Friday, July 12, 2013

Evolution of Elise

1950s Elise doll in a 1960s costume
Okay, I am just going to go ahead and say it. I hate walker dolls! They never really walked, even when new, and they are a giant pain in the rear to repair. Madame Alexander walkers are even worse, in my opinion. Their walkers didn't move their heads, so what was the point? The elaborate walking mechanisms tend to freeze up and damage the dolls, like my Margot ballerina, and when you try to re-string them you can't ever get the cord truly tight and even. Because the Madame dolls have heads strung on a band connected to a hook way up inside the head, it's really hard to get the new elastic through the head hook. I use a wire attached to the cord to pull it up through the hook. Even after re-stringing this doll's legs won't "walk", so she seems to have all the inner machinery for nothing. Her legs move fine otherwise, though.

Elise's head needed restringing.

Pulling the elastic through with wire
I got this lovely Elise doll in almost perfect condition a while back. All she needed was a little re-stringing. Someone had tried to string her using tiny regular rubber bands and hooks homemade from paper clips. As a result, when you would try to sit her up she would flop forward on her face! Her head and arms had the original thick rubber bands. I wished I could leave them because they're so hard to replace, but I could see the head was holding on by a thread. Since the head and leg bands had rotted I knew it would only be a matter of time before the arms went so I replaced that one too. When I took the legs off I found a tiny hairline crack starting inside one hip so I went ahead and epoxied it. Elise was mainly just dirty. I gave her a good washing and fixed her hair. The wig was still mainly in its original set, so I just cleaned and styled it.

The repaired hip
When it came time to dress Elise I got outbid on several of her original clothes, so I ordered a much cheaper 1960s Elise. It seems at that time someone at Madame Alexander decided everything was about the dress, not the doll. They started making very cheap, low-quality dolls but dressing them in beautiful clothes. You can see the drop in quality when you view the dolls side by side.

The 1950s and 1960s Elise dolls.
Besides having many fewer joints, the newer doll's plastic is very thin and the seams aren't even sanded down! As a result, you can find the 1960s Elise doll mint in her box for very little money. The box and clothes fit the older Elise perfectly. Since the newer Elise doll is so cheap I didn't feel very guilty about stealing her clothes! The shoes don't fit her though, so I had to make some new shoes. My daughter loves the 60s Elise, and has already dressed her as a ballerina and ensconced her in the bedroom, so no one need pity her. Now she wants extra clothes for that doll, too, so she'll have me working hard!

The 1960s Elise is much lower quality, with rough seams.
The wedding dress from the 1960s is just as lovely as the 50s ones. The skirt has layers and layers of sheer crystal pleats, and the lace bodice is copiously embroidered with pearls. The skirt is incredibly full, held out by the amazing crinoline with train. The veil billows with lengths of net and is attached to a flowered crown. Elise has her original stockings. I had to sew up one toe. Her blue garter is trimmed with a pink velvet flower and rhinestone. Elise has two "somethings blue"; she also carries a bouquet of blue flowers trimmed with ribbon streamers.

The 1960s dress is just as lovely as the earlier ones.

I had a pair of 15-inch size vintage high heel shoe bases of Lucite with gold flecks. I made new tops of vintage lace rosettes trimmed with gold sequins and pearl glass beads. I gave them plush insoles of real wool felt. I also made an adjustable "diamond" wedding ring for Elise's finger.
Elise displays so well now I'm a little jealous of the buyer! I would love to keep this beautiful doll! Besides Elise, I have new Cissy and Cissette trunk sets in the works. I have an amazingly full dress nearly finished for Cissy. My parents just called and announced they're coming to stay with us tomorrow, though, so now I have to go and get the house guest-ready! Keep checking back for Cissy and little Cissette in my store:

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