(Cross-posting this on The Family Kalamazoo under a different title)
Thanks to a comment by Robin (be sure to check out the stories on her blog), I was reminded how handmade doll clothing can be more meaningful than the dolls themselves. Sewing doll clothing for me is how my grandmother Marie stirred my love of dolls. Grandma was the Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago for years and an artist with a needle.
From the time I was born, Grandma sewed me beautiful dresses. But I first paid attention to her sewing on Christmas the year I was four. As we opened gifts, Grandma leaned down toward me, with her pearls swinging, and handed me a huge box. The blue eyes of a doll my size stared back at me when I pulled up the lid. I named her Bonnie, after one of my favorite records, “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”
Grandma handed me another large, but more beautifully wrapped, box. I untied the grosgrain ribbon and discovered she had sewn an array of beautiful dresses trimmed in selfsame bows and flowered beads. The beret Grandma created for Bonnie matched the pink satin-lined pale blue velvet coat.
Bow on back of Bonnie’s velvet coat
Pearl button closures on Bonnie’s velvet coat
When I was eight, Grandma sewed me a glorious trousseau of clothes for the imitation Barbie (Miss Suzette) my parents had given me. My doll didn’t have the requisite zebra-striped swimsuit or the Enchanted Evening gown and fur stole, but she had a copper satin cocktail sheath covered with a copper rose point lace outer skirt. Both were trimmed in copper seed beads. The wedding dress of white satin was heavily beaded with real seed pearls. A lace trimmed slip fit underneath and the veil was matching lace and beaded with the pearls. I looked for stitches to see Grandma’s tricks, but they were invisible as all good magic.
When I was away at college, my mother gave the Barbie clothes away. While Bonnie has always sat on a chair in my bedroom, for a long time I kept Bonnie’s clothes in a small suitcase in my closet, away from dust and sunlight, and reveled in the knowledge that I had preserved these treasures. After moving to my last house, I decided to put them away more securely.
Then I forgot where I put them! For years I thought they were lost. Finally, last year, I found the clothing. The only piece missing is the velvet beret. All I have left of the Barbie clothes are the memories as I don’t have a photo of them.
All these years later, my parents have given me my grandmother’s German porcelain doll and the clothing she made for her.
These doll clothes represent all the beautiful clothing my grandmother designed and sewed over the years. Clothing, Art really, which is long gone.
My recent doll posts:
The Creep Factor of Dolls
The Historical Factor of Dolls