It was another banner year for the International Lindy Hop Championships, now in its 9th year, and full of life, energy, and joy that only swing dancing with people who love these dances with every fiber of their being can bring.
This year’s ILHC was very different for me than in previous years, primarily because I was only singing with Jonathan Stout‘s bands on Friday and Saturday night, whereas in previous years I had competed, DJ’ed, participated in the Yehoodi broadcast, and also sang, usually 2-3 of these at various times over the course of the weekend. Consequently, I cannot say that I was in the ballroom as much as I had been in the past, but I received a request for a trend report, so I will tell you what I was able to see while I was there:
Trashy Diva: TD has been around for a while and there would always be a token dancer in a TD dress (usually Mia Halloran (as in the video below) or Valerie Salstrom), but this year the TD was out en masse. As my gaze scanned the dancing crowd each night, there were numerous ladies sporting TD’s signature printed rayon dresses and it made my heart sing! You all looked amazing – at one point, I happened upon a cluster of three women in TD chatting in the hallway and there’s nothing that makes me happier than fashion bringing people together.
Cropped tops: This trend was a pleasant surprise, seeing adorable cropped tops paired with everything from floaty skirts to high waisted trousers, and always impeccably assembled with the rest of the outfit. Everything from right at the top of the waistband to about three inches above the waistband, so some were just a peek when you lifted your arm to turn and others were more intentionally part of the ensemble’s silhouette.
High waisted tapered leg pleated front pants: Ubiquitous, for a second year in a row. My distaste for this trend remains, but at least they all fit you well, no one looked uncomfortable.
Women in ties: Neckties, bow ties, and I think I even spotted a Continental – ladies, won’t you join me during OcTieBer?
Men: I’ve got nothing, it looked rather more of the same, except that well-dressed men are always in style. Nevermind, keep looking amazing, don’t change. 😉
If you attended, I’d love to hear what other trends did you noticed while you were there – feel free to leave a note in the comments.
I’m also going to give honorable mention to Diana Smith, who wore my favorite clothing item of the weekend, a black floral romper that, at a distance looks like it’s made from a a nice vintage floral, but upon closer inspection has Captain America’s shield nestled in the beds of flowers! Click on the photo to make it larger so you can see the detail – brilliant nod to the Captain America back story and the victory prints of the 1940’s. Did I think to get a photo of Diana in this romper? No, because I’m a terrible reporter and I think I got her in trouble during sound check because we were both working when I started geeking out about her romper…so you’ll have to settle for the Kohl’s model at right. Unfortunately, this romper is no longer available at Kohl’s! *sigh*
There were not as many vendors at ILHC as in the past, and I particularly missed seeing Chloe Hong, but there were 4 vendors offering goods and services to the masses in the hallway of the event and they should be noted because they are noteworthy!
Holding down the largest vendor space was Laurie Gilkenson (aka Nina’s mom) with both Dancestore’s line of dance shoes for men and women, as well as vintage shoes and clothing. I noticed that Dancestore has a new colorway in their Aris Allen men’s wingtip, a nice brown and cream. I also died when I saw that Laurie had several pairs of 1920’s shoes, just the loveliest things in satin that my feet will never fit into! Also, vintage velvet…so many lovely things…
Across from Laurie was the Junebug Shop, the custom clothing endeavor of Anna Yergat, who had her designs on display, as well as a line of geometric beaded jewelry in just about every color – so you could order an entire accessorized ensemble at her table. The Junebug Shop Etsy page carries Anna’s custom designs as well as some vintage clothing items. Anna’s designs look romantic and dance-worthy, vintage nods with modern twists.
Finally, the Vinspire Salon at ILHC was staffed by Destinee Cushing (hair) and Lani Barry (makeup), offering full services faces and quoifs all weekend, if you could even get one – they were so popular there was a wait list! One could say that having hair and makeup done, either professionally by these two or by other means (self, friend) was also a trend this past weekend and rightly so – this is quite possibly Lindy Hop’s biggest and most broadcast performance opportunity of the year and it’s a time to shine, look vibrant under all those bright lights, and look and dance your best.
And that’s a wrap! I love coming to ILHC for the energy and the inspiring dances I see all weekend, there’s a little something here for everyone, even if you aren’t competing. Sometimes it’s good just to take it all in.
