabric, or some other material.
While there is one woman in a flared skirt (and I say that relatively, as we’re not talking Dior “new look” volume, just a bit more twirl than the other women), rest of the women in this clip are in A-line skirts, something with a more streamlined profile, but with enough radius at the hemline to allow for kicks and movement. This skirt silhouette and just-below-the-knee hemline shows the fashion transition to the 1940’s silhouette, when you contrast with the calf-length skirts from the film A Day at the Races that came out just two years before Keep Punching.
UK brand Heyday has a nice A-line skirt, available in several prints and solid colors, I love the quality, wearability, and washability of their pieces. If you are going for the more full skirt, it looks like the House of Foxy’s Whirlaway Skirt fits the bill of being not to full, not too A-line, but just right in terms of fullness for the purposes of this clip. It’s also available in 7 colors and ditto on the quality coming out of this UK brand. Would wear both of these skirts for dancing and for work and for anything, really.
Men’s bottoms look like your standard fare for trousers, tucked in shirt or not tucked in – I mean, whatever’s comfortable for you after umpteen takes, right? If you are looking for something high waisted, I can’t say enough good things about SJC’s 1930’s chinos, which can handle belt or braces. Or just go and buy whatever lightweight, breathable trousers you can find and wear that shirt untucked! The exact right pants are usually hard to find, but for this look it’s not an absolute essential, the devil is in the other details. For the tucked-in crowd, note the dancer with the skinny belt – how skinny is up to you and your pants loops. Google was an absolute failure at looking for skinny belts (“no, Google, I mean REALLY skinny, 1.5 inches wide isn’t skinny!”), so dive deeper into your internet searches and/or go to the women’s section of a department store to buy one because nobody cares where it comes from.
The footwear is all over the map. I see white Keds-like sneakers with dark socks (that may color-coordinate with the collared shirt under the tee shirt) and in other colors (Gray? Black? Oh, wait, we’re not in Technicolor), or maybe even a shoe with a more substantial sole closer to Vans’ classic shoe (or their newly engineered more flexible/lightweight version).
I see a couple of pairs of saddle shoes thrown in the mix and, though most modern associations are with the 1950’s, the saddle shoe’s popularity boomed in the decades prior to the 1950’s, as well. Most saddle shoes I see today have a crepe sole, which isn’t my favorite for dancing, but Re-mix carries them with a leather sole. I’d consider giving this Restricted pair from ModCloth a whirl because they have leather interiors (for my sensitive feet), what appears to be a flat synthetic sole, and because the blue/brown color combo is awesome. Then I go and find this yellow and white Chelsea Crew pair…I need to stop while I’m ahead.
Finally, one dancer has some classic leather oxfords on, which previous discussions on my blog have covered everything from buying them used at thrift stores to getting your first pair of Aris Allens to splurging for a pair of Allen Edmonds (or finding them used on eBay).
To recap: classic dance shoes of your choosing, socks, comfy pants/skirt, signature tee shirt, optional undershirt/collar/scarf action. One might say this is not too far from what we are wearing on the dance floor today. Now, time to go practice the second half of the Big Apple that I never seem to remember….
He may not know it outright, but Simon James Cathcart is here to serve swing dancers – that is, serve up classic, rare, and sought-after reproduction menswear pieces in great fabrics. His latest offerings are all cotton, which means it’s all breathable and washable for us sweaty dancer types.
The workwear cotton stripe is being offered in four pieces, a belt back jacket, a waistcoat, a pair of trousers, and a cap, all inspired by 1920’s workwear. From the website:
“SJC has woven this exclusive cloth, which recreates the striped pattern from a pair of genuine 1920’s work-wear trousers in the company’s collection of vintage clothing. The cloth has been brushed on the inside for warmth…”
The details on these pieces are wonderful, as per usual – notice all the careful seams and generous use of pockets. Of interest to dancers would be the note about ample room in the thigh of the trousers, which translates to more room for your legs to move about unrestricted.
Finally, you just need some basics and SJC is, again, delivering the goods – what’s more basic than a pair of chinos or a pair of jeans? The workhouse chinos come with all the casual air of a weeknight DJ’ed dance, but have all the details you expect from period trousers, such as buttons for braces, a cinched back, and a nice V at the back of the waistband.
Cotton = breathable = sweat and dance to your heart’s content! Keep it comin’, Simon!
It is no secret that workwear has been a trend in the vintage community for the past several years and this has started to translate into some more casual reproduction clothing being made and available for dancers who may not want to roll up into a dance in a 1930’s suit or a 1940’s rayon dress every week. For women, many of these workwear reproductions translate into WWII era throwbacks, when women joined the workforce in many sectors of employment, including factory workers who would need to wear something more practical than the aforementioned rayon dress. Vintage style workwear is very easy to integrate into your wardrobe, whether you wear vintage style every day or want a few easy pieces to mix in with your regular daywear.
