TLC is an acronym collectors use which means ‘needs some tender loving care’. I received a large lot of doll’s clothes the other day which was chock full of TLC items. It must have been a rejects bag! Obviously with doll’s clothes, they’ve often been played with and handled roughly for years by children and they can end up with tears, holes, pen marks, frayed edges and lost buttons or pop fasteners.
Speed is of the essence my end, so I thought of this quick way of mending a frayed hem. It is also a good way of mending a small hole, without sewing on an unsightly patch. It even works beautifully on damaged chiffon or transparent fabrics. I have used it to successfully mend a tear in a lovely psychedelic 1971 Sindy blouse before.
Tools and materials
Feather or light weight, fusible (iron on) interfacing fabric
Wash and iron your item.
Snip a small strip or patch of interfacing fabric.
Touch the interfacing to feel the rougher side which has the glue and place it glue side down over the frayed area.
Iron on a medium heat for a few seconds
(my fabric has helpful instructions printed on and indicates 8 seconds).
You have a neat mend and you’ve saved a lovely piece from disintegrating in front of your eyes!
My super model for this week has been pink haired Space Fantasy Sindy (1985). She’s nicely designed with a heart shaped, vulcan hairline so that she can wear her hair up on top. A very popular doll with collectors. Quite a stand out in the line of brunettes and blondes.
Here she is in the “Quick Change” 1982 silver outfit (plus extra bag), which came out three years before Space Fantasy.
She brings back memories of Toya Willcox yelling “I don’t want to go to school” in a fabulous silver and black sci-fi inspired ensemble.
Delighted to see that she’s just released a new single called Sensational. A hopeful song for the children of the future, with a fab contemporary but 80s inspired music video.
Space Fantasy also shone this week when I dressed her up in the Jean Paul Gaultier style corset from Hasbro “Dream Ballet” 1991. It looks very pop star without the skirt!
And I love this pink polka dot “Cherry Pop” trouser suit (1984). The white braces, made from two linked loops are such a great twist.
I remember a pink polka dot blouse I wore to death in the 80s. Loved it.
Would love to hear about your space inspired outfits from the 80s.
p.s on the metallic space theme, a Facebook friend just shared this… Brigitte Bardot in 1968 “Contact !”
Check out all ShimmyShim’s Sindy clothes for sale in the shop. When you buy 3 or more up to £10 each, you get 15% off.
Here are a few of my favourite accessories added to the eBay shop in the last few days. This black top hat is a real stand out piece – nicely designed and good quality with a solid, durable feel. The slight curve along the edge really distinguishes is. I’d love to see it as part of a circus ringmaster’s outfit.
These white ‘Aladdin’ or arabic style, pointy slippers are a very unusual colour. I’ve found pale blue ones and gold coloured ones as part of Disney outfits, but still unable to identify these. They are a perfect fit on the Barbie you see above wearing the top hat. I think she is a Fashionista.
This little ‘Happiness’ slogan bag brings Christmas cracker surprise joy. Love the lo-fi quality – check the ‘MADE IN’ up the right way on one side, and ‘HONG KONG’ upside down on the other side.
Would love an ID on the shoes and the top hat if you have any knowledge, please share. The top hat also fits Mary Quant Daisy doll nicely.
This looks rainbow enough for me – and very much how Sindy, Barbie and Ken might look, if they formed a dance troupe and synchronised like Pans People.
Here are Pans People, silver booted in 1970
and rainbow in 1973
The crumpled silver foil on the Pepperland set reminds me of the lo-fi dioramas in Sindy knitting pattern illustrations.
Might catch Pepperland this week at Sadlers Wells dance theatre in London’s Islington. A show “visually on the cusp of Carnaby Street and Woodstock” and a “tribute to of one of the best-selling albums of all time: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
The Mod era seems to be all the rage again – Carnaby Street is also the theme for this year’s Fashion Doll Festival (second weekend of June this year at the V&A Museum of Childhood).
NOTE 21 March – went to see Pepperland yesterday. It was nice but I wouldn’t especially recommend it. The costumes were good but no surprises – all was revealed in the trailer. Likewise the set was the tinfoil around the edge and didn’t change. The music was a rough re-make of the Beatles album which was a bit disappointing. However, soundwise the warpish sound of a theremin was a highlight and we could see it being played from our lofty location in the second circle. The dance seemed technically amazing with a slightly floppy style (can’t think of any other way to describe it). Some fab bits which are hard to describe. Good but I wouldn’t shout about it from the rooftops.
This week I designed and made up a couple of fashion doll T-shirts. This is the classic example, modelled by Barbie friend Deluxe Quick Curl Christie.
The slogan is “One of the Girls”.
And this is a cap sleeve version on 80s Sindy.
