Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Babies and Ballerinas, Part Two


Kathy baby

Well, here I am again with a studio full of baby dolls and a ballerina here and there. It was reversed last year when I had mostly ballerinas with a couple babies thrown in. It makes a nice break from bride dolls, I will say! Not that I'm against bride dolls; it just gets old to restore the same sort of doll for weeks or months on end.

So far this week I've finished a Madame Alexander Maggie face 14 inch doll as a ballerina and a Madame Alexander drink and wet Kathy baby doll. I have a rare Effanbee Baby Button Nose in the works, as well as an Ideal Velvet Skin Baby Dreams, and a Tiny Tears with the karakul wig. So get ready for a bit of a baby boom! You can find Kathy in my store right now and many others coming soon, so please check: http://stores.ebay.com/atelier-mandaline.

Kathy before restoration

I think the Madame Alexander Kathy Baby face is one of the cutest baby faces. She always looks so happy! Kathy had many incarnations. She started as an all-vinyl molded hair baby. For a while she was produced with a wig glued on as "Bonnie" in the 11 inch size. She was made with the same face sculpt as "Kathy Cry Baby" with a squeaker and eyes that would tear as well as being a drink and wet doll. Kathy was made in many sizes. There was a different Madame Alexander toddler doll called "Kathleen" who is sometimes confused with Kathy Baby.

The Kathy doll when new.

This particular Kathy Baby, an 11 inch jointed vinyl drink and wet baby with no squeaker and hair rooted over the original molded hair, was sold in 1957 as a baby with layette set and in 1958 wearing a coat and dress outfit, and that's it. So this particular version is pretty hard to find!

Kathy, with refreshed paint

Kathy has tiny gray "freckles" on her forehead which I can't remove. You see these pretty often on the 1950s vinyl dolls. My mother's Posie doll got them on her face when my mom was still a girl and the doll was relatively new. It's the result of unstable vinyl produced at a time when companies were experimenting with new materials. Besides the freckles, Kathy's face paint had rubbed off and she was just very dirty. Her hair needed a wash and conditioning treatment and a new set as well. I gave her all these. Another 50s doll came with a vintage plastic barrette in her hair and I couldn't resist putting it in Kathy's hair. It reminds me of a bow my baby sister wore as an infant. She had a little ribbon bow with a Velcro fastener. My mom would pull her sparse hair up into a wisp of a ponytail on top of her head and stick the bow on it. The bow fell off all the time and my job was to to find it and put it back in her hair, something which kept me busy for many hours. I viewed my younger sisters rather as living dolls, at least until they grew old enough to argue and bite and stuff (my youngest sister was a fierce biter).

Kathy's bow barrette

Since Kathy is a vinyl doll I used acrylic paint and matte sealer to freshen up her paint. I have noticed the matte sealer isn't very matte on the vinyl dolls. It stays matte on hard plastic dolls but has a shinier finish on the vinyl. This may just be because old vinyl tends to get a sticky finish, especially here in our liquid Southern air. You can treat the vinyl sticky finish by rubbing a thin coat of baby powder over the vinyl and then tissuing it off with a facial tissue. You will have to repeat this every few years or so but it will restore a dry, matte finish to the vinyl.

Kathy has a couple spots I couldn't fully remove. There are matching greenish circles on her hips, most likely from a diaper that closed with metal snaps on each side. Someone wrote on her back with pen and I couldn't get the ink all the way off, although it's very faint.


Kathy, cleaned and restored

She poses well

I couldn't fully remove some pen marks on her back.
Greenish circles on both hips could not be removed.

The Alexander mark

I tried to give Kathy the sort of layette she would have had when new. She was wearing her untagged but original taffeta slip. I recognize it. Everything else from her original ensemble was lost. She would have come with a bottle and pacifier, I think. I was able to find a tiny vintage rattle for her. It really works!


I had a pink and white kimono wrap sweater and embroidered pants in my stash. These aren't tagged but fit well. The sweater is the type that doesn't have a closure and can be worn with the opening facing the back or front. The Madame Alexander Pinkie bonnet matches these and fits Kathy, though rather snugly, so I added it as well. Vintage Cinderella shoes complete the look.

Kathy's pink outfit



I had a vintage cloth diaper lined with plastic in my stash. I can remember my sisters wearing these over their cloth diapers. My mother called them "rubber pants". This is slightly big on Kathy but does fit.

Kathy's diaper
Kathy wore her original slip when she arrived. This is lace-trimmed taffeta, pretty enough to wear as a dress, really. It has square silver snaps. It needed cleaning and minor repairs where the fragile old material is starting to deteriorate.

Kathy's original taffeta slip
A Vogue dress I got from a lot of vintage clothes fits Kathy perfectly. It looks just right over her slip. I know Vogue had several baby dolls over the years, and it seems like Vogue and Madame Alexander were always competing and copying each other so this probably went to a same-size doll released around the same time. It had one snap pulled through so I sewed on a replacement. There's a faint gray mark on the front, but it's really tiny.

The Vogue dress fits perfectly.
The Vogue tag
I'm quite pleased with the way Kathy turned out. She is sturdy enough to be a good play doll even now. I know my daughter was absolutely obsessed with drink and wet baby dolls when she was about three or so. I bought her a bunch of vintage ones, and I still find them out occasionally in her room even though she's nearly 10! You can't buy them much anymore and the ones they do make now are electronic and very expensive. I like this simple, adorable doll. Her small size and cuddly soft vinyl is great for little ones as well. She still makes a beautiful display doll, however, especially for someone who remembers her fondly from childhood!

Maggie before restoration.
After Kathy, I took a Madame Alexander Maggie doll in hand and transformed her from the doll you see above to this:

Maggie restored as a ballerina

I do love the kind of restoration where I'm basically starting from scratch! It really makes it seem like "my" doll, and I can express my creativity to the utmost. Obviously, that was another long renovation, so I will continue Maggie Ballerina's story in her own post. Please keep reading for that!

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