Tag Archives: vintage dolls

Dolls in Our Family

When I was in Michigan for my father’s funeral and to spend time with my mother, I organized the family photo albums and loose photos so that Mom could find her way in the basement. I took a couple albums home with me to digitize for her.

The first one I worked on is an album that my mother put together when she was 10 years old, so the photos are all from the 1940s.

I love to see that the kids had dolls. In this one, my aunt is holding her two Christmas dolls. This would be about 1946 or 47.

Here my mother and her siblings are with a couple of cousins. My mom is the tallest girl because she was the oldest of all the cousins. I don’t think my uncle is holding a doll. What IS that he’s got? A bow?

I love that crocheted shade pull you can see hanging in the window. Just another little touch that was part of my young life and slowly disappeared over the years.

Given a little time, I can probably figure out what dolls most of these are. Surprisingly, none of them look like Shirley Temple dolls–and those would have been very popular.

In this last photo (actually there are a few more, but the dolls and stuffed animals aren’t as visible), my aunt (age 6) is sitting with Pat (age 7), one of their cousins. Pat is the larger girl. Pat has a very important surgery coming up next month. If you are a praying sort, please put her on your prayer list.

Notice the wagon handle off to the side, showing they are sitting in a little red wagon. And the leather sandals and saddles shoes with the stretched out saggy socks. Sometimes I think there was more in common between my childhood and my mother’s than between mine and my kids’!

I’m not sure if all the girl cousins loved dolls, but the ones in these pictures seem to have enjoyed them.

Do you have any old photos of family members with dolls? Over on Pinterest I have a board of photos (particularly vintage and antique) of children with dolls.

I don’t intend to natter on about dolls all the time, but on Thursday I think I will share with you a doll story you might find interesting. Actually it’s about The Doll Empress. You thought The Doll Lady overdid the dolls in her house? Hah, she is nothing compared with The Doll Empress.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under #writerlife, Dolls, History, Inspiration, Memoir, Photographs, Vintage American culture, Writing

The Love Factor of Dolls

(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

Bow on back of Bonnie’s velvet coat

Pearl button closures on 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.

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These doll clothes represent all the beautiful clothing my grandmother designed and sewed over the years. Clothing, Art really, which is long gone.

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My recent doll posts:

The Creep Factor of Dolls

The Historical Factor of Dolls

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Dolls, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Vintage American culture, Writing