How Do You Doll Show? (and a sermon/rant)

After showing in and attending doll shows for more than 20 years, you’d think I would be tired of going to them. Nope, I still love to attend. Living in the Washington, DC area has its doll perks. We have the Eastern National show in Gaithersburg 4 times each year. And one is coming up this weekend.

When I first became interested in doll collecting, there were many more doll shows. But, like most things, interest waxes and wanes. Also, changes to how we all buy stuff have greatly altered the marketplace. It can be compared to what has happened to record or book stores.

It’s a case of use it or lose it: support doll shows if you want them to continue to exist.

I do believe there is still a place for doll shows. Nothing can compare to the thrill of finding a special doll, being able to examine it, negotiate a price, and take it home the same day.

My first doll shows were overwhelming and I found myself wandering aimlessly. So, I decided to choose a specific thing to look for and study at the show. I try to pick one topic each time I go.

Here are some of the things I’ve checked out at doll shows:

  • The back of doll costumes (Most books and catalogs only show the front, which is frustrating for us doll costumers.)
  • Fashion doll hairstyles
  • German child doll costumes
  • Shoes and boots
  • Doll jewelry
  • What’s the priciest doll in the show, and why?
  • Doll furniture
  • Hats
  • Non-lace costume trim (i.e., what is handmade rickrack and how is it made?)
  • What color costume is predominant? (Hint: it’s not BLUE.)

But, I still sometimes enjoy wandering aimlessly and visiting with my doll friends.

Thinking about doll collecting and its future is something I do often. For a while now, doll collecting has been dominated by us batty old ladies, but we need to open our ranks if we are going to thrive. To attract new collectors we need to accept and include them and reach them where they live.

We can choose to adapt or we will disappear. We must embrace technology as a means of sharing our collections and stories. If we don’t have a big presence on the internet, no one new will find us.

Look at the book industry. People are still reading books, they are just doing it differently now. Those sellers who refused to change aren’t around any more. The music industry is still trying to figure out how they can prosper in the new marketplace. In both cases, they are finding new ways to make money and grow.

My daughter started her own fashion blog a few weeks ago and got over 100 views the first day. My blog’s biggest day was 48 views and usually averages around 10. In thinking about this phenomenon, I believe that the main reasons are that:

  1. There are loads of fashion blogs, so she has a built in audience. I have tried, but have been unable to find another active antique doll blog (tell me if you know of any). A few doll dealers have links to their blogs, but they are inactive. Modern doll collectors have lots of blogs, but we antiques are in a desert.
  2. Her audience is younger and more tech savvy. Some of my doll friends don’t follow my blog because they don’t know how or aren’t willing to accept the technology as part of their daily lives.
  3. She has a presence on many different social media sites. I’m still learning to negotiate them.
  4. Maybe she’s just more interesting.

The embroidery industry is enjoying a boom right now and I believe it is because they have a huge internet presence. I discovered my new passion for 17th century embroidery by searching on the internet and finding countless photos, resources and blogs.

So, support your local doll show, but also share your collections and stories. Tell your friends about my blog. Start your own blog. Put pictures of your dolls on Pinterest or share them on social media sites.

We enjoy studying the past through our dolls, but we cannot live in it.



How Do You Doll Show? (and a sermon/rant) — 6 Comments

  1. Really I couldn’t agree more. I frankly don’t understand why people over 50 resist using all of the wonderful resources available to us now! I too enjoy doll shows to touch see smell etc! But on line I can order doll parts (antique) from Germany. I bought my French Fashion from a seller in England. Fabulous!
    There is a no fee to sell doll & Teddy Bear site that I joined about 2 years ago. The goal was great, sell free, meet other collectors blog about what interests you….but near as I can tell its kind of dead in the water.
    As you said this hobby is graying and we do need to draw the young ones in. After all we were young not that long ago and loved our antique dolls, they are out there!

  2. I just found you while scrolling through FB posts. I credit the digital world with bring me back into the doll world, and costuming in particular. 15 years ago, there was more going on in the printed world, and the antique reproduction sector was going strong. (That is the only way I saw to acquire those beautiful French dolls I had fallen in love with). I went to shows, subscribed to magazines and took classes. All very expensive, involving traveling and shelling out “non-doll” money. So as the magazines stopped publishing and the classes dried up, I focused on costuming, on and off. Now FB, Pinterest and etc have allowed me to find those few others that share what seems like a decidedly private obsession!

    I live in San Antonio, and will be attending UFDC at least on the “open to the public” day. Although I am a member, I’m hoarding my cash, for a doll there or at Rowbears. Would love to meet up with any costumers that are attending. I know the good Mexican restaurants, for sure!

    • Hi Linda, I’m thrilled that you found my blog. I sadly just cancelled my hotel reservations for San Antonio a few days ago. Just can’t afford it right now. It was easier for me last year when convention was in DC. Have fun at convention! Emily

  3. Pingback: I told you so - My Doll's Trousseau

  4. I agree that we antique doll collectors need to adapt. I resisted the internet ( my husband is a computer geek and kept urging me to ” get online”) until my DH said “There are dolls online!” And off I went. I have bought most of my collection from online sources and one of my most recent treasures from an online auction streaming from France!!! When I told one of my older non computer savvy collecting friends she said ” Oh, you take chances, I could never do that”. I have used the internet because I prefer to save my money tomspend on dolls, not travel. But, there is absolutely NOTHING that can compare with a big dolls show, the sense of being a kid in a candy shop, all the people to talk to who share our love of antique dolls, the contacts we make for future friends and dealers and all the DOLLS to look at, drool over and buy and take it home cradled in our arms.i have been to Gaithersberg a few times and loved it. I am sorry to hear of shows being canceled. In my home town we once had a twice yearly doll show now we have none. And I am not sure what we can do about it.

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