Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lady in Red

Recently, as many of you are aware, I've been struggling some. I got sick and can't seem to get well, no matter what I do. I have a chest full of gunk and  cough that keeps coming back. I will get better for a few days and go back to my regular routine and then BAM! I wake up with my cough back in full force. I'm sure the weather has something to do with it; over the past few weeks we've had temperatures in the mid 80s, temperatures in the low 20s, thunderstorms, snow, and hail. We have no idea how to dress from day to day and often have to change clothes between morning and afternoon due to enormous swings from cold to hot or vice versa. So, my fruit trees are most likely toast, and my allergies have been terrible. I know the cough has a big allergy component because it gets worse when I'm sorting through boxes of dusty old doll clothes, something I've been doing a lot of lately. It's just weird, though, because I don't usually get a cough with allergies.

So, anyway, I'm sitting here coughing as I type. Besides that, we did our taxes the other day and I had to file for the first time this year. I only made enough to have to file, but not enough to make it less painful! We lost our Child Tax Credit for our oldest because he turned 17, too. So between those things we are getting a way smaller return than usual and our first tuition payments for our son's university are due, and I feel worse than useless. I wanted to be able to contribute more now that we have college payments and instead I feel like I'm just costing the family money. To top it all off, while working on my computer really early this morning when I was still too sleepy I guess, I accidentally deleted about 40 of my eBay listings and will now have to redo them all!

Fortunately for me, I have some wonderful friends who always seem to know when to step in and send encouragement. The other day I got a note out of the blue from a friend telling me my re-designed stringing kits are beautiful. Then a college friend I haven't heard from in months texted me to see how I'm doing. And finally, a dear friend sent me an amazing gift: a Cissy head with some clothing! I decided to part out a doll who hasn't sold and start over with a new one.

Tagged dress in top photos, my dress in bottom photos.

The chemise and dress shown in The Cissy Files book.

Among the clothing my friend sent is almost certainly the puffed sleeve taffeta dress and pillbox hat from 1956. There are slight differences: the dress lost its tag and the ruching in the bodice along the way and the tulle is loosely draped over the hat rather than tightly wrapped around it. The original floral decorations are missing from the hat. A quick comparison with photos from The Cissy Files book shows a clear correlation between the construction of a tagged dress and my dress, and the pairing of the hat and dress together seems too much of a coincidence for them not to be the 1956 set. The lace Basic Cissy chemise is also shown. I used the photos of the original pieces to restore them. I call my Cissy the "Lady in Red". That's not very original, because it turns out there is a different Lady in Red Cissy made by the company in 1958! This is not that Cissy!

The red dress, as my friend pointed out, was clearly washed or cleaned at some point and ironed, and the tulle on the hat had become grayed with age and rather squashed. I steamed the dress and treated a couple tiny pinholes on one side of the skirt with Fray Check so they won't expand. To clean and reshape the hat I first soaked it in a mixture of lemon essential oil, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Then while it was still wet I placed it on a bald Cissy head and set it on the sun to dry. The sun and the lemon and peroxide gently bleached the hat and the head re-shaped it.

Reshaping and bleaching the hat

The head I used, as well as a wonderful Tosca Cissy wig and some Cissy accessories and clothes are all available in my eBay store right now, so I hope you'll check. I absolutely have to clear out some of my gigantic stash of fabrics and clothes and doll parts so I can fit my new heat press into my office.

Cissy's lingerie

There is a repair to one arm.

She is marked ALEXANDER.

I will say I have been grateful throughout this restoration to have my large stash; I found all kinds of authentic Cissy pieces to dress this doll! The lace teddy, or chemise, is not tagged but is clearly the Basic Cissy lingerie that came on those dolls. The Basic Cissy just wore the chemise, stockings, shoes, and her "diamond" ring. I found all those in my stash as well as many other Cissy or Portrait pieces, such as the cameo necklace.

Cissy can sit and bend her knees.

You can see Cissy has a repair to one arm. This isn't too noticeable and doesn't show at all when she is dressed. Cissy is an infused plastic face doll and had the "tan" these dolls can get to both her face and eyes when she arrived. I was able to clean this off almost entirely. One of Cissy's knees isn't as tight as I would like but she can still pose and sit and stand alone (with balancing), so it's minor. This Cissy has a much less common brunette wig. Her wig is of average fullness. It needed styling, which I gave it, restoring it as closely as possible to its original curly flip style.

The finished doll

The dress had some pinholes.

I added a Mommy made crinoline.

To help hide the pinholes on one side of the skirt and a faint spot on the other side, I made a tulle stole in the style of several actual Cissy pieces. I just pinned this to the dress with a Madame Alexander cameo brooch on one side and a safety pin on the other, so it's entirely removable if you don't want it. I sewed matching floral decorations with glass beads and rhinestones to the stole and the hat. My stash yielded a Mommy-made buckram petticoat boldly trimmed with large red rickrack. I seemed perfect for this outfit, so I shortened it to fit. I restored some vintage Madame Alexander high heels with stretched-out elastic, shortening the elastic to fit and trimming them with red glass beads. I decided Cissy is on vacation in New Orleans, where I noticed women still dress to the nines, despite the heat. I posed Cissy in front of my French Provincial screen for her NOLA photoshoot!

Photos of some of the accessories used from The Cissy Files

Adding accessories is always the fun part, and I that's where I tend to go overboard. It would be much smarter financially to sell these pieces separately, but then that's so much less engaging! I will probably never realize the value of each of these individual accessories, but I enjoy creating outfits too much to skimp on my Cissys! And who ever accused me of being a financial genius anyway? I buy tons of big boxes of dolls and doll parts and clothes and mixed in with them I often find identifiable Madame Alexander pieces. These may have gone to Cissy or they may have belonged to the Jacqueline Portrait dolls, or even to other dolls, like Margaret. They also may have been sold as part of boxed accessory or outfit sets. At any rate, as you can see, I was able to find photos of the purse, lace mitt gloves, and cameo necklace and brooch I used for this doll, in The Cissy Files. Creole Beauty and Taffeta Scarlett from the early 1960s are just a couple dolls who wore these pieces.

I gave the hat new floral trimmings.

I am terribly pleased with this restoration. Cissy's various vintage flaws aren't obvious at all. She is the perfectly put-together fifties lady I would love to emulate. I had a lot of fun working on her and her elaborate costume reduced my boxes of stuff by several pieces. My friend's generosity will be an enormous help toward the tuition payments because she has allowed me to make so much more profit than I would have, too. Having a project that entirely captured my attention for several days allowed me to forget some of the things that have been weighing on me. You can find Cissy and many other wonderful dolls and accessories in my eBay and Etsy shops, so I hope you will check!

Cissy has a slight tan from her New Orleans vacation.

Her brunette wig is hard to find.

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