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 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.

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

Diahann Carroll stars as the first African-American Barbie

[ UPDATE 5 October 2019
Sad to read the news this week that Diahann Carroll has died from breast cancer. Here is a short obituary in People.com. It was so interesting to research Diahann. I admired her thoughtful intelligence and assertiveness. I wonder if her Julia TV show might be released as a historical piece – it would be amazing to watch the whole set.]

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
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


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

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“.

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® doll is 1980’s Black Barbie® doll. Although Christie® premiered in 1968, this was the first African-American Barbie®.”

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

Feel that One Of A Kind special tingle OOAK?

I just had eBay feedback plus a lovely message from a customer. She was really happy because she spotted a surprise extra on the package I sent her: a Royal Mail 1st Class stamp featuring Sindy.

Very pleased with my purchase & for the Sindy stamp

Lovely dress, sent promptly and well packed - I especially liked the Sindy stamp

I wondered if anyone would notice the Sindy stamps – of course I hoped they would but you never know. It was just great to hear they did and were just a little bit thrilled. There’s something about a real letter with a real stamp these days. Gives you a bit of a tingle.

Royal Mail Sindy Weekender doll stamp

The only thing is, you can’t buy a single Sindy stamp – they come as part of a set of 10 Classic Toys stamps. So you might be lucky if you buy a Sindy item from ShimmyShim but I can’t promise : )

Royal Mail Classic Toys stamps 2017

I’ve been extremely busy for the past two weeks building my stand for ComicCon which will be at the Excel Centre in London Friday 25 to Sunday 27 May. Hopefully I’ll have time to write a bit more about it before the event. It’s a bit of an experiment where I’ll be showcasing some ‘Fashion Victim’ skeleton toys dressed in vintage clothes and vintage and preloved dolls. It will be interesting to see of the younger crowd like them. Hope so as I’ve spent hours working on the stand. It’s made of papier-mâché…

Meantime, I aim to list on eBay every day to keep plenty of lovely #microvintage stuff available.

This week I fished out some more cool handmade OOAK items from my collection. It is difficult to tell the difference between handmade dolls clothes and production line clothes but there are some clues. Handmade often have a bit more finishing on them whereas the factory made rarely finish the seams (and they tend to fray because of that). Hooks and eyes are generally not seen on factory made. They sometimes have thicker fabric that I imagine wouldn’t so easily go through factory machines quickly (on such a small item). Other idiosyncrasies are in the design and choice of fabric pattern. Sometimes the patterns are larger because the maker has used up fabric they bought for their own clothes, whereas the branded items will have used fabric chosen especially for the doll. And handmade doesn’t of course, always mean the item is strictly OOAK. There may be more than one made. But handmade usually means very unusual and a bit special.

Here are some of the examples (some are still available to buy in the shop).

Sindy in handmade black skirt and 70s flower power skirt
The black maxi skirt is handmade from thick nylon. The flower power skirt is probably factory made.

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

Sindy in handmade purple maxi skirts
Two handmade nylon 70s maxi skirts

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

I think this jacket, scarf and dress set was made by the same person as the nylon skirts above. Passion for purple! Look at the beautifully sewn buttonhole.

Hand finished button hole on doll jacket
SOLD – OOAK hand made suit jacket in purple with scarf and dress.

The jacket is even lined with matching fabric.

Lined doll jacket purple vintage fabric
SOLD – lined jacket

The vintage fabric is super: collaged squares with painterly brushstrokes.

Tunic dress with purple vintage fabric
SOLD – purple vintage fabric dress.

More thick fabric here in a zig-zag pattern. Notice some hand stitching on the trim.

Tweedy suit for doll hand made pink brown zig zag
SOLD zig zag tweedy 70s trouser suit with hat
ooak skinny trousers
SOLD – OOAK skinny trousers
mauve boucle doll suit
SOLD Handmade suit with head band in mauve boucle fabric.

This skirt is unidentified rather than handmade. I recognise the fabric design from other dolls clothes, which makes me suspect it is not handmade. Although I haven’t been able to identify it.

Red daisies on blue pattern maxi skirt
SOLD Maxi skirt probably production made

Suspect this is handmade if only because the fabric print design is quite large.

Sindy in a kaftan with Japanese style flowers
SOLD Crazy 70s kaftan which looks a bit like a kimono

This looks very 80s Pedigree in style, but I haven’t seen it identified as Sindy anywhere yet. Perhaps it is a Barbie outfit. Or is it a totally unique one-off design?

Sindy in silver 80s jumpsuit
Mystery jumpsuit

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

The puff sleeve of a beautifully finished green satin mini dress. The dress is so well finished that I can’t believe it was factory made. The seams are covered with green bias binding.

Detail of puff lace sleeve
SOLD Lace sleeve detail
Bias binding finishing on mini doll dress
Bias binding finishing on mini doll dress

Another mini dress still available in the shop. Check the natty white belt. Unidentified could be OOAK but has a factory feel.

Pink doll mod dress white belt
SOLD Mod dress with white belt.

And I will end with an item I decided I couldn’t bring myself to sell this week. It is of course a very well known Pedigree Outfit called ‘Coffee Date’. I just love it.

Sindy 1965 Coffee Party oufit 12S61
Sindy 1965 Coffee Party oufit #12S61