Picking up where we left off, we cautiously move back into position, changed forever, but hopeful that our community can once again be together in a meaningful way. While Lindy Focus may more likely resemble a regional Lindy exchange this year, I have a feeling that the impact will still be strong, particularly for those of us who are still working from home and whose scenes are not running regular dances yet.
Per usual, I am most excited about the music – the musicians and bandleaders this year are all from North Carolina! Our state has a history of producing incredible jazz musicians (Coltrane, Simone, Monk, to name a few) and, for the modern swing dance community, you are already familiar with several bands based in NC – Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers, and the Mint Julep Jazz Band. We’ll have some new-to-you faces that we’re excited for you to hear (including bandleader Sean Mason!) and I’m sure there will be some new-to-you tunes that we’ve added to our books during the pandemic.
Above all, be safe – Lindy Focus will be requiring masks/vaccinations and we’ll have to do air hugs, but it will be so good to see any number of you and share in the collective and creative energy that has been missing for so long.
If Lindy Focus is not in your risk budget, we all understand and we’ll see you again in the future – if it is in your risk budget this year, registration is open, the hotel is taking bookings, and I’ll see you soon!
Fresh off the presses this past Friday, May 7, 2021, Michael Gamble has released a new EP of the tunes his regular lineup and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra recorded for CalBal Live. Featuring a lineup of incredible swing musicians from around the US (nay, the globe, if you’re counting Noah Hocker, expat in Beijing), I’m singing on three tunes – Born to Swing, Without Your Love, and When You’re Smiling. Bring a smile to your face this week and head over to Bandcamp to pick up a copy! 🙂
Here’s another video from Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders, this time paying tribute to Billie Holiday’s arrangement for CalBal Live. When I started working on this tune I couldn’t find any other recordings to reference for the melody. Since Billie takes obvious liberties with the melody, I didn’t want that to be my only frame of reference, so I sought advice from Michael Steinman and he directed me to the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, New York, which has a substantial collection of sheet music of yesteryear. Sure enough, they had it and were able to email me a copy!
I’m glad I took the time to locate the sheet music because the melody is lovely – I think I’ve taken a bit from the original and a bit of Billie, put it all together with my wonderful music friends, and we made something good. Enjoy!
Thanks to CalBal Live, Michael Gamble was able to put together a 13 piece band and record a transcription of Mildred Bailey’s wonderful “Born to Swing,” which I was elated to be able to perform. I pitched the idea of this song to Michael after I was gifted the 78 of this song and fell in love. He thought it was great, too, so here we are – enjoy!
The Mint Julep Jazz Band cordially invites you to a jazz picnic at historic Orchard Park! Join us on June 12, 2021 from noon to 3:00 p.m. for an afternoon of music under the trees, enjoy the provisions in your picnic basket, do a little dancing (pursuant to the current safety guidelines), and then recline on your picnic blanket six feet away from the nearest attendees. This event is all ages and open to the public.
Through crowd funding from our wonderful community, we were able to cover the bare minimum costs of this event, but we will continue to take donations toward musician compensation and any unforeseen expenses – please send your donation to me with a note for “picnic” or “jazz picnic” to Venmo @Laura-Windley or via PayPal at email@example.com (select friends and family so there is no fee). We will also have a virtual tip jar at the show and hope that you will support this live music endeavor.
Orchard Park is a park owned by the City of Durham and we want to be sure that the event is enjoyed by everyone and hope that we could potentially do this again. The city’s guidelines are applicable to attendees as follows:
Please wear a mask when you are not eating.
If you are feeling sick, please stay at home.
Please make sure your picnic area is 6 feet away from the nearest groupings of people. If we reach attendance of 100 people, we may ask newcomers to set up in an adjacent section of the park.
At this time (4/23/21), the city’s guidelines say “no shaking of hands,” so this means no social dancing. I hope this changes, but make plans to do solo dancing.
Hand sanitizer is encouraged, please bring some with you, as we will have port-a-potties and no facilities for hand washing.
There is a water fountain at the park, but you should also plan on bringing enough water for the afternoon.
Please pick up your trash and dispose of it appropriately; otherwise, Lucian Cobb and Laura Windley will be picking up your trash and that makes for a long day.
I’m excited to announce that my first in-person gig since March 1, 2020 will be with the Glenn Miller Orchestra at the Newberry Opera House in Newberry, SC on April 24, 2021 for a matinee and an evening show! Please check out the Newberry Opera House website for details and COVID precautions and I’ll cautiously hope to see my South Carolina friends there.