Simplicity patterns has been periodically trickling out reissues of popular patterns from the past, with reformatted instructions for more ease in sewing, for the past decade, or so. I remember picking up a couple of dress patterns for my mom to make for me a little over 10 years ago, since her sewing skills are so much better than mine, and was very pleased with the results. But the vintage reissues are still a very small part of their offerings, so I hadn’t checked in in a while to see what they were up to.
Yesterday, I see in my Facebook feed that Simplicity has caught wind of the workwear trend and reissued their pattern for 1940’s overalls, trousers, and blouses, a practical package deal for anyone, then and now. Each piece has such lovely details, showing us that practical doesn’t have to mean boring. The overalls come up over the bust with some shape so that they define the waistline a bit more than your standard pair of overalls. The trousers are so classic, make them out of just about any fabric for any occasion, and that hooded blouse is just…I’m dying. The best of all possible basics in one envelope. My only complaint is that there isn’t an optional short sleeve for the blouse, but that may not bother you if you are a veteran sewer – if I were actually to make this, I would be lazy and not want to have to figure that out, LOL.
But wait! This pattern is already on backorder. I’m a little surprised, but then not surprised because this is such a great pattern to own.
If you need this pattern in your life right now, never fear – EvaDress Patterns has already been selling a reissue of this pattern (with the original pattern number), picking up the slack from Simplicity being behind the curve on this trend. It even has the short sleeve options, further picking up the slack from Simplicity. 😉
If I seem like a broken record, I promise it’s not the record, because the tune keeps changing. One of the benefits of doing limited runs and placing orders in advance for goods is that you are only ordering based on the demand and you can easily switch your attentions to the next development. I really like Simon James Cathcart’s business model because he is constantly bringing new items to the market, hence the repeated posts. The downside is that you don’t get a year to mull over whether or not you need something in your life, but maybe that’s best – if it’s not hitting us in the gut or on our mind consistently for a matter of days, do we really need it? You might if you decide you might have regrets later. I’ve learned to trust my gut.
Another thought before I get to the substance of this post – the most searched for item on Lindy Shopper is men’s high waisted trousers, presumably in light-weight, breathable fabrics for dancing.
So what I am telling you is that this item, which is the most sought-after item on this blog, is available to you now on Simon James Cathcart’s website, but not for long! This limited run of 1930’s chinos, available in khaki, navy, and chocolate brown, are what you have been looking for – something off the rack that you can throw on your body with a shirt of just about any ilk, and go out dancing. Washable. Breathable. Movable. Unisex. That’s right, ladies, these trousers are for us, too – though a man’s pattern, given that these sit at the natural waist and have a wide leg, wide enough to accommodate a larger hip/waist ratio, this could work for you, too. SJC’s advertising includes both a male and a female model to show you just how this will work, which caught my eye and took out the guesswork.
It’s a banner week – a new Trashy Diva print is coming out tomorrow and today I open up my Facebook feed to find that Simon James Cathcart has not only restocked his amazing vintage style bamboo fabric polos, there are even more colors (!!!) and he’s added these fantastic 1930’s trousers to the website!
Men and dapper ladies, let’s talk about these trousers – from the website: ”
SJC has just woven 50mts of 16oz Cream English 100% wool flannel, so do not hang about here. This fluffy ecru coloured cloth is thick but soft and billows like the sails of a yacht in the breeze when one moves.
Crafted into a 1930’s loose cut trouser that features deep pleats, a wide leg and a high rise fit. The pants feature a button down coin pocket flap, side adjustors, sturdy pocket bags, sunburst corozo buttons, suspender buttons, deep fly front and belt loops.
They come in a long untailored length so you can add your own 2″ cuffs on them to suit.
Judging by the outstanding quality of the cloth, the high desirability of the cut, the incredible price these pants will go fast.”
Have you had dreams of Fred Astaire’s wardrobe? This looks like a good step toward his day-wear. Pick from cream or gray fabric, then add striped socks and your desired footwear…
As most ladies know and Tim Gunn has spoken out about, the clothing options for women over a certain size range are particularly limited, even though they make up hundreds of thousands of shoppers in the US and beyond and spend significant sums on clothing for themselves. Compound limited selection with a preference for vintage styles and your options are even more limited.
