Diana, a lady of 1830, by Mirren Barrie is 12” tall and all cloth with a hardened face and hand painted features. Her wire armature enables her to stand unaided. She has embroidery floss hair and a detailed, early Victorian costume accessorized with hat, purse, umbrella and jewelry. Diana and her outfit are entirely sewn by hand.
She was made as the souvenir for the 25th anniversary of NIADA – the National Institute of American Doll Artists – in 1987.
Mirren Barrie was a native of Scotland who lived in Vermont in her later years. She was committed to historical authenticity in her costuming, and under Diana’s skirt is a hidden pocket which holds a piece of paper describing every article of her ensemble. The text reads:
DIANA: NIADA SOUVENIR DOLL FOR 1987, NIADA’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY
If you juggle the letters ‘NIADA’ you will find the name ‘DIANA’ so we have called this souvenir doll, Diana, and dressed her in NIADA’s colors for good measure. She wears a modified 1830’s dress in pure silk ribbon organza. Underwear was often embroidered, quilted and heavily starched. A number of petticoats were worn but Diana’s have been modified to a fancy chemise and one petticoat with a padded hem. This was dictated by the necessity to keep the waist as narrow as possible so the fewer layers in that area the better. Underpants will still not worn by adults but during the following decade they would become a part of the general underwear although there was much opposition and ridicule. They were considered unhealthy.
The emphasis in this costume is placed at the extremes – the hem and the neck and sleeves, all of which were extremely exaggerated, the sleeves being held out by either wire cages or feather pillows. Necks were very low, even to the extent of slipping off the points of the shoulders. Fashions began their careers at this time in the Courts of Britain and France. What the Court ladies wore filtered down through society’s stratas in varying degrees. In Britain, Queen Adelaide who was considered prudish would not allow ladies to attend her parties with very low necklines. Her husband, George IV, however liked ample displays of uncovered female so would not allow ladies to wear high necklines! A garment called a guimpe, rather like a high-necked camisole, was worn under the dress. Diana’s is of silk illusion veiling.
Fragile silk or satin shoes, flat-heeled and held on with ribbon ties round the ankle were often home-made. Ten years earlier in 1820 T. Hancock of Middlesex, England, invented the first elastic fabric with rubber in it. Elastic cloth or webbing as it was called, ultimately replaced the ribbon garters and the ribbon shoe ties. Shawls were very popular. Some were narrow and six yards long needing instruction as to how to drape these gracefully. Among others were the famous Paisley shawls made in the town of Paisley, Scotland. Shawls were to remain fashionable for most of the century.
Jewelry was profuse and heavy but worn only by married women – an indication of their husband’s affluence. The unmarried wore a single string of pearls. However, our Diana is an emancipated woman and wears what she likes! The settings are gold – silver was generally used for mourning jewelry. Accessories were many. Fans, muffs, reticules, parasols and handkerchiefs engaged the often gloved or mittened hands and together with extra long or full scarves and huge hats the 1830 lady must have found a windy day an interesting experience. Diana’s reticule is borrowed from a later period as it was felt to be a better compliment to her costume, – easier to make at a time when seconds were more precious than gold.
Hair styles were probably among the craziest. Hair was arranged in big sausages on either side 0of the face; the back hair was swept up smoothly and it, plus false braids, all oiled or lacquered into loops called Apollo’s Knots, were piled in fantasy on top of the head. Flowers, wheat, ribbons etc., were added. Hats had to be large to cover all this and trims were garish and copious. A silly, amusing and inventive period. 1823 saw E. Mackintosh of Britain patent the first practical process for waterproofing; 1807 B. Sanders of Birmingham, England invented the metal button formed of two disks locked by turning the edges and the shell button with a metal shank. In America Samuel Williston of E. Hampton, Mass, patented a machine to produce cloth covered buttons.
This doll is #194/201 (signed) Mirren Barrie NIADA 1987.
