Saturday, March 17, 2012

Very Vogue Jill: Tips for Dressing Vintage Fashion Dolls

This week I've been working on a Vogue Jill doll I bought recently. The listing on our house expired and we relisted and had new photos done, so everything went on hold for about a week so we could clean and landscape the yard. Jill had to wait for her debut, but finally she's done!

This Jill doll, from 1957, was conceived as a "big sister" doll for the Vogue Ginny dolls. Jill features high-heel feet, earrings, and jointed arms and legs with bending knees. This Jill is also a "walker" doll, meaning her head turns when you moves her legs. The doll arrived in excellent condition. She just needed a bath. A little bit of her wig was coming loose so I re-glued it. Her knees were a little stiff so I sprayed in a little WD-40 and now they are working really smoothly. The main problem Jill had was a wardrobe issue.

Jill arrived wearing a lovely crochet dress. It was sewn on her body and had no closures. She had a hat, purse, and gloves, all pretty much like new. Her necklace, which I think is original, is made of glass beads originally painted to look like pearls. The paint has largely worn away. Jill had the eye posts for her original earrings but the earrings were gone. I made new ones from glass beads that match the color of the necklace beads now pretty closely. She also came wearing her original buckram slip and panties.

One of her shoes was broken, so I repaired it using the same method as the Little Miss Revlon I wrote about earlier: I sewed it in place and brushed flexible acrylic modeling paste over the thread. This is like brushing on new plastic:

The finished repair looks pretty good, but now you have to slip the shoe on rather than fasten it.

So, Jill had a nice outfit, but she is a fashion doll, and as such, she is supposed to have an enviable wardrobe. I just had to make her some new clothes! Now, you have to be careful when dressing vintage dolls. Some collectors don't want a doll wearing any material that wasn't manufactured when the doll was produced. You also want the clothing to look authentic so it "matches" the doll.

In this case, I had several outfits from the same period which came on other dolls. I often buy lots of old dolls because there are one or two desirable dolls in the lot and then I'm left with "throwaway" dolls. I had a couple tourist costume dolls, some dresser dolls, and a few dime store fashion dolls produced between the 30s and 50s. All these dolls had issues ranging from missing wigs or limbs to serious costume trouble. One doll wore the gold satin skirt shown above. The bodice was rotting, however, and had some kind of weird gray fuzz growing out of it! I cut the skirt off the bodice and made a new bodice from the apron of another costume. The apron strings had rotted off, but the brocade is fine and it's a perfect match! I added a new stole made from vintage faux fur and a vintage rhinestone accent.

This white bridesmaid dress was stapled on its original doll, so I had to take it off and sew the bodice to the skirt and add closures. In fact, since none of the clothing had closures I used all my snaps and hook and eyes and now I'll have to make a trip to the fabric store!

I had another stapled-on dress with this hat and net overskirt. The "bodice" was just ribbon wrapped around the doll, so it wasn't really re-usable. I sewed a closure on the skirt so now it can be used either as an overskirt or a cape.

This European costume had a big chunk torn out of the skirt, so I had to sew in a new seam to take it in. It has a lot of holes and fraying spots, so I used a lot of Fray Check to stop any further fraying. I replaced some of the ribbon. Now it looks really cute. This is a good tip for a fast and inexpensive way to dress your old dolls. The main point is that nothing that is still usable should be thrown away. You can reuse wigs, eyes, clothes, and even arms and legs if they are still working in an otherwise damaged doll. Most often you will find the fabric in these old outfits has a musty odor. All these did, so I washed them by hand in cold water with dish soap and a tiny amount of chlorine bleach. I set them in front of an open window in the sun to dry and bleach away any stubborn spots. This method is gentle but really eliminates odors and stains.

Sometimes you have no choice but to sew a new outfit for your doll. I buy vintage patterns for fashion dolls, usually in a 20 inch size, and then I can copy them down for the smaller dolls. To get an authentic look, I use old fabrics. I get the old fabrics from estates, yard sales, eBay, and most often from my mother's attic. My mom is a chronic fabric-buyer, but doesn't often get around to sewing anything! Another way to get older fabrics is to buy clothing at thrift stores and cut them down for the doll. In this lot, I made two new outfits from older fabrics. I made a leotard with pants and cummerbund, which was an outfit some Jill, Jan, and Little Miss Revlon dolls came wearing. The hat has a fab 50s-looking beatnik button!

I also had a hand-crocheted sunhat and a weird hat or possibly skirt. It was too long to be a hat and too narrow for a skirt! I hemmed the back and put in elastic so Jill can wear it like those Velcro-closure towel cover ups. I made a Marilyn Monroe type swimsuit from an old jersey knit t-shirt. I designed the swimsuit myself and it fits great but is a bit hard to pull over Jill's hips (a common problem for all women, I guess!). I even threw in a working tiny whistle so Jill can be a lifeguard!

I am enjoying dressing the fashion dolls a bit too much, but it's so entertaining to  look around you with new eyes and imagine all the possibilities for tiny random items and broken bits of jewelry! To finish off, I made Jill a pair of stockings with garters to hold them up. I didn't make a bra because I don't have any fabric that matches her original panties, and most of her dresses are too tight to wear a bra under anyway.

My sister-in-law gave my son a gift in a lovely trophy case. It is black cardboard with a blue velvet lining and a magnet closure and it is just the right size for Jill, so I put her and her clothing in it. The velvet matches her sapphire-blue eyes perfectly!

Besides Jill, I have been replacing sleep eyes this week, and I took lots of photos to document the process. Keep watching for a tutorial in my next entry!

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