I’ve had my eye on New Vintage Lady’s Etsy site for some time and I did a post on her in 2011, but I’m excited to see that she keeps showing up on my radar and continues to expand her line of vintage patterns, offering fantastic designs that are all the things we love about jazz age and swing era clothing, with all the wonderful details that make them great (and she has a great eye! I love her selections, artwork, and fabric choices). This latest endeavor is via Kickstarter, in an effort to expand her size range to cover bust sizes from 40 inches to 52 inches, as well as improving her existing patterns in terms of graphics and descriptions. Offering a range of sizes is a lot of work – often, you only find one vintage pattern of a certain dress and it comes in the size you found, not a range, and it’s not simply a matter of adding inches around to increase the size, of course it’s MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT, in that way that all of our bodies are a complicated mix of measurements.
The obvious rewards here are reaping the benefit of the new patterns once the Kickstarter is funded, but if you don’t sew there is an AMAZING reward – the New Vintage Lady will make you a dress, one of HER garments from the Kickstarter! What could be more amazing and more personal and more lovely than that? (I see she also does men’s trousers *ahem* maybe…if you ask nicely?) If you’ve ever wanted a reproduction dress to your specifications with your fabric choices and you haven’t done this for yourself, this is a great opportunity to help not only yourself, but others of a certain size range to gain access to these wonderful patterns.
There’s so much to love, go check out her line and video and consider backing this project!
Every time I turn around, I hear about a new vintage reproduction company in the UK, which seems to be where I want to spend my dollars-into-pounds lately and the retail climate appears to be thriving for vintage-inspired clothing. Swing bandleader, guitarist, and dancer Glenn Crytzer tipped me off to Oldfield Clothing, “purveyors of fine British sportswear and accessories for ladies and gentlemen,” when he picked up a pair of their 1930’s workwear trousers, wanting something in a heavier weight for loading band equipment in and out at gigs. The Oldfield Clothing collection looks well-suited to incorporating its pieces into modern wardrobes, with vintage takes on standard clothing items like trousers and sweaters.
The trousers really shine – they offer five different cuts, ranging from the most vintage 1920’s golf knickers to the Keaton trousers that look like a standard pair of front pleated trousers (slightly lower rise than their other pairs, but probably higher rise than modern trousers, if you just want to dip your toe into the wading pool of reproduction trousers). There are a range of fabrics, from linen to corduroy and wool, so you can shop and dress seasonally. The workwear trousers Glenn picked are really special, not only for their durable fabric, but also for the details – buttons for braces, button fly, fish tail back, and cinch strap and buckle, to name a few.
Women’s offerings are limited to knitwear (specifically – but knickers, see above), but some really good pieces, like solid sweater vests and beautiful Fair Isle vests and a sweater. Other items that could be unisex include caps, leather goods, and a classic cream long sleeve polo shirt with two collar options.
Here we have yet another example of the UK absolutely killing the reproduction clothing market: The Seamstress of BloomsburyThe Seamstress of Bloomsbury, a clothing line of revived reproductions from and inspired by a woman who bore this nickname, Lillian Wells, who was seamstress to aristocratic families around the world. The focus here is on 1940’s frocks and they’ve pretty much nailed everything down to the prints (which I find can be the hardest thing to get right, perhaps leaning toward the kitschy rather than fun and artful).
I am presently salivating over everything in the Seaside print and, with these reasonable prices, an order is inevitable…here are some of my favorites from the shop:
I was elated to receive an email in my inbox this morning notifying me that Heyday!, my favorite place to buy high waisted women’s trousers, had launched a new men’s trouser, based on a vintage pair of 1934 trousers made by a tailor and found in Paris. More details from the website:
“The wide belt loops are a celebration of what was new in style…belts! These are a real fashion forward trouser, and, most likely a young man’s trouser. (Older men were slow to trust a belt, and for awhile some men would wear both the fashionable belt and the trusty braces) We found a really similar pair in the Sears catalogue, it’s youthful design suggested in the name. Another point to note is that they are drawn very wide, like Oxford bags, but in fact the measure at the hem matches our pattern. Our pattern has been tweaked to fit better, as the original had some quirks, and now we have them available in our sturdy, medium weight fabric that has proved so popular with our dancers.”
All the little details add up:
Wide belt loops and waistband.
Side buckle adjusters
Button fly with bar and hook fastening
Available in practical black and (brace yourselves) ivory – I have heard your complaints about menswear and summer pants and here is your modern reproduction that you can sweat in and not worry about ripping the seat. Pair with a colorful lightweight jacket and a boater for a lawn party or a striped tee for a more casual look.