Highland Lassie is an Authentic Tartan Dressed Doll made by Pedigree. She is 13 3/4″ tall (35 cm) and has a soft vinyl head and arms, and rigid vinyl torso and legs. She is jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips. She has short blonde rooted hair, blue sleep eyes with somewhat stiff lashes, and painted lashes below each eye. She is marked MADE IN ENGLAND on the back of her head. She was likely made in the 1960s.
This doll was made in several different sizes. A boy doll, called Highland Laddie, was also made. He has molded hair.
This Highland Lassie wears a kilt and sash in Royal Stewart tartan. Her outfit is actually more of a traditional costume for men rather than women. In addition to the wool kilt (with pin) and sash, she wears a black felt jacket with decorative top stitching and brass stud details; a belt with buckle; a white taffeta blouse with pleated lace ruffle at the neck and cuffs; a faux fur sporran on a metal chain; socks that match the kilt; black vinyl shoes with brass stud detail; and a black taffeta tam with red pom pom. The bagpipes she carries have a bag made of the tartan fabric. Underneath she wears plaid panties that don’t quite match the tartan. Highland Lassie’s outfit is not removable, and the jacket cuffs are sewn together to help her hold the bagpipes.
The Highland Laddie dolls I have found online are dressed the same as Lassie, except that the style of the hat is different. I have also seen Highland Lassies with a red jacket instead of black. Most of the jackets I have seen are a simpler style than the one this doll wears.
Her original box is printed with a tartan plaid and has a label on one end identifying her.
In May of 2008 I attended the United Federation of Doll Club’s Region 14 Conference hosted by the Shaker Doll Club in Albany, NY. One of the best things about being a member of UFDC is the opportunity to attend these regional events, where you get together with other collectors to learn about dolls in programs and seminars, attend special doll events, meet doll artists, eat too much, shop in a sales room with great dealers, take home wonderful souvenirs, and generally have a blast. My favorite part is always the Competitive Exhibit. Attendees enter their dolls in various categories (like the Effanbee dolls above) which are judged by accredited doll experts on criteria including age, rarity and condition. The photos in this post are of just the dolls entered in the categories for composition dolls at that event.
Admiration Doll Company produced this inexpensive 8″ toddler doll in the 1950s, capitalizing on the popularity of Vogue’s Ginny doll. Carol-Sue is all hard plastic with sleep eyes, a mohair or synthetic mohair wig and bare feet painted to look like shoes. She is jointed at the neck, shoulders and hips, and is unmarked. Some dolls have painted lashes below each eye. Carol Sue’s simple clothing is stapled directly to her.
In 1950, the Terri Lee Doll Company added a new member to their lineup of dolls. This was Terri’s baby sister, Linda Lee, a 10″ all vinyl baby with a slimmer, more realistic infant body, and an adorable face.
Linda had her own outfits and accessories, including this suitcase-style trunk. The trunk is made of wood, covered with paper, and has a plastic handle and metal hardware. It measures 11.25″ wide, about 8.25″ high and 4.25″ deep. It has a flocked design of an elephant hauling a cart with a duck in it. Linda Lee’s name is in the lower right corner, with the two Ls designed like pairs of diaper pins. Another version of the trunk had gray flocking instead of the dark blue on this one.
Very soon after she was released, Linda Lee’s name was changed to Linda Baby, and the trunks that had already been produced had a daisy glued over the “Lee.” These trunks are very hard to find now.
Sold on eBay for $49 plus shipping in January 2020.
Recently I got lot of vintage Kellogg’s premium dolls on Craigslist. A premium doll is a type of advertising doll that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the product, but is offered to tempt you to buy the product so you can get the premium.
The Grown Up Doll was offered by Kellogg’s in 1958, advertised on the cereal boxes. For $2, plus 2 box tops from Rice Krispies or Raisin Bran, you got this 10 1/2″ doll with four outfits. She has a vinyl head with rooted hair and sleep eyes, and a hard plastic body with a walking mechanism.
She has high heel feet and is the same size as Little Miss Revlon, Jill and other glamour dolls of the same time period, but she doesn’t have the well developed bust line that most of those dolls do.
