First ShimmyShim T-shirt designs

First ShimmyShim fashion doll T-shirt designs

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”.

Barbie Christie Deluxe Quick Curl wears ShimmyShim T-shirt

And this is a cap sleeve version on 80s Sindy.

Sindy wears ShimmyShim T-shirt cap sleeves

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.

Doll T-shirt first attempt with transfer

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.

Machine sewing doll T-shirt side seams

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!

iPhone stop watch display

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 ūüėȬ†. 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.

Image result for vintage tiddly winks

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?!

Faerie Glen, ping pong and Blue Peter

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.

Faerie Glen wear Mad in England label

This is a typical example – slightly frumpy shape, striking 70s floral print and lurid trim.

Faerie Glen 1970s orange autumnal nylon dress

Shop Faerie Glen

And this beauty, complete with kipper tie!

Faerie Glen 1970s orange stripe kipper tie dress

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…

Faerie Glen 3 tier cocktail dress with new flowers

“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.”

[I see Ms Franks had a slot on Blue Peter in 1959 ‘dressing a doll’ ].

According to a filmed interview in the 1960s, their company had a staff of 350 and turned out 5,000 tiny outfits per day!

Faerie Glen purple pink floral dressing gown

Watch the British Path√© 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.

See a wonderful array of Faerie Glen on this terrific Pinterest board by Carolyn Cunneen

Diahann Carroll stars as the first African-American Barbie

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 [1], 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.

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 compare Christie
Julia
Christie, pictured on My Vintage Barbies website
Diahann Carroll with Sidney Poitier

Bizarrely, although Mattel state that Julia is a likeness of Carroll [1] – a real person, they state on another page [2] 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.

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970

SOLD

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 side view

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 portrait

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!

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 long lashes

[1]
See Mattel notes on this page https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-hollywood-dolls/julia-doll-n5017

“Julia TM & ¬© 1968, 2008 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Name and likeness of Diahann Carroll are used with her permission.”

And Doll Reference notes https://dollreference.com/julia_doll.html

“1127 Julia Twist ‘N Turn Doll (1969)
A black doll with light brown skin, brown eyes, short straight brown hair , uses the Christie head mold“.

[2]
See Mattel notes about who was the first Barbie https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/bill-greening/black-barbie-doll-r4468

“One cherished Barbie¬ģ doll is 1980’s Black Barbie¬ģ doll. Although Christie¬ģ premiered in 1968, this was the first African-American Barbie¬ģ.”

See also the ‘faces of Christie‘ through the ages.