Cautious at craft shows

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.


Frugal Scholar said…
Pleasure in the morning. this is truly a masterpiece, Duchesse.
Frugal Scholar said…
Oops--shift key is sticking.
I too have noticed the Appleseeds and the Artsies - though I think that many of the second category go to the craft show to get ideas which they they go home to make themselves.

So they get a compliment on their hand felted vest and think, if this is good then maybe I can patchwork up some pants to go with and suddenly they're overdone.

Plus there is often something frugal about them, they can make is so much cheaper themselves and then they can have it all (and unfortunately, wear it all at once).
Susan B said…
I think the overdone "artsy/craftsy" look is also some women's strategy to fight over-50 invisibility. I've known a couple of very vibrant women who drifted into this look.
materfamilias said…
Nicely observed, Duchesse. As an avid knitter, I'm very careful about how I portion out my knitwear. Never more than one piece at a time, excepting the possibility that I might some day do matching hat and gloves or hat and scarf (so far, I stick with my leather gloves, and if I wear one of my handknit scarves I'm more likely to accompany it with a felted hat or beret).
dana said…
Mater, your knits *never* veer into the crafty! They are artisan all the way.
lagatta à montréal said…
I'm an artist, and will never be part of the "elegant age" as that just isn't me, but I sincerely hope I'm more type 3 than type 2. A friend and colleague tends to veer into what you call Artsy (or Craftsy-Waftsy), and I have a much older aunt - she'd be in her 80s now, who is definitely full-blown artsy, though she isn't an artist by profession or avocation at all.

It is also a matter of simply not knowing how to dress after 40-45 or so in a way that reflects us as creative persons, and not "corporate" or what we'd call "madame" (in French, means housewifely, domestic, suburban or conventional, not a bordello madame) - and not morphing into the slightly pathetic look 2.

When I was the cute 20-year-old, there was a lot of paint on my frayed old jeans, but if I dressed like that now, people would give me money on the streets. If I were currently 20-something, I'd be some kind of post-punkoid art student, but not being Vivienne Westwood, prefer leaving that to chicas 30 years younger.

We all know what is frightening here, but it is not an easy balance to strike. I love unique and hancrafted items - that is, after all, part of the appeal of the pashminas - but I guess as we get older it is even more important to pare down.
Mardel said…
Very astutely observations, Dutchess.

I see way too many Appleseeds and Artsies which always makes me think twice when I am considering something handcrafted or even avant-garde in the fashion sense. As someone who knits and sews (although sewing has been kind of on the back burner lately) I think it serves me well to really think about how I wear something and mix the more unusual or handmade items with good basics.

I think sometimes people have trouble figuring out how to make a piece work and they go overboard before they even realize what has happened.
mette said…
Thanks for your post. I share your opinions.These artsies do look interesting and tempting to buy. But really, a woman of certain age ( like me ), suburban, will be more than happy to pass these over for the younger generation.
NancyDaQ said…
Great observations--I think you described the scene very well and more tastefully than I would have. Like Mardel, I sew, and I see the Appleseedlings and Atsy-Craftsy looks way more than I'd like to.
Duchesse said…
Imogen: had a look at that ReWork your Wardrobe site and I think you're right, many DIY projects looked dreadful.

Pseu: Agree, it is a way to stand out, like garish colours.

materfamilias: Your knitting is sublime, Danai s so right!

lagatta: your last two words, pare down- I should carve on my credit card. (Though I enjoy Vivienne Westwood I couldn't pull that off!

mardel: they love the piece but don't always think of how it looks on.

metscan: So many items do look cute on 20-somethings.

Nanflan: Love'applesseedling'- that would be a very young one!
greying pixie said…
It's interesting how 'craft' has been appropriated by the amateurs and I give an annual lecture on this very subject to MA students. From what I gather you put 'artisanal' above 'craft' and yet crafts have been categorized and respected since medieval times. The term 'masterpiece' comes from the piece of work that a craftsman would make in whatever craft he specialised as proof that he was worthy of a licence to practice his craft.

But I'm just showing off! I agree with you on the aesthetics of it all. Rather frumpy folksy ladies who do a bit of painting or pottery as a hobby. But they're harmless enough.

On the other hand, the local craft fair in my town is a wonderful affair, especially on the opening night. Full of local professional artists and craftspeople and believe me the women look stunning - unconventional but stunning.
lagatta à montréal said…
Artisan and craftsman, or craftsperson, mean exactly the same thing. French also has the feminine artisane (craftswoman). Sad that crafts have acquired such an unpleasant connotation.

I had the most unpleasant experience of being tempted to visit the appleseed's (odd spelling) site. The colours are hideous old-lady pasted and the styles are horrifically frumpy. I can't see the advantage over lines such as LLBean or Lands' End (other odd spelling).

Don't practical-minded younger people go more for the MEC sporty style?

And yes, this is a wonderful post. Also my major style challenge, as someone of a certain age and definitely not suburban (not that there is anything wrong with being so).

By the way, happy Earth Day, every one visiting Le Passage, thinking of paring down and less but better... J'adore les passages:
materfamilias said…
Aw thanks, Dana and Duchesse!
Unknown said…
Remember the advice:when going out check in the mirror and remove one thing. Maybe a scarf, or a bracelet. Seems the Artsies should follow this advice and remove one thing. But in their case I am thinking it might be more than one thing.
lady jicky said…
I agree, some women should not be allowed near a Craft show --- and some women should Never be allowed to go to a Harley convention -- have you seen them ? !!!!
sallymandy said…
I love this post, Duchesse. Thank you for categorizing the styles seen at a craft show. I know exactly what you mean, and I think your friend's reflection in the elevator was very insightful.

Thank you for suggesting I get a cute new purse to hold my keys. Yes, that's what I need. My spending hiatus. doesn't offically start until May 1.

I left you a special note in a post for Thursday. :)
Anonymous said…
Nothing ages like the craft fair look, IMO.

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