Make Your Paper Dolls Parisian Easter Bonnets

La recreation des demoiselles. Paris: H. Jannin for H. Rousseau, ca. 1852. Cotsen Toys unprocessed 6186008.

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.

Some unfinished finery underneath the paper samples in the central compartment.

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.

Dressing FLOTUS: A 1939 Maybelle Mercer Paper Doll Book

Long before the Smithsonian mounted its popular exhibition about the First Ladies of the United States, which includes actual gowns that were worn at their husbands’ inaugural balls, there was a paper doll book.  Designed by Maybelle Mercer, it’s a  parade of gorgeous dresses worn by the female residents of the White House from Martha Washington to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. Four smartly coiffed paper dolls are printed on the back cover   Tall and slim, the lengths of their torsos and limbs indicate that they must be as tall as professional basketball players.  Their alluring undergarments are entirely modern–forerunners of Spanx, perhaps?  Not a token corset for historical accuracy in sight, but none of these lovelies would need that foundation garment to fit into a dress with a wasp waist.  Long skirts will conceal their sleek high-heeled pumps.

To stage a fashion show of the First Ladies’ finery, the dolls must be punched out and mounted on the stands provided. Then the gowns must be curated.   Each dress includes a biographical sketch of the original owner and information about the fabrics, styling, and occasion when it was worn.  Notice that paper facsimiles of these late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century gowns have two unwieldy tabs to secure them to the dolls’ shoulders.The fun facts about the dresses may have taken from some other source, perhaps some between wars Smithsonian publication or exhibition.

This plate pits Mrs. Woodrow Wilson against Martha Jefferson Randolph.  Choosing between these two visions in black and white is difficult, unless your loyalty to Princeton is unconditional…

Maybelle Mercer’s paper doll book seems to be relatively common on the collectibles market, so perhaps many of the original purchasers never could bear to take out  scissors and cut the dresses away from the copy, leaving an untidy pile of irregularly shaped bits and pieces.  Or perhaps Saalfield the publisher kept it in print for some time.

Discovering this paper doll book in the stacks  on a quest for tigers to be displayed in the “Welcome Back, Tigers” exhibition for Reunions was a pleasant surprise.   Cotsen’s collection of paper doll books does not have all that many of the “famous faces” type, except for  ones about Twiggy and Shirley Temple, which were recent acquistions.  A future post for the sets featuring twins, children of different ethnicities, etc. is clearly in order.  Until then, if you’d like to see more paper dolls in Cotsen, take a look at the post about the ones designed by Elizabeth Voss