We’ll also be performing on April 25, 2021 for the Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Community in West Columbia, SC – I’m assuming this is not open to the public, but will definitely be a treat for the residents!
Over the years I’ve received a number of compliments about my work clothing as an attorney and follow-up questions about where I buy my clothing. It’s a struggle for most people I know to find professional clothing that looks flattering and is also comfortable. The most frustrating item for me is the modern suit – skinny pants made for legs smaller than mine; low rise pants that I don’t want to have to constantly be pulling up in court or worried about showing my crack when I bend over to get something out of a trial box; if there’s even a skirt option it’s a tapered “pencil” skirt that my thighs would stress and rip the rear seam if I, again, bent over to get something out of a trial box; jackets that are somehow shapeless and wide in the waist/torso and constricting at the arms and shoulders; and everything is too long for my frame.
It’s no secret that I run a swing dancer fashion blog called Lindy Shopper, where I explore clothing and shoes for dancing. As I started working as a professional it became important for me to integrate my work and dance clothing so that I could leave work and go immediately to a dance or not have to change clothing. Over time, as mall shopping became a wasteland in terms of fit and interesting offerings, I looked more to vintage and smaller online vintage-inspired brands to fulfill my wardrobe needs for both work and dancing.
Some vintage clothing is already more formal than what most people would wear today, so things like suits that are no longer daily or even special occasion-wear for some can be purchased for less than a new, modern suit would cost. I have vintage/older suits ranging in decades from the 1940s to the 2000s. The things I like about vintage suits are numerous:
Sturdier and more quality fabric. This is both for winter and summer suiting, by which I mean a heavier weight wool for winter and cotton and linen for summer. I have a couple of wool crepe suits that might fall under 3 season weight and they are also of a nicer quality.
The armholes sit higher, which is less constricting for arm movement and for the fabric across your back.
The sleeves are wider at the bicep, which is also less constricting.
Aside from some my 1950s suits, the skirts (I only have skirt suits at this point, though I have odd jackets that I wear with trousers) are at least an A-line, making it easier to go into a full squat without the worry of a split in the back or flashing people from the front. Hemlines are often below the knee.
They are available in lawyer-appropriate colors and textures – black, gray, tweed, seersucker, linen, etc.
They come in classic shapes that are almost indistinguishable from modern custom suiting – I say custom because people often notice my suits because they are different from modern suiting in that they look better, but aren’t so different from what is being offered as today’s suit. For example I try to stick with classic lapels and A-line skirts, but details like a different pocket shape, interesting seaming, or topstitching give it a custom look.
I can often find them in pristine condition, either never worn or barely worn. I do have this requirement for suits, that they have no obvious flaws, while I will wear stained or visibly repaired vintage garments in other settings.
As with all vintage clothing, there are some maintenance issues. The first things in a garment to deteriorate are usually threads, so you may periodically have to repair seams. They will need to be dry-cleaned, which I do at the wardrobe switch between cold and warm weather or as needed if I spill something.
Also, when I am shopping at brick and mortar vintage shops, I usually have to ask if they have any suits – suits don’t usually move quickly, so I have found that there’s often a stash in the back that the shopkeeper can pull from. In some cases, I’ll give a vintage store a heads up about looking for suits so they can pull things in my size from their storage space or warehouse.
Newer suits have been hard to come by. Around 2003 I purchased a gray suit and a black suit from The Limited, with jacket, trousers, and flared/slightly trumpet skirt. I can’t wear the trousers anymore, but the remaining skirt suits have been a staple of my wardrobe that I cling to because I haven’t found a suitable replacement in stores. A few years ago I commissioned Kim Clark (one of my tailors) to make me a 1940s style suit out of modern gray stripe suiting fabric and another more 1950s inspired suit out of some incredible glen plaid suiting I found for $3/yard at a local thrift store, which is the closest I have come to a new suit in a long time. That said, I purchased a new suit this week from Emmy, who has released a summer suit consisting of a short sleeved jacket and skirt in linen, basically perfect for walking to the courthouse in the summer.