I love a sale and I love it when I find new products tailored for swing dancers – here, we have Saint Savoy Dancewear, a swing dance company founded by Rani-Patricia Dirnhofer, a Vienna-based dancer who grew up in Spain and uses her connections there to collaborate with Alicante shoe manufacturers to create this line of men’s and women’s dance shoes – from oxfords to t-straps, flats to heels, brogueing to cutouts…there’s a lot of variety here! Additionally, Saint Savoy is running a sale until November 30, 10 Euros off any pair of dance shoes…
…but what about these shoes, you say? Let’s take a closer look:
It seems all dancers struggle with finding that perfect pair of shoes – Rani-Patricia shared this struggle: “While hunting for stylish dance shoes, we searched through countless websites from all over the world. The meagre array, several bad buys, and a lot of research brought us to the idea of starting our very own company.” What is remarkable is that people are actually doing this, starting companies and making these shoes – clearly there is a demand!
So if you could come up with a dance shoe company, what specs would you include? Saint Savoy touts the following:
– Sustainable production: “We hold the manufacturing methods of our products to high ethical standards, and select the materials used according to durability and sustainability. We proudly ensure that our shoeboxes are made from recycled paper, plastic packaging is minimized, leatherwork follows German PCP Regulations, and working conditions for our shoemakers are fair – more ways in which we join traditional and contemporary.”
Here are some favorites from the Saint Savoy line of shoes for men and women (ladies, note that there are flats and low heel options) – don’t forget to place your orders before November 30 to get the discount!
This tip came to me via a Twitter conversation with @RebeccaBrightly and @jonandcris about dance shoes, where @jonandcris noted that he “spent all last weekend at Paris Swing Workshop wearing @slideandswing & feet/legs/knees not sore at all.” A few clicks later and I was exploring Slide & Swing, a Barcelona-based shoe-maker/retail shop/online store, selling vintage-inspired shoes with a modern twist for dancers and muggles alike.
The shoes are available in men’s and women’s sizes, focusing on three classic styles – an oxford, a saddle shoe, and a wingtip. What makes these shoes a modern update are the clean lines and the available colors and color combinations. The clean lines are essentially created by the absence of broguing and the smooth, clean look of the leather. The colors update the look even further, with gray as their baseline (in lieu of black) and vivid, distinct colors/combinations like a royal blue and white saddle shoe for women and an oxford in canary yellow for men.
I’d also like to note that these are great flats options for women (which always seem to be in short supply), with construction that will keep these on your feet and some nice color options that are different from our usual standbys. With all leather construction and their fresh take on the classics, Slide and Swing dance shoes look like a viable option for dancers seeking shoe options that are created with dancers in mind.
I haven’t done a post about Aris Allens on eBay in a while, but if you aren’t doing regular searches for these shoes, then here are some great deals for some used, some barely worn, dance shoes on eBay:
If you’re a dandy, lady dandy, or you just want a pair of really stylish shoes, it looks like this is the year of the oxford (featuring the wingtip) at Urban Outfitters. They are offering an array of styles, price points, and an unparallelled offering of color. Here are my faves (and I’m only scratching the surface here):
If you haven’t been to Dancestore.com in a while, you should spend a few minutes checking out their new selection of shoes. I knew Dancestore was working on a pair of mesh and leather Aris Allens, but I did not know they had other men’s styles and new women’s shoes up their sleeve, as well. They were kind enough to invite me to test out a few pairs and I’m happy to share my report with you about the women’s shoes (and direct your attention to some of the men’s shoes I think are worthy of a look-see).
The first pair I decided to try was their new saddle shoe. I personally think saddle shoes are adorable and if you showed up to a dance in a 40’s skirt, blouse, sweater vest, and saddle shoes, I’d think you were completely awesome. And adorable. Very collegiate, no? I think most people associate saddle shoes with the 1950’s and poufy skirts, but they date back to 1906 when Spalding introduced them for tennis and squash players and reached their height as a trend that spanned 20 or so years, from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
I have been looking for a pair of saddle shoes for myself for some time, but have failed to find any with leather soles (like the pair from my childhood), only that spongy “crepe” sole which I find not as well-suited for dancing. Dancestore has introduced a great compromise – a saddle shoe with a hard rubber sole that has been sueded. I opted to try the brown tweed version of their saddle shoe, which has a soft tweedy fabric covering most of the shoe with brown faux leather covering the “saddle” part of the shoe. They came with two pairs of laces, a thicker set and a thin set. When I first tried on the shoe it felt a bit stiff, but after only a couple of dances, the stiffness wore off at the points where I needed movement. The shoe itself was very comfortable, the rubber sole flexible, and I didn’t worry about the shoes as I danced in them. I wore them with socks, which was a nice change for me, and they looked great with the collegiate outfit I described above. 🙂 The only criticism I have, which is more of a personal preference item, was that the footbed was not super cushioned – this is not something that bothers me, but some people prefer a cushioned footbed. Given the shape of the shoe, it would be easy to add an insole or inserts for an easy fix. I normally wear a 7 in Aris Allens and needed a half size larger because I wanted to wear socks with them.
