Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Madeline in Paris & Mandaline in Firenze

My Friend Becky as Madeline with the book that inspired her outfit.

A side view of the doll
Becky's original dress


The past few days have largely been devoted to the decidedly not creative act of doing laundry, as well as peach and blackberry picking and preservation. I did, however, manage to squeeze in this little project: My Friend Becky as Madeline!

Becky makes a perfect Madeline, so cute and with brushable, rather than yarn, hair. My daughter has a yarn-haired Madeline and has been eyeing this one greedily. I pointed out she could dress her own Becky as Madeline and she lost interest!

This Becky was quite grimy overall, so I washed her first in the washer and then with a Mr Clean eraser for the stubborn dirt. She has a few tiny spots here and there, such as one on her hairline and one on the back of her name, but they are very faint. Her original dress, which is included in the set, was tearing away where the apron is attached, so I resewed it and cleaned it and now it looks good as new!

I do enjoy these little design projects! I can design fashions without using much fabric! I made the pattern for the dress myself, combining pieces from various vintage Sasha and My Friend patterns to get the look I wanted. I used felt for the hat. The brim is double-layer felt that you can position with the brim up or down. If you've ever paid attention, Madeline's hat changes throughout the books; sometimes it has a flat brim and other times the brim is up-turned. If Sasha were to wear the dress you'd need to include bloomers or undies because it's so short, but since the My Friend dolls have their attached cloth "teddies" it's fine the way it is. The only thing I didn't do were the socks. The shoes, which are old Horsman stock but new from the package, are too snug to fit over socks. I had cleaned the doll and knew I was doing Madeline when I stumbled across the Madeline's Rescue book in new condition at the thrift store! It was a happy find!

I don't remember reading the Madeline books as a child. I was introduced to them (I think) when my oldest was a baby. At the time PBS had a Madeline series in cartoon on t.v. and he loved it. He was maybe 18 months old and he would watch Madeline and say "She's so pretty!", which we thought was hilarious, as Madeline is just a smiley face! My mother bought the whole series for us and we really enjoyed them.

One of my college majors was illustration, so I was immediately struck by how well and how accurately Paris is portrayed by Ludwig Bemelmans, despite his splashy illustrations. You can recognize the landmarks so well that the back of the books tell you where to go in Paris to find them. Bemelmans was not from France, I don't believe. I seem to remember he was an ex-patriot who came to Paris and fell in love with the city.

I know the feeling well. I have had my own love affair with the city of Firenze (what we call Florence), Italy. I traveled to Italy on a 2-week tour with my Latin class in high school. I remember that even from the air above the Venice airport, I felt I was coming home. As soon as I stepped off the plane I was sure I had arrived where I belong. I think the similarity of the climate and appearance of Italy and Northern California, where I was born, triggered this response. We traveled all over Italy, but my favorite place was Firenze, so when I had a chance to work there as an intern for the summer of 1995 I jumped at it! I still cherish that time. When we were married 14 years ago my husband promised to take me back someday and in 2009 he did! It was just as wonderful as I remember, and even better because I could share it with him!

Mandaline at San Lorenzo in Firenze, a place where I used to go on my lunch break.

Mandy & Jerry in Firenze

Back "home", with the Duomo and the city of Firenze behind me. This was taken in Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace

I have long thought I should write a Madeline-type book but set it in Firenze. However, recently Bemelmans grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, wrote a Madeline book set in Rome! So, I guess I'd better get on it! I bought the new book and we do like it. I love looking for the landmarks, as I'm more familiar with Rome than Paris, but the plot is sort of all over the place. That happens sometimes  in the original books, too, and Marciano did a great job keeping the feel and look of the first books. So, keep watching, I guess...maybe one day I'll write MANDALINE in Firenze!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVED Florence best too, I don't know why, it was just so peaceful and safe feeling, even as a single female traveler. Not too big not too small. Would love to go back with my best friend too!

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