Tag Archives: vintage clothing

All Balboa Weekend 2017 – Vendor Report

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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I apologize for the tardiness, but, as we all know, life happens outside of the Internet – always better late than never is the All Balboa Weekend vendor post, because ABW has, in my opinion, the best vendor aggregate year after year.  This was my 10th ABW, if you can believe it, and the first one I couldn’t attend for the entire weekend, but I promise I crunched to maximize my time there and to give you this attempt at a comprehensive vendor post.

Before we get into the shopping, I have two things to note:

  1. I was given the incredible opportunity to examine Genevieve Grazis’ performance clothing, including the famous Beach Clip dress, and was invited to talk about the dress’ construction and details in front of the entire event as part of Kate Hedin and Bobby White‘s presentation and demonstration of the dress.  While everyone is gaga over the 11 godets that, combined with 1930’s satin, make this dress spin like a dream (and rightly so!), but my favorite part of this dress are the sleeves – a triple pleats, both front and back, along the arm hole seam with two piped seams straddling a panel in the middle of the sleeve.  The result is a puffed sleeve created by divine architecture.
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LindyShopper talks, Kate is radiant in Genevieve’s dress – photograph courtesy of McFreebird Photography

2.  Coif magicians Destinee Cushing and Francine Amendola combined forces to form the Hepcat Salon, delivering incredible and pristine vintage hairstyles all weekend long.  I know several people who will get their hair done and wear it for a couple of nights or most of the weekend so they don’t have to worry about doing it multiple nights and to keep it out of their faces, which I think is a great plan to maximize your ‘do and practical for a dance weekend with lots going on that you don’t want to miss.

The flagship booth at ABW is always Re-mix Vintage Shoes, who makes very rare appearances at any events outside of southern California.  I know people wait until ABW to buy their first (or second, or 10th) pair of Re-mix shoes so they can try them on and see how the styles fit their feet.  I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see them all in a row.

Next in the lineup was Sweet Lorain, which is my favorite vintage shop in Cleveland.  To call it a shop is really an understatement, it’s almost a warehouse, definitely a department store, and you can get lost in there for hours amongst the clothing, furniture, kitchen wares, records, Christmas decorations, and on.  Of course, for ABW, they pull a selection of garments with dancers in mind from the 1930’s through the 1950’s so that you don’t have to do the digging, it’s already been dug out for you and is sitting in the hallway of the event.  My story this year is that Andy Nishida and Rita Shiang (dancers and organizers of Richmond, VA’s Jammin on the James) had come to Cleveland a few weeks earlier for the World Congress on Art Deco and had scouted a 1920’s dress for me at Sweet Lorain.  1920’s dresses are hard for me because of my body type, so I was hesitant to phone in the purchase, even though Rita knows my size.  I show up at ABW with this texted photograph of a dress and the owner, Redwin Lewis, knew the dress immediately, still had it, knew it would be perfect for me – and it was!  Sometimes vintage shopping is easy and sometimes it takes a few steps to find a dress a home.

De Fils en Perles returned to ABW this year with even more intricate beadwork, much of it Art Deco-inspired.  I was particularly smitten with the earrings this year, which were often made of an exquisite central bead with smaller embellishments and looked perfect for certain 1920’s and 1930’s ensembles.  I am often overwhelmed by jewelry, so many beautiful small things at once, and I took some time to sit down and go through the earrings and really appreciate the detail that goes into each piece.

Retro Rosie made its ABW debut this year and before I even got to ABW, there was a buzz that a vendor was there selling Trashy Diva.  I spoke with Miranda Scott, the owner, who runs this brick and mortar shop and an online shop, that most of her sales are online.  I found this unsurprising, given the specialty nature of the garments (as much as I like to think we are the norm), and was glad she gave ABW a chance.  She had several Trashy Diva dresses that are discontinued in most sizes, so secondary stockists are essential for the dress you may have missed (since they TD lines are selling out within days of launch, nowadays) and the chance to try things on in person.  She also had a selection of Besame Cosmetics, another item that I can’t purchase locally to me, but that I see on the internet all the time on vintage blogs and it’s great to see the colors in person and be able to try them on, as well.

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Jamie in an ABW ensemble with giant lily

Jamie Sturdevant’s Chatterblossom booth is always a bright spot, with her cheery disposition, creative floral-inspired ensembles for each day, and a bevy of blooms for each possible scenario and outfit.  Indecision abounds at this booth, as there are so many to choose from, so many outfits to match, so many beautiful pieces that you just want to come home with you.  My favorite pieces this year are the giant lilies she acquired earlier in the year by chance, they are just so big and elegant, I want one in every color!  Message her about matching one to your favorite ensemble, her Etsy listings are only the tip of the floral iceberg.

Finally, at the end of the hallway are the Flower Child ladies, who also do an amazing job of curating just the kinds of vintage goods dancers and swing era enthusiasts want, and also go back to their warehouse to look for items to fill specific requests.  With new things brought back every day, it’s worth a gander multiple times during the event to keep up with what is in stock.  My favorite item this year, brought to my attention by Jamie and ultimately purchased by Destinee, was a chartreuse 1930’s gown studded with rhinestones, featuring braided straps and a bias cut guaranteed to flatter the figure.  Destinee wore it on Saturday night and, with her impeccable hair and makeup and a Chatterblossom bloom, looked like a legit silver screen movie star – or perhaps early technicolor, because no one should hide the color of this gown!

And here we are!  Enjoy the photo spread below!

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But for serious…this chartreuse gown from Flower Child is everything!  Thanks to Destinee Cushing for allowing me to use this photo.

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A sun-speckled display at the Flower Child booth.

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Ladies hats, ladies things…at Flower Child.

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A gorgeous 1940’s rayon print dress at Flower Child.

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Bathing suit…romper…whatever you want…at Flower Child.

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A waistcoat and some men’s accessories at Flower Child.

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Lilies, roses, and blooms about at ChatterBlossom.

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A purple and white orchid at ChatterBlossom.

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Oh, God, I’m terrible at botany – I don’t remember what these are, but they looked like they were dappled in frost, just so lovely – at ChatterBlossom.

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A sight for sore eyes – gorgeous Besame Cosmetics on display at Retro Rosie.

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Vintage hairstyling books and Trashy Diva at Retro Rosie.

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Trashy Diva, alive and in person – at Retro Rosie.

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Perfect summer cropped top at Sweet Lorain.

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What even is this magical woven trim detail on this dress?  At Sweet Lorain.

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A sweet 1940’s rayon print long sleeved dress at Sweet Lorain.

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Bakelite abounds at Sweet Lorain.

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1940’s neckties at Sweet Lorain.

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More delicious details at Sweet Lorain.

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Minty fresh color on this comfy men’s shirt at Sweet Lorain.

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One of many awesome sweater vests at the Sweet Lorain booth.

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A summer starched topper at Sweet Lorain.

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Re-mix, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

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Men’s selections at Re-Mix Vintage Shoes.

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Knots divine at Re-Mix Vintage Shoes.

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Beaded sets at De Fils en Perles.

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All this wonderful detail, handmade, just incredible – at De Fils en Perles.

 

 

 

 

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Lindy Focus 2015 Vendors

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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Get your LF merch on day 1 or they will sell out on day 2!

