Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cissy, Pretty In Pink

Cissy with her trunk of clothes.
Some of you may remember my D is for Dollikin post, which references my childhood obsession with Tasha Tudor's book, A is for Annabelle. Annabelle was "Grandmother's doll", kept in a box in the hall and who possessed an amazing wardrobe containing accessories and clothing for every letter of the alphabet and then some. I guess, looking at it now, Annabelle was a French fashion doll with every sort of accoutrements. Upon reading the book for the first time I went to each of my grandmothers and asked to see her doll like Annabelle. I was sure they must have such a doll in the attic somewhere! They just laughed at me. Children of the Depression, they'd had no such luxurious toys.

Cissy's ball gown.
For a reason not clear to me, I have tried for years to interest my own daughter in Annabelle and her story and to recreate the doll for her. Alas, she is not interested. This should make me happy, I suppose, as it saves a lot of money, but I would very much like to share a doll I once dreamed of owning with my own girl. So, I make a lot of trunk sets with the 1950s fashion dolls and offer them for sale. My hope is that some other mother or grandmother can share my dolls with her own special girl.

Cissy's trunk.
I think I really outdid myself on this set! It's by far the largest trunk set I've ever offered, with a really nice trunk to boot. I've been working on this set for months now. It has involved hours of research and extensive sewing and doll and clothing repair. The result is a really lovely doll with a wardrobe worthy of Annabelle herself.

Cissy before restoration
Several months ago I acquired a 1957 Cissy doll. I found a photo of  her on Vintage Doll Collector, but the item number is listed as unknown. This is definitely the same doll wearing the outfit shown on the Web site. Cissy needed re-stringing, which I performed, and a good cleaning. Her hair was in its original set with the original hairpins and some tiny nails in the top and sides of her head, which I speculate once attached a hat or spray of flowers to her hair. Her hair was so dirty, though, it was actually discolored, so I had to wash it and give it a new set. This Cissy has a very unusual hair color. It's not the typical Tosca, but it's also not the blond or brunette I've seen before. It's a beautiful mixture of golden blond and reddish blond unlike any Cissy doll I've worked on before. The color just won't photograph accurately; you must see it in person!

The original pins were still in her hair.

Cissy's face was in good shape, with just cleaning and some light paint touch-ups required. Her body had no splits, which is quite unusual. Her body paint was a mess, however. Someone had abused poor Cissy, gouging the paint on her breasts and drawing crude markings on her. I cleaned her and sanded and painted her body.

Cissy's body needed re-painting.
Cissy's just about perfect now. She has some very typical paint scraping in her joints. I've sealed this to try to prevent it some, but it is mostly inside the joints and not noticeable.

Cissy's original pink and white striped skirt and blouse set was very dirty and stained. I cleaned the ensemble very carefully and have been able to fade the stains considerably. You can still see a couple spots, and the lace on the bodice has yellowed from age where exposed to the light.

Cissy's original slip and panties have a lot of wear. Both have loose elastic, though they still stay up. The panties were once pink, I believe, but they have faded to off-white. These have some small holes, which I've treated with Fray Check so they won't get any worse. The slip has a stain which I managed to fade but couldn't remove completely. Cissy's original shoes were all stretched out. I was able to sew the elastic in the back and on the sides to tighten it up. Cissy's original hose have wear. Both had holes I had to sew up and the elastic on one is rotten.

Cissy in all-original vintage clothing.

Because of the delicate state of Cissy's original lingerie, I made her a new teddy of real silk dupioni, trimmed with ribbon and lace. I also made her lace garters with Czech glass bead trim. I also repaired some vintage heels for Cissy to wear. These are pink faux suede with a plaid lining, silver foil insoles, and are trimmed with velvet flowers, silver sequins, and beads. They have pink plastic heels. They had fallen apart but all the pieces were still there so I just glued them back together.

Cissy's new silk lingerie.

Cissy needed a full-length crinoline to wear under her ball gowns, so I sewed one for her using yards and yards of lace and tulle. I could probably have made a skirt for my daughter from all this yardage! It's unbelievably luxurious!

