• Do you want to buy a swing dress but you aren’t really a vintage enthusiast… at least not yet?
  • Or perhaps you’re not ready to invest in a vintage piece of clothing, but you want to get a few nice items in your closet?
  • Don’t have even the faintest idea of what would count as an appropriate swing dress for going out to your local swing dance?

When you first start diving into the world of the “vintage and classic” fashion look for dancing, it can be quite daunting. Swing dances tend to feature dancing and music that spans from the 1920s through the 1950s, and fashion for women changed so dramatically during those 40 years. So…. where does one even begin?

In general, I would advise my lady friends to start with the following as a guide:

  • Dresses and/or skirts that have either an A-line skirt, or a circle skirt

    Circle Skirt – will flare up flat when you spin

An A-Line Skirt – will move but not fly up








  • Avoid strapless dressesas they could easily roll or fall down while dancing.
    YIKES! I also avoid (in general) dresses that have super thin spaghetti straps, simply b/c they are easy to fall off my shoulder or the opposite problem, where they dig into my shoulder while dancing. 
  • High waisted skirts are more flattering and period appropriate, believe it or not! 

    by sitting high waisted, the viewers eye is drawn to your smallest part of your waist! And look at the cute button detail on this example!

  • Dresses that fit nicely through the smallest part of your waist.
    So many dresses nowadays are in the “babydoll cut”, where the smallest part is just under the breast, and then they flare out. They drive me nuts since most of them actually make you look BIGGER, like wearing a maternity dress. Choose a dress that shows off your best features.
  • For fabric colour and patternstick to either a nice simple solid colour or a pretty floral pattern.
    Try to avoid dresses that feature crazy psychedelic or geometric patterns, as these can look much later dated. 
  • For fabric, try to choose something that will be lightweight and move with your body
    I LOVE silk dresses. I snatch them up whenever I find one at a thrift store. A light and flowy polyester works well, too, but beware as some polyesters can be incredibly hot very fast. 
  • Do a swivel test and an arm-lift test in the store
    Seriously… I always do a swivel test in the dressing room, if I can get a chance to try something on in person. Make sure your hips and thighs are able to move freely in swivels, and try lifting your arms to make sure your dress moves appropriately for spinning. I have definitely forgotten to do the arm lift test before, and had dresses rip down the side of the torso when I actually wear them out dancing and I get sent into a tuck turn. No bueno.
  • The best placement for the skirt hem is going to be just at your knees
    It really is the most flattering spot to fall. Falling higher than the knee starts to run into the issue of bringing the eyes to your thighs, and any lower starts to cut your calves off. Some ladies might say you need to have a longer fuller skirt (more of a 1950s look) for it to be considered a “swing” dress, but I think that’s just a matter of taste and personal preference. 

So, that all being said, here are 10 Modern Day Websites / Stores where you can find yourself a nice dress and/or skirt for swing dancing!

Special Thanks to Madeline Langdon for her helpful additions to this list.

1. Modcloth

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Modcloth is a WONDERLAND of great vintage-inspired dresses. Many of them are taken directly from old patterns!

2. Etsy 

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Etsy can be a VERY affordable place to buy great swing dresses, if you know what to search for. There was a big fashion resurgence in the 1980s of 1940s-style dresses. Typing in “80s does 40s” is a great start. Make sure you check the shipping info before purchasing, as some vendors have ridiculous shipping prices. And you can always make an offer to the seller, if you don’t quite want to pay the full amount listed… they may just accept your offer!

3.  Target

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Seriously… Target has some CUTE stuff! I love walking through Target at the mall and checking out the Juniors section dresses. I think the reason why they have some great swing-style dresses, is because a lot of their design is classic style patterns.

4. JBR Clothing

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JBR Clothing sells some awesome brands, including some of my favorites, like Betty Page Clothing and Stop Staring. Both of these brands sell some great pencil skirts that have nice stretch, so even though it’s a straight cut, it has some give.

5. Pinup Girl Clothing

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Some super cute stuff on this site. A lot of it is a bit pricey, but great online “window shopping” at the very least :) I particularly loved these dresses in the image above.

6. Hello Holiday

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This was actually a new one for me, but Madeline suggested it! I think it looks awesome, so I can’t wait to look around on it more. Their prices are really reasonable, especially when compared to the average price on ModCloth.

7. Ebay

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My advice? Stick to the “Buy it Now” items. I suggest that MOSTLY because nowadays, there are so many annoying patches people download that rig the system so that their bid wins at the last second. And that sucks.

8. Value Village (or other local thrift stores)

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This one is very hit or miss, but I totally try and hit Value Village once every couple of weeks. Just today I went to a local Value Village and picked up a great 100% silk vintage-style dress for $14.99. I’ve found some killer vintage items there, too, and for CHEAP!!! I also love looking for Banana Republic jeans AND dresses there, because they fit me so well and the dresses, especially, have a lot of classic styles, and at a fraction of the original cost.

9. Forever 21

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I don’t care what anyone says… sometimes Forever 21 has GREAT reproduction stuff. The last incredible piece I got there was a black crepe-fabric shawl, with the most delicate art deco beading… HONESTLY, if I didn’t tell you it was a new piece from Forever 21, you would think for sure it was an actual mint-condition period piece. The ONLY beef I have with Forever 21 dresses/skirts (and well, with a lot of modern dress designs, for that matter), is that a lot of the hem lines are WAY too short nowadays, falling at the FATTEST part of the thigh. Who needs/wants that? I’m a grown woman, not a 10 year old.

10. Red Dress Shoppe

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