Look who came in the mail today! My new Sailor Buddie. I've wanted one of these guys for SO long, and last weekend I saw one in an antique store priced at $150. Insanity! I knew there was one listed on the internet, so I bought it as soon as I got home - he's in better condition and cost less than 1/3 of the other guy!
I think I'll call him Joe.
I've been on a big brooch kick lately - quick, I better make a brooch board like Tuppence Ha'penny's!
Betty Roeser, original (Balboa) Swing dancer,
often wore flats - but her feet flew!
Photo Source: LAPL Library
Over the last week, there's been a lot of chatter in the Lindy Blogosphere about Women Dancing in Heels - Yay or Nay (inspired by Why Women Should Wear Heels by Sarah Breck). I'm not surprised that it created some excitement (although I did think it was going to center around the oppression of women rather than physical comfort! ;) The other night a couple people asked me about dancing in heels, so I thought I'd write up a little sumpthin'.
For roughly the last 3-4 years, I've danced nearly exclusively in heels - not too tall, 2 3/4" is my favorite heel height. But I don't give it a lot of thought, my shoe choice is almost exclusively based on color...
Dancing only in heels wasn't a conscious decision - back before that I only danced in sneakers or wedges, but my feet started feeling heavy and sluggish and grounded, and when I danced in heels it forced me to lighten up and pick up my feet more. It changes your posture because your weight is forced forward onto the ball of your feet, and it gave me a jolt to re-evaluate how I wanted my posture to look while dancing Lindy. The more I wore heels, the more I liked the look and the feeling, and now I feel clunky in wedges. (I still kinda like tennies.)
Nowadays, I rarely drop my heel to the ground, and when I do it's usually to accent a beat or do a certain styling - I almost never put a lot of weight on it. It's come a long way from my old flat-footed dancing!
Reasons I wear heels:
1) I'm lazy - I don't like to change my shoes throughout the night, so I just pick a cute pair and stick with them.
2a) They're loud. I know just enough tap dancing to make trouble, and it's easier to add a little tap rhythm styling while wearing heels.
2b) I'm more inspired to do footwork in general - because I'm not as "grounded" it's easier to move the dogs around.
3) I like the look of a tight narrow base (regardless of 1 foot or 2), and heels help focus your weight into the smallest area possible. Should I try pointe shoes next? :)
4) I only go dancing 1-2 nights per week, and that's when I like to dress up. I'm super casual and wear flats the rest of the time, so I figure I have time to recover from the damage I do to myself. If I danced more, I'd have to switch it up.
5) Heels were popular with Original Balboa dancers.
Reasons to not wear heels:
1) They really do injure you, and make existing joint issues worse.
2) In general, Original Lindy dancers wore flats or wedges.
3) Because your weight is forced only the balls of your feet, it's really really hard to pike properly in a swingout, especially to fast music.
Funny thing is, after talking about wearing heels, I want to get out some flats and experiment with them. I wonder what I'd discover?
Chris and I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary today! Time's flying, and doesn't seem to be slowing down. He surprised me last night with a deadstock 40's purse that I had been mooning over for a while (pics to come!) and today we poked around in some antique stores in Seal Beach.
Here's "our" song, in honor of the day. :) Artie Shaw and Billie Holiday, "Any Old Time".
Broadway Melody of 1940 was on TCM the other night, and we turned it on just as my favorite dance scene was starting - the "Italian Cafe Routine". It's not as jaw dropping as the "Begin the Beguine" finale, but I love how this routine is natural and playful. And it doesn't hurt how great their outfits are - Chris and I would wear clothes like this every day if we could! (He's just crazy for that little bolero - they show off his small waist. ;)
Here's a picture of Fred and Eleanor rehearsing for this movie- I love that Eleanor was a trousers gal.
Back in the late 90s when I started swing dancing, vintage style was all the rage - high-waisted pants, gabardine skirts, the aforementioned long-sleeve blouses...it wasn't enough to dance awesome, you also had to look the part.
Then the popularity of the vintage clothes waned - they're expensive, fragile, and it's hard to make or buy decent repros. Much to the chagrin of club promoters and brides-to-be, jeans and t-shirts were common at even the fanciest events and biggest competitions.
The last couple of years I've seen a real upswing (hehheh - no pun intended) in swing fashions. I chalk this up to 2 causes: among instructors there's a new emphasis on performing choreographed routines, so costuming is being considered more, and the emerging Balboa dance culture prides itself on being Refined instead of Raw. I'm loving it - what you wear has a huge impact on how you move, so dressing the part can actually make you a better dancer!
A couple weeks ago we went to the Saturday night portion of Inspiration Weekend and saw the 30-Second Showcase. This is a competition designed for non-professionals to get their feet wet with choreographing and performing a routine - the dancing was great, but I was really impressed with some of the outfits! So many competitors managed to put together looks that were coordinated without being cheesy, using modern clothes that are dance friendly. I hope to see more of this! :)
Over the last couple of weeks things have finally started calming down and I've managed to squeeze in some personal sewing time. I've known for months what my next project was going to be - I've been desperate to try Wearing History's pattern for mid-30's trousers - how cute is this?!
I'm a tad bit obsessive about fit (I've been known to sew while in my skivvies so that I can try on the garment every 30 seconds) so I figured my first pair would just be a mockup and I'd have to tweak the pattern for the real one. This was one time I was GLAD to be wrong! ;) Lauren did such a great job updating the original pattern that I only needed minor tweaks. 30's & 40's trousers are notorious for low crotches and shapeless legs, but she's done a great job of adjusting this pattern in all the right ways.
