As most ladies know and Tim Gunn has spoken out about, the clothing options for women over a certain size range are particularly limited, even though they make up hundreds of thousands of shoppers in the US and beyond and spend significant sums on clothing for themselves. Compound limited selection with a preference for vintage styles and your options are even more limited.
I’ve had my eye on New Vintage Lady’s Etsy site for some time and I did a post on her in 2011, but I’m excited to see that she keeps showing up on my radar and continues to expand her line of vintage patterns, offering fantastic designs that are all the things we love about jazz age and swing era clothing, with all the wonderful details that make them great (and she has a great eye! I love her selections, artwork, and fabric choices). This latest endeavor is via Kickstarter, in an effort to expand her size range to cover bust sizes from 40 inches to 52 inches, as well as improving her existing patterns in terms of graphics and descriptions. Offering a range of sizes is a lot of work – often, you only find one vintage pattern of a certain dress and it comes in the size you found, not a range, and it’s not simply a matter of adding inches around to increase the size, of course it’s MUCH MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT, in that way that all of our bodies are a complicated mix of measurements.
The obvious rewards here are reaping the benefit of the new patterns once the Kickstarter is funded, but if you don’t sew there is an AMAZING reward – the New Vintage Lady will make you a dress, one of HER garments from the Kickstarter! What could be more amazing and more personal and more lovely than that? (I see she also does men’s trousers *ahem* maybe…if you ask nicely?) If you’ve ever wanted a reproduction dress to your specifications with your fabric choices and you haven’t done this for yourself, this is a great opportunity to help not only yourself, but others of a certain size range to gain access to these wonderful patterns.
There’s so much to love, go check out her line and video and consider backing this project!
Since the launch of their not-quite-flat-not-quite-heeled wedge over a year ago, I’ve seen Charlie Stone’s signature t-strap pop up at dances in the U.S., with solid reviews and a supply of dancers looking for that shoe that’s dressier than Keds, but still as comfortable as their flats. For their second collection, they polled Facebook for feedback and votes on the new shoe designs (I love a Facebook poll) and the results are not only in, they are ready to launch two new shoes, the Peta and the Marisa. The Marisa is a white ankle strap shoe with adorable cutouts, while the Peta is closer in design to their sigature shoe, with some modifications to design and a two-tone color scheme. They are offering a presale with 10% off starting this Sunday, February 14, 2016, here are the details from their Facebook page: “From 14.02.16 to 29.02.16, use the discount code PRESALE at checkout to get 10% off Peta or Marisa.” Enjoy!
A definite trend at ILHC 2015 was overalls, sported by both male and female dancers alike. While typically associated with more rural endeavors (and perhaps costumed, in some instances, as a nod to such), overalls are comfortable, typically a bit wider in the leg and the seat by design, and create a nice long line from your soles up to your chest. Anything that makes me look taller is good in my book!
I purchased a fantastic pair of 1940’s reproduction overalls from Nudeedudee last year and I am in love – the styling is a bit softer than your standard modern overall, with a torso shape that is more akin to a sundress (flattering!), and buttons with button holes instead of a metal button and metal loop. I get so many compliments every time I have worn them! Style a la Rosie the Riveter to complete your swing era workwear look. Available in denim and engineer stripe, as well as a denim romper if you are looking for shorts.
I must confess, for the past two days, since Saint Savoy posted a sneak preview of their new Riviera shoe, I have found myself going back to their Facebook page multiple times a day to go look at these shoes. THAT GREEN. That blue…and I’d definitely get some use out of that neutral pair, too. They had me at color, but I’m sold at the 3.5 cm (about 1.4 inches) heel.
I happened upon Laura Bakker’s Catalogue of Fashion website in one of those lists – THOSE lists, that purport to have links to all the repro goodness, but ultimately and eventually the links stop working as websites go out of business (which is why I won’t maintain one of THOSE lists on this website). HOWEVER, every now and again you find a true gem, still in business, with fantastic garments.
With a degree from the Art School of Maastricht in her pocket and a love of movie costumes from the 1930’s through the early 1950’s, Laura got to work making her line of unique and individualized fashions. From the website: “Everything is made by only me, the patterns, the clothes and all the applications. Every item is made only once, my little personal war against all the big productions 😉 I wish to offer all the ladies & gentlemen something special.”
