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Assignment 1: Inappropriately Dressed
I used to go dancing a lot, especially swing dancing and latin dancing.
A group of friends and I would meet every Tuesday at Michael's restaurant and bar
for their swing & shag night. They also played a lot of chachas and we'd show off on their
small dance floor, to the amusement of the barflies. We'd leave when the bar filled up
and the drunks crowded onto the dance floor, hump dancing while holding beer bottles
My uniform was a sleeveless top (dancing is HOT) and a short flared skirt and dance
briefs over suntan tights. Special suede-soled high heeled strappy sandals completed the outfit.
My speciality was turns and pivots. I could change direction fast enough to make
my skirt stand straight out. It was fun. Most of the bar patrons wore slacks or jeans,
but we dancers wore our exhibitionist uniforms. We'd troop in, change to our dance shoes,
and take over the floor. I knew my legs were my best feature, so I did lots of spins.
The ladies with impressive cleavage did lots of shimmies, dips, and body rolls.
Being around the other dancers so much, I didn't realize how different our outfits were.
We all wore them to dance lessons, and we wore them to the weekly Friday night parties.
I'd look around and see many others dressed the same as me. I never thought much about it
until I ventured out to other dance events by myself.
The first conflict came when I went to Fairbanks, a coffee bar housed in an old bank,
for their swing night. It was run by the Swing Kids, a mixed age group, heavy on college
students. They wore forties outfits, retro skirts and dresses (a bit longer than mine)
with flat oxford or spectator style shoes. They wore shorts or granny panty bloomers under
their skirts, and tended to dress bare legged. A chubby college girl in full forties regalia
was teaching a group lindy class. She singled me and my strappy heels out as an example
of the wrong clothes to wear for dancing. "You have to wear flats", she said, "you can't
possibly dance in heels like that." Funny, the ballroom folks say the opposite.
I could see her glaring at my skirt too--it was shorter than hers, and my legs were better
looking--but she was smart enough not to say anything about it. I stayed, I danced. I had no
problem doing her steps in my heels--after all, I'd done more complicated steps in ballroom.
But I always felt uncomfortable every time I went back. I could feel her disapproval
of my skirt and my shoes, and her friends seemed to turn up their noses too. But the Fairbanks
dances were late night on Fridays, after the studio dance party, so I always wore my
In time I got more of my ballroom cronies to join me at the Fairbanks concerts after the
studio parties. Of course all of them wore short flippy skirts and heels. We never became
the majority, but we became accepted like an ethnic group. When a latin dance night was
started, it was our outfits that won out. You just can't dance latin in flats.
My next foray was to the swing & shag club's shag night at the Holiday Inn. Some of them
came to the Michael's dances, so I expected there to be people there that I knew. What I
didn't expect was how much my outfit stood out among theirs without my ballroom buddies.
All the ladies wore slacks and flat shoes. No exceptions. I'd known that some of them
dressed that way at Michael's but had assumed it was because they'd come from work with
no time to change.
The ladies outnumbered the men and were very protective and unwelcoming of new women.
The three of us who were new that night were all given the cold shoulder treatment.
But in my short skirt and heels, I was treated the worst. The guy teaching the shag
basics singled me out for "wiggling my hips too much". He said "ladies aren't supposed
to be noticed, this is a dance where the MAN shows off." Ballroom is the opposite, the
man is supposed to show off the woman. I guess I must be a show off--I decided shag
was not for me. But if I had gone back, I'd have followed their dress code.
I'm older now--my feet hurt and my figure has changed. So now I dance in slacks and
flats, poetic justice I guess.
Hello Betsy, I loved it, and loved it that you could pull it off, and not let others lead you off so to speak. I always wanted to dance the dance, but I can walk the walk ~ most days! Thanks for the wonderful story. Your Friend....RaeDi