It’s made from one piece of cloth, which was an idea suggested by Ruth Gadsby, as a simple solution to avoid fiddly shoulder seams. On such a small scale, the fabric is strong enough to hold its shape on the shoulders, which creates something of a Star Trek look. I was quite excited about the style as I haven’t see one quite like it. For a human sized garment I wonder if you could create the same effect with something like neoprene fabric.
The first time I made up a T-shirt it went a bit skewiff, with the hem wavy and the sleeves (intended to be the classic shape) too wide.
So, a few problems resolved with help and advice from Sindy collectors (thanks if any of you read this). I prevented the hems waving by placing a sheet of tissue paper under the fabric as I sewed it. This also gives you something to hold onto, so that you can manoeuvre the fabric left and right as it runs under the machine foot.
The sleeves are impossible to sew in using the traditional method I learnt at school (make the sleeve into a tube and then slot it into the armhole). But manageable if you sew the open sleeve into the shoulder before the side seam is closed.
The stretch on the badly made sleeves had been caused by cutting the sleeve along the ‘wale’ of the weft knit jersey fabric, rather than across it, in line with the weft or ‘course’.
I tacked all the seams for my second attempt (tack a long way from the edge to avoid machining over the tacking). But for the third attempt, with speed in mind, I used pins to hold the seams together (pin at right angles to the seam and not too close). Only the very tight neck edge needed tacking. And I might try glueing that next time using a Prym Aqua Glue Marker (florescent when applied, dries clear and washes out).
Despite all my best efforts at speed I timed the making at over an hour with the press studs still to be sewn on!
Hopefully, to make these cost effective I’ll get faster with practice.
I ordered some Prym mini rivet press studs and started to experiment with them. They seem a bit tricky and the instructions aren’t clear. I crushed one set of studs because I’d used a wrong attachment (they’re not marked). Studs were skidding across the floor like meddlesome tiddly winks 😉 . I’ve put them aside for today as I’m not happy with the size either – 8mm is a touch too wide for a fashion doll T-shirt.
I’m currently working on the packaging for these T-shirts. Display cards are part of the whole experience of collecting and enjoying micro size fashion and I love them! Also, of course there must be a code number. 001 and 002?!
Advice ranges from ‘never wash anything if you want to preserve it’ to ‘use Colour Catcher sheets’ when drying.
One member suggested a crib sheet for easy future reference and I thought OK why not here on the blog where it’s easy to post a comment, and the content is searchable outside of Facebook.
I’m sure a historian wouldn’t dream of washing any antique or vintage item and would handle everything with white gloves and store in archival packing. So this article is aimed at collectors and enthusiasts who want to display, handle and play with their collection.
If you have any tips you can share, please comment below.
To kill off any uninvited six legged friends that could be lurking in your newly acquired doll’s clothes, I recommend putting them into the deep freeze for a few days.
The freezer needs to be at least -17˚C.
Place the clothes DRY, in a sealed bag and leave them in there for 4 days.
Avoid handling them when you first take them out of the freezer – just take the bag out and leave it for a short time to warm up.
Once they’re out of the freezer, you might want to remove any bits clinging onto the clothes such as cat or dog hairs. A plastic tray and a handheld vacuum cleaner are really useful – just pull off the detritus and vacuum it up.
Do not wash!
There are certain items that really do get completely ruined if you wash them. If you have specific experience of this for particular items of clothing, please describe in the comments section below.
60s and 70s synthetics seem very susceptible to fading. I found that Zing A Ding (1973) faded badly where I had scrubbed it to try and remove a stain – just made it much worse.
Sindy Funtime swimsuit fades too.
As does the deep blue Sweet Swimmer (1964).
Vintage felt is not colour fast.
Velvet will be ruined if washed – the pile will stick up in the wrong direction. An alternative is to steam clean with the steam setting on your iron. I have found I could iron cotton velvet on the highest setting.
1960s and 1970s pop fasteners can often rust and this rust can spread into the surround fabric and stain it. So you may prefer not to wash any clothing with these. Rust seems to develop with dampness though, so possibly this could be avoided by drying the item efficiently after washing.
For some white items with stubborn stains, a soak in water and white vinegar can really help shift the stain. If you soak in vinegar and place in the sun, this can actually disappear some stains (you may need to repeat a few times). Note that this treatment will degrade the fabric as acid from the vinegar is eating into the fabric as well as the stain.
Hand wash in cool water with a mild detergent.
I have a Candy washing machine, which has a ‘machine hand wash’ (if that makes sense) and for robust items I use that successfully. An exception to this can be if you have a really badly stained item that you’d consider useless if not washed. I had some success with a pretty pink ‘Crown Colony’ Sindy sized dress set which I ran through a 90˚ wash.
Add special sheets to the wash.
A popular brand is Dylon Colour Catcher sheets.
