Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Margie's Baby Sister

Two Bisque Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls

I closed my last post with photos of the amazing handmade sister doll dresses I got in a lot of dolls and clothes. The dolls in the lot were dime store "dress me" sister dolls, worth much less than the Nancy Ann sisters shown below. I didn't have Nancy Ann sisters like these but I did have a bisque Storybook type doll and a baby.

These Nancy Ann sister dolls inspired my set.
The baby was an exciting addition to my inventory, because they are hard to come by for a reasonable price. My Nancy Ann book lists the value of a baby like mine, fully jointed with "star hands" and original clothes at around $400! My baby has her original gown but is missing her sweater, diaper, and booties, as well as any tags or boxes she might have had. Luckily, the mother who made the clothing knitted a tiny pink sweater that does fit her. My baby is the 3.5 inch size.

A Nancy Ann baby doll, all original

Nancy Ann baby types. This set has the 3.5 inch doll.

Nowadays, the Nancy Ann Storybook plastic nursery rhyme dolls are probably the best known of her dolls, besides the 8 inch Muffie, but Nancy Ann Abbott started by dressing Japanese-made porcelain and bisque wholesale dolls, using her skills as a costume designer. She worked in Hollywood as an actress during the silent movie era and then had become a studio designer before starting her doll design company. The first dolls had tags stating they were "styled by Nancy Ann." She then started having her own dolls produced. Her miniature baby dolls were extremely popular, but they didn't offer her enough expression to fully explore her obsession with costume design, so she moved on to produce the bisque Storybook dolls in several miniature sizes, from 5.5 to 7.5 inches.

Most of these were nursery rhyme or fairytale characters, but Nancy Ann had a Family Series, starting with #78, and starring a little girl named Margie Ann. Margie Ann had a Nanny or Mammy and baby set and a set of twins, but otherwise she doesn't seem to have had much family (I guess her parents were too busy producing all these babies to appear as dolls). She had several outfits of the type worn by children in her day, like a school dress and party dress. Today Margie Ann and the other Family Series dolls, like the Mammy and Nanny or Nurse with baby, is extremely rare and valuable. You can find pictures in the Photo Album section of The doll in this set is inspired by Margie Ann and named after her, but as you can see from her black painted ballet flats, she is not a Margie Ann doll. Margie Ann dolls have white painted high-button shoes.

A bisque Nancy Ann doll

The Nancy Ann mark

Margie Ann or not, this bisque doll did come to me with her baby sister, so it's not a stretch to imagine them as such. The baby is a later Nancy Ann baby doll, made to her specifications in the USA rather than Japan, and featuring the open "star hands." Earlier Nancy Ann babies have clenched fists. By this time the production of Nancy Ann's own baby dolls was streamlined and this doll is much less crude than others before. These dolls (from around 1940) are well-sculpted and prettily painted. The baby and Margie Ann have been restrung with durable elastic cord. I may have gotten the baby a little tight; her left leg wants to kick up or back. That will loosen up over time, however.

A 3.5 inch Nancy Ann baby doll

The doll is fully jointed.

The doll is marked.

A close up of the star hands

The baby has a rub in her hair paint.

When Margie Ann came to me she was wearing a pink tutu around her waist. I think it was probably her hat and that she was originally a pink bridesmaid as shown in the photo below, but it gave me the seed of the sister dolls idea, since a popular sister dolls outfit was the "Ballet Lesson" set. I made Margie Ann a lace leotard to wear under her tutu for her ballet class.

Margie's Ballet Outfit

I think the tutu was originally this bridesmaid hat.

As soon as I realize these exquisite outfits would fit Margie and her baby, I got to work on a sisters set. It's very appropriate, given Nancy Ann's love of fashion design, that her dolls should wear such lovely clothes. Here's Margie Ann's story:

Margie Ann is so proud to be a big sister! Mommy made them lots of matching outfits. On Sundays they wear their best sheer blue dresses, adorned with embroidery, pin tucks, and drawn thread work.

I made lace booties for the baby.

Each dress is elaborately embroidered.

Margie Ann helps Nanny by taking her sister for a walk to the park. They wear their lovely lattice print cotton dresses with cord trim and blanket-stitched finishing. Baby is so squirmy! It's hard to get her dressed!

The set includes a baby carriage.

Each doll wears handmade pantaloons.

Baby doesn't want to take a bath! She cries. Margie Ann puts her soft flannel robe on; maybe Baby is just cold.

Flannel robes

After their baths, Margie Ann and Baby put on their gowns. Since it's a chilly night they wear cozy sweaters over their gowns to keep warm.

The sweaters are hand knitted.

When it's bedtime Margie Ann lies down with Baby to help her fall asleep. Nanny says she just doesn't know how she would manage without Margie Ann's help!

The baby gown is original to the doll.
Once I've made such a big set I don't like to just throw everything in a bag, so I decided to package the dolls in a mini hat box I saved. I thought about how to customize it, and I thought silhouettes of Margie and her sister would be perfect. The box is just the right size to hold everything, and it's appropriate, since Nancy Ann often packaged her baby doll sets in hat boxes. I just cut the silhouettes out of construction paper and photo copied them onto card stock. I noticed Nancy Ann's hat boxes had a large satin bow accent, so I thought something like that would be nice. I found some braid trim that matches and applied it.

If you're a certain age you have probably always heard of doll collectors, and collector dolls, but you might not be aware that is the result of a brilliant ploy by Nancy Ann, who encouraged girls to "collect" all the dolls in a series. She pioneered the idea! So if you have a doll collection today, you have Nancy Ann Abbott to thank for that. You can find this set and many others in my Atelier Mandaline stores on Etsy and eBay.

Cutting the silhouettes

Braid trim accents the box.

The base is signed.

The box holds everything for storage.

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