A while back I bought a Revlon doll who came with a box of clothing. One overskirt caught my eye immediately, because it looked too large for Revlon and had rhinestones I thought I recognized as Madame's. Sure enough, a little research showed this was the overskirt from Madame Beatrice's own portrait doll, the one made using the Cissy body. I've seen this piece alone sell for over $20!

Madame Alexander's portrait doll skirt.
The rest of the dress was missing, so I created a new ball gown to go with it using a vintage Cissy sewing pattern. I adapted it to echo the gown with the side-draped sash worn by many Cissys. I used duchess satin with a white organza overlay and a multi-layered organza skirt. This is another remarkably full gown, using yards and yards of fabric. The vintage organza has some faint spots here and there, but they are barely visible, and not at all visible with the overskirt. I did design the dress to be worn by itself, as well as with the Madame skirt, and trimmed the sides of the sash with vintage rhinestones.

A gown handmade from vintage fabrics.

I made Cissy a lovely faux fur stole, lined with pink satin and trimmed with a vintage pearl button, that she can wear with any of her dresses when she gets a chill. I also gave her long organza opera gloves. A while back I acquired a lot of accessories described as "un-tagged Cissy" things. I have spent hours researching each piece, and I have been able to identify some of these pieces as Madame Alexander. I believe the spray of flowers I have pinned in Cissy's hair were originally attached to the #2026 Cissy hat.

Cissy's pearl necklace is another piece I'm pretty sure is authentic Cissy. The pearls are pinkish and match her outfit perfectly and they fit Cissy exactly. The square clasp looks correct. Cissy also wears a vintage adjustable "pearl" ring and a lovely watch. The watch has a pink elastic band, with some slight fraying on one side. It is marked "ESCO" and "Germany" on the back. It is missing one faux ruby.

I made an enormous sinamay picture hat for Cissy. This is swathed in yards and yards of pink bias check ribbon, white net, and trimmed with vintage-look flowers and berries. My inspiration was a hat my grandmother owned in the 1940s. People used to tell me all the time they only came to church to see what hat my grandmother would wear that Sunday; she was famous for her hats! In an old photo she wears a huge picture hat in white trimmed with red cherries and I used that one as a model for this.

This hat is modeled after my grandmother's late 1940s hat.

I used the same ribbon to trim an old body butter container and made a matching hat box style purse for Cissy to carry. This is a good size and really opens and closes so you can store her jewelry or shoes in it.

Cissy's handmade purse

Some days, Cissy wants a more casual look, so she wears her modern Madame Alexander pink poodle bolero jacket with her felt skirt and hat and sleeveless blue gingham blouse.

The blouse was another piece in the untagged Cissy set. I couldn't find any photo of such a shirt, but it is extremely well-sewn and uses buttons very like those on the pink striped blouse. The blouse is actually sewn with all French seams and has a tiny bias-cut pocket in front! This is really beyond even Madame Alexander's technique; they usually just pinked the seams. I wonder if it is a vintage seamstress piece.

Cissy's gray skirt and matching hat are polyester felt, which I hand-dyed to give it the variegated look of wool felt. These won't get moth damage like wool felt, though! I added a real tiny pocket to the skirt and pinned the flower spray to it to mimic a green wool felt skirt Cissy wore in the 1950s. I embroidered the skirt's hem with a leaf and vine motif. Cissy accents her tiny waist with a vintage faux leather black belt. I gave Cissy silver plastic heels to wear with this ensemble. These will match her other clothes as well, and are less fragile than the other shoes, if you do want to let a child dress Cissy sometimes.

After one memorable night, Cissy awoke with a tattoo on her wrist. She immediately regretted it, and though I tried to remove it for her I couldn't quite get it all the way off. Just as with laser treatments, the tattoo has faded considerably, but it is still visible if you know where to look. Cissy usually wears her watch on this wrist to cover it. Oh well, even Cissy was young once!
As you can see, I've had a fabulous time putting this set together. This is my childhood dream doll, with my adult dream wardrobe! Someday I hope I have a trunk full of clothes like these! As always, please check my store to purchase this doll and many others:

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