Confessions of a Lindy addict

katiebrooks

‘If in doubt, wiggle something!’ – Katie Brooks

 

As a child, I learnt to dance in my village’s scout hut. We practised new routines for months until we perfected them: waltz, quickstep, foxtrot, tango. Every summer, we made our curtsies and took our exams in the church hall. I learnt how to hold my frame, when to rise and fall, how to position my hands and head, how to follow. The next year, I started to learn Latin dances, too. It was love at first step. The year I stopped dancing, I won our dance school’s award for the highest exam score in the Latin section. Age 12, I started playing women’s league hockey, quit dancing and that was that. I didn’t have proper dance lessons again for over a decade. Last year, I picked up swing dancing and got bitten by the bug right in the get-down.

It’s true what they say: Once you hop, you just can’t stop! (Disclaimer: people probably don’t actually say that)

 

Here are 10 reasons why Lindy Hop is the new love of my life (and why it might just be yours, too):

 

  1. Learn your lesson: Lindy has a fascinating history that should be remembered and celebrated. Lindy Hop is the beautiful love child of African and European dance styles. It’s a wonderful hybrid of partner and solo styles: Charleston, Black Bottom, Cakewalk, Tap… This black magic in Hellzapoppin’ was brought to buzzing life in a society that still segregated people because of the colour of their skin.
  2. Circles of love: The swing community is one of the most welcoming, eclectic, supportive, bonkers and joyful groups of people I’ve ever had the fortune to slot into. ‘Circles of Love’ celebrate not only a collective love of dance, but birthdays, weddings, new beginnings… And, if you fancy showing off your slick steps, a jam circle might be in order…
  3. Sweatsville: Lindy Hop is a hot and sweaty business. If team sports and treadmills don’t turn you on, try Lindy. Exercise you can enjoy, hot damn. Plus, it’s a culture not centred around drinking alcohol, which is a total health bonus! Please swing responsibly.
  4.  In safe hands: There is a lot of emphasis placed on making sure everyone feels comfortable – consent is the foundation of all classes and social dances. It is always made explicitly clear that each partnership is entered into willingly or not at all and that (shock horror) consent can be revoked at any time. If you don’t want to dance tandem, you don’t. If you don’t like to dip, you don’t. Seems simple. Refreshingly, it usually is.
  5. Old dog, new tricks: The swing scene is delightfully diverse in terms of age. Whilst it’s raging through universities across the land, Lindy has a devout following in a nostalgic older generation too, as well as everyone in between. Swing knows no boundaries (apart from those of personal space and nice manners).
  6. I believe in music: Banging tunes about food and sex – what’s not to love?
  7. Monkey business: Well, just how exactly did you think one became King of the Swingers?
  8. It’s a shim-sham: Amongst all of the jazzy beats know to Lindy Hoppers, there are a few tunes that will always cause a reaction: from the stuff of flash-mob dreams – the Shim-Sham (danced to this banging tune) – to the jam-circle jam of choice – Sing Sing Sing
  9. All gear, no idea: Dressing up is highly encouraged. I may be a novice dancer, but at least I can dress like I know what I’m doing. Swing dancers come in all shapes, styles and sizes, but they do love to get footloose and fancy-free. Fancy-dress and bow-ties as standard – be still my beating heart.
  10. Sensible and silly-billies: First rule of Lindy Hop is THERE ARE NO RULES (apart from that immortal rule: don’t be a dick). Lindy hop is playful, energetic, joyful, silly and, more than anything, FUN.

 

And remember: In the immortal words of Katie Brooks, ‘If in doubt, wiggle something!’

 

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A girl in a red dress: ‘Me Before You’

 

My Film Flavour of The Month is Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) in ‘Me Before You‘. Warning – plot spoilers!

She is the most adorable thing since the beginning of time. Her style is modern, nostalgic, feminine and fun. She mixes total madness that shouldn’t work (and totally does) with sophistication. Emilia Clarke gives her character warmth, sensitivity and genuineness -her wardrobe only makes you love her more. She is quirky, imperfect and determined, qualities which all come through in her clothing choices.

There are definite hints of 50’s styling in Lou’s wardrobe, right from her tootsies to her midi cut, but there is always a little twist taking the traditional to a new, unique level. She rocks nautical looks, neck scarves, Hawaiian dresses, t-bar heels… But her looks are never cliched or dated; she is a new vintage kind of girl. She’s as goofy as Lucy Ball and as smooth as Lauren Bacall but as utterly original as either of them.

