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.
[ 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 , 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 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.
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.
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 : )
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).