According to Dylon these “act like a magnet, removing loose dyes and dirt during the washing process.”
Wash different colours separately – for example, all yellows together, all reds together.
Use a special bag for delicates. Some people use a pillow case, but I bought a specially made delicates bag from Wilko which I like. I put anything with small buttons or parts which could come loose in one of these. They also help to protect the paint on pop studs.
Remove trims and ribbons before washing if they are a different colour.
Ribbons can be much less dye fast than fabric, especially vintage 60s and 70s type.
RUST I have just read a tip from a person who successfully removed a rust stain from a purple and check, Sindy Fashion Girl dress.
Cut a lime in half. Put it in a plastic or crockery container of water and soak the item for a few days.
Do not use a tumble dryer – it could melt clothes or shrink them.
Put out to dry immediately in an airy, warm place. This avoids any mouldiness and rusting of poppers.
I saw this ‘flat shelf’ drying stand the other day at a friend’s house, which would work very well for drying doll clothes.Place net fabric across each shelf to stop little clothes dropping through the gaps.
Lay out clothes on special sheets which attract dirt and dyes.
A popular brand is Dylon Colour Catcher sheets.
Be careful that dye is not ‘sucked’ out of the item by a anything absorbent underneath (which could be a downside of the sheets mentioned above). Avoid drying bright colours on tissue paper for example.
Make sure no clothes of different colours touch each other.
Ironing and pressing
TEST, TEST and TEST again. Delicate nylon lace will shrivel the moment your iron’s temperature tips over the low melting point. Place the tip of the iron on a hem on the inside to test.
I’ve found real wool can take a good bit of heat and even some steam, but still, test first.
Rather than ironing 70s trousers flat on the front and back, fold them so that they have a crease down the front to create an authentic 70s look.
Avoid creating a flat look when you iron skirts and the bottom of dresses. Iron them carefully so that you never create a fold in the fabric. This way they hang nicely.
Press plastic items under heavy books, rather than trying to iron them. This works well for Sindy’s “Shopping in the Rain” raincoat and headscarf.
You will need to leave them to press for some time though. I’m not sure what the minimum time would be, but I did this with a headscarf and left it for a few weeks.
I have managed to iron a plastic raincoat by placing a layer of thick paper towel over the top.
Watch out for any printed, ‘plasticy’ imagery on the front of T-shirts. This applies more to later doll’s clothes than vintage Sindy but good to know. Iron around the image otherwise it will melt off.
Try a (human size) ‘sleeve ironing board‘. It is much smaller than a full size ironing board at around 10cm wide and great for doll’s clothes. You can rest it on top of your regular ironing board.
Post wash and storage
After washing, does your item still have a mouldy smell?
Take a large spoonful of cat litter, put it in a muslin bag and place the item of clothing in a sealed plastic bag, with the cat litter pouch. The cat litter is designed to absorb odours and will ‘pull’ the smell out of the clothing. It is a bit dusty so you might need to brush the clothes down later.
Sunshine can help, but too much can fade bright colours.
Use moth balls or related products to protect from clothes moths. These days they don’t have such a bad smell as they used to.
I recently discovered Rentokil Moth Papers which last for 6 months, don’t smell and can be cut into smaller strips (to save on expense). They’re really good for poking underneath clothing on dolls you want to display.
To store, you can of course, hang your Sindy doll clothes inside one of her own wardrobes, or on a Sindy clothes rail.
Many collectors like to put each outfit together in a sealed and labelled, airtight plastic bag.
Store flat if bagged, to prevent them rumpling up.
Keep out of direct sunlight.
Keep away from damp.
Don’t store in a cold or humid room, especially near a wall (as condensation can collect between the wall and the storage box). Even a regular indoor room or cupboard can be humid. I live in a an old Victorian terrace and the cupboards get rather humid and mould can suddenly appear. So I keep all the doll clothes in the airiest place in my home that I possibly can.
If you collect doll’s clothes, you may have stumbled across ‘Faerie Glen Wear Made in England’ doll clothes. They’re very distinctive outfits and after a while you spot them at a glance just by the style and design. But they often come with intact labels for an easy ID.
This is a typical example – slightly frumpy shape, striking 70s floral print and lurid trim.
Googling doesn’t always come up trumps (tip – try Bing sometimes – Google is not the only search engine!). Searching for “Faerie Glen doll clothes”, I hit a wall of pinterest, eBay and Etsy links and not much else. But take a breath, drag your eyes away from attention grabbing Mod outfits and try one last time with a new search term. Bingo! A page from “British Dolls of the 1960s” by Susan Brewer delivers a cup cake size story…
“Hook and Franks Ltd used the trademark Faerie Glen on their dolls as well as on their extensive range of dolls’ clothes.”
Apparently the company was founded by a lady called Daisy Franks and her daughter Peggy.