The menswear offerings include great shirt and trouser basics that look comfortable for dancing. The women’s clothing is all about the details and you can see on each piece how it is unique and how Laura has left her own mark on each piece, with buttons, trim, contrasting fabrics, inset panels, and even hand-painted details.
The long-awaited women’s line from Prohibition Clothing Company is go – I saw the fruits of their labor at the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August and now you can order these great separates online. Everything – the Parker trouser, the Clara knicker, and the Margaret skirt – is perfect for fall and coordinates with the existing menswear/unisex accessories. The neutral palette will also compliment so many other clothing items and colors for fall. I am particularly excited about having a ready-to-wear option for knickers and the potential for lady dandy dance ensembles and tweed ride awesomeness. Take a gander, folks!
Another pair of dance shoes priced to move! Aris Allen Red Velvet Oxfords, size 7.5, starting bid $5.99. The shipping is a little steep at $18.35 *ahem* for Expedited mail, but perhaps you could convince the seller to ship at a lower/slower rate. I just sent Lindy Dandy a box of goodies to Kabul and it didn’t cost half that…anyway, bid away and don’t forget to message the seller about the shipping and perhaps some more details about the condition of the shoes.
In my recent quest for just work-wear in general (but also/always work/dance clothing) I came up pretty empty handed this fall in the blouse department. What will I tuck in to my trumpet skirts and high waisted trousers? Up until now, I haven’t had much difficulty finding vintage-inspired, ladylike, professional tops to go with suits and work-wear at the mall, but this year was a total bust or was just more of what I already had in my closet.
Am I becoming one of those people who feels the need to wear vintage every day? Maybe. At this point, only out of necessity so that I don’t look like a sack or a lawyer in pajamas.
My solution to this problem has become vintage blouses – I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, probably because I prefer to wear dresses for dancing and don’t seek out blouses, but there’s a great selection of vintage blouses on Etsy and I was able to find several in brick and mortar stores (with a specifically great haul from Amalgamated Classic Clothing and Dry Goods). Price-wise, they are comparable to or less than what I would pay for a nice work blouse at a mall retailer.
Most of the ones I found that I loved were from the 1940’s or 1950’s. I really like the ones that have darts in the torso so that the fit is flattering – emphasis on flat, and not “blousy” (pun intended), which also appears to help the shirt stay tucked in, so long as you are wearing skirts and pants that sit at your natural waist, i.e. the narrowest point on your torso.
Here are some lovelies for the office or the dance floor, courtesy of Etsy:
The 9th annual Eastern Balboa Championships was another rousing success, with perhaps even more shenanigans, planned and unplanned, than usual. A highlight of the weekend was dressing in tweeds for the mock English hunt, led by Bobby White, where the tweeded and costumed EBC gentry gave organizer Chris Owens a sporting head start before we unleashed the Nerf guns on him. Perhaps the best part of the weekend for me was performing with my band, the Mint Julep Jazz Band, for the Friday night dance, receiving rave reviews for our performance, and launching a Kickstarter for our first CD. 🙂
The vendors were out again this year, but in spite of not having a shoe vendor, the vendor area certainly looked full. Raleigh Vintage was back with their fabulous trunk show of 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s clothing, as well as a full rack of tweed for some last-minute-pre-hunt shopping. Some of my favorite pieces from the collection are shown below, and I managed to do some Christmas shopping for my husband, as well. My favorite purchase for him was a 1933 World’s Fair tie clip and Raleigh Vintage had a set of three of them, in blue, white, and black. They also had some excellent ladies’ jewelry this time, bakelite, Art Deco necklaces, and clever pins. There was a hilarious pin with maracas and a plaque that said “Hasta Manana” that I loved – but what do you wear with this? I am pondering…
Following the success of their booth at All Balboa Weekend, The Cleveland Shop made the long journey to North Carolina with an impressive display of vintage dresses, separates, menswear, shoes, hats, and other vintage sundries. I especially appreciate that they brought books on vintage make-up and hair, which can be a chore to figure out without a tutorial. Favorites included the red shoes pictured at left, tons of wonderful rayon floral 30’s and 40’s dresses, and a plaid suit that I would wear loud and proud if I were a dude. I do hope their trip down here was fruitful and that they will return to us next year from the land of vintage with even more goodies.
