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Shien Lee is a constant presence on the vintage New York scene, thanks to her group Dances of Vice, which is known for its history-embracing shindigs. Sometimes thrown in collaboration with other retro party planners, the soirees celebrate the spirit of eras like the Victorian age or the 1920s, or scenes such as the New Romantics.
RECOMMENDED: All vintage New York coverageShien Lee, 27; Williamsburg, Brooklyn; founder and producer of Dances of Vice (dancesofvice.com)
How did you get started throwing the Dances of Vice parties?
I started Dances of Vice when I moved to New York in 2007; I didn’t know a soul and wanted to meet other creative individuals with whom I could collaborate. I wanted to create a space where lovers of vintage culture, fantasy and anachronism could meet like minds and celebrate unconventional beauty, art and rebellion.
What sparked your interest in the retro scene?
I’ve always been a romantic, and my passion lies in creating and sharing fantasy. Producing events enables me to create a world of fascination for others to step into, and the shared experience of beauty has the power to inspire awe, curiosity and romance, [as well as] cultivate a connection with other people.
What inspires you as you’re creating these events?
I draw inspiration from many sources for different aspects of life and work, so it’s hard to name one in general. No single thing dominates in its influence on me. What I love most is to enjoy the natural beauty of others. One of the most inspirational women I have the pleasure of knowing is Spanish fashion designer Elisa Palomino (elisapalomino.com). Not only is her work and imagination absolutely stunning, but she is kind and pure of heart—the kind of woman you imagine only existed in fairy tales.
Where do you like to shop?
Beacon’s Closet (locations vary; visit beaconscloset.com) is wonderful, but when I’m looking for something specific, I jump on Etsy or eBay. When I can afford it, I prefer to have pieces custom-made. Who I go to for custom-made clothes depends on what style or piece I am looking for. I go to Reneé Masoomian (reneemasoomian.com) for custom latex pieces, Muffinhead (muffinheadland.com) for my more unusual pieces and Electra Designs (electradesigns.net) for corsets.
What’s your favorite event you’ve thrown?
My favorite Dances of Vice event was the Dada Revue, a celebration of absurdism, surrealism and creativity. The wild and topsy-turvy nature of the music and performances that night broke down boundaries between individuals and lowered inhibitions—guests arrived in fantastic, crazy costumes and danced with reckless abandon. I also host a weekly burlesque dinner show at Beaumarchais (409 W 13th St between Ninth Ave and Washington Sts, brasseriebeaumarchais.com) every Wednesday; that’s always a lot of fun.
What appeals to you about being part of the retro scene in New York?
I love being able to transport audiences to another time—real or imagined—that carries a sense of romance, mystery, adventure, fantasy and rebellion.
Next up: Enchantment Under the Sea Dance at SRB Brooklyn (177 Second Ave at 14th St, Gowanus, Brooklyn). May 31 9pm–3am; $25–$40.