Folk Fashion

Music lovers dress the part, make up for lost time

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Flower crowns, neon tie dye, sparkly facepaint, flowy harem pants and Birkenstock sandals of every variety. Personal style knows no bounds at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

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Flower crowns, neon tie dye, sparkly facepaint, flowy harem pants and Birkenstock sandals of every variety. Personal style knows no bounds at the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

While fashion, in general, has taken a hit over the last three years — hello work-from-home sweatpants, goodbye stuffy office attire — festival fashion has been basically nonexistent. Aside from the beach, there are few places in regular life where bathing suits and barefeet pass for an acceptable outfit.

On Friday, festivalgoers appeared to be making up for lost time with a wide range of outfits carefully picked for their form and function. An outdoor summer festival with sun and rain in the forecast requires both, after all.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Crystal Kotelmach poses for a photo at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in Bird’s Hill Park on Friday, July 8, 2022. For Eva Wasney fashion story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Here are just a few of the inspired looks from the first full day of the folk fest:

Breanne Sytnyk and

Crystal Kotelmach

Years attending: 9 and 10, respectively

Coming from: Calgary and Winnipeg

How do you choose your outfits for the festival?

Crystal: We go to a lot of events and usually try to wear something that’s interesting and wild.

Breanne: Anything sparkly, glittery, we did temporary (flower) tattoos today; anything fairy-ish and surreal. We’ve always loved to dress up, it’s fun for us.

Before the festival, did you co-ordinate and talk about the outfits you were bringing?

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Crystal Kotelmach (left) and Breanne Sytnyk pose for a photo at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in Bird’s Hill Park on Friday, July 8, 2022. For Eva Wasney fashion story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Crystal: Not a ton, but yesterday we happened to match completely.

Breanne: Yeah, we were wearing all black and now we’re both (dressed) on the light side for the daytime. Especially when it’s hot, something light and breezy and colourful is nice.

Are these outfits you wear in everyday life?

Crystal: No, I’d say they’re mostly festival outfits. It’s a really creative atmosphere, so you can dress kind of differently.

Breanne: Before COVID, outfit planning used to be so exciting and creative for us. We hadn’t gotten to do that for a while so it’s pretty fun. It’s my No. 1 creative outlet.

Jayme Halbritter a.k.a Noodle

Years attending: 30

Coming from: Minneapolis

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Breanne Sytnyk poses for a photo at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in Bird’s Hill Park on Friday, July 8, 2022. For Eva Wasney fashion story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

What’s your process for putting together a summer festival outfit?

My nickname is Noodle, so I just kind of noodle around with what I have. I found this (shawl) at a thrift store, a girl gave me this (skirt). I went to Burning Man in 2008 and it was really hot and my girlfriend was like, ‘You should wear one of my skirts’… and so I wore a brown skirt very similar to this and I wore it for like five days. I loved it, it was so freeing.

Does dressing like this get you noticed by other people when you’re in the crowd?

I don’t really do it for that reason, but as a consequence it draws attention. Women really seem to notice it and will say something about it — a couple guys will for sure, but it’s mostly women. It’s fun to show people that you can be fun and playful and get outside the norm.

I notice you’ve got a belt with a bunch of pouches, is that a functional item?

Yeah, it’s got a thing for your big cellphone and there’s a pouch here with finger puppets… and some essential oils, a microphone, some fruit. It just gives me pockets.

Is festival wear different from your everyday wear?

Yeah, now is the most normal I’ve ever been. I grew up as a skateboarder, like a skate punk, and then I got into metal. I’ve never quite been in the (mainstream), but now it’s more, like shorts and a T-shirt and a trucker hat.

Jayme Halbritter in a thrift store shawl and a gifted skirt. He first tried a skirt at Burning Man in 2008: ‘I loved it, it was so freeing.’ He gets more comments from women than men.

Jessi Madill and Lowen

Years attending: 10 and one, respectively

Talk to me about the matching outfits today and the inspiration behind them.

Jessi: I love vintage fashion and I actually collect a lot of vintage fashion, so I was like, let’s see what we have that matches. We had these cotton dresses and we also put flowers in our hair. I know, it’s kind of silly, but I love it.

Do you guys often do matching outfits when you go out to festivals?

Jessi: Yeah, we usually match when we go to KidsFest or something like that.

It’s a nice warm day today, what else are you thinking about when you’re dressing for a festival?

Jessi: Light, cotton, but something that still covers. Hats, she does have a hat but she’s not wearing it and we just try to be in the shade as much as possible. And we dunk our heads in the water tap as much as possible.

Photos by MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Jessi Madill and Lowen, 7, in cotton dresses with flowers in their hair. Madill says she checked her closet ‘to see what we have that matches.’

And Lowen, what’s your favourite part of your outfit?

Lowen: My hair and my dress.

It’s your first festival, what’s been the best part so far?

Lowen: I don’t really know, everything I think.

Salli Portnoy and Joanne Mills

Years attending: more than 25 for both

Coming from: Australia and Winnipeg

What are your priorities when you’re getting dressed to come to the festival?

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Joanne Mills (left) and Salli Portnoy pose for a photo at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in Bird’s Hill Park on Friday, July 8, 2022. For Eva Wasney fashion story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Salli: Comfort and of course I’ve gotta look good — everything’s gotta match.

Joanne: Sort of the same, tomorrow I won’t worry about it so much if it’s going to rain.

Are these clothes that you wear specifically at folk fest or is this your regular attire?

Salli: I match wherever I go, this is my regular attire.

What’s your favourite thing about your outfit?

Salli: My shoes are comfortable, my dress is cool.

Joanne: Her son is in a band called Coffin in Australia and he makes things like this (pointing to Salli’s wooden and metal sickle necklace).

Salli: He toured around the States and Canada last month and when he was going to the airport he took it off and gave it to me for good luck, so that’s the favourite thing I’m wearing.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Salli Portnoy (centre) and her friend Joanne Mills pose for a photo at the Winnipeg Folk Fest in Bird’s Hill Park on Friday, July 8, 2022. For Eva Wasney fashion story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

Malakai Cummings

Years attending: Two

Coming from: Winnipeg

What were you thinking about when you were getting dressed to come here?

Honestly, I just kind of throw on whatever I think looks cool, I guess, but for folk fest I kind of have a different vibe for it. I have more open clothes and the overalls were because it was kind of hot today and so I wanted to feel a bit of a breeze. And more sleeveless stuff and shorts.

And was the bandana something that you’re keeping yourself cool with as well?

Yeah, the back of my neck was getting kind of bothered from the heat, so the bandana helped so I’m excited about that.

Is fashion something that you’re generally interested in?

Malakai Cummings in overalls for ventilation and a scarf to ward off a burn. His fashion motto is, ‘Let it rock.’

Sometimes no, sometimes yes, but when I ended up getting compliments about what I’m wearing when I’m just kind of throwing it on, that kind of makes me more into it.

Is the festival an environment where you feel free to explore and try different styles?

I was thinking about that before I left the campground today and I was like, ‘I don’t know if people are gonna say anything or this is maybe too much,’ but just the vibe of folk fest and just from the people that I’ve been seeing, I just kind of stopped worrying about that and let it rock.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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