Last, but certainly not least, Sharon Crawford of Creations by Crawford is the hardest working vendor at these events – most of her creations are custom made for you, during the weekend, and are sometimes being made for a dance that night. Sharon’s vendor table is also a social hub, so you can enjoy the warm, friendly conversation as she creates wonderful pieces made from vintage jewelry, feathers, ribbon, and other tiny pretty things. I’m willing to say that Sharon gets a lot of business from men, as well, and can create the perfect boutonniere to go with any jacket or ensemble.
Don’t miss out on the 10th anniversary party next year, the celebration is going to be huge and full of pranks, I’m sure!
I can thank milliner Joei Reed for directing me to this gem – Cabiria‘s tagline is “whimsical, sensual style in sizes 12-24,” but I think the word vintage should be thrown in there because so many of these designs take inspiration from 1940’s and 1950’s styles.
This brand is brand spanking new – according to their website, the line launched on October 22, 2012, with an e-store for presales and wholesale and their lookbook, which is a part of their fundraising through Kickstarter. That’s right, this company is still in its infancy and, with your support, these dresses could make their way to you faster and possibly at retail locations and boutiques if the company’s Kickstarter is successful – it looks like they are really close! Here’s the skinny from the Kickstarter campaign:
“The $8,000 is to pay for grading (sizing up and down) costs for each pattern, factory production fees (higher here in the US than abroad, but so important to keep skilled jobs local), shipping costs, website development, and marketing to let the buyers know about our SS13 line. Part of this is to produce the garments to place in independent plus size and boutiques and online retailers, and part will be to produce additional stock for our own e-store direct to the customer.”
Here’s what I’m loving (available for pre-order) from their Spring/Summer 2013 line – silk blends, cotton blends, prints – YESPLS:
*Note that there are additional fabrics/swatches available for each dress.
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.
Aside from Re-Mix Vintage Shoes‘ retail location, I was not aware of a retailer specializing in dead stock shoes – until now. I happened upon A Vintage Sole and was delighted to find an entire website devoted to dead stock shoes from many eras, including the swing era. I was immediately awash with questions of “how…?” “where…?” “what..??!” Just amazing.
This site is also a haven for irregular widths – it is apparent that the buyer found whole sets of stock for a certain shoe, sometimes in multiple colors, and almost always in multiple widths. You can search their inventory by size, width, and color. The only criteria missing would be decade. 🙂
So, back to my questions – thankfully, there’s FAQ page to satiate my curiosity:
“Where do you buy your shoes? We find people with vintage shoes to sell. If they are in mint condition, we’re interested. We’re pretty open-minded when it comes to our sources. Keep in mind that all of our shoes are still in the box and have never been worn.”
The owner, Libby, sounds like a kindred spirit – “A Vintage Sole began with a love of shoes. From there it grew into a bit of an obsession. I searched high and low for authentic vintage shoes. One pair became two. Two pairs became four. Four pairs became eight until I had so many shoes I had to pass them on to you…Growing up in the Midwest, I also loved the thrill of spending weekends driving around the many small towns filled with antique shops hiding vintage gems. Have you ever been to a garage sale, second-hand store, or antique shop and found something that was so amazing you had to get it even though it wasn’t quite right for you? When you picked it up you thought, “My friend would love this!” That’s how I feel. I know you’ll love what I’ve found for you. Who wouldn’t love an authentic pair of gorgeous, vintage shoes? The shoes I sell have never been worn! It’s time they had their moment in the spotlight because they are too beautiful to stay boxed up forever. a Vintage Sole offers footwear in limited quantities that enables your shoes to be as unique as you are. We celebrate individuality and flair. Love for great shoes is a passion to share. From me and the rest of the staff of a Vintage Sole, we hope you truly enjoy your shoes!
I hear a lot of questions about how to isolate the decade, or portion of a decade (or in rare instances, the year), in which a particular garment was made. How do you identify the date of a garment based on the details, fabrics, notions, etc. included the garment? My initial answer is to do your homework, but my learning mostly consisted of shopping for vintage with my mother, asking her to identify the decade, and having her point out different identifying details. I can’t loan out my mother to all of you, so you’ll have to learn the old fashioned way: book learning (or in the 21st century, the Internets).