The second pair I tried is actually a style that has been out for a while, but since I don’t normally wear flats for dancing, I hadn’t had much incentive to try out the Aris Allen Athletic Mary Janes. I know there is a population of dancers out there who don’t wear heels who are looking for a Keds alternative, so I thought I’d try them out. The biggest pros for me with this shoe were the wide sole and the cushy insole. The shoes themselves felt of regular width, but the width of the sole seemed wider than the sueded Keds I owned, which in turn made my ankles less prone to roll and just gave me more overall security in feeling “grounded.” The insole on these shoes is cushy in all kinds of good ways – giving without being squishy; soft, yet resilient in its mesh design; arch support with good placement of said support. The strap was ample, so they remained on my feet, and the wingtip styling is adorable. I also had to go a half size up with this shoe for it to fit comfortably. I am hopeful that, like the white mesh oxfords, I’ll be able to shine these up with Windex when they get dirty.
The final pair I tried is definitely a new style for Aris Allen and was the one I was most excited about – the d’Orsay sandal. I have admired the Aris Allen d’Orsay satin t-strap since they launched a few years ago, but never bought a pair because the 3 inch heels were just too high for me for dancing. I hoped that they would create a similar pair with a lower heel and was elated to see the d’Orsay sandal with a 1 5/8 inch heel.
I selected a black satin pair to try out. Initially I got a size 7, but couldn’t fit my foot in the shoe, so I exchanged them for a 7.5. I got the 7.5 on my foot, but because I have a weird foot* the part of the shoe around where your foot enters the shoe near the ball of the foot was too tight. I enlisted the help of my friend Tiffany Linquist, another size 7 lady, to test the shoes for me, as her foot fit into them without the same problem. Another dancer, Heidi Reule, also tried out the fit of the shoe and did not have the same problem.
After about 5 dances, Tiffany came back over to me – the short end of the strap had broken on the d’Orsay sandal. We were pretty mortified, because we both have Aris Allen shoes that we love and know that they can make quality products. We brainstormed about the shoe and here’s what we came up with:
– The quality of the shoe appeared to be good – the materials used appeared to be quality, the overall aesthetic of the shoe was very good, the cutouts added to the comfort at the ball of the foot, and the insole was soft and comfortable.
– The heel height and width were ideal for Charleston, Balboa, and Lindy Hop.
– While the ball of the foot was very flexible, the arch was not – it was stiff and the shoe itself was very narrow at the arch. Tiffany’s feedback was that the shoe was very comfortable while she was dancing on her toes, but not while she was standing still. The arch, overall, felt and looked very narrow and, when she was wearing the shoes, she said it felt like her arches were dancing off a cliff (i.e. not secure).
– The arch support in the shoe felt like it was too far forward in the shoe.
– We were surprised that the strap broke (the small part with the buckle, not the long part with the holes for the buckle) until we noticed that there was no elastic on the strap. The absence of elastic, combined with the stiff arch appeared to put unnecessary strain on the strap, which likely caused the break. There is only so much thread can hold without some give to that tension.
That said, I hope that Dancestore does not give up on this style – I would still love to own a pair of shoes in this style and heel height – I hope that they take this feedback and make some improvements to this lovely shoe – a little elastic and some love in the arch would help what is, otherwise, a good shoe.
MEN! If you are still reading, you are dedicated – there are good things for you, including a much anticipated mesh wingtip in brown tones, a sweet white wingtip that looks like it may give Re-Mix’s version a run for its money (at half the price), and dance loafers in black, white, and a “Michael Jackson” edition in black with a special rubber insert in the heel that was specific to a pair of shoes worn by the King of Pop. I notice in the descriptions for the white wingtips and the loafers that they have taken feedback from dancers to heart and made these pairs with a thicker sole than the regular Aris Allen dance shoes – the result is something more like a quality pair of dress shoes and requires a bit of a break-in period. Not a bad thing if you are looking for a more quality pair of shoes. Men, I would take the time to read the descriptions of these shoes, as they have taken the time to describe their qualities in a fairly in-depth way to help you make a decision about what shoe would be right for you.