In many ways I am still recovering from Lindy Focus 2015, the swing village that camps out at the Crowne Plaza in Asheville, with all manner of dancing and services that pop up to cater to a population that would prefer not to leave the hotel, lest they miss too much dancing, live music, performances, and classes.  To help with our self-containment of joy, 2015 saw service providers such as massage therapists, shoe repair, tailors, the Jack and Jill Salon for hair cuts and styles, a caricature artist in the lobby, and two hotel room pop-up restaurants (Midnight Di-Noshery and Taco Focus) to serve food after the main dance that were, after two nights, axed by the hotel administration and replaced with food trucks, arranged by Lindy Focus to fill the void and the empty bellies of the masses.

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I love the smell of retail in the morning….errr, afternoon.

There were retail vendors, as well!  Let’s start with the Savoy Shop, a mix of consigned clothing from campers, vintage and thrifted duds with dancers in mind, and the home of the shoe repair service at Lindy Focus.  Michelle Morrison has run the shop for the past several years and has this down to a science.  I love seeing things in the Savoy Shop one day, then seeing them on the dance floor the next!  I even spotted one of my own consigned dresses in the crowd one night and it made my heart soar to know it had found a wonderful new home.  Of particular note this year, the Savoy Shop offered the largest selection of tie clips I have ever seen in one place – surely something for everyone!

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Artist in residence Ryan Calloway.

Dance instructor and artist Ryan Calloway was on hand this year, not only throwing down in the Superheroes of Swing finals, but also selling his wonderful jazz dance and music prints, offering giant, colorful books of his prints to flip through while you chat with the artist himself.  Rather than having to worry about crushing your brand new artwork on the flight home, Ryan offered to ship the prints you purchase for free to your home starting on December 28 and ran the special through January 4 in case you decided you wanted a print after all.  If you missed out on decorating your walls with his signature style, you can order his glorious prints online from his Etsy page.

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A gorgeous feathered headpiece from Forties Forward

I’m going to give a shoutout to Forties Forward, making another appearance on this blog as my most prolific vendor – perhaps it’s because we are both from the Southeast and travel to the same events, or perhaps it’s because they have a great product and the get-up-and-go to make it to some of the best events in the USA.  I imagine they do a great business at Lindy Focus, particularly around New Year’s Eve, for the perfect fishing touch to an ensemble.  This year feathers were a trend at Lindy Focus and they offered some great feather options with sparkly jewels as the attachment piece, in addition to their signature blooms.

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Zoe’s hands at work.

Revive Fashions made, I believe, its debut this year at Lindy Focus, with the crafty Zoe Lechucita creating “custom made hair pieces, feather corsages, and tie pins” on site, while you wait or while you dance and come back to check on it later. 🙂  It was so great to see Zoe picking up the custom torch from Sharon Crawford, ensuring that you can have something custom made to match your ensemble for New Year’s Eve.

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This is the cutest, right?

Another newcomer to the vendor program this year was Juniper Jewelry Designs, the work of Maddie FitzGerald, who was interviewed this year for the Lindy Focus blog about her jewelry designs, so I’ll direct you to the blog post for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Maddie and her jewelry.  Maddie’s sense of humor is evident in her notes left on the vendor table (see photo at left) and her collection is serious, with an extensive line of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, small and large, simple and intricate, a little something for everyone (as I like  it!). You can check out her work on her Etsy page, which is really only a small sampling of the large display she had at Lindy Focus.

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Mary Jane wingtip in a new color combo!

Last, but certainly not least, I was so happy to see Dancestore.com return to Lindy Focus, thanks to the efforts of Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom).  At any event there are shoe casualties, and Lindy Focus is, perhaps, well-equipped to deal with some repairs, but sometimes there are catastrophic shoe failures that only a new pair will fix and you only have so much room in your suitcase.  At an event with 1,000+ dancers, it is critical to have a vendor like Dancestore.com present and on site, not just to fulfill wishlists and fill out shoe basics, but to turn a tragedy into a happy ending!

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I’m also going to insert a shameless plug for Beastly Beauties, who was not a vendor this year at Lindy Focus, but who made my feathered headdress that I wore on Ellington night – I am in awe of and eternally grateful for the efforts of this wonderful Raleigh-based designer.

And there you have it!  I hope I have not missed anyone, as I didn’t have as much time this year to shop and hobnob with all the sellers.  If I have missed anything, please let me know and I will amend this post.  Happy hopping and shopping, everyone!

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The mannequin display never held anything for long before it was snatched up from the Savoy Shop!

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A tailcoat and trousers ready for New Year’s Eve, at the Savoy Shop.

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This isn’t even all of them!  SO MANY TIE CLIPS

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Vintage and gently used shoes as the Savoy Shop.

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A color print for the burgeoning clarinetist in your life?  Artwork by Ryan Calloway.

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Who can resist a good Billie Holiday print?   Artwork by Ryan Calloway.

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Dancestore maximized their space!

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A luscious bloom from Forties Forward.

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Ties, hats, and blooms at Forties Forward.

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Feathers, fans, lights, and a screen at Revive Fashions.

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Ready-made blooms with sparkle at Revive Fashions.

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A necklace fit for a New Year’s Eve ensemble, at Juniper Jewelry Designs.

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Tree of Life pendants and clusters of beads and pearls, at Juniper Jewelry Designs.

Field Trip: Vintage Shopping in St. Louis

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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St. Louis has legs!

A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit St. Louis, Missouri and perform at the Nevermore Jazz Ball with Michael Gamble and his Rhythm Serenaders.  I was particularly eager to visit St. Louis because there are some very dear dance friends in my life who moved there after living with or near me in North Carolina and I heard there was amazing vintage clothing there – knowing that St. Louis had a lot of money/industry during my sought-after clothing periods and seeing the amazing wardrobe of Miss Jubilee in photographs online, I was beyond excited to take my first trip to this Midwest city.

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I picked Saturday of Nevermore to embark on my shopping adventure, meeting up with Athena Moon and Lian Tarhay for a quick stop at The Vintage Haberdashery and then brunch at Rooster.  The Vintage Haberdashery is part vintage store, part costume shop and had a small, but respectable selection of pre-WWII clothing and some great 1920’s reproduction beaded gowns glistening from the rafters.  The store was well-organized with lots of quality items, and a particularly nice display of shoes and hats.  I spotted a bunch of great 40’s day and cocktail dresses, some 1940’s oxfords, and a nice selection of menswear, both dress and sportswear items.  Definitely worth a stop!

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After brunch, we went to Cherokee Street to take in the Cherokee Street Jazz Crawl, which happened to include a vintage shop as a venue and be down the street from another vintage shop – bliss!  Imagine shopping in a stacked vintage clothing store with a live hot jazz band playing just outside on the back patio, and you could take a break, dance, shop, dance, shop – that was my experience at Retro 101.  Seriously, a luxury!  Retro 101 had so many special pieces, I can’t even articulate everything, delicious sheer 1930’s dresses, beautiful rayon print 1940’s dresses, wonderful gowns, hats, gloves, leather, and a case of amazing bakelite!  Feathers!  Beading!  I didn’t even get to the menswear, but I spotted some usual suspects with great garments and accessories in hand, so I know there was good stuff!

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Finally, we visited Ruth’s Vintage Clothing, a little shop on the corner just a few blocks from Retro 101.  Almost as soon as we stepped into the store, we heard the second line start up outside and ran back out to see the parade.  At this point I’m thinking St. Louis and this event definitely have really unique offerings for the dance community – dancers joined in, people were drawn out of shops and restaurants to watch, adding to the magnetic and magical SOMETHING in the air that made this event distinctive, local, and inviting.  We went back into Ruth’s, which had a few 1940’s dresses and some great accessories, including an Art Deco belt buckle and brooch set that combined distinctive rhinestone angled shapes with early plastic (bakelite or celluloid, not sure) flowers blooming from the stones – VERY tempting, can we create a dress or gown around this?