“…who later became a presenter of the popular television show Blue Peter.”
According to a filmed interview in the 1960s, their company had a staff of 350 and turned out 5,000 tiny outfits per day!
Watch the British Pathé archived film of the interview. It’s absolutely stellar. I love the design studio / factory which appears to be someone’s living room, artfully draped with cloth and looking more like a shop window display. Peggy looks very ‘Sindy’ in her plimsolls, playing table tennis at the start of the film. She was very sporty and “represented England in every table tennis championship since the [Second World] war”.
According to Susan Brewer in her book “Collecting Classic Girls’ Toys”, Faerie Glen did very well with children’s dressing up clothes too.
I’m definitely a fan of Faerie Glen. There’s something a bit awkward about the designs which adds to their charm. That kind of ‘ugly beautiful’ that’s nice when it’s consigned to history and you can look back on it a bit wistfully.
The outfits are very much improved in quality if you swap the hook and loop fastener (which tends to be very sloppily sewn on) for pop fasteners.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been captivated by this TV series by VICE – presented by Hailey Gates. If it had cliffhangers I would probably have binge watched the whole box set back-to-back. Luckily it doesn’t, but it’s still a white knuckle ride.
It’s as much a travel series as a fashion show. Grass roots, rather than snobbish safari.
Hailey takes you right to the front line, literally: in the Palestine episode (Series 1 episode 5), she interviews a young man who describes the invisible boundary at the end of his road, marked only by a shadow. If he traversed it he would be shot. Hailey interviews the lively spirits and businesses who strive to push up through the concrete weight of curfew and constriction in Gaza and the West Bank: The Speed Sisters who dress-up-to-the-nines in glossy lipstick and wrap around shades whilst screeching down a drift racing track. The fashion designer whose search for local female catwalk models is repeatedly thwarted by worried parents, until finally one single model is available for a shoot and she’s never posed before but carries it off with aplomb. And the high street store stocked full of racy underwear for newly wed brides.
What’s so fascinating is how essential fashion is. Every person makes a choice, or has a choice imposed upon them by someone else. What we choose is so influenced by our society. And when different cultures exist in the same society there can be these conflicts of choice. Hailey sits on a French beach with a woman wearing a burkini, only a few feet from topless sun bathers. I would have been very confused on that beach. I don’t see myself as especially conformist, but I’ve been on a beach in Morocco and felt under-dressed and I’ve been at a swimming pool in the UK and felt over-dressed.
If Hailey made an episode in the UK, would she interview Stephen Gough? He is a British activist nicknamed the Naked Rambler who believes in the freedom to be naked in public. He refuses to conform to a getting dressed code. In a 2015 BBC interview, he guessed that he’s been arrested around 40 times for being naked in public. Since 2006, his stubborn fashion statement has dealt him many years in UK prisons, with a large chunk of the time served in solitary confinement.
Last week a big box (with a very hefty customs fee slapped on it) arrived from America. It’s been a lot of fun going through the grubby pile of treasures and restoring them to their former glory with the help of beams of sunlight, puffs of steam and stitches in time.
Francie, Christie and Julia
One star of the collection, with a rewarding story, is Julia – the 3rd dark skinned Barbie doll ever released. The first was ‘colored Francie’ aka ‘black Francie’ in 1966. She had caucasian features, but was made with brown plastic as opposed to pink. The second is formally known as the first. She is known as the first, because her features were African-American, and she was the full Barbie height. Called Christie, she was released in 1968. She had features based on the actress Diahann Carroll , an African American film star. So then, Julia was third – released in 1969. She had the same face as Christie and was named after the exciting new, lead TV role, played by Diahann Carroll in the show of the same name: Julia.
Here is a comparison with Christie and Julia. You can see they share the same face mould.
Bizarrely, although Mattel state that Julia is a likeness of Carroll  – a real person, they state on another page  that their 1980s release (titled unequivocally “Black Barbie”) was the first African-American Barbie. I guess it’s all in a name. She wasn’t Barbie before, because she was named Christie. Or something.
People.com has a useful article showing Barbie through the ages and including black dolls in many of the decades. Mattel’s 80s “Black Barbie” is shown here. She does look rather like her caucasian peer but with brown skin colour and afro hair.
Julia the doll
Julia came dressed in her nursing uniform which is a dainty little number with lots of tiny buttons, a metal badge (some sort of nursing gadget?) and a tiny perching nurses cap.
Julia doll 1970
Julia the TV show 1968-71
Once I’d identified who came first in the Mattel family tree, I was keen to ‘meet’ the real Diahann Carroll. I was immediately totally engaged by her. She’s a woman who has something to say – in an astute, well considered way. Her stage and screen presence is beautiful. Playing Julia, a young professional woman and mother, she portrayed a captivating combination of light touch charm and absolute confidence. I watched the first episode of Julia totally gripped. It was so good – absolutely stands up with today’s best shows. I’d love to watch a few more but sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an official DVD release. One interesting aspect is the very young child co-stars who have leading roles. This is so much less common today and so captivating.