Part of Lou’s overall appeal is her dedication to her own sense of self. Her clothes are bright, bold and unabashed – they don’t really fit in her small home-town. At the beginning of the film she is in a suffocating relationship with someone who does not understand who she is or what she wants, however good looking he may be (played by Matthew Lewis). She has a strong sense of duty and works hard to help her family make ends meet, but there is a continuous strain between her loyalties to her family and to herself. Despite a difficult beginning, Lou grows close to her employer, Will (Sam Claflin), for whom she is a caregiver, following a motorcycle accident which has left him quadriplegic. She helps him to live, rather than to just exist in his own body. They go on trips, to the races (for which she has an equestrian ensemble) and on an exotic holiday. Her optimism, however infectious, cannot go so far as to change Will’s mind or his decision to end his own life.

In a bittersweet kind of way, the end of Will’s life is the kick-start of Lou’s. He gives her and her family the financial freedom to move forward, and frees Louisa to focus on her own ambitions, rather than the minutiae of staying in the black. Lou brings Will out of his, understandably, self-absorbed way of thinking with a not-so-subtle ‘you don’t have to be an arse’. Will shows Lou the realms of possibility that she has started to turn her back on – french cinema, university etc. They may be as clashing as some of Lou’s pattern heavy outfits, but they compliment each other well.

Sometimes, you just need someone to let you know that they do make bumblebee tights for adults. And, sometimes, you need a film to be so bittersweet that you can cry, smile and feel hopeful all at the same time.

 

See also: Flavour of the Month: Brooklyn

 

 

Garden Party Perfection

Be a May queen with these Garden Party inspired looks to thrill and delight! Whether its a barbecue, afternoon tea or a jolly picnic, get inspired, Your Majesty! Comment on your favourite below.

 

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…

 

Get your Rockabilly on! Sometimes you just need a pattern overload so go dotty for this polka-dot power play. Good with a dramatic winged eye, pillarbox red lips and a Rosie The Riveter bandana do’.

Halter top (Actually a dress): Armstrongs Emporium, Edinburgh.

Skirt: Lindy Bop.

Petticoat: Purchased at Wartime Weekend @ Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield.

Cropped swing jacket: Armstrongs Emporium, Edinburgh.

 

Cotton Queen Dream

 

Day time/ Night time transition – keep it sweet with a boater or straw sunhat, or dress it up with a fur stole for a more elegant vibe. Matching gloves complete every garden party look – dead cert.

Dress: Mooch Vintage, Sheffield.

Faux fur stole: Armstrongs Emporium, Edinburgh.

Gloves: Car boot sale.

Handbag: Pi-Ku Collective, Edinburgh.

 

Crowning Jewel

 

Take pastels up a notch by adding jewel colours in complementing or matching tones – see this pashmina in royal purple and turquoise/ teal birdcage hat. Work with typical vintage styles like this tea-dress with a sailor-style collar.

Dress: A New Shop, Sheffield.

Cardigan: Primark.

Hat: Charity shop.

Gloves: Armstrongs, Edinburgh.

Pashmina: A loan from my mother.

 

Bring me sunshine

 

Hello, buttercup!  Bright is mighty. Smile back at the sun with some bright yellow. This dress has a gorgeous fitted bodice with scalloped edges and a skirt that can be left as it is or given a lift with a crinoline! Add pashmina or cardigan to keep it casually elegant. Effortless!

Dress: Armstrongs, Edinburgh.

Pashmina: On loan from my momma.

 

Tennis, anyone?

Be the cat’s pyjamas, the cream of the crop in this mono ensemble. Pleats add a 20s tennis feel, whilst sweet sheer gloves and a double breasted shirt over a lacy number adds glamour… You won’t be able to get enough of a good thing here, so add pearls and a brooch in ivory as well. You’re good to go.

Skirt: Mooch, Sheffield.

Gloves: Armstrongs, Edinburgh.

Blouse: Warehouse.

Lace camisole: Charity shop.

 

Push it real good

 

If you’re a trousers kind of gal, you can’t go far wrong for a vintage look with pedal-pushers or crops like these. If it’s not a skinny cuffed capri, then a more tailored look like these are excellent and work well with other tailored pieces in neutral colours. Let the accessories bring the colour.

Trousers: Charity shop.

Blouse: Lulu’s vintage fair.

Belt: H&M.

Bag: Zara.

 

Hula honey

 

Theme party? Hello, Hawaii! Get your huge hair flowers in, fashion a shawl against windchill or sunburn and get your hula on! This look is amazing with a playsuit in florals or amazing hula print like these shorts! If you’re feeling adventurous, just wear with a bikini top…

Shorts: Mooch, Sheffield.

Top (actually a leotard): Armstrongs, Edinburgh.

Shawl: Fabric from Leeds market.

Hair flowers: Available everywhere!

 

Go and be butterflies!