I have also incorporated other vintage clothing items into my work wardrobe – skirts, vests, ties, and blouses, primarily. Locating these items is a great treasure hunt that is not for the faint of heart. As I am always shopping for vintage items in general, I frequent brick and mortar stores locally and in my travels, troll Etsy for certain categories (1940s suits are a dream), monitor offerings from favorite sellers on vintage Facebook groups and Instagram sellers, and occasionally check for things on eBay (I’m looking at you, Ralph Lauren from the 1980s/1990s). Most of the time I am not looking for anything specific for work, but come across an item that would be perfect and seize the moment. This is a process and these vintage items are collected over years, even decades at this point.
Before things get too discouraging, please know that most of my non-suit work wardrobe is not vintage, but definitely inspired by vintage. I am only in court a few times a month, so most of what I am wearing for days at the office is my version of business casual. There are several staples that I keep coming back to over and over:
Lands End made a wonderful supima cotton crew neck sweater – now that I have bought these in 6 different colors, I see that they are no longer making the short sleeve shell, but are still offering the cardigan? Boo! This is my #1 top staple, they look great under any suit, add a necklace to pair with skirt or trousers, and were available in petite and plus sizes, as well. If I find a good substitute, I will update this blog post. Until then, BOOOOOOO.
Button up blouses may be the scourge of most lady lawyers, but I find that vintage style blouses usually have gathers at the shoulders that give you a more comfortable amount of bust room, a greater range of motion for your arms, while still giving you darts to retain your shape at the waist. They are also often made of more flowing fabrics, which also helps show off your shape. I will never suffer through another cotton rectangle, feeling like She-Hulk with a boob gap and constricted biceps. I almost always buy short sleeve blouses because my arms are so short (the only ones I have that I don’t have to roll up the cuffs are vintage), so I am mostly going to feature short sleeves here, but all of these brands also offer lovely long sleeved options, as well.
Emmy Design, based in Sweden, is probably my top contender for both style and quality, offering short and long sleeves, prints and solids, wear button or unbuttoned, etc. They also have gorgeous knits, both shells to wear under suits and cardigans to wear over clothing on more casual days.
A close runner-up is The House of Foxy, who have also been incredibly solid in terms of fit and quality of fabrics. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that my arms are too short for their incredibly gorgeous long sleeved lady blouses, which they seem to be releasing more of than short sleeved versions for my stumpy arms.
I am a devotee to reproductions of the straight leg high waist trousers from the 1930s and 1940s. There are three companies I go to when I need a new pair of trousers and all of them are based in the UK: Heyday, Vivien of Holloway, and The House of Foxy. To me, Heyday has the best fabric, followed by House of Foxy, but the Vivien of Holloway trousers are cut for my 12 inch waist/hip ratio. Heyday also offers a stretch fabric option, which is nice for fluctuations, although I do not rely on stretch fabric as a substitution for fit when I am buying a trouser initially. All three of these brands suffer from adding white buttons to some (but not all) colors of their pants, making it look like you’re in a Broadway revival of Anything Goes – that is not the vibe we are going for as attorneys, so I always swap out the white buttons for either matching buttons or tortoiseshell. I also always have to hem all of my pants, so please go into this with a tailor at your side if you are short legged like me – if you are long legged, you can probably get an extra inch out of the cuffs.
I usually stick to A-line, trumpet, or slightly fuller skirts (but nowhere close to a circle skirt) for work, usually (but not always) in conservative colors, depending on what I am doing/who I am meeting with that day. Again, the test is “can I squat in front of a file box without worrying about my skirt?” I have found skirts that fit the bill at ModCloth, House of Foxy,Emmy, and Trashy Diva, in addition to a few vintage pieces.
I tend to gravitate to two basic silhouettes of dresses, both of which look good with a jacket and I usually leave a jacket in my office to toss over a dress for surprise client visits without an appointment. The first is a shirtwaist dress, which essentially works as a one-piece in place of a blouse and you simply pull your collar over your jacket as you might a dress shirt. The other is just about any V-neck dress with an A-line or gathered skirt (again, those damn file boxes), just add a necklace and optional jacket to complete the look. I occasionally find other necklines that work, as well, but those are fewer and far between. I usually stick to the aforementioned brands (add Pretty Retro – spinoff brand of House of Foxy, and Loco Lindo), vintage, or I’ve made a few shirtwaist dresses in the past year thanks to having plenty of down time during the pandemic.