Here is a quote from the show which reflects the language and values of the era, as well as the creativity of the show’s writers:
Julia Baker: Did they tell you I’m colored?
Dr. Chegley: What color are you?
Julia Baker: Wh-hy, I’m Negro.
Dr. Chegley: Have you always been a Negro, or are you just trying to be fashionable?
Carroll’s interview about the criticisms of the show (and how she and the producer handled them) is fascinating. It was a truly ground-breaking series, made at a time when black characters rarely had screen space for much more than ‘waitress’ or ‘maidservant’. Watch the first video to hear her in-depth analysis, and an episode of Julia in the second video. As with the criticisms and arguments over the first black Barbie and what she should look like, the show simply couldn’t be all things to all people. As Carroll states – it wasn’t a documentary, it was entertainment.
Finally, just check out those eyelashes!
See Mattel notes on this page https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-hollywood-dolls/julia-doll-n5017
I also reshot several vintage hand made outfits using her as a model because they looked a bit frumpy on Mini Sindy (1965). Here’s Mini looking like Angela Merkel (who I’m sure is not frumpy by nature but doesn’t wear in a twin set that well).
Compared to Pretty Pose.
However, Mini looks fetching in a bit of turquoise.
The (possibly) Pretty Pose Sindy would be quite rare as she was only made during 1975 and only sold in the UK. I bought her from a collector. I had no idea what price to sell her at so I decided to experiment with a reverse auction. She’s currently still for sale, although she’s such a good model I’ve been tempted to end the listing.
I would be interested to see your pictures of Pretty Pose. If you’d like to share your own Pretty Pose photos, please drop me a line.
Fingers and Toes
p.s forgot to mention the fingers and toes. They’re more detailed than later Sindy dolls with creases marked on the finger joints and little nails.
I’m working as fast as I can to spruce and dress a large lot of Sindys that I bought from another collector back in February. I need to get them up, on show and ready to ship. This involves a fair amount of work including running up to Bunnings (our local hardware store) to fetch Sindy size boxes from their bumper box recycling crate.
Rummaging is another large part of the job. I have various doll clothes packed in boxes and bags. They’re organised by type, rather than year. So skirts in one box, day dresses in another. And so on. This is useful for photography and picking things out to assemble as a styled photographic set, but less useful for putting together the original sets favoured by collectors. I had a tiny piece of white rope in a compartment of one of my bits boxes. And it was the key to this whole outfit for Beach Party Sindy.
I suddenly remembered the other components of the outfit – they were squirrelled away in about 6 different hidey holes. The jeans I hadn’t really studied before (and therefore remembered) but I was thrilled to find a pair in the box labelled TROUSERS. They’re quite intriguing, with a red stitch design printed onto them.
The sun visor is so cool and reminds me of various House of Flora designs.
I start by identifying the doll with the help of the Petra Dolls website and other delving around. Once I’ve established the year as close as I can, I try to find a matching outfit. And as any Sindy collector will know, the best place for an outfit ID is Our Sindy Museum This doll is quite unusual as she has dark, straight hair. In case you’re wondering about the yellow lips: it’s a symptom of age in some of the dolls. Some collectors do a great job of painting new make up on with acrylic paint.
Beach Party Sindy was sold within an hour. I was rather sorry to see this one go. On the other hand it’s good to keep the dolls circulating so lots of people can enjoy them. Having said that, if I could build up a collection and then start a real life museum one day that would be great fun all round. I created a museum for a day last year. Perhaps a museum for a week would be the next step. Watch this space…
No is categorically the answer. Big feet are not monstrous. If you imagine a human version of a Barbie doll, and that human version has the same tiny bent feet, they would be like the tiny broken and bound ‘Lotus feet’ of millions of Chinese women living between the 16th and 20th centuries. That is monstrous!
The practice of foot binding was endemic in China and there are still living women with bound feet today.
But how much of the enduring practice was about beauty versus ugliness? And how much was about social conformity? Some historical records indicate the initial practice was a about the beauty of ballet shaped feet:
…the practice is likely to have originated from the time of the 10th-century Emperor Li Yu… [He] created a six-foot tall golden lotus decorated with precious stones and pearls, and asked his concubine Yao Niang… to bind her feet in white silk into the shape of the crescent moon, and perform a ballet-like dance on the points of her feet on the lotus. Yao Niang’s dance was said to be so graceful that others sought to imitate her. The binding of feet was then replicated by other upper-class women and the practice spread.