A quick note to note that you should be following Heyday! on their Facebook page because they will be posting a different sale offer every day, from December 1 until Christmas! This advent calendar of sales is great if you’ve been eyeing something in their shop and I can’t resist stocking up on their impeccable wide leg trousers. It’s brilliant, really – it keeps you checking in every day to see what will be on sale! Today’s special: take 10 pounds (roughly $15.00) off their adorable Judy dresses.
As we approach the end of August, no doubt you have the International Lindy Hop Championships on the brain, whether you are attending in person or watching via Yehoodi broadcast. While ILHC has not been known for its quantity of vendors, it is known for rare opportunities to interact with special custom clothiers, such as Chloe Hong. This year, one of my earliest Lindy shopping companions, Victor Celania will add his expertise to the vendor lineup through his Celania Custom Clothing.
Based in Austin, Texas, Victor has created his own line of made-to-measure custom clothing that essentially takes everything that is great about Victor and whittles it down to something that is perfect for you. What this means is that Victor uses his knowledge of Lindy Hop, vintage fashion, menswear, modern fashion, the custom garment industry, fabrics, and his listening skills, willingness to try new things skills, and his ability to be that encouraging person in your life that assures you that yes, you should try this on and, no, that color is not bad for you, and yes, this will work with your coloring, and JUST TRUST VICTOR. The gents on his Instagram feed would rival (nay, exceed) anything GQ is putting out. He can simultaneously get you out of your comfort zone, yet find something that becomes so very YOU that you didn’t quite know how stylish you really are.
Victor will be scheduling appointments through Saturday evening at ILHC. Set up an appointment now by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his Instagram page to see more of his work.
I happened upon Laura Bakker’s Catalogue of Fashion website in one of those lists – THOSE lists, that purport to have links to all the repro goodness, but ultimately and eventually the links stop working as websites go out of business (which is why I won’t maintain one of THOSE lists on this website). HOWEVER, every now and again you find a true gem, still in business, with fantastic garments.
With a degree from the Art School of Maastricht in her pocket and a love of movie costumes from the 1930’s through the early 1950’s, Laura got to work making her line of unique and individualized fashions. From the website: “Everything is made by only me, the patterns, the clothes and all the applications. Every item is made only once, my little personal war against all the big productions 😉 I wish to offer all the ladies & gentlemen something special.”
The menswear offerings include great shirt and trouser basics that look comfortable for dancing. The women’s clothing is all about the details and you can see on each piece how it is unique and how Laura has left her own mark on each piece, with buttons, trim, contrasting fabrics, inset panels, and even hand-painted details.
If you’ve been following the adventures of Agent Carter, you’ll know that she has an impeccable 1940’s wardrobe that is ready for action and adventure – a particular purple dress caught the eye of Balboa dancer and instructor Nelle Cherry and, in her diligence and internet mastery, located a close approximation of said dress at La Vie en Swing. Classic 40’s shape, flattering waist, keyhole neckline, swing skirt, the Berlin dress is all the things I love in a dress and would love to wear on the dance floor. While I’m sure that this purple dress similarity a purely wonderful coincidence, it led me down the rabbit hole to exploring the La Vie En Swing clothing line.
La Vie en Swing offers a wonderful 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s reproduction clothing line, with an obvious bent toward swing dancers, with pieces that offer ease of movement and a swish of the skirt. From the website: “Our patterns are accurate in order to enhance and flatter the femenine silhouette. Some of the designs come from original vintage sewing patterns and some other designs are our own creations inspired in the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s, precious years of the Swing Era.”
I am loving the color palette – pinks, purples, mint, cream, and a pop of orange or red. One of my big complaints with vintage 1940’s clothing is the overall lack of color (I find lots of black, brown, navy) and I think La Vie en Swing has embraced a cheerful color palette (bring on the spring!) without resorting to colors that look out of character or like a caricature of the era. The pieces are carefully selected, with lovely details – a little bow detail on the skirt, keyhole necklines (love, love, love!), high waisted sailor trousers, pockets on dresses, and an adorable take on the shirtwaist dress.
Fab Gabs has posted a fantastic pair of mint condition 1930’s collegiate style high waist pants on eBay, that I am sharing here in hopes that someone from our community will pick them up (and take them for a spin) or derive inspiration for your tailor, seamstress, or perhaps ask Chloe Hong to make you a pair. Interesting features include zipper pockets and fly, a 3 inch waistband with 8 exposed buttons, and are made from “fantastic woven wool suiting in deep teal with black and subtle accents of of pale blue and red in a fine stitch running up the herringbone section of the stripes.”
Perhaps the best quote of the auction: “Balboa and collegiate shag were made for pants such as these. The crotch is gusseted for ease of movement.”
Enjoy! I’d be bidding on them myself if they were my size – let me know if a dancer snags these trousers!