Is there anything as stylish as a French doll? Cotsen has a very elegant kit from mid-nineteenth-century Paris for making paper dolls and wardrobes of undergarments, dresses, hats, and coats. Above is the box lid and the designer of the pictorial title label has, of course, shown Maman and her two daughters absorbed in the activity of making paper dolls from this very object. Here is the inside of the box.
The large center compartment holds different kinds of colored papers. Finished hats are in the upper right hand corner and bits of tinseled ribbon in the upper left. Dolls are in the rectangular compartments on the sides. Because of all the evidence that the kit was used, it is probably missing original materials that the publisher included. Perhaps new colored papers were supplied as the little girls consumed the nicest ones dressing the dolls.
Simple patterns were printed on this sheet above the lithographed text. The only skills required were cutting along the outlines, including the circle for the doll’s neck, and folding in half at the shoulders.
Not so! This sheet shows that the little girls were expected to transfer the outline of the pattern onto the fabric with pin pricks, which is much more economical than cutting them out and throwing them away. This way patterns can be used over and over again.
Three dolls modelling white dresses, perhaps underclothes.The shift for the youngest girl (number 3) is completely without any decoration, while the knee-length one (number 2) has trim on the hem of the sleeves and the neckline. The garment with the elbow flounces hovering just above the tops of number 3’s boots might be a dress.
Wrong again! The doll in the lower right hand corner is clearly wearing number 3 with all the lace trim under her blue skirt and white jacket with something that looks like a peplum. the jacket is number 3 on the sheet of pricked patterns. The doll above her has garments created from textured papers in pink and green. The doll to the left is dressed in active wear, suitable for rolling her hoop.
Big brother inspects the ladies’ handiwork and seems to find the results attractive. His approval of their good taste selecting silhouettes, combinations of colors, and “fabrics” is probably critical, as they are playing at living, learning how to make themselves attractive to future suitors!
This kit is another example of the fine lithography of the H. Jannin firm, which has been highlighted in a post on Noah’s ark toys and a jigsaw puzzle of fashionable fruits and vegetables in Cotsen. Jannin also made fans and panoramas, and, of course, illustrated books of all kinds for children.