You may not agree with me on shoes, as I only ever wear flats or the lowest possible heels to court. I am often walking to the courthouse and I have feet and back issues that necessitate comfort shoes with straps. I am often seeking Mary Jane or t-strap style shoes, but if you can wear ballet flats, the world opens up a lot more options for professional/comfort footwear. I have purchased shoes in the past from Born, Walking Cradles, Miz Mooz, and Aerosoles, but the only shoes I have that are currently in production are from Remix Vintage Shoes, Bangi, and Rockport’s Cobb Hill line.
The Cobb Hill Angelina is my go-to court shoe – right now it’s only available in black, but I also have it in light brown (you may poke around the internet to other shops and find other options). If I needed another shoe, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the Cobb Hill Laurel Mary Jane.
For summer court-wear, my favorite shoe is Bangi’s Jaffa t-strap flat in white and brown. I don’t like showing my toes in court because I am lazy about keeping them pretty in the summer and they usually get trashed while swing dancing, so the Jaffa shoe is the perfect mix of a closed toe shoe and a sandal, that feels good to wear with bare feet and are comfortable for walking to and from the courthouse on a hot, sunny North Carolina day in July. They look great with all of my summer suits – cotton, linen, seersucker, etc.
Remix Vintage Shoes Dara and Corazon shoes are my favorite summer sandal for the office on days that I don’t go to court. They are based on 1940s play shoes and kind of feel like you are wearing a fancy athletic sandal. I own the Dara in 4 colors, which is a testament to my love. I just got my first pair of Corazons, which are similar in feel to the Daras, and I anticipate I will add more to my closet in the future. I practice family law, so the wearing of hearts is always a little tongue in cheek.
I realize this is a labor of love and I am willing to put in the time because I love wearing clothing that makes me happy, looks professional, looks good on my body, and is comfortable. I hope that this will direct you to some new resources for your professional wardrobe if you are looking for some vintage or vintage-inspired style and give you some new ideas about what to look for in other brands you may already love or come across in your shopping adventures.
The remote recordings continue with the release of Remote Riffing: Volume 2 (CalBal Live), an EP of the five tunes Keenan McKenzie assembled for the CalBal Live virtual Balboa workshop in January, 2020. I’m singing on two tracks, both original swing tunes written by Keenan McKenzie – If I Wrote a Song for You with Keenan McKenzie and the Riffers and Transcontinental with the Keenan McKenzie Orchestra. I have previously recorded both of these songs for Keenan’s album Forged in Rhythm, but it was fun to revisit these, perform them now that I’ve had them under my belt a couple of years, and hear the new arrangements, particularly Transcontinental with a big band! Please go to Keenan’s Bandcamp page and check out the incredible lineups of musicians for each song – I know we have been weary of this pandemic for some time, but this is one of those silver linings, essentially being able to record anywhere and have someone create this alchemy of recordings.
If you say CalBal three times fast it might come out sounding like cowbell at the end – hence this tune is a pun on the event’s nickname. We’d been looking for pitched cowbells for years, online an at music stores, and it took a pandemic Zoom cocktail hangout for the topic of almglocken to come out. Thanks to Jonathan Stout for the suggestion, we think they worked out great! Here’s our rendition of Johnny Blowers’ Cowbell Serenade, sponsored by Gary Chyi.
I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER
This is an original arrangement of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter, written by Lucian Cobb, with vocals inspired by the Boswell Sisters. Thanks so much to Kevin Wang, Lian Tarhay, Ursula Hicks, Kevin Nguyen, Matt Mitchell, and Jennifer Reed, all swing dancers in Austin and Dallas, Texas, who joined forces to sponsor this song for CalBal Live.
When we started talking to the CalBal Live organizers it became clear that they were excited about everything the bandleaders proposed and were up for funding big band charts. While the Mint Julep Jazz Band isn’t a big band, Lucian really wanted to do a big band song because it would be fun to put together. He had already transcribed Raggin’ the Scale (from an Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra live recording from the Savoy Ballroom) for Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders Orchestra and Michael gave his blessing for us to record Lucian’s transcription, so here we are! Thanks so much to Pasadena Balboa and Jam for sponsoring Raggin’ the Scale, this song is an absolute blast.
Just in time for Halloween, Keenan McKenzie‘s The House on Hawkins Drive – a ghostly tale of dancing and music in a haunted house – is now a music video! Keenan is a true Renaissance man, serving as songwriter, arranger, performer, audio engineer, video editor, and overall creative mastermind of this entire thing. I am, of course, delighted to be a part of the project and equally delighted to appear singing in the moon for the duration of the video.