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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Vintage Shopping Online
By Joya Balfour

This 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 possibilities—you 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's huge selection of Bleyers and swing fashions. Retro ties, twirly skirts, bloomers, baggy pants, as well as an assortment of instructional videos and CDs—they 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, 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.

Cruisin' USA
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 pageant.

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'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.
El Pachuco
These three stores are the virtual triumvirate of zoot suit makers, with Siegel's 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 near you.

Anything Swing
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.

Ballyhoo Vintage
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.

Trashy Diva
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 under $40.

Vintage Vixen
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.


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