Craft shows are catnip to a subset of 50+ women. I went to a huge one recently, to buy our family's favourite confection, Brook's homemade chocolate-almond brittle.
While I waited in line to enter, I noticed two specific types of patrons, among others:
1. Appleseedies: Women dressed like a come-to-life Appleseed's catalogs, in denim jumpers or elastic-waist pants, interlock turtlenecks, boxy cardigans, and no-fuss hairstyles. Carefully coordinated, dressed to walk many long aisles. Footwear: Mephistos or clogs. These are clothing choices I avoid, but to be fair, they were dressed (and groomed) for function, not fashion.
2. Artsies: These women have never met a craft show garment they didn't like, and therefore buy many, and seem to wear all of their purchases back to the show. Pieced, appliqued leather jackets, beaded necklaces, Western hats with peacock-feather bands, and a large tote bag with something silkscreened on it. Footwear: hand-tooled maryjanes with rainbows or nature theme. It's simply too much craft, even when the pieces are well-executed.
The women artisans, waiting for the onslaught at their booths, show more style. They wear simply-cut pieces as a quiet backdrop for their wares. They murmur rather than shout. A pair of fishnet tights under a vintage velvet skirt, a shibori scarf worn as a belt, or a beret with a jeweled pin. One distinctive piece is enough.
I once went there with a chic friend, and asked her why some 50+ women seemed to gravitate toward this "walking craft show" look. Her theory was that, when younger, you'd throw on a pair of jeans and a cute tee and think, "I look pretty hot". One day, she said, you lose that confidence, and slowly add external reinforcement, item by item, so that eventually the busy clothes or overwrought accessories are like the frog in the water brought to a boil: you don't notice you're over-crafted.
I came home with the candy, a simple heliotrope and oyster leather change purse, and a conviction that after 50, I'd better be really careful about craft shows.
It's easy to get caught up in buying; some of the booths were mobbed. But an art glass necklace that looked interesting could morph into lumpy and earnest once home, and that appliqued mod-fabric tote bag will prove too busy to carry.
There are treasures to be found, like this screen-printed Yasmine Louis tee, perfect for my son's girlfriend, mais pas moi.
MeHoi's Crazy Jim ear studs are a cheeky graduation gift for the slightly subversive 17 year old.
And someone born well after the sixties may channel her inner Stevie Nicks to charm in this very well-made Gypsy Circus ensemble, but I'd look scary.
Craft shows require a discerning eye, whether buying for others or ones' self. I appreciate the many artisans who make one of a kind designs into which they've poured their personal vision. The goods offered are not mass-produced brands, but that doesn't mean they're right for me.