Kim at Time Machine Vintage directed me to the Vintage Pattern Wiki to get some ideas for dresses, but I was delighted to see that you could search their extensive directory by the type of garment and also by year. I see other compilations of patterns for sale that usually group by decade, but I’m just anal retentive enough to want to add more mid-1930’s dresses to my collection, or to want to make sure that late 20’s/early 30’s dress is actually late 1920’s. Regardless of your OCD level or absence thereof, this website is a useful resource for anyone who would like to learn and understand more about the fashions from each of the swing era decades, down to the year. Another great feature of this site is menswear and children’s clothing included in the patterns, which is not something I run across very often.
Enjoy this resource, I’ve already spent portions of two evenings going through the early 1940’s stuff – this could take a while!
In light of recent online discussions about gender roles in Lindy Hop and the recent Amendment/abomination passed this month in my home state, I decided to take up a suggestion made by Sam Carroll that I do a post on women dressing in menswear or dandy garb for dancing. Specifically,
“For my own sake, I’m interested in outfits which cater to the curvy woman’s body, but which are using traditionally ‘male’ items – eg jackets, waistcoats, trousers, hats, cravats, etc. Not women’s clothes, but men’s clothes for women. Or men’s clothes tailored for a woman’s body. Most of the ‘female dandy’ stuff I see about features ridiculously skinny, flat-chested women without hips. That’s not me, I’m not interested in that stuff. But it’s hard to find alternatives.”
I think this is a really cool concept, one that could be practical for dancing socially, traveling, or in performance where a female could be leading and/or want to fit into a particular role in the ensemble.
When Sam posed this question, a few things popped into my head:
– Like vintage clothing for men, the actual vintage options will be limited, but with ladies’ narrower shoulders it could open up more jacket options.
– Accessories are the key. Like many gents I know who dress in vintage or in vintage style, many of the main pieces they wear are regular menswear or reproductions and the accessories, which have usually survived and are more plentiful, take their outfit to the next level. It’s all in the details.
– Finding pants is going to be really hard. As someone who has pretty much given up on finding pants, it could be even harder for me to make a recommendation.
– Like any good dandy, you will need a tailor.
– Women’s clothing retailers offer some dandified options, if you know where to look.
So let’s break this down into the man uniform. Menswear is generally comprised of pants, shirt, jacket and/or vest, socks, shoes, belt or suspenders (but not both). Accessories could be a tie, a cravat, a tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin, etc. I’ll try to hit on most of these pieces and recommend ideas for sources (because that’s what we’re all about here – where the @#&* do I find it?):
Gonna get this one out of the way. Men’s pants are not made for women’s bodies and vice versa, but this doesn’t mean that men and women are made of one shape, or that men’s pants won’t ever fit. One of my favorite pairs of pants in college was a pair of men’s pants and I purchased a tuxedo for myself last year and didn’t have much trouble with the pants (although they cut a wee bit tight across the hips, more so than I am used to feeling). They fit me a hell of a lot better than these skinny jeans that are in style right now (which make me look like a linebacker) and give the illusion and drape of a proper pair of men’s trousers, in spite of the hip area.
My next suggestion is to find men’s pants that fit in the hips and have them tailored to fit your shape. This may not work for all men’s pants, but I believe it’s a viable option. Most nice men’s pants are cut to be tailored and taken in or let out.
There is always the option to have them made, which is my favorite because they are guaranteed to be made for your shape, in the fabric you like, and can be tailored to look like men’s pants. You can also have more options, like a higher waist to give it a more vintage look. Also, with the higher waist pant, it’s more likely to be a flattering cut for the female figure. I’m thinking specifically about the 13 button sailor pants the U.S. Navy used to issue as part of a uniform – those pants are universally flattering on just about every human I’ve seen wear them.
Finally, in rare instances (so rare that I can’t really point to a consistent source), I have come across wide or straight leg trousers in women’s stores that do sort of have a nod to menswear. The cut will be most important in this case, because womenswear is so squirrely and the cut may not be tailored enough to be truly dandy. Then, there is this sort of hybrid that is golf knickers, which are definitely more traditionally male, but also sporting female, and are made in women’s sizes at golfknickers.com (I would rock the Stewart plaid pair in a hot minute!).
