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My name is Rachel and I’m a dress-aholic.

My husband and I recently moved into a small house with no closets. I counted my dresses while I was unpacking and realized that I own 27 dresses (yep … just like the movie)! We had to turn the dining alcove into a walk-in closet to accommodate my dress obsession. I have a dress for every occasion – from Swing Out to Victory, to a Rockabilly concert, to a sultry blues night.

I even have a dress from the 1930s that a former boss gave me. It had belonged to her great aunt, who was a Jitterbug champ in New York City (I like to think that the dress was at the Savoy).

Vintage 1930s Lindy Hop dress

Vintage 1930s “Jitterbug Champ” dress at Swing Out to Victory (2008)

People always ask me where I get my dresses, so I thought I’d share my favourite stores in this blog post. This list focuses on where to find retro-inspired dresses, since actual vintage can get destroyed too easily on the dance floor.

Here are my seven favourite places to find Lindy Hop dresses:

1. ModCloth

Ask any stylish dancer where she got her dress and, at least half of the time, she’ll say, “ModCloth”. This site has a huge inventory of retro-inspired dresses that are ideal for dancing. One of the things I love about ModCloth is its ModStylists service. If you’re looking for an outfit for a special event or have purchased a dress but don’t know how to accessorize it, a ModStylist will post ideas to a Polyvore board for you.

 

Valentine's Dance

Example of a ModStylist Polyvore board – ideas for a Valentine’s Day dance.

2.  Pin Up Girl Clothing

Pin Up Girl Clothing, affectionately known as PUG, is another “must-shop” store for anyone interested in Lindy Hop or Rockabilly fashion. They carry a variety of retro brands – from Trashy Diva to Bettie Page, in addition to their house brands such as Pinup Couture and Dixiefried. The site also carries a great assortment of hair flowers, bags and other accessories.

Sadie dress in purple floral

One of the dresses that I purchased from Pin Up Girl Clothing. Photo from pinupgirlclothing.com.

3. eShakti

The great thing about eShakti is that they customize all of their items (sometimes free). For example, you can have a dress’s length customized to fall above, at or below your knees. You can also often change the sleeve and neckline of a dress. I’ve purchased a few Lindy Hop dresses from eShakti, and have never had to get additional tailoring done. They carry a lot of retro-inspired shapes and patterns, and the quality is good for the low prices. However, international fees from eShakti have been higher than other US stores I’ve purchased from (maybe because the items ship directly from India?). I once paid $35 in shipping and duty on a $50 dress.

eShaki Swing Dance dress

An example of eShakti’s dance dresses. Photo from eShakti.com.

4. White House Black Market

White House Black Market is my favourite US clothing store chain. Everything in the store is black and white (with a signature bright colour each season). What I like about the dresses at this store is that they can go contemporary or retro depending on how you style them. I’ve scored an amazing blues dress (below) and pencil skirts that didn’t need to be tailored. White House Black Market also recently featured a reproduction of the famous “Zou Bisou Bisou” dress from Mad Men and a line of Art Deco-inspired pieces. Sign up for their email list to get discounts – I never pay full price for anything I buy there.

White House Black Market dress

One of my White House Black Market dresses – great for a Blues night! Photo from whitehouseblackmarket.com

5. Original 

If you look in the front window at Original, you’ll most likely see an assortment of sparkly prom dresses and hooker heels. However, don’t be fooled by the hooker heels! The second floor of the store is a treasure trove of Pinup Couture, Stop Staring and other retro-inspired lines. The prices are more expensive than what you would pay if you ordered the dresses online, but you can’t beat the convenience of trying them on and buying them in Toronto.

Original dress - yellow roses

The Pinup Couture, yellow rose dress that I purchased from Original. With Sue and Michelle at a Spadina House garden party.

6. Hell’s Belles

A few doors to the west of Original, you will find Hell’s Belles. This store carries a lot of Goth and Rockabilly clothing, including a few choice pieces from Stop Staring. The Stop Staring dress that I purchased at Hell’s Belles wasn’t available online. However, I was sad to learn that Hell’s Belles is going out of business in March. They are clearing out everything in their showroom, along with vintage stock from their basement. Be sure to drop by ASAP for bargains.

Hell's Belles window

Stop Staring dress in the Hell’s Belles window. Photo from Facebook.

 7. Michele Tan (Etsy)

This is one of my favourite Etsy shops. Michele Tan will customize an assortment of vintage-inspired dresses, shirts and skirts to your exact measurements. I was worried about ordering something so custom online, but the purple pencil skirt and floral top that I ordered fit perfectly.  So, I ordered a green skirt and black top!

Custom top and pencil skirt from Michele Tan's Etsy shop.

Custom top and pencil skirt from Michele Tan’s Etsy shop.

This blog post only features shops that I’ve bought from and can recommend for their quality.  However, I’d also like to mention Doll Factory by Damzels, located on Queen Street East. Although I’ve never purchased anything from Damzels, I was impressed with their variety of retro-inspired clothing. They carry Stop Staring, Pinup Couture, Lucky 13 and other brands. Plus, some of the Toronto Lindy Hop ladies have scored sweet deals at Damzels’ sales. Just be sure to subscribe to their e-list for advance notice of sales. Most sizes go fast!

What about you? Where do you buy your Lindy Hop dresses? Feel free to share your favourite dress shops in the comments section below!

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