In addition, this pattern has all new instructions - a vast improvement over vintage sewing instructions! No need to fear if you're still learning how to sew.
The only change I made to these was shortening the front & back rise 1" (I'm shortwaisted and the waistband was creeping up my ribcage). Seriously. The ONLY change. Awesome. Look how cute!
(I think Chris is making shadow puppets on me in the Back view)
I found some bluish-gray checked fabric on sale at Jo-anns - it's a poly-rayon blend, so it's machine washable but still drapes nicely. I think next time I'll do a lightweight denim or chambray - I want to be just like the pattern cover!
A few notes:
The waistband is snug, so if you're in between sizes, go up.
The hips and thighs are cut full, so if you're larger on the bottom, no worries. If you've got slim thighs, I hate you you might want to cut a smaller size through the leg.
I skipped the belt loop template and just stitched them on where they looked nice.
I hemmed them slightly shorter than the pattern because I hate getting caught up in cuffs.
Finally getting to the promised footwork part of swivels - better late than never, right? I hope so.
There are two basic footwork patterns that you can do, and they're both easy. They both take 2 beats, so they can be done on the 1+2 of a swingout, or repeated for switches.
Are you ready? for the big Reveal? In no particular order, the two footwork patterns are:
Step-Step: step on alternate feet evenly on every beat (1 2)
Kick-Ball-Change*: kick with your right foot, step on your right foot, step on your left foot (1+2)
These two footwork patterns are interchangeable because they take the same number of beats and you wind up on the same foot at the end. The Kick-Ball-Change is just a gussied up version of the Step-Step.
Let's take a look at these in action - my apologies for repeating clips, but I want to use ones where you can see their feet.
Step-Step Swivels (I call these "Jewel swivels" because this is her standard footwork)
Buck Privates at 1:49 - Jewel just steps on every beat, starting by sitting deep into the 7+8 of the previous swingout. On the even beats (8, 2, 4, 6, etc.) she steps to the left with her left foot, and then brings her right foot to meet it on the odd beats (1, 3, 5, 7), all while maintaining her turnout.
Kick-Ball-Change Swivels (I call these "Jean swivels" -- guess why?)
Groovie Movie at 3:45 - it's hard to see if you aren't looking for it, but Jean is doing KBC swivels. You can tell because her toe comes up slightly on 1, which doesn't happen if you're putting your weight down. It's not a big kick from the knee, it's just a little flick. Try keeping your heel slightly touching the ground.
Groovie Movie at 5:36 - here you can see Irene Thomas (brunette in the center) and Kay Smith doing KBC swivels alongside Jean. It's nice to see some other LA follows featured in switches besides just Jean and Jewel!
The footwork pattern you choose is completely personal choice, and it's not dictated by the lead at all. Use the music as your cue - I think that Step-Step swivels are a little smoother, and KBC swivels are snappier. You can travel cover more distance with Step-Step swivels than KBC, and when the music's really fast you won't have enough time between the beats for Kick-Ball-Changes, so Step-Steps are your only option. Practice both and play with changing them up!
*Kick-Ball-Change = KICK/step on the BALL of same foot/CHANGE your weight to opposite foot
As a swing dancer, I'm always on the lookout for vintage-y pieces that aren't precious real stuff. Silky blouses with flowy long sleeves are one of the hardest garments to find and are highly coveted among my friends. We get our inspiration from these dancers, among others:
Whitey's Hopper Maniacs, better known as Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
So every time I see a 70's necktie blouse with lovely gathered yokes, pintucks, bright colors and bold prints, I'm sad that it looks so darn 70's! They're affordable, sturdy, and cute. But the necktie just won't work.
A couple weeks ago I needed a "shiny shirt" for a performance, and rather than risk wearing real vintage I pulled out this F21 blouse from the pile and attempted some Swing Era Transplant Surgery!
Here's the steps in case you want to try:
Put the blouse and mark the new collar. (My seamline is marked with the blue pins on the viewer's right.) Try it both buttoned up and unbuttoned. I went as wide & long as I thought I could get away with!
Mark your edgeline (where your pins were). If you're smart, use disappearing ink or chalk. I'm not smart and usually use a Sharpie cause it's handy, so I made tiny dots...hope you can see! Your lines should be more or less straight - no need to curve the collar tip.
Transfer markings to the opposite side.
Staystitch a line 1/8" inside your edge to stabilize the layers.
Carefully cut along your edgeline, and apply Fray-Check if needed.
Grab your trim, swap out the thread colors on the machine if needed (I changed to black on top and white in the bobbin), and apply trim along the entire collar edge to cover your raw edge.
If your trim is double sided (like rickrack) you can just fold it back at the corner instead of trying to turn the corner - it's a tight corner, so it's worth finding doublesided trim!
My project's a little messy, but that's not visible unless you're photographing it on macro. :)
Here's the finished product - I love how the contrasting trim highlights my new collar!
If you try this project, send me a link or a picture - I'd love to see!
It seems like a long time ago since the Air Raid happened (really, 1942 was a long time ago!), but I've been hanging onto my measly few pics to share.
Because it's always cold at this event, I asked my mom to knit this Victory scarf for me - isn't it great?
It looks like a simple pattern, but I haven't knitted anything in about 7 years and I didn't feel up to relearning at the moment. (I never did learn how to cast on and off properly!) I asked her to make it a little skinnier than the pattern states, and I think she just used smaller needles instead of redesigning the pattern. That also made the tension tighter, so the V popped a little more. Smart lady!
Muddy shoes! But they kept my feet warm, and now I can try dyeing them like the website suggests. Perhaps mudbrown, so they'll be ready for next year...