Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

The color plate from the December 1871 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book described a new doll outfit to be made in time for Christmas. The caption read: “This plate is intended as a guide for dressing a Christmas doll. Any color of ribbon can be used to suit the taste of the owner… We give it printed in blue and pink. Our young friends can dress their dolls in whatever colors will suit them best; we merely give the idea.”

Every doll enjoys getting all decked out in her finest and what could be more enjoyable for a collector than a doll with a wardrobe of her own. The fun of having a doll with extra bits and pieces, from simple child-made dresses to elaborate seamstress creations added a new dimension to doll play for children of the past and that same fun is experienced by those of us collecting today.

A German fashion doll from the 1870s has a wardrobe comprised of both store-bought and home-made clothing. Her shoes, water-proofed raincoat, and hair comb are commercially made.
The Young Ladies’ Journal, from December 1, 1882 included suggestions for clothing, accessories and furniture for dolly’s use.

Holiday time is often associated with the hope of receiving a new doll, but for girls of the Victorian and Edwardian periods the holiday often meant receiving a new wardrobe for a treasured doll. Before the holiday dolly might disappear for a while only to reappear under the tree along with her new possessions. Those long-ago children must have experienced the same thrill that today’s collector does when finding that perfect piece of clothing or a new, period accessory for one of our dolls.

The December 1900 issue of The Designer magazine included a three-page spread on clothing for lady, child and baby dolls.
The 21″ Kestner 171 has survived the years with her trunk full of contemporary clothing. The pink gingham dress she is wearing closely resembles a Butterick pattern of the era. She has a Sailor dress, a coat with scarf, hat & mittens, a Velvet hat, flannel pajamas, a sweater, stockings, and several undergarments as well as pink leather shoes, cream satin shoes and black leather shoes.

The mid-19th century saw a burgeoning world of printed periodicals aimed at the new middle-class woman. The magazines were an ideal means of disseminating new fashion concepts and offering patterns for the home sewer. Following advice and patterns from these women’s magazines many loving mothers, sisters and aunts were able to sew holiday gifts in preparation for the special children in their lives.

This 8.5″ doll was given to a little girl for Christmas in 1899. Her older sister made the extra clothing for the doll.
Clothing information for dressing Christmas dolls was available year after year. Here we see pages from; Delineator, December 1904, The Ladies’ home Journal, December 1907, which included clothing options for Teddy Bears as well as dolls, and The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1914.
 A 9″ Kestner mold 143 has a trunk filled with clothing. Her wardrobe from the 1910s includes over 20 dresses, plus coats, jackets, hats, undergarments and sleepwear. The level of sewing, ranges from very simple and faltering, to much more accomplished. Perhaps this is a testament to the improving needle skills of the child that owned her. She is pictured wearing the commercially made outfit which she was probably purchased in.

Today these period patterns and fashion illustrations are an invaluable resource when determining original clothing as well as making reproduction clothing. They show the proper style details for each year as well as giving us a great deal of information about fabrics and trims, allowing us to enjoy Christmas past, present and future as we collect, costume and preserve our antique dolls.

This little poem published in 1909 in a book entitled The Christmas Collation names many of the articles of clothing dolly might enjoy this holiday, but I think you will find that the final sentiment expressed would be endorsed by any collector.

Author – Linda Edward

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