Rebecca1.0This week’s post is written by the ladies at HotsyTotsy Vintage.

So you’re hooked. You love swing dancing and everything that goes with it. You recognize that clothing is part of the whole package of awesome but you’re not sure where to start.

We of Hotsy Totsy Vintage are here to help you navigate.

Investing in a couple of important dance wear items (like shoes and the right dress) combined with items from your everyday closet will have you looking and feeling great on the dance floor.

For this week, we’ll start with the ladies. Below you will find our cheat sheet of the top ten items every female dancer should have in her wardrobe:

Top 10 Clothing Items for Women

  1. Flat Shoes
  2. Heels or Wedges
  3. Appropriate Under-roos
  4. An A-line high waisted skirt or pencil skirt
  5. Forties-style blouse
  6. Knee-length dress with sleeves
  7. High-Waisted Pants
  8. High Quality Repro-Vintage Outfit
  9. Slip
  10. Tights

First and Foremost, Dance Shoes

Our #1 recommendation (for women and men alike, actually) is to invest in a quality pair of dance shoes. Flat sneakers, like Keds, or oxford style shoes are a great place to start as a new dancer. Unless you buy flats with leather soles, we highly recommend having your soles sueded. This simple procedure can be done by any shoe repair shop and will allow you make beautiful swivels without killing your knees.

PRO TIP: Try to wear heels dancing on a regular basis from the start, feet permitting, so that you can train your balance to work in both flats and heels. In fact, heels can make you a stronger dancer by teaching you to take appropriately sized steps and to keep your feet under yourself (free balance exercises, wohoo!).

A cuban-style heel, like the heels Rebecca wears, or a low wedge is ideal. Top brands include Remix Vintage, Chelsea Crew, and Aris Allen.

Undergarments

Next, we think that a few crucial undergarments can both polish your look and keep you comfortable dancing. We love stretchy dance shorts—they let you move while keeping you covered up under dresses and skirts. You can find them at any athletic store or Target. Also, a sports bra or soft bra like this one is infinitely preferable to tugging at bra straps all night. Sometimes we forget that dance is still a sport.

Completing Your Dance Outfit

Now, clothed with danceable shoes and unshakeable underroos, you are ready to put together some outfits! We’ve used Rebecca to model two versions—something casual (the 1.0 version, pictured at top) and something dressier (vintage outfit 2.0, pictured at end).

For casual outfits, likely worn at local dances, the classic combination of skirt + blouse is a winner.

Leon James and Willa Mae Ricker demonstrate lindy hop for a life magazine shoot in 1943. Note her a-line skirt, button-up blouse, and oxford-style flats.

Leon James and Willa Mae Ricker demonstrate lindy hop for a life magazine shoot in 1943. Note her a-line skirt, button-up blouse, and oxford-style flats.

a-line and pencil skirt sketches by sasha 2For skirts, look for A-line or pencil cuts (so-called A-line because it flares slightly from the waist). Note the relative slimness of the skirts—voluminous circle skirts came later in the 50s and are not well suited to the rigors of dancing.

Also, we (HotsyTotsy) tend to be less concerned about skirt length because the shorter lengths of modern skirts allow people to see followers’ footwork, something we count as a good thing!

As for tops, blouses imitating 1940s style abound both new and second hand. Look out for buttons up the front, puffed sleeves, and novelty prints. Blouses from this era were commonly embellished with embroidery, pin tucks, sequins, and lace. We have a couple of examples in own own posts here and here.

Dressy Occasions

rebecca dressed upFor dressier dance occasions, we think a nice vintage-style dress can go a long way.

What do we mean by vintage-style? Well, swing originated in the 30s and 40s, which had a great deal of variation in their dress styles.

Some common features of this time are the presence of sleeves (sleeveless dresses were left in the scandalous twenties), longer skirts, and shirtwaist styles (dresses that sort-of look like collared shirts on top). Popular fabrics of the time were cotton and rayon. Some of our favorite vintage reproduction companies are Loco Lindo, Trashy Diva, Shabby Apple, and Bettie Page.

rebecca's shoesRebecca has really put the finishing touches on her outfit 2.0 by adding a fun colored slip, back seamed tights, and authentic vintage heels. Investing in a few accessories can really make an outfit shine.

There you have it! The top 10 clothing items that will make any new dancer look amazing. Building a dance wardrobe from the beginning can make you feel like a dance insider (and also makes it so much easier to pack for your first event).

Women, what are your must-have clothing items for dancing lindy hop? Leave a comment below!

Photo credits: Cindy Yetman (Rebecca), Sasha Anderson (skirt sketch)