I recently have taken up swing dancing, and it is a ton of fun. Compared to my two other loves- the sexiness and sultriness of salsa and the coolness and confidence of hip-hop- swing dancing only requires a fun-loving, silly attitude bordering on complete dorkiness. Sometimes whilst swing dancing, I wonder at how such nerdy moves were once cool and commonplace back in the 1920s-1950s. However, letting go of the need to look cool is perhaps what makes swing dancing so enjoyable.
Swing dancing does, though, seem to have a standard that everyone follows: the vintage fashion. Expect to see guys with flooded trousers, quirky socks, button-down shirts, and slicked down hair, and women in knee-length hourglass-shaped dresses, high-waisted A-line skirts, t-strap pumps or Keds, pin-curled hair, and red lipstick. Going to a swing event feels like stepping into a time capsule of the 1940s and 1950s.
I went through a time in high school in which I loved 1950s fashion, finding the prints and colors cute and the silhouettes most flattering to the female form. However, my style now is more beach-inspired, flow-y, bohemian, and laid-back. I feel like it correlates better with my personality and the things in life that interest me. Wearing flow-y clothes can almost feel like a rebellion against, for example, the stiffness of corporate fashion, just like the hippies did back in the 1960s. Conversely, it can sometimes feel even uncomfortable to wear fashion that harkens back to an era of female suppression- do I really want to look like a 1950s housewife?
I subsequently do not own a lot of 1950s-style clothing or shoes. The outfits that I have worn to swing events have been stumbling blocks of trying to find something in my closet that will fit in with everyone else’s outfits, to not a whole lot of success. Each time that I go to an event in what feels like a more appropriate ensemble, there is always a girl whose Keds are more on point than my Toms, whose cherry-print halter dress is more Modcloth than my Forever 21 blue and white geometric print dress, whose pin curls rival my naturally straight locks. It has me making a mental note to myself each time that I go out dancing to make a trip to the vintage store, stat. And then remembering that I don’t have enough money to go out and buy all these new clothes. And then resolving to myself that the first thing I will buy once I do have enough money is a new vintage outfit. That way, I won’t feel so out of place.
Last night, I had half a second to get ready for a swing event. I was wearing a multicolored, triangular print romper, dream catcher earrings, and a loose cardigan, and my hair was wavy from having had it in a braid all day. Knowing how long it usually takes me to piece together a semi-1950s outfit, I was suddenly stressed out. However, I then just had a moment of, “Fuck it. I like the outfit that I have on and feel very comfortable in it, and if it doesn’t look like everyone else’s outfits, tough shit.” Upon arrival to the event, I felt a lot more confident being in clothes that I actually liked and felt like myself in, as opposed to trying to wear a vintage outfit just to blend in with everyone else- which can feel like wearing a costume.
It’s absurd to think that I have to spend money on all these new clothes and accessories and makeup to paint my face in a certain way just so that I won’t stand out while dancing. Life is not about obtaining possessions and fitting it- it’s about being yourself and caring more about experiences than looks. It’s not like I’m wearing pajamas to the Met Gala- swing dancing is not a particularly formal event that requires a certain dress code.
At the end of the day, swing dancing is about dancing and having fun. If one is doing dorky dance moves- the antithesis to trying to look cool-, then why should one feel the need to dress in a certain way to be “cool” in the swing world?