I love where Dancestore is going with their men’s shoe line – I think the aesthetic is spot on and the focus on quality materials and listening to user feedback is a step in a great direction. I think there are some improvements that could be made with the women’s shoes – aside from the aforementioned satin sandal, I would also like to see more leather shoes in the women’s shoe line and would like to continue to be able to buy leather wedges, which are a staple of my dance shoe wardrobe. I see that my staple wedges are being phased out, which is a shame because there are no viable alternatives, in my experience, that have the same wonderful, flexible sole as my Aris Allens. I am on my second pair of tan Rugcutters (since purchasing my first pair circa 2003/4?), and would still be on my first pair if they hadn’t smelled so terrible after 5 or 6 years that I had to throw them out. I wore them to death, almost every night, until I could afford to expand my shoe wardrobe and buy more wedges. I love them, please don’t get rid of them! *grovels and clings to your leg*
I would like to thank Dancestore for involving me in a review of their products. I am a staunch supporter of their shoes because I believe that they are a great entry point for dancers to buy dance shoes at more affordable prices and are one of the few places offering viable social dance shoes in flats. I hope they continue to make shoes that I love and experiment with new styles and adjustments to make the shoes that they have even better for dancing.
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*I have weird feet, so not every shoe works. I am the genetic product of a father with narrow feet and mother with tiny feet, a high arch, and Haglund’s deformity – the result (in me) is a narrow heel, a disproportionately wide ball of the foot, and the Haglund’s knob on the back of my heels. I also have a Tailor’s bunion and have had two surgeries to repair a toe I mutilated in my youth by falling down the stairs, breaking my toe, and then stuffing the broken toe into toe shoes before it healed. Needless to say, I must have very comfortable footwear and my health insurance has labeled me as having a pre-existing condition.
Because men’s dance shoes so rarely appear on eBay, I’m passing along this gently used pair of men’s brown and white Aris Allen wingtips, size 12. Starting bid is $25, but you could buy them now for $32 (plus a very reasonable $4.50 shipping).
One of the first things on my Facebook feed this morning was a photo of a pair of red and a pair of green wingtip Keds, made by St. Louis dancers Beccy Aldrich and Kayce Maureen. I love a DIY project and the shoes were so adorable I couldn’t resist posting them here.
They got the idea from Pinterest, which linked to this site in a language unknown to me. However, the photographs take you step by step through the process so you can make a pair of your own! Beccy adds that they used fabric pens to create all the patterns on the shoe, and supplemented with white fabric paint to highlight the dots in the brogueing. We’re not sure what the turquoise pen is in the photo.
If you’re going to Lindy Focus, you’ll get to see the green pair and red pair in person – nice job, ladies!
On those rare occasions that I set foot in our local mall, I sometimes see things that catch my eye, like these wingtip and tweed tennis shoes in the Aldo window display. For those who may be hesitant to give up their sueded sneaks for a pair of hard soled shoes, perhaps these could be a dressier alternative? $70.00, available in black and brown.
Veteran elegant-lady-shoe-and-handbag producer Etienne Aigner has a great women’s wingtip oxford out right now that they are calling Kimber (Jem and the Holograms?) – it’s a solid looking wingtip that comes in four color combinations: black, a reddish brown, two tone caramel and brown, and two tone olive green and dark brown. This is exactly the kind of shoe I would pick up if I actually wore pants on a regular basis. It also appears to have that half rubber, half fabric sole that the Payless shoes have, which means this shoe has a high dance potential. The price isn’t bad at $78.99, but if you register for Zulily, they are on special for $54.99 through August 18.
This past weekend at DCLX, amidst discussions of trumpet skirts, Dancestore.com owner Gay Santelmann showed me
her prototype of an Aris Allen
mesh and leather oxford, set
to go into production and be available for purchase in, approximately, 4 to 6 months. Excited! I’ve been looking for
a vintage pair for my husband and it’s just not happening…
but now it is!
I’m a big fan of the Dancestore.com mesh and leather heeled oxford for its comfort, flexibility, and breatheability. I can imagine that the same concept will translate well into an oxford for men. Kudos to Dancestore.com for picking up on this functionality.
Did I think to take a photo of the prototype? No, of course not, but the shoe I saw was two tone, with dark brown leather and tan mesh, and was copied from a 1940’s pair of the same coloring. Gay said they would also be available in black leather/white mesh, and possibly a black and navy combo.
On the heels of their white wingtip, Dancestore.com has introduced a black wingtip oxford to their line of Aris Allen dance shoes. This is most certainly a welcome addition and one that, I believe, may be picked up by people outside of the dance community. At $74.95, this pair of basic black dress shoes is less than half the retail cost of most new pairs of black wingtips with leather soles.