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Monday, June 17, 2013

Old dollies

In the time that has elapsed since my last post, I have done...well, I've done nothing.  Nothing at all.  Well, take that back; I have been working on doll clothes quite a bit.  Most of the dolls I've been knitting for have been my handful of vintage dolls (Crissy, Kissy, Chatty Cathy, Kathy Cry Baby, and my mother's old Barbie).  These older dolls, these relics of a bygone era, fascinate me.  I love the styles that they wear, I love their faces, I love the themes (hair play, dress-up, and the like), and I love the overall innocence of the era.  No stiletto shoes, no uber-revealing outfits, no "I'm-sexy-and-I-know it" messages plastered on chests.  Now don't get me wrong, sometimes I like my dolls dressed a little more revealing.  But I don't want a steady diet of that.  This admiration of the older dolls, coupled with my fondness for the 1960's (a time that I sadly missed out on), has had an effect on what dolls I pursue.  I still like modern dolls, and I'll still buy the ones that I really flip over, like the new Life in the Dreamhouse Midge.  But I'd like to focus more on these vintage dolls.  I've already made good on this vow and have made some very nice additions to my little dolly family.  This blog post will be devoted to them.

Little Miss Revlon (Ideal)
Owning my mother's old Kissy doll and a Look Around Crissy have made me into a fan of the Ideal Toy Company.  The company lasted from 1907 to 1982, and was founded by the folks who made the original Teddy bear.  Ideal produced a number of successful dolls and toys, including Rubik's cube, my dear little Crissy, and this lovely little lady.
This is a somewhat grainy image of my Little Miss Revlon in her original habitat (the local antique store).  Back in those days, dolls with adult female physiques were something new; breasts and feet that accommodated high-heeled shoes were something the dolly world had not seen.  A number of doll companies jumped on this bandwagon, including Ideal.  There were several different sizes of their Miss Revlon doll (who were used to advertise the then-new Revlon makeup), and the smallest ones were called "Little Miss Revlon."  That is what my doll is; when I found her she was barefoot and had green earring holes from those old, tarnished earring posts, but the price was reasonable and her makeup bright so I bought her and brought her home.  In the short time that I've had her, Wendy (as I have named her) has become one of my favorite dolls.  Within eight hours of owning her, I even had an amusing anecdote.  Check this out!
I lay Wendy on the couch and ran out of the room to do something...I don't exactly what it was that I was doing, but I left the room.  When I came back I found Wendy leaning back against the cushion, her eyes hooded, like she'd just laid back and gone to sleep!  I couldn't fault her; it had been a rather busy day for the both of us.

After about a week or so I grew weary of seeing the dark, corroded wires that had once been Wendy's pearl earrings.  I didn't get a picture of these, but they were not pretty at all.  According to one of the restoration sites that I accessed, these earrings were hooked on the inside and could not be pulled out without serious damage to the vinyl.  So I bought some jewelry makings and some wire cutters, and I nipped those little bums off.  After lopping off the loops, I spent the rest of the afternoon fashioning a set of jewelry for Wendy.
I gave her a new set of earrings, a bracelet, and a necklace.  Both the necklace and the bracelet have little dangles on them, not something I've tried with beads this size before.  The earrings will need to be treated with Super Glue so they won't make Wendy's green ears worse, but overall I think I did pretty well.  Plus, these earrings can be removed, so I can make more and switch 'em if I want to!  All Wendy needs now are some fifties-style undergarments and a pair of shoes, and she'll be all set.

Aida Ballerina (Valentine)
I don't know much about Valentine dolls or the Valentine company, but I do know that said company made some lovely dolls.  What little I do know comes from this link to DollReference.com.  Apparently, Valentine was well-known for their ballerinas, because that page is full of them; I'd estimate that half of the dolls on the page are ballerinas.  One of them is this one.
My doll is Aida, another antique store find.  She is one of Valentine's less limber ballerinas.  Some Valentine dolls have joints in every conceivable point, from neck to ankle.  Aida is jointed at the neck, the shoulders, and the hips.  Her legs swing back and forth, while her arms can move back, forth, and sideways.  Her neck swivels.  She has a hard plastic body and a vinyl head which is very pleasant to touch.  My example, above, has her full outfit.  Her hip-high tights have some rips and tears, which is to be expected for a 55-year-old doll, but she's otherwise in very good shape.
This is what Aida looks like up close.  She has blue eyes that are still clear (old doll eyes are bad about clouding over) and a little rosebud mouth.  She wears no other makeup, and no jewelry.  Her hair is adorned with a rhinestone headpiece that doesn't show in the pictures.

