Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bikini Boudoir (Doll, That Is)

A life-sized boudoir doll

I spent this week cleaning up after the hectic last weekend and preparing for another guest. My husband has a business trip coming up, this time in Seattle, and I'm going along. I've never been there and I want to take advantage of his new job with its spectacular travel opportunities while I can. I hope to catch up with one of my college besties while we're in town as well. So, my mother-in-law is here to watch the children while we're away.

With all the end of school activities and testing and swim team practice and packing and laundry for our trip, not to mention the regular household and garden chores, it's hard to get much else done. I was able to finish one doll. This is the second life-sized doll ordered by one of my best clients.

My client sent me the vintage pattern I used. I finished the mermaid option a couple months ago. You can see that one here: As I described in my mermaid post, I had a lot of trouble with the doll's neck flopping backwards. I suggested felt or knit might work better, so the customer sent pink knit for this doll's body.

The head is less floppy with the knit fabric.

There are pros and cons to using knit. The head is much less floppy, although it still does have some tendency to fall backwards. The knit helps the doll pose more easily than the woven fabric. The wax colored face was more difficult with the knit fabric. I could color easily with crayons on the mermaid's woven fabric face, but the knit stretches with the pressure required to transfer wax, so the features have a fuzzier look.

I sewed the seams by hand.

Another issue I had with the knit was some puckering around the limb seams. This pattern instructs the seamstress to sew the body and limbs by machine and then sew them together by hand. Hand sewing is more difficult with the knit fabric. You have to make sure the stitches are placed very close together or the fabric will gape open as it stretches.

Hand stitching puckers the knit.

I wasn't totally thrilled with the look of the seams along the limbs. It isn't as smooth as I'd hoped. I solved the issue with the bikini outfit. I added sequin straps to the shoulders to hide the seams, a choker necklace to hide the neck seam, and I pulled the bikini bottom down over the hip seams.

A choker and straps hide the seams.

I'm pleased with this giant twist on the traditional boudoir doll. Boudoir dolls were usually large, but more in the 30 inch range, not four and a half feet! They had the same soft, pillow-like bodies, but usually they wore elaborate, decorative dresses that spread out to cover the bedspread. This bikini girl wears a skimpy costume, like lingerie. Lenci produced a boudoir doll called Fadette a bit like this. She was a "modern" 1920s woman, elegantly attenuated, with exaggeratedly long, thin limbs. Fadette wore pants, had cropped hair, and smoked a cigarette. She was a decided rejection of the traditional feminine and was wildly popular.

This bikini boudoir girl is a product of another era of such transformative change in women's roles. When this pattern was produced in the 1960s bikinis were new and shocking. Using lace, as my customer chose, accentuates this daring ensemble even more. Our lovely girl has the wild, teased hair and big, lush eyelashes of Brigitte Bardot, a far cry from the structured, shellac-finished hairdos and subdued makeup of the previous decade.

I've written before about the intertwined history of dolls and women and my love of studying feminine history through dolls. Women are traditionally the primary creative minds behind doll design. I don't think it's any accident the boudoir doll, denizen of the bedroom, would be the first to push the boundaries of acceptable attire for women. If sexuality can't be expressed in the bedroom, then where? These dolls were designed to provoke, as well as decorate, to educate as well as entertain. I find the history of these dolls as interesting as the restoration, and I hope you're inspired to find out more about the genre of dolls for the boudoir. Make sure to visit my store to find many finished dolls or order your own custom doll:

In addition to the doll making, everything has gone on as usual here recently. We are still waiting to hear from the specialist in regard to our son's surgery. The garden has developed a couple new holes, which I hope are the garter snake's habitat. We haven't seen him since he got rather too much attention for his liking the first day we relocated him. I am inclined to believe he's in there eating insects to his stomach's contentment, because it seems like everything jumped up in leaps and bounds this week. I think we will have a pepper and a couple tomatoes ready when we return, barring any disaster.

We are bringing in a respectable half cup or so of strawberries every day, not bad for a year-old garden. Next summer I hope we will start getting close to our old garden's production of a pint or two every day. The great thing about strawberry plants is they will put runners out to form new plants if you let them. I let them multiply as much as they like the first few years and then start pinching off the runners to increase fruit production once I have enough plants.

Our herbs are doing well enough to harvest daily. Today we smoked some salmon with our homegrown dill and for supper I'm baking chicken breasts topped with rosemary, basil, and oregano, wrapped in nitrate-free bacon, and brushed with olive oil. Bake these at 350 for 40 minutes to an hour and you have a delicious, easy meal.

I will try to take many beautiful photos of Seattle to share with you. Have a wonderful week!

Knit fabric makes the doll very poseable.

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