Thursday, August 31, 2017

Raving Beauty

Raving Beauty by Artisan
From the 1930s to the 1950s, which many refer to as the "Golden Age" of dolls, new, sturdier materials allowed girls to play with dolls much more safely and actively than the bisque and porcelain dolls of the previous generation. Doll and toy makers utilized composition and the new hard plastics to create large dolls sculpted to look like children. Little girls could be either a mother or a friend to their new doll, who looked and dressed just like them. When synthetic hair fibers were invented dolls could also have their hair "permed" and styled just like their little mommy's. Just after this era, miniature dolls and then adult-figure fashion dolls took over the market. Ordinary girl dolls were not to come back into fashion in any great way until the American Girl doll made her debut. This doll, Raving Beauty by Artisan, is typical of the original "American girl" doll type. This one dates to the early 1950s.

Raving Beauty is what is often referred to as a "grocery store" doll. Grocery Store dolls were made in smaller quantities by lesser-known manufacturers and sold for an economical price at grocery stores or local department stores. They were not quite as cheap as gas station or dime store dolls; these were middle-of-the-road dolls most girls ended up owning. Artisan released Raving Beauty as a more affordable option to compete with Ideal's Posie, Toni, and Betsy McCall; American Character's Sweet Sue; and Madame Alexander's Maggie and Margaret dolls. Raving Beauty does have a lovely face, almost identical to the Barry Baby doll face, but Beauty is unmarked and Barry Baby is marked with a number.

The doll before restoration

Her face needed paint.

Beauty arrived at my house needing the typical repairs: stringing, hair styling, cleaning, and paint touch-ups. I made all the necessary repairs and found a dress for her similar to what she would have worn. I painted over some chips on her face and re-blushed her cheeks and eyeshadow, but otherwise she is all original, with her factory painted and "real" lashes, eyes, and wig.

The face after re-painting.
I haven't worked on this doll before and I discovered she's rather hard to string. Something about the way her leg bars are attached doesn't let them get really tight. I am stringing just as her original bands were done and her legs were loose then too. I re-strung her twice using two different width elastics. She is able to pose and stand now but still she's more loose than I would prefer. I have learned over the years, however, that working against the doll's anatomy in stringing only leads to splits in the plastic, so I forced myself to declare her finished.

The restored doll

Like the Toni doll I restored a few months back, this doll had a lot of frizz and breakage to the ends of her hair. Most Raving Beauty dolls had really elaborate hairstyles, with Victory Rolls and a thousand hair pins. I could see this one was similar because her hair was oddly cut. It is really long on the sides, then short, then longer again in the back. I am fairly certain the long sides were pulled up on top of her head so that's what I did. I pinned the curls short to hide the fuzzy ends. When the doll first arrived and I washed her hair I was really impressed to see the true color. It's an unusual strawberry blond, or what you might call a true ginger, very light red. My cousins have four little boys who all have this color hair, but it's rare to see it on humans or dolls!

The styled ginger hair

I decided Beauty needed a really full crinoline so she would epitomize the fifties fashion, so I made one. It is white tulle trimmed with red middy braid, meant to peek out from under her skirt. Square dancing is a really big deal in Ohio, where I spent my elementary school years. Every country wedding has, or used to have, a big square dance afterward and on the weekends there are always big dances at the Legion or the Rural Hall. I desperately wanted one of the square dance dresses with the big fancy crinoline like this underneath! I am living vicariously through my dolls!

The crinoline

Raving Beauty turned out to be a very lovely girl, you might even say a "raving beauty"! She is a perfect addition to a Midcentury doll collection and a wonderful gift to show a child what an "American girl" doll was to begin with.

The finished doll

Speaking of American Girl dolls, I recently learned of a new charity called Madison's Hope intent on restoring and gifting those dolls to underprivileged or otherwise challenged girls. If you know of a child who would love but can't afford an American Girl doll please visit
As always, to buy Raving Beauty or any of my dolls please link to my shops from the Atelier Mandaline website.

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