We followed the second line back down to Retro 101, took another gander (so much to take in!), then ended up at Melt for a cider and to hear Mike Faltesek and Chloe Feoranzo play their last set of the day.  An all around very satisfying day of shopping in a wonderful city!

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1940’s heels with potential at The Vintage Haberdashery – those waves!

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Adorable!  All the details!  At The Vintage Haberdashery.

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This wonderful confection of a hat, at The Vintage Haberdashery.

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A menswear display at The Vintage Haberdashery.

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The serious goods hanging from the ceiling at Retro 101.

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The bakelite case in all its glory, at Retro 101.

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This purple plaid 1930’s dress at Retro 101 is EVERYTHING.

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Beaded detail on sleeve of 1930’s dress at Retro 101.

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A snapshot of the men’s section at Retro 101.

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A carousel of accessories at Retro 101.

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A lovely neckline on this 1940’s dress at Ruth’s Vintage Clothing.

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A wall of accessories at Ruth’s Vintage Clothing.

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A closeup of a 1940’s floral rayon dress with these interesting ruched scallops down the seam, at Ruth’s Vintage Clothing.

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Following the second line down Cherokee Street.

 

All Balboa Weekend 2015 – Shopping and Vendors

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

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All Balboa Weekend celebrated its 15th Anniversary this year and I celebrated my 9th anniversary of attending ABW. This Balboa homecoming/family reunion is one that I look forward to every year for the friends, the amazing dancing, and the wonderful vintage shopping that is available in Cleveland. This year, my report will combine shopping inside and outside the hotel, since some brick and mortar stores set up booths at ABW and other remain in their brick edifices. All are worthy of mention and this year’s shops and vendors did not disappoint!

My partner in crime this year was Berkeley, California dancer Alisa Szatrowski – I’ll give an honorable mention to Jack Flaps, a wonderful brunchy place she discovered and where we fortified ourselves before a day of vintage shopping.

1940's rayon blouse at Sweet Lorain

1940’s rayon blouse at Sweet Lorain

Our first stop is my always first stop, Sweet Lorain, and the owner Redwin Lewis welcomed us with open arms and escorted us back to the 30’s and 40’s area, where he showed us they had pulled additional racks of 30’s and 40’s clothing out just for ABW. *squee!* Soon, Alisa and I were lost in a jungle of clothing, amongst the close and very full racks, calling out to each other as if we were playing Marco Polo to try to find each other to show off choice garments. Sweet Lorain did not disappoint and Alisa and I soon had a dressing room full of things to try on, with another helpful employee pulling additional garments based on our selections. Seriously, an A+ for customer service. We both left with some wonderful pieces and warm fuzzy feelings about everything at Sweet Lorain.

1940's dress with appliqués at Chelsea's Costumes

1940’s dress with appliqués at Chelsea’s Costumes

Next stop was Chelsea’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes, which is an impressive warehouse full of clothing, and particularly has a large selection of menswear, which I wrote about more in-depth last year. We ran into dancer and DJ Bill Speidel and we did a quick run through the menswear, as I’m always shopping for certain dudes and the hubs. I left Chelsea’s empty-handed, but Alisa had great luck with late 30’s/early 40’s dresses in velvet and faille – dreamy!

The vendor market at ABW opens at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday and we were there even a little before that, with anxious vintage lovers already hovering over the booths.

The Gabriele, Re-Mix Vintage Shoes

The Gabriele, Re-Mix Vintage Shoes

The first booth you come to is Re-Mix Vintage Shoes and this booth was abuzz all weekend, with ladies buying shoes, trying on many more, and ogling the beautiful wares. The big hit this year was a new style, Gabriele, which is a low heeled 1930’s shoe with a t-strap, an alternative to the Balboa Style, with a slightly different shape and different colors. I would love to hear some reviews from the ladies who bought them and wore them this weekend – I did see Valerie Salstrom try them on the first day and then didn’t take them off as she continued to set up for the event!

A wonderful display of hats from Flower Child

A wonderful display of hats from Flower Child

Next in the line of vendors was Flower Child, which is comprised of several individual vendors that make up part of the brick and mortar store, and which takes up most of the hallway. They are always good about bringing in new inventory every day, taking requests, and having a nice selection of clothing, accessories, and some novelty items and knickknacks from the swing era. My favorite ABW find for this year came from Flower Child’s booth, a fully functional scales brooch, perfect for me as both a Libra and a lawyer – for serious, the scales have tiny chains and you could actually put things in the bowls and the scales would tip, SO COOL.

Ready to shake it

Ready to shake it

New to the vendor list this year was Sugar Shakers, the handiwork of Joanna Kassoulides Thibault, who got her start stitching chorus girl costumes for a troupe of the same name in Toronto and decided, after accumulating a wardrobe of costumes, that she would sell some of these versatile pieces. I love a good trumpet skirt and Joanna had a nice sampler of trumpet skirts, polka dot wrap blouses, bakelite-inspired earrings, as well as sharing a table with her husband Mike Thibault‘s handmade earrings and Vintage Jazz Art prints.

Cherry blossoms abound!

Cherry blossoms abound!

Next in the vendor lineup is ChatterBlossom, aka Jamie Sturdevant, who is local to me, but for ABW everyone can see her amazing handiwork up close, with flowers and headpieces made from vintage millinery flowers and jewelry made from vintage buttons. Seeing in person is even better, as I noted people running to their rooms for garments, trying to match a bloom to a dress, and (I know I’m a broken record on this, but) the colors in the vintage flowers are just so right for vintage clothing, for obvious reasons, and they are so much more exquisitely detailed than most modern artificial flowers I have seen. Jamie does custom pieces, too, so you can find the perfect bloom for that one of a kind vintage dress.

1940's ties at The Cleveland shop

1940’s ties at The Cleveland shop

Holding down the end of the hallway was The Cleveland Shop, which had a nice selection of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, and jewelry. The owner would also bring in new items daily, and even brought in some divine tropical rayon fabric one day, that was gone before it could hit the market (I can’t wait to see that blouse, Jamie!). Oh, to have a warehouse full of endless vintage things to sell!

Each year the vendors at ABW are one of the things I look forward to most about the event and I truly appreciate the effort the vendors put into setting up, displaying, being there to sell, breaking it all down, and sometimes traveling great distances – I think Philip Heath, the owner of Re-mix Vintage Shoes, wins this year by flying in and shipping shoes from California, though past ABWs venders have flown in from as far away as the UK and Australia. We love that you do it and we’ll keep buying all the beautiful things. 🙂

Here are some more photos of all the lovely things:

Who knew the Cotton Club had a soda?  At Jack Flaps.

Who knew the Cotton Club had a soda? At Jack Flaps.

1940's jumper with fringe and embroidered pockets at Sweet Lorain.

1940’s jumper with fringe and embroidered pockets at Sweet Lorain.

1940's rayon dress at Sweet Lorain.

1940’s rayon dress at Sweet Lorain.

Another 40's number in cotton from Sweet Lorain

Another 40’s number in cotton from Sweet Lorain

A cool summer jacket from Chelsea's Costumes

A cool summer jacket from Chelsea’s Costumes

Headbands in all the colors from ChatterBlossom

Headbands in all the colors from ChatterBlossom

Divine orchids from ChatterBlossom

Divine orchids from ChatterBlossom

A selection of goodies from The Cleveland Shop

A selection of goodies from The Cleveland Shop

A closeup of the detail on this 1940's dress from The Cleveland Shop

A closeup of the detail on this 1940’s dress from The Cleveland Shop

Trumpet skirt, Sugar Shaker style

Trumpet skirt, Sugar Shaker style

Vintage Jazz Art prints

Vintage Jazz Art prints

More options to grace your walls, from Vintage Jazz Art

More options to grace your walls, from Vintage Jazz Art

More of the man spread from Flower Child

More of the man spread from Flower Child

Gorgeous 1930's dress from Flower Child.