I think most men’s shirts have comparable women’s shirts (tees, polos, button-downs). Sadly, I think a lot of modifications that retailers have made to women’s dress shirts to make them more…girly (?) have not worked out for the best. I am a lawyer IRL, so I deal with a lot of button-down shirts to wear under suits for court. I get miffed when I see that retailers have modified the neckline to show more cleavage – with that silly angle exposing more of the upper chest and removing the buttons so you no longer get to decide where your top button is located. Forget about wearing a neck scarf or a tie with it. And is it too much trouble to put a button across the peak of the bosom, instead of spanning it and causing a gap that must be safety pinned, lest your co-workers catch a glimpse of your bra? But I digress.
I have found a few good basics for button-down shirts. My favorite is Banana Republic because the fit is usually really good (efficient, professional) and they have nice variations on classic menswear for women, without sacrificing buttons or adding excess cleavage. It’s also one of the few places I’ve found women’s shirts with French cuffs for cufflinks – bliss! They even have a line of non-iron shirts, which is the only kind of shirts my husband will buy, but that I haven’t seen made available that often for comparable women’s shirts. A scan of the BR line shows some great dandy options for summer – long sleeve basics, a safari shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a fantastic long sleeve button-down in blue or pink with contrast white collar and cuffs!
I think it is important to buy shirts made for women, if at all possible. Generally, our shoulders are narrower and we need darts to highlight our feminine shape and streamline our look. Being a dandy is about looking tailored, not frumpy, and I think men’s shirts are just too much of an adjustment in shape when there are options available that do not require alterations or custom-made garments.
I am also not above shopping in the little boy’s section for shirts…which sometimes works out well. 🙂
Things start to get easier here. I’ve seen more women’s vests in recent history and there are always menswear-inspired jackets available. The key here is to mind your colors and materials – obviously, a pink boucle jacket is going to scream femme, but a linen, stripe, or tweed would be more along the lines of a dandy. I’d also experiment with vintage menswear and men’s vests, as there may be potential for tailoring them to fit, or with vests, cinching them if they are adjustable in the back. Again, the key is tailoring, keeping lines clean, and sticking to menswear basics.
This becomes a wee bit more difficult because Dancestore.com isn’t making men’s Aris Allens in smaller sizes anymore – finding menswear-inspired shoes is fairly simple, but finding leather soles is not. This is where the ladies with the larger feet have an advantage. I went through great difficulty to find boy’s size 5 black patent leather oxford ballroom shoes to go with my tuxedo (and the size chart was so off that I had to send them back 3 times for an exchange). That said, there are some boy’s ballroom shoes out there in basic black oxfords.
While I can’t vouch for the danceability of all the soles (there’s always the option of having things sueded), G. H. Bass has some great shoes right now for women that are a sort of twist on classic men’s shoes. I’m loving the Rachel Antonoff collection, which has things like clear/black patent wingtips, saddles shoes in lots of two tone color combos, and loafers with complimentary plaid panels. The Bass American Classics line for women almost looks like a collection of men’s shoes, with basic colors in loafers (tassled and penny; BONUS: leather sole) and saddle shoes.
This is where the fun starts. You could go with the traditional conception of matching your socks to your trousers, but one of the things I love about our male Lindy Hop counterparts is their fearless socks. So long as it matches your ensemble, feel free to experiment with stripes, argyle, prints, and color. This might be a good place to inject your femininity or sense of humor…
Belt, suspenders, tie, cravat, tie clip, cufflinks, hat, cap, watch, lapel pin…this is where there are comparable women’s products (belt, watch), or adjustable (suspenders), or we have unisex sizing (hats, caps), or it’s one size fits all (tie, cravat, cufflinks, pins, etc. I’m actually thinking vintage 30’s and 40’s ties might work even better on women because they are shorter than modern ties. This is where you have very few limits – go forth to the men’s section and conquer!
As with creating any look or ensemble, it’s important to do your research – look for inspirational photographs of men and women in menswear, or women in pants from the swing era. Pants were definitely not the norm and I think you will find that women took a lot of inspiration from the men when they embraced pants.
I hope this was helpful in some small way – please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or product recommendations for other burgeoning lady dandies!