A Swingin’ Affair

Once off the train and on our way to the speakeasy style loft, the ladies legs were hurtin’ from the heels, so I piggybacked her through the home stretch.

Story Teo J. Babini - teo@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos© Christian Torres

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The same gals that put on the Sea Creature Stomp (Mermaid Parade after-party) do a recurring event called Swing House. This particular Swing House was to be headlined by The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn, the trumpeter of which I had befriended in the dizzying hallucinatory adventure of The Great Googa Mooga. The early New Orleans style jazz I heard from them there inspired me to grab some of their albums and I was excited to see them in a different setting.

Piggy backin' photo©Christian Torres

As I was deciding to attend, I remembered my friend Lova Lova had told me she wanted to check out a jazz joint with me in the city. Now, any jazz lovin’ lady immediately garners my attentions, but it helps a lot when they also happen to be as good lookin’ as this one. So I gave her a call, and she was totally into it, but needed to do some shopping for the period dress code, so I figured I’d join her.

The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn photo©Christian Torres

It stands to reason that the best place to find gear from the twenties and thirties would be vintage shops, so the first spot we hit was Screaming Mimi’s and played a nice game of dress up. They actually had authentic flapper dresses, but they were a bit pricey for a one-time event, not to mention a bit big for the little Kavkazian. But we did find some nice flapper costumes with the tassels (one and two piece) and a couple big feather headbands (we chose this as a last resort outfit if we found nothing else).

A modern invasion photo©Christian Torres

For myself, I had a nice Gatsby look going with white pants and a pale yellow shirt with white collar and cuffs. Topped off with a boater hat and bowtie, I really looked the business. The only problem was that the pants fit like a corset and the shirt only looked normal with the sleeves rolled up. So we moved on and to continue our search.

Ooh la la photo©Christian Torres

After a few failed attempts, we found a beautiful, classic dress at Village Style and a pair of short heals to go with it. We checked around for a subtler headpiece, but turns out anything before the fifties is nearly impossible to find, so we went with the big feathers (Met some real characters in the smaller shops). In the end, too small proved easier than too big, as I found practically nothing for myself.

Classic kiss photo©Christian Torres

Instead, I took to my closet and fished out a pair of my father’s old suit pants (initials sewn in) and took it to the dry cleaner to tailor some buttons for a pair of brown braces I saw over at Mimi’s. Wingtips, white shirt, and a light vest and I was good to go, so long as my boy loaned me his wide tie to give the whole ensemble some color.

Swingin' away photo©Christian Torres

The day of the event we got her a pro make-up job, which she didn’t need, but really made the look along with her pearls, stockings, and garters (my personal favorite). As we made our way to Gowanus, we got all kinds of compliments from passersby as though the sidewalk was hungry for the class of a bygone era. Real appreciation. Once off the train and on our way to the speakeasy style loft, the ladies legs were hurtin’ from the heels, so I piggybacked her through the home stretch.

Takin' a breather photo©Christian Torres

Upon arrival they were doing dance lessons. After a little liquid courage and a pow wow with the brass man, we tried to follow the steps. The little one had hot feet and she picked it up quick, but I, bein’ a big lug, had a little trouble keepin’ up. When Billie came on I just had to let the swing go, slow it down, and do my Vince Vaughn in “Wedding Crashers” routine. We kept on like this when the Vipers started swingin’.

It wasn’t as wild as the Sea Creature Stomp, but I actually had a real good time. I’ve always been inspired by the style and music of the old days, and, being in the live setting, I was really able to retreat into my nostalgic fantasies. Even after we left, we ended up at my pad listening to some Billie records before heading to the Blind Barber (another speakeasy inspired racket I had gotten a cut and shave at just the day before). Even though the music and people there were all modern, I kept a good ol’ fashion smile on because in my head all I could hear was “Keeps on Raining”.

It's a jazz thing photo©Christian Torres

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