Gorgeous 1930’s dress from Flower Child.

Gold bathing suit and the biggest sun hat I've ever seen, at Flower Child.

Gold bathing suit and the biggest sun hat I’ve ever seen, at Flower Child.

ADSVA Gatsby Afternoon Picnic 2014 Vendors

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Swing dancers Brittany and Brian enjoy some gourmet popsicles at the Gatsby Picnic

Swing dancers Brittany Darst and Brian Fennessy enjoy some gourmet popsicles at the Gatsby Picnic

A few weeks ago I attended the third annual Art Deco Society of Virginia Gatsby Afternoon Picnic in Richmond, Virginia. I have seen this event grow from “let’s all meet in a park at the same time” to an organized event at the historic Wilton House Museum, with live music, vintage vendors, an on-site barber, food trucks, photo booth, contests, media coverage, shuttles, parking attendants, an MC, and even an alcohol sponsor. I was happy to see some familiar faces amongst the vendors and pleasantly surprised to find vintage vendors that were new to me.

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Let’s start on one end of the line and move to the other – first in the lineup was Chatterblossom, who has become my own personal vintage millinery Philip Treacy. The gorgeous millinery was on display, as well as lovely jewels, flapper headbands, and a nice selection of menswear accessories. If only women’s dress shirts didn’t button from the opposite side, a tie clip with vintage microphone would have certainly left with me!

Another standby for me, Raleigh Vintage, was present with a drool-worthy display of Art Deco era goods and jewels. This display was on the heels of another festival in Raleigh the previous day, but the busy bees at Raleigh Vintage persevered and were present in force. I am seriously in love with all of the jewelry in their display, can I just take the silver tray full of necklaces home with me? Also, lots of event-appropriate cotton frocks in lovely prints, embroidery, and all things just-so.

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Machine Dance Vintage and Brooksy shared a lovely space together, complimenting a rack of MDV vintage dresses and goods with Brooksy’s hand-crafted 1920’s hats and headbands. I have long been a fan of MDV’s Etsy shop and it was good to see some of these great vintage pieces in person. I have also been following and eagerly anticipating the soon-to-be-launched Brooksy line of hats, created by ADSVA president Olivia Lloyd. The construction of these hats and the attention to detail is as impeccable as Ms. Lloyd’s vintage wardrobe. I am holding out for Myrna Loy’s pixie hat!

My husband’s family lives in Virginia Beach, which has many great thrift stores, but I was unaware of VB Vintage – no brick and mortar shop, but certainly an impressive enough of a display that I was kicking myself for not knowing about them before now. Their Etsy shop doesn’t even come close to displaying the number of goods they had on hand at the Gatsby picnic, which means there’s even more to come – also, the benefit of being on location for these trunk shows! Lots of great accessories, knick knacks, and a few stellar pieces of clothing from the era.

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Monkey Shynes was up next, with a small selection of 78 rpm records and assorted vintage memorabilia and crafts.

Finally, on the other end of vendor’s row was MA’s Mad House of Adornment, another Etsy vendor with great feathered headpieces and eclectic jewelry. I am particularly fond of feathered headpieces made from feathers with curled ends – the effect is really stunning and the result is that they tend to lay so nicely in whatever configuration I have seen them in. I was also amused by the Scarlett O’Hara necklace – the movie came out in 1939, so we’ll humor the reference.

Check out the photos below – enjoy!

Assorted flapper headbands from Chatterblossom

Assorted flapper headbands from Chatterblossom

A selection of tie clips from Chatterblossom

A selection of tie clips from Chatterblossom

The lovely Jaye Ferrone shows off an adorable dress from Raleigh Vintage

The lovely Jaye Ferrone shows off an adorable dress from Raleigh Vintage

Art Deco jewels and things at Raleigh Vintage

Art Deco jewels and things at Raleigh Vintage

An adorable 1920's sailor top from Raleigh Vintage

An adorable 1920’s sailor top from Raleigh Vintage

A gorgeous green cape from Machine Dance Vintage

A gorgeous green cape from Machine Dance Vintage

An ice blue confection at Machine Dance Vintage

An ice blue confection at Machine Dance Vintage

I love a novelty print!  This rayon beauty is still available in the Machine Dance Vintage Etsy shop!

I love a novelty print! This rayon beauty is still available in the Machine Dance Vintage Etsy shop!

1920's goodness from Machine Dance Vintage, with Brooksy hats peeking out from behind

1920’s goodness from Machine Dance Vintage, with Brooksy hats peeking out from behind

Dual cloches from Brooksy

Dual cloches from Brooksy

Flapper headbands for your sporty 20's looks, at Brooksy

Flapper headbands for your sporty 20’s looks, at Brooksy

VB Vintage selection of bangles

VB Vintage selection of bangles

Pretty vintage accessories from VB Vintage

Pretty vintage accessories from VB Vintage

A lovely vintage robe from VB Vintage

A lovely vintage robe from VB Vintage

78s at Monkey Shynes

78s at Monkey Shynes

Feather curls at MA's Mad House of Adornment

Feather curls at MA’s Mad House of Adornment

Jewelry by MA's Mad House of Adornment - don't you want a Scarlett O'Hara pendant to smirk at everyone for you?

Jewelry by MA’s Mad House of Adornment – don’t you want a Scarlett O’Hara pendant to smirk at everyone for you?

Building a Swing Wardrobe at All Balboa Weekend

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

The first finds of the day at Sweet Lorain - tie clip and tie.

The first finds of the day at Sweet Lorain – tie clip and tie.

One of the reasons I enjoy All Balboa Weekend so much is the vintage shopping and vendors at the event. This event is like no other because Remix Vintage Shoes comes here (and doesn’t travel to other swing events), there are multiple fantastic vintage stores and some of them set up as vendors at the hotel, and there are new international vendors every year that may only come for one year, but you get that critical chance to try things on, figure out what size you wear, and file that away for future online ordering (Heyday!, Retrospec’d, Bettie Page Clothing, FromChloehong, etc.). It offers the unique opportunity to have all of these things in one place, which would otherwise only be available on the internet.

When I travel I always come up on Wednesday night so I can have Thursday day to go shopping at the vintage stores in Cleveland. My travel companion this go around was Skyler Hinkel, a 20 year old dancer from Raleigh who has become a staple of our scene in the past couple of years and has recently begun traveling a lot more to dance events. I asked him if he wanted to go shopping with me and he asked me how much money he would need to budget to get an outfit and a new pair of dance shoes (good question to ask!). He told me he wanted to spend some money on clothing for dance events and, at the time, he only owned two pairs of dress pants and one dress shirt.

Our mission was clear and there was no time to waste – building 1 or 2 outfits of vintage/thrifted clothing is something usually done over time, not in one day. We started out at Sweet Lorain, my favorite Cleveland vintage shop, and were there when they opened at noon, along with a number of European Balboa dancers who also collect vintage clothing. I headed to the racks in the back with the 30’s and 40’s clothing and directed Skyler to the men’s section, figuring he would either sink or swim. I made my rounds with the other ladies, tried everything on, narrowed my choices, and headed over to the men’s section to see how Skyler was doing.

