GUEST POST | Swing Dance Basic Wardrobe Tips

A Beginner's Guide to Swing Dance Wardrobe Basics

You've decided (or it's been decided for you) to attend a swing dance.  You may have a preconceived notion of what that entails or you may have no idea - regardless, you don't want to show up wearing the "wrong thing."  So what do you wear to a swing dance if you've never been?  It's a lot simpler than you think and you probably already have most, if not all of the things you need in your closet.


This is your most important piece of gear - you'll be dancing and moving around with your feet, you want to make your feet as efficient as possible.  Pick a pair of shoes that don't have any tread (those grippy ridges on running shoes or street shoes that keep you from slipping) - leather soles are best, but anything smooth will work.  After you find a pair of shoes with a smooth sole, make sure they are the kind of shoes that will stay on your feet.  You will see a lot of dancers of both genders in Keds or other oxford style shoes (but you are not limited to this kind of shoe), both casual and dress, because this kind of shoe generally has a smooth bottom and the laces help the shoes stay on your feet. 

Recap: Shoes with a smooth sole that will stay on your feet.

A rainbow of Keds


Arguably, the same dressing advice could apply to women as to men, only women have the added benefit of having skirts and dresses as an option (though I have seen a man in a Utili-kilt at a dance once).  I personally like dancing in dresses and skirts because of the added ventilation, which helps with the sweating issue.  If you do decide to wear a dress, make sure it does not restrict movement - sometimes sleeves don't give a full range of motion, or the dress rides up during certain movements.  If you wear a dress or a skirt that flies up when you twirl, wear something full coverage underneath - a slip, biker shorts, granny panties - something you don't have to worry about so that you can just enjoy the movement of the dance.

The only other bit of advice I'll add is to not wear something complicated - things with lots of straps, appendages, and loose parts tend to get in the way when you are dancing.

Recap: Comfortable clothing in breathable fabrics, skirts/dresses optional

Left : 1940s Red Crepe Swing Dress
Right : 1950s Preppy Plaid Full Skirt Dress


Choose clothing made from natural fibers - cotton, linen, wool, rayon, and other fabrics that breathe.  Even if you aren't dancing a lot, these rooms can get very warm.  If you find yourself dancing a lot and you tend to sweat a lot during exercise, you may want to bring a few changes of shirts to swap out when the one you are wearing gets too sweaty.

I find that the dress code varies wildly at dances, from as casual as jeans and tee shirts to as dressy as three piece suits.  Both sides have their benefits - the jeans and tee shirt crowd can have a quick change of their sweaty tee several times throughout the night, while the suit crowd tends to lock their sweat in with the jacket to prevent the sweat from seeping on to their partner.  I think most people fall somewhere in the middle in terms of dress code.  If you are still lost, find out if the dance has a DJ or a band - if it's a DJ'd dance, the crowd tends to be more casual.  If there's a band, some people find that to be a special occasion and like to dress up a bit from the jeans and tee shirt threshold.  The most important thing is for you to be comfortable - the dance community is less concerned with what you are wearing and more concerned that you are enjoying yourself.

Recap: Comfortable clothing in breathable fabrics

Men's 1950s Cotton Plaid Loop Collar Shirt


A few other items that come in handy at a swing dance:
- Water bottles - best to bring your own, you never know what the water situation may be at the dance
- Towel - usually a hand towel, just something to wipe the sweat away
- Mints - just in case, because you'll be dancing in close proximity with other people
- Deodorant - apply before you come to the dance, but you may find that you need to reapply during the dance, depending on how much you dance and your personal body chemistry

This should be enough to get you started - I hope you enjoy your first swing dance!  And don't feel like you have to change your personal style just because you a trying something new - vintage and vintage-inspired clothing is cool, but not required.  Show up, be yourself, and have fun. :)

If you decide you want more information or to delve further into swing dance and swing era fashion, feel free to browse the posts on my blog LINDY SHOPPER : What should I wear to the dance tonight?. 

THANKS SO MUCH to Laura Windley from Lindy Shopper for sharing some of her insights about the Swing Dancer's wardrobe.  Also, make sure you check out Laura as the voice of amazing The Mint Julep Jazz Band!  She is a woman of so many talents!


  1. One thing a girl wants to have than a shelf of high heels is a rainbow of keds shoes! Love them all! I love your collection by the way. -

  2. I love the utili kilts. By the way collection is also love.


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