But a primary reason millions of women imposed this on their young daughters, time and time again, was because this act of social conformity ensured their daughters’ social acceptability as potential wives. Being married into a new family was the primary way to survive and thrive. Ideals of beauty and social conformity seem to fuse together. The most ‘beautiful’ woman was able to marry the richest man who would ensure a long, secure life with plenty of children. So people competed to be the most beautiful, which in a strange way meant a competition to be the most broken.
The competitive element can cause an ideal to become an extreme. I’ll make my waist smaller than yours, by wearing this tight corset and then I’ll be more attractive than you? Or I’ll pay for a breast enhancement and then I’ll look more striking than you? Or worse, I’ll look more acceptable to myself? Do human Barbie doll emulators such as Valeria Lukyanova and Rodrigo Alves actually suffer from body dysmorphic disorder? Does society suffer from body dysmorphic disorder?
It seems ironic at any rate that the Barbie lookalikes appeared so beautiful (according to current western ideals) before they had plastic surgery. In my eyes they now look ugly. I feel discomfited with their appearance. Strangely, although I enjoy dolls and find them fascinating and charming I don’t consider them beautiful. I associate true beauty with something fresher and more innocent – something less contrived. In terms of a person, I think it’s more about the experience of a person and joyful moments with them. The surface beauty of appearance is attractive and engaging, but not deeply satisfying.
One reason that Barbie dolls have small tiptoe feet is to fit easily into high heeled moulded plastic shoes. High heels being extremely popular, I guess there is a big customer demand for fashion dolls with heels. I do enjoy the look of heels. There’s something pleasing about the rounded shape of the shoe at the back, above the heel. And you can see more of the shoe – from all angles. But is that really attractive, or am I just culturally brain washed? I’ve given up on wearing them in any case – just too uncomfortable and impractical.
I do have a Mego doll that wears midi heels. They’re the ruby slippers worn by the character Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz story. The doll resembles Judy Garland circa 1939 and crucially the heels are articulated, allowing the foot to flex.
Strangely, one of the most recent and most popular Barbie dolls, Made to Move Barbie has fairly realistic body proportions… except for the miniscule feet. I wasn’t even able pose the doll in a free standing position for the photo. What a shame!
However, Mattel have made some large footed dolls – as I discovered when I unpacked my bumper 1996 box. I found Hula Hair Barbie and In-Line Skating Barbie. Rock on girls! Dance like no-one’s watching.
In yoga lessons, I’ve learned about the importance of connection with the ground. Whatever pose you do in yoga, it has be be earthed. You have to think about that and be aware of it, to achieve balance and release. So I vote for big feet. Ground connection, balance, release, stability. Big feet could be the foundation for a more stable society. I’m only half joking.
I recently acquired a large lot of Barbie dolls from 1996 with a few ’95s too. They are fab and I’ll introduce a few of them over the next few days. Queen of the bunch must be Angel Princess Barbie. Don’t worry about whether an Angel can also be a princess just think ***Double Whopper***.
She is a very practical Angel who can stow her wings. They reattach with a big white press stud fastener. I wonder how you would design a life size dress with same helter skelter style skirt. Perhaps you could make it with thin nylon piping. It’s very carnivalesque.
She is not to be outdone by her watery sister Bubbling Mermaid Barbie (just squeeze to make bubbles). Well that was the idea, but she’s lost part of her bubbly crown mechanism. I do love her seahorse earrings.
During a hunting spree, I found an egg toy. Coming up to Easter I put two and two together for an early learning Easter egg theme.
First discovery was this deeply pleasing Tomy egg box.
Which opens to reveal half a dozen hen size eggs.
I like the incongruity of the about to be eaten / looking forward to some slap up nosh, lip smacking yolky faced egg. But then there’s the sly egg and the doctor “say ahhhh” tonsils egg. So many good ones to choose from.
Each egg cracks open to reveal a second ‘press and squeak’ character. It’s very split personality. Russian dolls within dolls, egg people that contain other egg people.
A perfect mix of slightly strange and reassuringly familiar.
Next we have a set of four jolly pop up dinosaurs. They’re a bit more logical with large eggs containing teething reptile babies. Each can be up-popped by cracking the clever button challenge: press, slide, angle or twist.
Or press – to view evil Gargamel or Lazy Smurf in these blue Smurf eggs by Peyo.
As a kid, magic flying was one of my favourite fantasies. I read a lot of E.Nesbit books including The Phoenix and the Carpet. I loved to imagine a bird’s eye view and cool Peter Pan air rushing past my ears. It was an utterly free, yet totally safe world. A benevolent talisman carpet, genie, winged horse or unicorn (with unlimited powers and no will of its own) was always along for the ride.
Real life was different. There were adventures, but flying through the air was normally part of an accident. Animals had wills of their own.
