Help a doll with puttin' on the ritz
August 30, 2009 10:10 PM   Subscribe

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is coming back to Governor's Island, and this time I want to do more than spectate.

For the past couple of years I have enjoyed going to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island in New York. It's a great event featuring 1920s vintage-attired ladies and gentlemen dancing to a live jazz age orchestra in a beautiful outdoor setting. This time, rather than ogling all the charmingly stylish people and bopping around uncertainly, I'd like to get in on the action. My approach is two-pronged: The Dress and The Moves.

1) Where in NYC might I find a 20s-style dress in the vein of the ones seen here-link launches NYT slideshow with sound- and here? (I've googled and I know there are piles of second-hand and vintage stores all over the city; I'm hoping for personal recommendations to narrow it down. I'll also take suggestions on piecing together a suitable outfit from non-vintage clothes and accesssories.)

2) Where in NYC might I get a quick crash course in the basics of "Jazz Age" dancing? Can anyone recommend a class, either in Manhattan or Brooklyn?

Thanks for any and all suggestions!
posted by messica to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Swing 46 offers dance lessons to live music, with independent instructors. You could probably learn to Lindy Hop and maybe Jitterbug in 3 to 4 hours. You'll need more practice than that, of course, to look "flash," but these are basic dances learned by millions, with a little time and effort. And it's a lot more fun to learn like your Mom or Grandma did, to live music!

Vintage '20s clothing is 80 to 90 years old, by now. Lot of time, for anything that is going to be worn as anything other than costume, although some of it is still serviceable. The good stuff, however, that is likely to still be in serviceable shape today, was expensive back then, and not really what "flappers" wore. The girls who were Lindy hopping when Lindy hop was hot, weren't wearing the demur tea dresses in your NYT slideshow, either, so if you want to go authentic, be prepared to show a little leg, and find some seamed stockings. I think your best bet is to put together a simple outfit, in the style of the time, from modern components, and maybe accent it with a period hat, or beaded handbag. Get the right shoes, of course - and get them soon - so you can practice your dance moves in them.
posted by paulsc at 1:39 AM on August 31, 2009

Fun! I'll probably be there with people from Dance Manhattan, on 19th Street, which has swing and Lindy hop classes. They do a monthly Sunday crash course for beginners, but the September class is noon-4:30 on the same day as the Lawn Party! But you could start any beginners' class now with practice be dancing by the 27th.
posted by nicwolff at 7:27 AM on August 31, 2009

Best answer: My only attempt at this was sort of a failure, except for one aspect: I discovered that Capezio dance shoes are not only affordable, they have a great 20s look and are super comfortable. I'm not a fan of heels, but I can wear these all day. They are, after all, made for dancing. Try something like this or this or this.

If you are in the city, I think it's better to go to the store in Times Square than order online.

Dress wise, there's always awesome stuff on ebay.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:32 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Sartorialist often posts photos from the Jazz Age Party that are pretty darn inspiring. Some of these folks are probably wearing real vintage, but at least as many aren't (or are combining new and old stuff).

Thanks for reminding me about this; I'm going to try to go too.
posted by doift at 9:21 AM on August 31, 2009

Besides Capezio you might try Worldtone Dance on 7th Avenue just above 23d St (on the second floor) for what dancers call "character shoes". They carry the Aris Allen brand that are popular with swing dancers.
posted by nicwolff at 2:22 PM on August 31, 2009

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