It can be overwhelming being in a store like Sweet Lorain, even for me, with wall to wall clothing, furniture, and knick-knacks – Skyler was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I started digging with him, with some occasional input by Andreas Olsson and Rich Werden, but ultimately everything he tried on was too large. I was astounded because I thought for sure we’d find some great 34/36 jackets that no one else could fit into, but most everything was firmly in the 40/42 size range. The myth that vintage clothing is only for tiny people has been disproved once again! We left the store with a tie and a tie clip for Skyler, nowhere close to an outfit, but at least able to accessorize the outfit he already owned.

Our next stop was Chelsea’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes, which was a bust for me last year, but has an astounding three tiered warehouse full of clothing, almost half of it menswear. Since menswear has changed very little since the 1930’s, almost anything we could find here would be great – anything that fit, at this point, would work and if we could find natural fibers that would be a bonus. Rich joined us again for this search and, between the three of us, we touched every single suit jacket and sportcoat in that place. NO SMALL FEAT. It definitely helped that Chelsea’s had tags on each of the sleeves, noting the size and price, whereas none of the clothing was labeled by size in Sweet Lorain. Neither store had things grouped by size, so there was no choice but to dig.

Rich's action back!

Rich’s action back!

I’ll back up and say that the first thing I saw in the men’s section was a light tan/ivory belt back jacket, so when Rich walked in I asked if he had seen it. Upon retrieval, we discovered that it was his size – how serendipitous! But what are the chances we could find one for Skyler? Luck was on our side and we found a similar jacket, a 70’s does 30’s belt back jacket for Skyler, as well!

In the entire place there were only 3 jackets that came close to fitting Skyler, one slate blue double breasted kids jacket, a white cotton dinner jacket, and the belt back jacket. We set these aside and kept digging. Next up were pants, which yielded only two pairs that fit – a pair of tuxedo pants and a pair of gray and blue wool plaid trousers. Given our jacket discoveries, either could work, so we set those aside and continued, though by this point the digging had lost some steam.

I took a mental break to check in on Rich and his fiance, Alisa Szatrowski, who had made her way through the limited selection of swing era garments. Half of vintage shopping with others is waiting for the discard pile, and I found a great cream 40’s dress with red soutache detail that hadn’t worked for her, but worked for me. Energized by the find, I returned to the Skyler search and we went through the vest rack together. We culled a wool sweater vest from this search and now had the beginnings of a wardrobe.

Sweater vest found - Adam Speen achievement unlocked

Sweater vest found – Adam Speen achievement unlocked

While it would be nice to be able to buy everything that fits us at vintage stores, practically speaking few of us make that kind of money. We decided that the belt back jacket would be more versatile, even though it was going to be a warmer jacket than the cotton dinner jacket. Thus, the tuxedo pants, were out and we headed to the checkout with (subtle) plaid wool pants, the belt back jacket, and the sweater vest. Not a bad day at the dig.

On our way to the checkout we quickly sifted through the ties and found a perfect match for the vest. Total damage for these four items (jacket, pants, vest, and tie): $40.00.

Two belt backs in one day - unprecedented!

Two belt backs in one day – unprecedented!

We headed back to the hotel, feeling good about the day’s purchases, and started planning the outfits; however, the critical component of white dress shirts for both outfits was missing, so we pulled over to a strip mall and found two white dress shirts in Target. Now, the only thing missing was a pair of pants to go with the sweater vest, and, if found, Skyler would have two complete outfits.

I was hopeful that Skyler would find something at one of the vendor’s booths. The vendors opened at 5:00 p.m. and we were there just minutes before. While there were some great trousers there, none of them were the right size. We talked to the ladies at the Flower Child booth and they said they would look in their inventory overnight. Later that evening, Chloe Hong’s booth opened up and, while they didn’t have any pants to sell off the rack, they did have sample sizes and I encouraged Skyler to try a pair on to see if they had his size and if he liked the trousers. He definitely liked Chloe’s pants the best out of all the trousers he tried on that day, so there was the option to increase his wardrobe by another pair of pants, even if he had to wait for them. We must always be forward thinking about our shopping!

Shopping at Remix's booth!

Shopping at Remix’s booth!

Last, but not least, Skyler had budgeted for a pair of Remix Vintage Shoes leather-soled shoes. Their men’s cap toe is a beautiful shoe and, due to the constraint in inventory they can bring to ABW, they only had one pair in his size – thankfully, they were brown and white, which would look great with the navy-hued items, like the vest and the ties.

We are waiting to find out if there is another pair of pants in store for Skyler…stay tuned!

All Balboa Weekend 2013 Report

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

If you are a good girl and save your pennies, the Cleveland fairy will bring you vintage on All Balboa Eve.

If you are a good girl and save your pennies, the Cleveland fairy will bring you vintage and repro on All Balboa Eve.

Still basking in the afterglow of All Balboa Weekend, the Balboa Mecca that occurs every year in Cleveland, Ohio. It is a hub for so many things I love – good dancing, good music, good vintage shopping, good company, and good cupcakes. I left with a full heart and a shopping bag full of goodies – it was like Christmas!

My first stop in Cleveland, per usual, was Sweet Lorain, the vintage department store where I seem to have the most luck finding things in my size. I was greeted at the door by the owner, Redwin Lewis, who remembered me from years past (and possibly phone orders – yes, you can call them back if you decide later that you really want/need something you saw, even 6 months later the item may still be there!) and we chatted about high school reunions and all the films (THE film being Captain America) shopping at his store. I was on a mission for a full slip with some sweet details and Sweet Lorain did not disappoint, with two full racks to choose from.

Dad's pitcher - my favorite find in Cleveland

Dad’s pitcher – my favorite find in Cleveland

On a personal note, I was ecstatic to find a red plastic beverage pitcher at Sweet Lorain, perhaps circa 40’s/50’s, that I have been seeking for the past decade or so – when I was in undergrad I picked up a plastic yellow pitcher from Target that looked vintage, with some sweet Deco detail on it. I probably paid less than $10 for it. My dad saw it in my apartment and was immediately drawn to it, asking where I got it, and how much it cost. I told him that I had purchased it at Target several months ago and that it was out of stock. He was crestfallen – my grandmother had owned one during his childhood and he had always thought it was a great design, with a lid that opens when you tilt it and closes when it’s upright. Flash forward to ABW 2013, I was chatting with Redwin in the housewares section and my eye caught a flash of red in that distinct shape. It was the pitcher! I text messaged my dad a photo of it and he confirmed that he wanted it. Done! I look forward to “reuniting” my dad with his childhood pitcher this coming weekend. 🙂

Thus Spake Zarathustra

Thus Spake Zarathustra…at Chelsea Costumes

My next stop was Chelsea Costumes, which I had somehow managed to miss on all prior visits to Cleveland. The sheer volume of square footage packed literally floor to ceiling was overwhelming in a way that only a disorganized Goodwill warehouse of great magnitude could rival. The racks were three tiers high, with the top two racks reachable by rolling staircases located on each aisle. Adding to the library feel of the place, the ends of the racks were labeled by decade range. I searched in vain for the early vintage clothing and had to ask where it was located – at the end of one of the 1950’s racks was a single rack with 1940’s clothing. I found a couple of items I liked, but they had fatal flaws (fading, shredding, etc.). I’d say it’s definitely worth a look, especially if you are into later decades, and it’s an absolute must if you are looking for menswear – I saw just about every size, shape, color, item, and a range of seasonal weights, with a massive selection. You do have to be a digger to make this worthwhile, but the prices are good and worth the dig.