The Grown Up Doll came in the formal gown of flocked nylon over taffeta (shown at top) with a halter top that ties with pink ribbon, and a bouquet of flowers and ribbon at the waistline. The matching hat is just a football shaped piece, with braid trim around the edge, and an elastic chin strap.
She has three extra outfits that came with her. This taffeta afternoon dress with big hearts printed on it has matching panties. A pink cotton knit sweater has a black, white and red flannel skirt, matching beret, and white taffeta panty. This white taffeta top with black velvet bow goes with a pair of red and black striped corduroy pants. The black and silver braid is sewn to the waistline, but not in a way that would wrap around her waist, so I’m not quite sure if it’s just supposed to be tied in a bow or what.
For an extra $1 and another box top, you could get four more outfits – really a bargain! The party dress of floral nylon in candy pink. It has a pink taffeta panty. This blue pajama set is made of taffeta. It came with a cotton waffle embossed robe.
The Beach Togs outfit includes a red and white knit swimsuit (which won’t stay up, should have had a strap around her neck or something) and a white terrycloth jacket. A cute sundress is embossed to resemble seersucker. It has a matching panty too.
The lot came with three pairs of high heeled shoes – two pairs of white heels that can go with the evening gown or the afternoon dress, and a pair of red ones to go with the flannel skirt ensemble or the pants outfit. Also a pair of nylon stockings. I’m not sure if these came with the doll and original outfits, or with the extra outfit set.
I scanned this rare copy of the Cincinnati Doll Co. catalog from 1924. They offered several different models of the composition dolls which are often called “carnival Kewpies” by collectors. These are not real Kewpie dolls, and were also sold in stores as well as given as carnival prizes. Their doll lamps are interesting too. I saw one of these at an auction recently, but unfortunately didn’t win it. (Note to self: take pictures of stuff at auctions!) The company offered other items in addition to dolls, I am including those pages too.
This article was published in the December 25, 1956 issue of Look magazine, and shows the brand new (at that time) Poor Pitiful Pearl doll by Brookglad, in her original outfit and the extra dress that she came with. Her creator, William Steig, was very well known at that time as an illustrator and cartoonist, primarily for The New Yorker magazine. What especially interesting here is the illustration showing his original drawing of Pearl. The article states that there would be a Poor Pitiful Pearl book the following spring, but I can’t find any information to confirm that it was ever published. He began a second career illustrating children’s books in the late 1960s, and it’s this work for which he is best remembered today.
This 28″ doll has a hard plastic torso and legs with soft vinyl head and arms. She is jointed at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. She has an unusual construction in that her face and legs, with high heel feet, are obviously adult, while her flat-chested, pot-bellied torso and stubby arms are more like a child. She is a walking doll and her head turns.
She has blonde hair rooted in a short, curly style, vibrant blue sleep eyes with lashes, and painted lashes under each eye. Her lips are red, while her fingernails are more of a rosy peach color. Her toenails are unpainted.
She is marked “EEGEE” on the back of her neck.
Our blushing bride wears a satin, lace and tulle wedding gown which was available in a variety of styles. Her wired hoop petticoat is attached, and she also wears white taffeta panties, nylon hose and American Character style white heels. Her jewelry also varied, but would have included teardrop pearl earrings, a rhinestone engagement ring, and some type of neckace. She carries a small bouquet of white fabric flowers. Her tulle veil may be decorated with rhinestones, flowers, braid, netting or all of the above. The same doll was also sold in a street dress under the name Little Debutante.
Doreena Ballerina was advertised by Valentine in 1957. She has a vinyl head with sleep eyes and rooted hair; vinyl arms; hard plastic torso; and hard plastic legs with jointed knees and ankles, so she can wear flats, high heels or ballet slippers. She was available in a variety of ballet costumes, which are pictured in the brochure that came with her. Her special stand enables her to pose on her toes. An extra outfit was packaged with her, so she could change into street clothes.
Doreena was also sold with a 40 piece “Ballet Tour” gift set which included a stage set.