My sister Jo had access to a very wilful pony called Major and she was allowed to take him out and ride him cross-country. She absolutely loved it and would go out to experience a rush of freedom and power. Without the magic protector though. Major had a nasty habit of bolting (running off out of control at break neck speed), so riding him must have been risky. It’s crazy to think of in these coddled days.
In about the same childhood era, Pedigree had on offer a horse toy with realistic proportions called the Dapple Grey.
If you couldn’t afford to buy a doll’s riding outfit, you could knit one.
A little later in 1992 Mattel issued Barbie’s Rosebud. Fairly realistic with a dash of long lashed fantasy. I like her – very pretty and more animated than Sindy’s horse. Although Dapple Grey has beautiful presence.
This 1998 design from Mattel had the best intentions of realism but fell slightly short with this stiff legged but captivating robotic result. It’s fun to play with: you hold the body and touch the hoofs to the floor. Two hoofs move forward by themselves and it feels like it’s walking. Hence the name Walking Beauty. The best thing about this model is that it neighs hysterically when you press its neck. It also has a foal called Kelly’s Pony.
Concurrently, Hasbro was riding high on the success of My Little Pony and into the second generation issue aka G2. It’s a recognisable pony shape but nuzzles for a full oxytocin release and appeals directly to the inner child.
At the time of their release, I really disliked My Little Pony – it just seemed like 10 teaspoons of sugar in a cup. But they’ve really grown on me. I recently saw a lame copy in a shop and noticed how far the design fell short. Take a look below – the face looks hard and emotionless. It takes time and skill to create appeal and cuteness. The copy cats put together individual ponyish parts (long curly hair, long eyelashes, cartoon form) but that wasn’t enough. The Hasbro models succeed on every level. They feel nice too. When you hold the little yellow Princess Celestia pony, it fits perfectly in your hand, like a pebble or a stone step shaped under thousands of footsteps. Smooth and pleasing.
If you have a sweet tooth you might enjoy this 2010 sugar candy treat from Mattel. It’s completely transparent and may as well be made from pure sugar.
Here is a craftsman in China, forming a sugar horse by hand.
Canter forward and today we have Monster High Fright Mares – empirically teenage in temperament and character, inspired by monster movies, sci-fi horror and thriller fiction. Perhaps the safer environment of children today leads to a need for wilder, more ‘dangerous’ toys? Love the packaging and copy writing “Bay Tidechaser: I unlive for the ocean and wind in my mane and the waves on my hoofs. I mean, is there anything better than a gallop on the beach at dawn?”
Valentine’s day is on the 14 February. So now is a good time to search out and reveal my (small) collection of heart themed fashion doll clothes.
Surprisingly hearts don’t feature much in either Barbie or Sindy fashion and I haven’t seen many good designs. However, my favourite outfit is really knockout: the 1983 “Loving You” Barbie skirt and bodice with puff sleeves (looks like a dress but it’s actually a set).
Fill the sleeves with a strip of white gauze to make them puff out.
Such a perfect confection. Sprinkles on fairy cake icing.
In a reverse mirror of the Loving You dress is, a rather horrible handmade dress I’ve dubbed the ‘shock frock’. It does have a certain appeal. Like an old threadbare teddy with one dangling eye. I might try and rescue it one day: a piece of ribbon around the waist to cover the wonky waist line, clean hems and gather the bottom of the sleeves to make them puff.
In the same vein, this gauzy skirt. It looks as though it’s part of a wedding dress. Unidentified.
Second favourite in my collection is a beige Sindy sweatshirt with 3 emblazoned hearts from the 1981 Sindy Separates collection.
Maybe a favourite because I’d love to wear a life size version of it. It reminds me of fashion label PPQ that my sister occasionally modelled for in the 90s when she was friends with the founder, Amy Molyneaux. They did a few things with sweatshirt fabric – can’t seem to find any examples online though.
I like that sleeve seam diagonal from neck to underarm. It makes a more rounded shoulder. It’s the three overlapping hearts that make the design brilliant. Just that simple overlap gives the graphic loads of character and animates it slightly.
Next up a summery number originally from a catalogue pack for fashion dolls (most likely Littlewoods).
This may be from the same pack?
This shape of dress – fitted bodice and flared skirt seems to be very fashionable at the moment. I have a lovely human sized one by Damsel in Distress available now on eBay in UK sizes 8, 10 and 14.
Not sure about these two. Probably Barbie but the one on the left has something of a MyScene look.
The hearts seem incidental on this pink Barbie Fashion Fun jumpsuit from 1984.
This is a little outfit for a Pippa 6 inch size doll. It’s part of the rather grandly named ‘Monaco Collection’. The pattern reminds me of sticky back plastic for kitchen tiles – but in a good way. It’s one of the pinafore and dress combinations that I wrote about in 70s Victoriana
And here are a few T-shirts which lack imagination really…
But might look good with a pair of cheeky shorts.