Back at the hotel, ABW had an array of vendors, some new, some old, that filled up the hallway in front of the ballroom. The first vendor was The Cleveland Shop, with an array of clothing and accessories for men and women. Favorites included some divine shoes, a burgundy silk 1930’s gown, and every dress that went on the mannequin and immediately sold.

Next up was the ABW merchandise, which featured some cool shirts with stripes, a henley, and a girly slouchy tee with cool sleeve detail. This year also saw the return of the ABW shoe bag – I do love a shoe bag!

New style!!!

New style!!!

Moving down the hallway, the next vendor was the ever-popular Re-mix Vintage Shoes, with owner Philip Heath on hand to help all the men and women eager to try on their shoes. This year, they took advance requests from people for specific shoes and sizes, so if you wanted a guaranteed shot at trying on a certain pair in your size, you got that chance. I took advantage of this for my husband, who is sort of between sizes and needed another pair of oxfords. It also resulted in Re-mix bringing a number of pairs of wedges, which have never made it out to ABW, since we mostly dance “the Balboa” in heels. 😉

Romper, umbrella, and THE belts at Bettie Page Clothing

Romper, umbrella, and THE belts at Bettie Page Clothing

Bettie Page Clothing made its debut as a vendor this year, spearheaded by the lovely Shannon Butler, who is now the manager of the Bettie Page store at the Mall of America in Minnepolis, MN. Shannon brought another innovative way to make sure everyone got to try on the clothing and get the sizes they need – she kept a stock of the dresses, shirts, and skirts she brought as try-ons and once you decided what you wanted, she called the Mall of America store, placed your order, and it was shipped to you (sometimes that day!) free of charge. In addition to all the adorable clothing, she brought these great adjustable belts that are the perfect dress belt, for when that vintage dress comes without a belt or maybe you lost the belt or want to add a belt…regardless, good, skinny dress belts are hard to come by and these babies are only $10 and come in several handy colors.

Flower Child took up about half the hallway, with a wonderful display that moved from housewares and accessories, to jewelry, to several large racks of clothing at the end of the hall. Because Flower Child is made up of several vendors, there were a range of prices in the shop, and they definitely had the larges selection. Favorites included a 1940’s gold bathing suit, rayon Asian print pajamas, and an adorable dress with strawberry ribbon trim that came home with me.

Still obsessing over Dancestore.com's mesh and leather wingtip

Still obsessing over Dancestore.com’s mesh and leather wingtip

Finally, Dancestore.com made an appearance with most of their line of shoes. I liked that they had a set of “try-on” pairs that you could put on and take for a spin during one dance. It helps you decide, cuts down on wear and tear of new pairs, and also gives you an idea of how they will feel once they are broken in. Great idea!

This year was probably the best year for vendors yet – many of the vendors are veterans at this point, they know their audience, and they only bring the best stuff as it pertains to swing dancers. I am elated that they continue to come out, year after year.

Here are my photos from the weekend – enjoy!

Collar detail *swoon*

Collar detail at Sweet Lorain *swoon*

Velvet collar detail at Sweet Lorain

Velvet collar detail at Sweet Lorain

Love this Jack and the Beanstalk novelty print - at Sweet Lorain

Love this Jack and the Beanstalk novelty print – at Sweet Lorain

Menswear knits in shades of brown, at Sweet Lorain

Menswear knits in shades of brown, at Sweet Lorain

This photo does not do justice to the awesomeness of these sheer cutouts - at Sweet Lorain

This photo does not do justice to the awesomeness of these sheer cutouts – at Sweet Lorain

Oxfords at Sweet Lorain

Oxfords at Sweet Lorain

The entrance to Chelsea Costumes

The entrance to Chelsea Costumes

Brain...shuts...down...

Brain…shuts…down…

Navigation system at Chelsea Costumes

Navigation system at Chelsea Costumes

Lovely dress at Chelsea Costumes

Lovely dress at Chelsea Costumes

Collar detail at Chelsea Costumes

Collar detail at Chelsea Costumes

The view from the top of one of the rolling staircases at Chelsea Costumes

The view from the top of one of the rolling staircases at Chelsea Costumes

Select menswear items from The Cleveland Shop

Select menswear items from The Cleveland Shop

Cool cotton print dress from The Cleveland Shop

Cool cotton print dress from The Cleveland Shop

Tri-strap! From Re-mix Vintage Shoes

Tri-strap! From Re-mix Vintage Shoes

Did you know these come in GREEN?

Did you know these came in GREEN?

A lovely display from Flower Child

A lovely display from Flower Child

Gold bathing suit FTW - courtesy of Flower Child

Gold bathing suit FTW – courtesy of Flower Child

Love all of this - at Flower Child

Love all of this – at Flower Child

Suit jacket peplum made of petals! At Flower Child

Suit jacket peplum made of petals! At Flower Child

Pajamas! At Flower Child

Pajamas! At Flower Child

Lots of good knits this year - this from Flower Child

Lots of good knits this year – this from Flower Child

This Bettie Page blouse went home with many a gal

This Bettie Page blouse went home with many a gal

Lovely dresses from Bettie Page Clothing

Lovely dresses from Bettie Page Clothing

Field Trip: Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods, Alexandria, VA

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I have anticipated checking out Alexandria’s Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods since April, when I heard of its opening shortly prior to DCLX and the wonders that awaited me – rumors that the owners have a warehouse where items are pulled for Hollywood movies, that the inventory has real swing era stuff, GOOD stuff, and I was salivating. As I ditched the Saturday afternoon DCLX dance to head over to Alexandria I got a text message from Bill Speidel that the shop was closed. Oh, the disappointment!

Thankfully, I had already planned to attend the International Lindy Hop Championships in August, so I knew I’d get a second chance. I messaged the store’s Facebook page a few days prior to the event to make sure that they would be open and should I send my measuremnets. The answers were yes and yes, and I was elated.

I planned to go on Friday of ILHC and at the Thursday night dance I met Beth Midavaine, who had also planned to take a trip to Amalgamated with Bill Speidel, but Bill had bailed on her, so it seemed that fate would have it that we go shopping together. We headed to Amalgamated the next day with Jason Sager and arrived at the store at noon on the dot. The store was closed. I was frantic. We went next door to a knick knack store owner, who didn’t know why the shop wasn’t open. As we regrouped on the sidewalk, the door opened to Amalgamated and it was, after all, open for business. *phew!*

It took us three hours to get through everything in the store and try on the rack of clothes that Beth and I accumulated through our collective digging through the store. The store itself is small is square footage, but packed with everything good – there was no small rack where the few swing era items were delegated – the entire store was pre-1960’s, so 100% of their inventory was everything that you would want to see in a vintage store. It was glorious! The men’s section rivaled the women’s section in size and magnificence (who has an entire rack devoted to two tone Ricky Ricardo jackets?) and a men’s shoe section that took up an entire table, and included children’s shoes (tiny leather and mesh oxfords!). Owner Shelley White took us through boxes in the back room filled with delicate 1920’s beaded dresses, there were racks of glorious dresses and gowns, plus some very practical items that would be perfect for dancing. The women’s shoes had a good selection of larger women’s sizes, which was great for Beth, who picked up a pair of fantastic 1940’s heels.

I don’t think words or photos will do this place justice, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. Until then, check out some of our finds below:

The more choice men’s shoes behind glass.

The more choice women’s shoes behind glass – if you wear a size 5, those green t-straps could be yours!

On closer inspection, the print on this adorable 1940’s suit with giant lucite buttons features winged puppies! Does it get any cuter than freakin’ winged puppies???

