Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cissette, Southern Belle

I've spent a lazy day today, just sort of meandering from chore to chore without accomplishing much. I guess I've been reading too many Daphne Du Maurier novels in which the heroine, despite never being employed, always has a team of servants to keep house for her. No such luck for me, not that I've over-worked myself today! At least I accomplished a lot yesterday.

The doll's knees bend.

She is marked with the logo.
I was fortunate enough recently to come across a doll I've never seen before: a bent-knee, non-walker Cissette with unusual fancy hair rolled into Princess Leia type buns at her ears. The doll was being sold nude for re-stringing. Whenever I see a doll I haven't seen before I always try to pick it up if it's not too expensive, because in my line of work there aren't many dolls I haven't seen and it usually means they're rare. As I suspected, my research turned up the information this is a very rare Cissette, #1184 and #1185, Southern Belle of the Miniature Portrait series. Madame Alexander has made "Southern Girl", "Southern Belle", and "Scarlett O'Hara" dolls almost from the company's inception, but this particular doll was made with a red sash in 1970-71 and with a green sash in 1971-72 only. Today she's quite difficult to obtain.

A reference photo from my Alexander book.

This was a lucky find, too, because there's nothing really wrong with the doll at all. She needed re-stringing, and there are a couple tiny red spots on the underside of her face where it looks like her cheek paint might have smeared a bit in the factory. This is not visible unless you are really searching for it, so I left it alone. This particular Cissette body is quite rare in itself, as it is a transitional body bridging the first "walking" Cissettes (which never really walk very well) and the straight leg, strung Cissettes of the 1970s through the present day. When you re-string this doll it's easy to see why the body wasn't used for long; if you get the stringing tight enough to pose the doll and stand her up the legs, without a walker mechanism to stabilize the hips, pull inward so the doll's ankles touch and even cross. That, along with the bending knees, makes it hard to stand the doll up without a stand. You can prop her up and if you balance her carefully with one foot in front of the other you can get her to stand alone, but she's really a doll who needs a stand. It's not a defect of this individual doll; it's just how she's made.

The necklace was tarnished.

Once I had the doll strung I got on eBay to try to find her dress and found out the same seller had it listed. It turned out, the seller's aunt has a huge doll collection which, for some reason, she took all apart and packed in separate boxes. As the boxes are unpacked various accessories turn up. I asked the seller for all he could find of this doll's original outfit and he very kindly obliged, turning up everything but her hat and shoes. He even found her tiny necklace and panty hose! The necklace needed polishing, the pantaloons have a rust mark from the stand, and the white dress is uniformly darkened from age to an off-white, but all in all the outfit was in good enough shape I could see it would not be too difficult to get the doll back to excellent condition.

I polished her necklace with buffing wax and got it looking better, although it doesn't look new by any means. I cleaned her dress and pantaloons, gave her a newer Cissette crinoline to wear under the one attached to her dress so the skirt looks like a hoop skirt, and gave her Alexander shoes with clear Lucite heels. One of the heels isn't glued on exactly right, but it's just a factory flaw. I did try to match the mat to the original as exactly as possible, except I didn't add a ribbon because I didn't have any to match the dress sash, which is how it would have been. I also gave Cissette a plastic fan that opens and closes from a fashion doll of the same era. She never had a fan in reality, but it seemed so appropriate! Now Southern Belle displays as near-mint, and her age is only seen on close inspection.

The back of the pantaloons have rust stains.

I gave Cissette a fashion doll fan.

The hat is hand-beaded with glass beads and Swarovski crystals.

I added another slip to look like a hoop skirt.

Besides her rarity, this doll is just really beautiful. Her unique hairstyle is perfect, save for a couple flyways here and there. You can see her wig cap in spots where the hair is pulled very tight, but she obviously came this way from the factory. Southern Belle has the big, heavy eye makeup of the desirable late 1960's "Margot" Cissette and the original Cissette face mold. Her sleep eyes are the same moss green as her satin sash. This particular example is notable for her bright, high-color face. I doubt she was ever displayed for long, or at least if she was she didn't get any sun. Her costume is a very obvious reference to the Gone with the Wind movie, as it's a near-exact replica. Madame Alexander relished both classical literature and the popular novels of the day, such as the Daphne Du Maurier I've been reading, and often produced portrait dolls of the characters exactly as they appeared in the movie. I've really enjoyed restoring this doll and feel privileged to have her in my collection, at least until she moves to her new home! My display case, thankfully, has become quite empty of late as dolls have sold, so I am working hard to re-fill it. This doll and many other ones are available in my Atelier Mandaline, Etsy store and I have more in my eBay Atelier Mandaline store, so I do hope you will check.

The unusual hairstyle is intact.

Her eyes match the dress sash.

She can be propped up to stand.

The dress is tagged.

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