By Joya Balfour
edition of Cyber*Kool originally was featured in the Fall 1999 issue
of ATOMIC Magazine.
Tired of sifting through racks of overpriced dresses? Can't
seem to find anything in your size? Looking for absolute kitsch?
Have no fear! Vintage clothing aficionados can turn to the Internet
for all their swing fashion needs. From small shops that put
their catalogs online to gargantuan auction sites, the Web offers
a smorgasbord of shopping possibilitiesyou might discover
you'll never have to step foot inside a second-hand store again!
This edition of Cyber*Kool highlights the finest in vintage
fashion sites on the Web, where selection is vast, transactions
are secure and satisfaction is a mouse click away...
Many a dancer's wardrobe has been culled from the auctions
on eBay, the largest and most popular site of it's kind on the
Web. In any given week, about 150 vintage swing dresses are
auctioned. Many are sold not only by established second-hand
stores from across North America, but also from estate sales
and the odd attic treasure hunt. Blouses, cardigans, skirts,
coats, purses, seamed stockings and shoes are also plentiful.
Search by keyword, seller or buyer, and sort results by price
or date. Bids can start as low as $3, and often a dress in near-mint
condition can be had for $10, although some have sold for as
much as $100. Be prepared to do battle with determined buyers
and to check the site up until the auction ends, lest you be
disappointed. Painfully long download times due to server overload
can also leave you frustrated.
Warning: Highly addictive.
Selling new and deadstock clothes with a vintage feel, Daddy-O's
is an affordable favorite of the swing and rockabilly crowds.
With a cute pastel design and quick-loading buttons, the site
is just busy enough not to be plain. From bowling shirts to
peasant blouses, the store carries several styles and colors,
along with a signature line of retro clothing. For the nostalgia
buff, Daddy-O's also sells James dean, I Love Lucy, Betty Boop,
Coca-Cola and Route 66 apparel and memorabilia.
No Lindy Hopper can do without Dancestore.com's huge selection
of Bleyers and swing fashions. Retro ties, twirly skirts, bloomers,
baggy pants, as well as an assortment of instructional videos
and CDsthey carry it all. They are constantly adding new
items to their inventory and work alongside shoe and clothing
manufacturers to create the products their customers want. With
courteous service and prompt delivery, Dancestore.com is easy
to navigate and a quick download. Bright colors and cartoonish
graphics make the site a pleasure to visit. And it's true that
what's appealing to the eye is often appealing to the wallet.
By and large the best selection of '50s style clothing on
the Web, Cruisin' USA is a site that's music to rockabilly ears
everywhere. While its garish design is quite hard on the eyes,
the line of clothing is endless. If you can make it through
the annoying ad banners and looping midi music, you're in business.
Flaming martini design? Pink Ladies club? Hawaiian style? Cruisin'
USA meets your every need. Cat's Eye glasses and saddle shoes
are also popular. Recently featured at this year's Miss America
Another online auction site, Popula is classy in its design
and kitschy in its offerings. Many treasures can be found here
despite the small number of items on sale. The site has one
of the finest selections of vintage purses (lots of alligator
skin, girls!), hats, belts and jewelry, but little in the way
of swing-era dresses. While Popula doesn't have the variety
of eBay or Dancestore.com's lock on swing fashion, it is a pleasure
to visit, simply for its elegant lines, subtle use of retro
graphics and overall aesthetic. And if you can;t seem to find
that elusive pillbox hot, don't be surprised to find some mint
green Bakelite, a rare Jermaine Jackson poster (!) or a 1946
edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
These three stores are the virtual triumvirate of zoot suit
makers, with Siegel's zootsuitstore.com holding the top spot,
in no small part due to its established reputation and successful
San Francisco retail location. They offer custom suits made
to your exact specifications, but there is always a risk involved
when you aren't there to try it on. All have a wide selection
of colors and fabrics to choose from, including some wild pinstripes.
Wingtips, watch chains and fedoras round out their stock. Girls,
don't feel left out...They'll make a zoot suit for you too!
Decent photos and simple navigational structures make these
sites worth checking out if their real-world stores aren't anywhere
This newcomer offers new clothing tailor-made from vintage
patterns, although the selection is slim (3 dresses and 2 skirt
models, for example), and prices are steep. Gents can buy zoot
suits, the entire collection of Hi-Ball bowling shirts and various
T-shirts. The use of frames in this site makes navigating between
categories and items a cinch, and although the home page is
quite bland, the inside pages are attractively colored by section.
Too much white space, however, makes the overall site seem bare.
Probably the finest vintage clothing store online. Based
in Philadelphia, Balyhoo carries stock from the '30s to '70s
(their largest selection being the '50s), and it is all exquisitely
detailed with thumbnails, enlarged photographs and written descriptions.
The online store boasts a huge selection of dresses, skirts
and pants in every color and pattern imaginable, and prices
are extremely reasonable considering that most of their clothes
are deadstock (never worn). Thumbnails are kept small to reduce
download time, and fancy backgrounds and fonts are kept at a
minimum. A site definitely worth upping your credit for.
New Orleans' premier vintage clothing store, Trashy Diva
supplements its pricey Web site inventory with affordable (and
extremely popular) eBay auctions. Once you visit their Web site,
however, it becomes apparent why they sell more stock on eBay.
Even if one discounts the retailer's high prices, the site's
navigational structure is not very user-friendly (buttons are
not clearly marked and the ransom-note font is hard on the eyes)
and the long list of items on each page takes a long time to
download. Nevertheless, their stock is exquisite and top-notch,
and to their credit, they recently added a sale page of items
Vintage Vixen's no-frills Web site highlights men's and women's
clothing from the '30s to '70s, although their '40s-'50s stock
is the main focus. Instead of showcasing just the clothes, Vintage
Vixen has additional pages devoted to retro fashion history
and clothing care, features appreciated by those collectors
unsure of how decades-old garments will hold up to sweat and
the swing jam. While not a large collection, its stock is quality.
Looking for a specific article of clothing, style or size? Fill
out an online form, and the staff will search their inventory
for you. Missing from Vintage Vixen, however, are detailed photos
and proper spacing between catalog items, rendering otherwise
concise pages incredibly long.