Barbie/Francie hybrid (both dolls by Mattel)
I'm not going to go into a huge history of Mattel, because there are plenty of sources out there.  I am merely going to show you my very unusual Barbie, only the second vintage Barbie doll I've owned.
I named this Mod-era doll Mary Anne, and if you look closely you'll see that all is not right with her.  Oh sure, she's great doll.  She's in great shape, too; her rooted eyelashes are intact, her knees both click three times (as early bend-leg Barbie knees should), and her hair is completely intact.  She's a little grubby in this pic, but all is well...or is it???  Mary Anne is actually what I've termed a Barbie/Francie hybrid.  The head is a 1971 Hair Fair head, with pierced ears, eyelashes, and this cute hair cut.  The body however, belongs to a TNT Francie doll.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Barbie's history and family tree, Francie is/was Barbie's cousin.  Her body was smaller than Barbie's but bigger than the Skipper dolls of the time.  Francie therefore had her own wardrobe, and it was full of bright colors and splashy, Sixties-esque patterns. She was a cute doll, and so is Mary Anne.  However, she presents to me a conundrum.  I like her the way she is, but I also like the way Francie looks.  And I love Barbie-sized Mod clothing; Francie CAN wear Barbie's clothes but they look like a sack on her, like the dress above does.  So...decisions, decisions! Do I dismantle Mary Anne, find a Mod Barbie body for her head and a Francie head for her body?  Or do I leave her as is and enjoy her?  I'm still on the fence about that one.  Right now it looks like Mary Anne will stay the way she is; I enjoy her uniqueness and her variety.  Oh yes, and I also enjoyed her five-dollar price tag!

This is what Mary Anne's face looks like up close.  As I said earlier she's in very good shape, especially considering the fact that Mod Barbie dolls are bad to fade, turn yellow, turn pale, get spots, or get green ears (my doll's earrings are missing, thus she dodged the green ear bullet).  She has turned a little yellow, but her cheeks and lips are still bright, and she has a full set of eyelashes.  I love the rooted eyelashes on these Mod-era Barbies, by the way.  So Twiggy!

Liddle Kiddles (Mattel)
Of course Mattel doesn't make just Barbie.  The company has produced a vast array of successful (and not-so-successful) dolls, toys, and games.  In the late sixties, right around the time that Mattel was making dolls like Mary-Anne, they also were making Liddle Kiddles.  These small dolls ranged from one to four inches tall, and the majority of them had soft rubber bodies that surrounded wire frames.  Some of these dolls were walkers rather than benders, but most of them were rubber and wire with a large vinyl head.  Most of the dolls had themes, such as cooking, bathing, or playing make-believe.  These themes combined with the rubber-and-wire combo made for some very little, very cute, very limber dolls.  Unfortunately, that rubber-and-wire combo also led to their downfall.  The wires would poke through the rubber and become very dangerous.  Or they would corrode and turn the doll's body green.  Or both!  For those reasons, I considered myself lucky when I found these in such good shape:
The majority of Liddle Kiddles came with names that ended in "-iddle," so be prepared for some goofy names.  From left to right, my dolls are Greta Griddle, Sizzly Friddle, and Liddle Diddle.  All three of these have the rubber-and-wire combo, and they're in relatively good condition.  They are by no means perfect; Greta has some small holes in her body, both Greta and Siz are a bit dirty, and all are missing their accessories.  I also had to yank a huge plug of...of something out of Greta's hair.  It was food or candy of some sort (I'm not sure what) and it took me forever to get that crap out of Greta's locks.  Also of note is Sizzly, in the center.  She is NOT wearing her original outfit!  Sizzly, as her name may suggest, came with cooking supplies and corresponding garb.  The dress and bloomers she is wearing however, belong to a nurse doll named Florence Niddle.  Greta also came home in the wrong outfit; she was clad in a sunshine yellow dress that belongs to a walker named Sheila Skediddle.  All this switching and swapping of outfits certainly made these dolls fun to identify!

This trio of dolls presents a challenging task that I'd like to accomplish.  Remember when I mentioned that they each had themes and came with accessories?  Yes, accessories.  Accessories that none of my dolls came with.  Greta appears to have been playing make-believe; her accessories were a table, two chairs, and fixings for a tea party.  Sizzly, as a mentioned before, is a cook; she came with an apron and chef's hat, a grill, a spatula, and a long fork.  Liddle Diddle is a baby; she had a crib, blankets, and a toy ducky to play with.  It won't be an easy task to replace all that stuff, but I'd like to try just for the heck of it.  I'd also like to find Florence Niddle and Sheila Skediddle so they can have their clothes back!  Finding Florence and Sheila may be an easier task, because the antique store where I got Greta, Siz, and Diddle had plenty of other Kiddles.  The dolls were packaged, singly or in twos and threes, into Ziploc bags (my particular bag had these three here).  It is entirely possible that the person who bagged these dolls up put Florence or Sheila (or both!) in one bag, and landed their clothes in another bag.  If this is so then I am in luck...because according to the lady who owns the store, I'm the only one who ever comes into that store for dolls!!!  If so, the odds of me finding Florence and Sheila there are fairly good.  But I'm still keeping my eye on eBay!

Happy dollin', y'all!