Love this green 50’s dress, with a white scalloped stripe across the upper torso to draw the eye up and GIANT POCKETS.

Tie rack includes dead stock ties as well as used vintage ties.

Men’s shoes…

…and more men’s shoes…

Wide leg high waist women’s pants with adorable trim.

Ricky in purples

Ricky in brown and white

A shirt Jason considered…

Beth in a snappy hat

Jason snuggles with a vintage cat pillow.

A school spirited hat

A 1920’s beaded dress in my favorite color.

My find of the day – a 1930’s day dress in green. I’m holding the back because it will have to be taken in a bit, but I can’t pass up a green 30’s dress…

Beth’s find of the day – a gorgeous 1940’s gown with floral appliques and overlays

Love this Asian-inspired shape in a cotton leaf print.

Just about died when this almost-but-didn’t-quite fit

Gorgeous embroidery on this peach 1920’s day dress

A men’s vignette in the store

Another display at Amalgamated

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.

ILHC 2011 Vendors

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

ILHC swag

I had the pleasure of dancing and competing at this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships, held just outside of Washington, D.C. in Alexandria, Virginia. The event was a unique mix of swing dancers, in varying styles of dance, from around the globe. I think the event is best summed up by saying that ILHC is where you can see all those people you see dancing on YouTube – but there’s nothing better than seeing it live, as a video can’t quite capture the energy these couples and teams generate or the dynamic in the room.

(I apologize in advance for the quality of the photographs, as I forgot my real camera and had to use my phone)

Dancestore in the house!

Like most large swing dance events nowadays, ILHC had its own set of vendors, most of which I would categorize as the “essentials” providers – shoes, bloomers, hair flowers, and vintage/vintage-inspired clothing. Baltimore-based Dancestore.com was there with a lineup of Lindy and Bal-friendly shoes, including their new pair of white wingtips, which look gorgeous in person. Nina Gilkenson‘s mom, Laurie Gilkenson, was on hand, selling shoes for Dancestore, as well as vintage odds, ends, clothing, and shoes from Nina’s vintage shoe collection. If you wore a size 6.5, it was definitely your lucky day! More photos below of this and the other vendors.

Forties Forward had an array of new hair flowers, since I last saw these gals, Erica DeBlasio and Michelle Postles, at Lindy Focus. My new favorite bloom was a giant white bloom, possibly a magnolia blossom, that was so large it could almost be a hat!

My Heinies, in grand fashion, occupied the largest vendor space, with racks of colorful bloomers in all styles, as well as a beautiful collection of dance shoes for men and women. I noticed a particularly lovely pair of men’s two tone brown wingtips that garnered a lot of attention from the leaders in attendance, as well as some new to-die-for red heels in the collection. I noticed a number of followers in the competitions wearing My Heinies…and some who didn’t, but that’s another story…

A letterman's sweater from Model J Vintage

Working the booth with My Heinies was Model J Vintage, the Etsy store of New York dancer Joy Grad, which specializes in “a lifetime of collectibles directly to you from my personal closets and new adventures.” She turned up the volume for ILHC, offering a collection of both dance-ready and exquisite vintage and reproduction items from her collection and from Carol Fraser‘s closet. I swore I wasn’t going to buy anymore gowns, but I couldn’t pass up a 1940’s gown made of green silk, with a chevron bodice and velvet bow – it was a triple threat and I didn’t stand a chance. 😉

Last, but certainly not least, Mike Thibault of Vintage Jazz Art set up a gorgeous display of his framed prints, which are simply stunning in person. If you have an empty spot on a wall in your home, consider filling it with a daily reminder of your awesome dance hobby…

Thanks to everyone who organized the event and to those sold their wares at IHLC! I hope to return next year!

Gilkenson swag

A most exquisite pair of heels from the late 1800's/early 1900's, with jewels on the heels

My Heinies at ILHC

An array of Heinies

Some delicious new shoes, courtesy of My Heinies

An adorable blouse from Model J Vintage

Joy showing off a lovely vintage dress

The gown!

That glorious magnolia-like blossom I was telling you about, front and center, from Forties Forward

The coy ladies of Forties Forward

The Vintage Jazz Art display

The Price of Vintage Clothing

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I have received a request from Laurel Carpenter to write about evaluating vintage clothing prices, based on the tendency of some vintage retailers and eBay sellers to overprice their vintage pieces. What is worth it? What should you leave on the rack or the proverbial auction block?

I have found that this becomes a very personal decision, based on your income, the priority of incorporating vintage clothing into your wardrobe, the availability of vintage clothing in your geographic area, how well the garment fits, how much you like the garment, the condition of the garment, the similarity to other vintage items in your wardrobe, the cost of any potential alterations, and occasions to wear a particular garment, among other factors. When I go shopping for vintage clothing I sort of run through a series of questions based on these factors.

When it comes to the price of vintage clothing I look at things on a sliding scale – the garment is more valuable to me if it fits like a dream, it is unique and flattering, and in great condition. And if it’s green, I’ll be willing to pay even more. 🙂 However, just because it is old doesn’t mean that it is worth hundreds of dollars and just because it is vintage doesn’t mean that I’ll open my wallet any wider than I would if I shopped at the mall.

I’ll speak generally about prices, focusing on swing era garments, which are a rarity in your average local vintage store and more plentiful on eBay. Some sellers just want more money for their stuff – they either live in an area where people pay these prices or they think they’ve hit the jackpot at an estate sale and have dollar signs in their eyes. With the advent of eBay, these rarities have become more available to the masses and I have noticed the prices of vintage in my area either going down or staying the same as when I started shopping for vintage clothing, around 1999. It’s become more competitive, which is good for you as the consumer, to have a wider selection at competitive prices.

1920’s clothing, due to its age and fragile nature, tends to cost more because most of the materials in clothing from this era have deteriorated – to find something in excellent condition from the 1920’s is rare. To translate that into cost you have to consider how good the condition is and how fabulous the item – do you pay $1,000 for the beaded 1920’s dress/gown? No, no, don’t do that – would you spend that much on an evening gown? Maybe your wedding dress, but consider how old this garment is, the likelihood that the fine mesh will deteriorate, and what happens if it gets a tear or the beads start coming off? Devastating. Do you pay $200 for it? Maybe. If it fits you like a glove, you can Charleston in it without shedding beads, and you have the perfect occasion to wear it, then consider it a viable option. In a similar fashion, what if you find a 1920’s cotton day dress? How ornate is it? If it’s got wonderful embroidery or tailoring details, you might want to spend that much on a day dress that you could wear more often. Fabulous-ness and wear-ability equate value.

That said, you don’t have to spend $200 on a 1920’s dress. I have found wonderful 1920’s dresses for $80 (at Sweet Lorain in Cleveland, slate gray and cream day dress with about 50 tiny covered buttons up the front, perfect fit), for $40 (eBay, pink day dress with hand embroidered roses, my tailor had to enlarge the arm holes), and for $30 (1920’s maid uniform, black with white lace collar and cuffs, mint condition, possibly never worn).

$200 is my benchmark, I won’t pay more than that for anything vintage and I try to implement that policy here when I write about clothing on Lindy Shopper. It has to be the most fabulous thing I’ve ever seen to get me up to that number and it has to be close to the most fabulous thing I’ve ever seen to get me over $100, or I have to really, really need it for an occasion. Beyond that, it becomes unaffordable and I’ll file it with the Miu Miu and Prada dresses I want, but will never own.