A girl should always have flowers

 

I’m a firm believer in beauty, in all its forms. I also believe its like art – you don’t have to understand it to find it beautiful. And flowers are beautiful. Life just seems brighter and more bountiful when they are around.

There’s no feeling on Earth like sitting in a little Eden, especially if it’s one of your own making. My parents are keen gardeners and also keep an allotment, and not getting out into these oases often enough is one of my regrets (I’m working on it). Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to hothouse lilies, you can grab some daffs for pence around Easter. Supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi usually do good value and good quality fresh cut flowers. I tend to go for yellow roses or something like that. When they’ve had their innings, I re-purpose them into pot-pourri. Another good, more economical option is to buy a small potted plant to inject some green into your world. For me, though, the physical process of choosing, trimming and arranging a bunch of flowers is a singular pleasure in it own right.

If I’m not buying myself some flowers, I’ll almost certainly be wearing some. Of course, it’s a common print, especially for vintage clothing, and my wardrobe is particularly floral-heavy. I love it and make no bones about it. I think, even for people that don’t go for the twee pastel vibe that I go gooey for, there are more subtle ways to incorporate flowers into your wardrobe:

 

  • Undercover: Flowers on your lady-garden – underwear is the second outfit only you need to know about.
  • Accents: Belly-bars, belts, buttons, buckles, bags, brooches… all can be made in a flower-shape. Yay!
  • Hold onto your hose: Tights may also come embellished with flowers, to be paired with something plain, or neon orange fishnet. Whatever, Trevor.

 

And, if you need flowers in more than just your outfits, you could always make a real commitment. Tattoo, anyone? Maybe not… But seriously, have a go at making your own rose petal tea (go to an Asian supermarket for the ingredients), burn floral candles or incorporate some edible petals into a salad in the coming summer months.

Also, try reading about the Victorian Language of Flowers, or Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s gorgeous ‘The Language of Flowers’, which tells the story of a emotionally detached young woman, communicating through flowers. Beautiful!

 

Let flowers speak to you!

 

How to shop vintage: tips and tricks

thrift

Dressing in a particular style should be fun; it is an extension of yourself. The 40s/ 50s vibe that I love is a confidence boost and something that I enjoy. When I shop, I try to remember these rules of thumb to find fantastic retro pieces:

 

  • Charity shops: Always my number one port of call. Can’t be beaten for price and you’re doing a good turn by someone else, too. Win-win.

 

  • Money talks: On that note, visit the charity shops in affluent areas of your city – that’s where you will find more high-quality pieces.

 

  • My size: Ignore sizes when shopping vintage; anything can be belted, slouched, reworked into something unique and wonderful.

 

  • Try me: always, always, always check and double check with vintage. Try everything on and check it out from all angles.

 

  • Quality: Find a really good vintage shop in your area that excels in customer service and hand-picked gems. It’s worth a bit of an extra journey to find that one bobby-dazzler.

 

  • Pick your battles: You can’t always wear 50’s ballgowns, but when you can, splash out a little for something incredible.

 

  • Beg, borrow, steal: Ply your family with chocolate/ alcohol/ favours and raid their wardrobes. Your mother definitely has an 80s skirt suit in there somewhere. Also, try freecycle.

 

  • Vintage Fairs: Currently all the rage and rightly so. Time-travel and snap up lovely tidbits – what’s not to love? Look out for Lulu’s vintage fairs across the UK.

 

  • An outlet: Try outlet stores or designer warehouse-type-places that have discounted designer clothes.

 

  • It’s all in the audience: Look in shops intended for an older clientele, like BHS, for example. They will often have items with a more vintage feel. And comfier shoes.

 

  • On-the-line: For accessories Etsy is a good shout. Ebay has some good stuff, too!

 

And, last but not least, don’t be shy! Be yourself!

Pink Lady: Three Ways!

Today’s theme: Pink. With a capital P. We’re going classic fifties shapes and variations on a theme.

Here are three different looks with a touch of pink.

Take me for a spin...

Take me for a spin…

Lovely for something different on a night-out. Great for swing-dancing or just feeling like a big floof princess. The volume of the skirt is playful, balancing out the sexiness of the nude corset and lacy cami. Warning: takes commitment.

A night on the tiles.

A night on the tiles.

For a slightly less radical approach add a cardigan or coloured sheer shirt on top of the corset and swap the choker for a nylon neck scarf in matching tones. Bubblegum princess, we have lift-off.

Oh, Marilyn!

Oh, Marilyn!

Inspired by that picture of Marilyn Monroe. It’s sexy but understated. You don’t need much with this – just a bit of statement sparkle…

Classy and bold.

Classy and bold.

For those mid-week blues – add Pink! Demure enough for work, but still bold and fun. Classic cinched-in waist comes with the pencil skirt and an instant vintage vibe.