If you liked these, some feature in my Valentine themed ‘On the Rail’ print which is available as a Valentine card or a print in my shop.
Willy Wonka and Violet Beauregarde have teamed up to create this fantastic Jelly and Plastic Shoes board on Pinterest. As Mary Quant explains, a lot of the shoes are made simply by pouring chewing gum into a mould!
OK, only kidding. I created the board to go with the latest collection of ShimmyShim Pop Prints which feature 8 pairs of my collection of over 200 dolls shoes. Because they are all made of plastic, they are more like jelly shoes than any other ‘real’ adult sized shoe. I really love the aesthetic because of the vibrancy of the colours. The actual dolls shoes are less than an inch long, but the prints are 8 inches square, so you can see the ‘patina’ of the plastic on each one. Originally they must have been sculpted in clay and then cast and mass produced, so when you look closely you can see scrape marks.
Here is the vintage film in which Mary Quant describes inventing jelly boots. I’m not sure if she was the first to use the technology or not, but her designs are certainly recognised as being at the vanguard of design. And the style of those little ankle boots is to die for!
“You just pour a kind of chewing gum into a mould… They said more or less ‘come and play with our machinery’ and this is how we started making these shoes… Just like making jelly.”
It’s sad and worrying that most real plastic shoes (let alone dolls shoes) are not biodegradable, but they can be recycled and some are described as eco-friendly.
In 2011 there was a company called Figtree Design created these wonderful looking biodegradable slip-ons, but they seem to have disappeared now. What a shame! I look forward to seeing something like this in production again soon.
This Adidas shoe sounds promising: it is made from plastic collected from coastal areas in the Maldives (presumably it once polluted the sea).
So, it’s kind of ironic, but you can currently buy shoes that look wonderfully like dolls shoes. My favourite two companies are United Nude and Melissa.
I can’t actually wear these shoes as they hurt my feet too much, but I love looking at them and they look great on display.
Victoriana was a trend in the early 1970s for a nostalgic fashion harking back to the 1890 – 1900 period before the first world war. Perhaps it seemed like a more innocent period.
Gingham Victoriana prints in green, pink and blue available now in the shop Buy Now
Laura Ashley was one of the most famous designers producing Victoriana, and perhaps she associated it with a homely feeling of safety, as she had many great aunts who she remembered dressed in the old fashioned clothing during the early part of her childhood in the 1920s.
One of my favourite fashion doll outfits is Sindy’s Pinny Party – dated as a 1973 design by Our Sindy Museum. I really love it for the lurid colours. And it has a very synthetic twist on the Victoriana offered by Laura Ashley.
Also worth a look is this Pippa dress from the Monaco Collection (if you love this take a look at more on PippaDoll.net).
Laura Ashley loved natural fabrics and harmonised colours with a homely feel, which she actually designed to be worn at home. She demured,
“Most of our garments are to be worn at home. They’re not… for making a splash in a dramatic place.”
Whereas her Welsh counterpart, Mary Quant was famous for clothes which cut a dash with clashing colours and op art graphics.
1970s printed cotton dresses by Laura Ashley exhibited at the Fashion Museum, Bath, UK in 2013
Ashley on Quant:
“I’m the country one and she’s the town one. She’s marvellously urban… whereas I’ve got my roots in the country”.
Mary Quant mused:
“I think the point of fashion for women should be,
One: that you’re noticed.
Two: that you’re sexy and
Three: that you feel good.”
It’s almost as though, by accident, some of the Sindy doll outfits ended up being a crazy medley of Mary Quant and Laura Ashley designs. Take this orange and silver dress for example – it’s op art and Victoriana combined.
I was 4 years old in 1971 and my young aunt Fiona got married that year. There was a big church wedding with lots of bridesmaids and pageboys, and I was one of the bridesmaids. We all wore the most amazing matching Victoriana style patchwork dresses with lace trimmed sleeves. We kept the dress which I managed to fit into for a birthday party and I remember being fascinated with it although I didn’t quite understand it. I mostly wore jeans and T-shirts by that time so a long dress with ribbons, lace and glass buttons was quite a strange novelty. After that I really got into dress-up though and it became a favourite game to dig through my aunt’s old clothes which she kept in a big wicker hamper and prance around the garden in them with my sister and cousins.
It’s a shame there aren’t any colour photos as it had lovely shades of mauve in it. I think the glass buttons were a dark purple colour. [Note – might be able to get a photo from our photo album this weekend will post here if I do]
Another childhood memory I have is watching the 1970 UK film the Railway Children
And the American show Little House on the prairie (first aired 1974).
There are some dresses called ‘frontier patchwork’ which were designed by Mattel for the 6 inch Rock Flowers dolls in the early 70s which match this.