The more you shop for vintage, the more you are aware of what is rare from each era and what constitutes a reasonable price. I have been sorely spoiled here in Durham with Dolly’s Vintage, which hasn’t priced anything I’ve picked up in the store over $35, but then Dolly’s doesn’t have a lot of swing era items. You may pay anywhere from $30 to $80 for a vintage 1940’s or 1950’s day dress – would you pay that much for a dress at, say…Banana Republic? Probably, maybe even more. And if it fits you better than a BR dress and it’s one of a kind, it would be worth it, right?

eBay can be tricky, since you are bidding against other people. I find that placing my maximum bid and just walking away until the auction is over is the best policy for me, which is how I acquired those two 1920’s dresses at such a low price. I can’t rely on eBay to absolutely get me what I want unless I’m willing to wage a bidding war, but you really have to choose your battles on eBay and only wage war for those items that you absolutely must have. You’ll feel it in your gut when that item shows up. There are no guarantees you will win and losing something you’d like to own can hurt, but the odds of getting something amazing are much greater overall because there is a larger selection of items.

There are also those eBay sellers who have severely overpriced their items (Buy it Now $198.00 for a cotton 1930’s day dress that is fairly unremarkable) and they keep showing up in my searches week after week after week (*cough* VioletvilleVintage *cough*), but there’s a reason the items continue to be re-listed – no one is willing to pay that much for that particular item. If no one is willing to pay that much, then why don’t they lower the price so they can sell it? I have no idea. I’ve been tempted to write to these sellers and let them know what price I would be willing to pay for their wares, but it’s not worth my time because there are so many other dresses out there.

I’d love to hear your experiences with prices, both eBay and retail, and I’d be happy to take any follow-up questions you may have. It was hard to organize my thoughts on this topic because there are so many factors that go into my decision to purchase a particular item of vintage clothing, but price is definitely a big factor.

Beggars and Choosers Sale – 50% Off

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

ATTENTION: This post formerly advertised a sale where if you wear it out of the store, it’s yours for free. I went to Beggars and Choosers today and they were very embarrassed that their printer and local media had mis-advertised the sale – the free sale was only for Thursday and only for clearance items from the basement. So sorry for the confusion! That said, there were still tons of great vintage items on sale for 50% off – my friend George Knott left with a $7 sportcoat and I left with a $15 1930’s hat.

Here are the contents of the old post:

File this under local news for Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill: Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro, NC is having a sale this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday where if you find an outfit at the store and wear it out of the store, you get the outfit for free! This is the only vintage store conceivably near the Triangle that has actual swing era vintage clothing and a great section of menswear as well – definitely worth the trip to come get a free outfit!

If you are interested, I know their hours have changed since my last blog post on this shop, so call and confirm the hours they will be open. If you are planning on coming to Pittsboro’s Mardi Gras Carnival on Saturday (to dance to the Atomic Rhythm All-Stars! yeah!), consider coming a bit early to catch the sale.

Beggars and Choosers
38 Hillsboro Street
Pittsboro, NC 27312
(919) 542-5884

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

EBC Vendors: The Vintage Collective

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

EBC attendees are likely in various states of recovery after the immense fun of this past weekend, as am I on this Monday of Mondays. My big contribution to the weekend’s festivities was organizing a vintage trunk sale through my friend Andi Shelton of The Vintage Collective, who set up their wares in the hallway of the hotel from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday. The ladies of The Vintage Collective set up a truly impressive and beautiful display of jewelry, hats, purses, shoes, and three garment racks of clothing for men and women from the 1920’s through the 1950’s. In between classes, competitions, and the dance that night, EBC-goers browsed the racks, tried things on, and there were many successes.

I’ve mentioned this before, but there is no better vintage experience for me than shopping with other Lindy Hoppers (or in this case, Balboa dancers for the weekend) who share a passion for vintage clothing, or even just dressing well for dancing. It took Kate Hedin about two seconds to find the perfect dress, a 1930’s/40’s navy dress with a swing skirt and white embroidery. Stephanie Simpson found an amazing purple 1940’s dress with a fauxlero and studded detailing. Heidi Rosenau, one of my favorite vintage ladies, left with my favorite dress of the day, a chartreuse 1930’s/40’s day dress with a tropical flower print. I spotted some ladies even wearing their purchases from the day at the Saturday night dance. Lindy Shopper did not leave empty handed, coming away from the sale with a pair of two-tone brown and cream perforated leather heeled oxfords, which Heidi referred to as “The Holy Grail.” After dancing in them in prelims, I can confirm that they are, indeed, magical shoes.

The best part of the sale was having an edited selection of swing era garments and accessories brought to an audience who really appreciates them. Not having to wade through polyester = maximum convenience!

Where are the photographs? I was too stressed out to remember to take any, so my apologies. This should serve as a reminder to me that I need to cut out something next year – being at work at 8 a.m. the Friday of the event instead of taking the day off, DJ’ing, competing, organizing, and singing in the band on Friday night was just a bit much.

Thanks again to Andi Shelton, Claire Villa, and Laura Churchill Pemberton for all their hard work and for making an appearance at EBC as The Vintage Collective!

Eastern Balboa Championships

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I’m writing about the Eastern Balboa Championships early in the week because I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to write later on, living in the host scene for this event and organizing certain tangential events that occur this week; also, the event starts on Thursday and once I am sucked into the vortex of madness that is EBC, I may not return until Monday. 😉

Last year at EBC I organized a vintage shopping trip to a couple of local vintage stores in and around downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. The main conquest was a giant warehouse of a vintage store called Get Dressed. Unfortunately, this past May, Get Dressed closed its doors for good, leaving Raleigh without a source for vintage clothing of the swing era. The remaining store, Father & Son Antiques, has an impressive collection of mid-century furniture, but lacks in the clothing department. I still wanted to have a vintage shopping experience for the EBC attendees, after the success of last year’s shopping outing – 20 people signed up in advance and even more carpooled over to Get Dressed the day of the outing.

I have been in touch with one of the vintage collectors from Get Dressed, Andi Shelton, who also runs an Etsy store called Raleigh Vintage. Andi has been keeping the dream alive of Raleigh having a vintage clothing retail store, looking for a location to have a less sprawling store with a carefully selected stock of good vintage clothing. It seems that North Carolina may need the assistance of The Rent is Too Damn High Party so Andi can find some reasonable retail space; until then, Andi and several other vintage collectors operate under the name The Vintage Collective, making appearances at various local events and offering their wares for sale.

I have arranged for the Vintage Collective to appear at EBC, during the day and into the evening on Saturday – specifically, 12:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Brownstone, the hotel hosting EBC. Andi wrote this about The Vintage Collective:

“The Vintage Collective is collaborative of three vintage clothing enthusiasts who have a passion for collecting and sharing special pieces. Just for the EBC, we’ll be sharing our collections of 1920s-late 1950s clothing for men and women, as well as accessories to complete the look. Offerings include dresses, tops, sweaters, skirts, lingerie, pants, suits, vests, hats, gloves, jewelry, ties, and shoes….a little bit of everything!

We’ll be accepting cash and paypal (if wi-fi is available in the hotel lobby).”

I know the ladies of The Vintage Collective have been saving up their good stuff for EBC, so I’m very excited to see what they will bring. Actual location in the hotel is TBA, until I can get over there and work with Chris & Holly Owens, the organizers of EBC, on the best location for the Collective to set up.

I’m looking forward to some vintage shopping without leaving the venue! I am also looking forward to seeing what Andi pulls out of the vault…we all know they keep the good stuff in the back. 😉 If you are planning on attending EBC and have any questions about the vintage shopping, please post your questions as a comment to this blog entry. Thanks!