Posted in Dolls

by Ruby Lane

In the late 1810s a trend that would lead to the Apollo knot hairstyle began to take shape has height on the top of the hair arrangement started to become more accentuated. The portrait of the Lady in White Dress by Donát shows this emerging style as does the papier-mache doll shown above. The doll has the added benefit of having applied hair curls as part of her hair arrangement.

Among the many responsibilities of the Greek deity Apollo was that he was a giver of laws and one whose oracle was consulted for good advice before proceeding with new plans. In the world of western hair fashion of the 1820s through 30s the Apollo Knot hairstyle was law and any fashion forward thinking western woman was ready to take up the challenge of following such law. The papier- mâché dolls of the era emulated this look in its infinite configurations. 

The art of making items of papier-mâché goes back to ancient China and Japan where it was used for various ornamental objects. Papier- mâché objects can be created by using layers of paper glued and or varnished to stick together, these malleable layers can be placed over a dimensional form which has been coated with a release agent such as oil. Another method is to use a compound made of shredded paper pulp mixed with various adhesives, and other ingredients such as vegetable fibers, which can then be pressed into a mold. By the early 16th century papier- mâché was coming into use in Europe for making religious icons. By the 17th century the toy makers of Germany were using papier-mâché for a variety of products including dolls.

By the early 19th century doll makers in Europe were using various proprietary formulas for their own papier- mâché dolls. Advances in plaster mold making helped raise production levels and makers such as Johann Daniel Kestner Jr. of Waltershausen, Thuringia strived for the highest possible quality for papier-mâché dolls which in turn led to a growing popularity for them among consumers. 

The so-called “Milliner’s Model style” of doll has a slim kid body and wooden limbs with flat-soled wooden painted slippers. This 18″ doll features a multi-strand braided knot.

These little dolls would have been beautiful and fun to play with and are now the delight of doll collectors as well as those who enjoy the history of fashion. The history of hair fashion is especially well recorded in the German papier-mâché dolls which have picked up the colloquial moniker of “milliner’s model type.” 

Although the term “milliner’s model” was made up by 20th century doll collectors and has no historic foundation in use, it does provide a recognizable means of discussing this particular type of doll. The term immediately calls to mind the dolls whose general characteristics include a papier-mâché shoulder-head made in a two- or three-part mold, on a slim waisted, elongated kid body which has wooden lower arms and legs with paper bands covering the joining of the wood limbs and the kid body. 

This 9″ tall doll has cascades of curls on the sides and a fairly simple pouf on the top of her head which is set off by a surrounding braid. Faint touches of gold highlight remain on her braid.
Variations of the Apollo Knot can be seen in these fashion plates from the late 1820s and the 1830s.

The examples of these dolls which date to the 1820s are resplendent in their elaborately engineered Apollo knot hairstyles. The hairstyle itself is characterized by its side curls and top-knot design. As is usually the case in the cycle of female fashion these designs were a reaction to the simple neo-classical designs of the Empire Period that preceded them.

 This 12″ doll wears her side curls closer to her head and has an almost heart-shaped knot which gives a bow-like effect. It is finished with a soft cluster of curls at the back of the head.

The Apollo knot began somewhat simply and became increasingly fanciful as the decades went on. The use of artificial hairpieces or horsehair forms often aided in the achievement of the design.  These styles continued to exaggerate in width and height until the late 1830s.

Fashion plates from the 183os show some of the more elaborate versions of the Apollo Knot, feathers, flowers and beads were added for evening wear.

As the 1840s dawned the popularity of the style began to wan in favor of simplified designs and fullness moved from the top of the head to the back and nape, but that is a tale for another day. Happily, for the collector of today, a most interesting and varied collection can be made simply by focusing on these miniature recorders of fashions follies and fantasies.

Increasing width is shown in the proportions of this doll’s coiffure, she also has soft painted curls on her forehead.

Author – Linda Edward

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One Response to “Hail Apollo”

  1. SpanishComb

    The Apollo knots used by real women were usually false and attached to small plain hair combs. The arrangement was often backed up and supported by very high Spanish style combs of horn or tortoiseshell.

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