by: Roselyn Gadia-Smitley
(Excerpts taken with permission from the author of Dolls' Clothes Pattern Book, 1987, Sterling Publishing Co., New York .) Photos and text are copyrighted by the author.
Photo 1: Fashion Dolls. Left to right: 20" Cissy by Alexander (circa 1958), 19" Revlon Doll by Ideal Toy Corp. (circa 1958), and 8" Dress Me Doll (circa 1960s-70s) by unknown manufacturer. Cissy is marked at the back of her head with the words "Alexander". Revlon Doll is marked VT-20 at the back of her head. Dress-me doll is marked at the back of her torso as "Made in Hong Kong". Dresses are custom made by the author. Photo by Roselyn Gadia-Smitley.
Fashion dolls became popular around the 1300's. Court records noted gifts of fashion dolls sent by the French queen to the queen of England in 1321. Another event that was recorded in history was when Isabeau of Bavaria (queen of France) sent dolls to England to show the newest French fashions in 1391. In essence, the task of popularizing French fashions abroad was carried on by the fashion doll.
To far-reaching colonies, such as North America, Parisian dolls were sent to illustrate the current Parisian fashions and served as dressmakers' models as well. An advertisement of the New England Weekly Journal of July 2, 1733 reads as follows:
At Mrs. Hannah Teatt's, dressmaker at the top of Summer Street, Boston, is to be seen a mannnequin, in the latest fashion with articles of dress, night dresses, and everything appertaining to women's attire. It has been brought to London by Captain White. Ladies who choose to see it may come or send for it. It is always ready to serve you. If you come, it will cost you two shillings, but if you send for it, seven shillings.
In the 1700's, the popularity of fashion magazines gradually replaced the fashion dolls as the means of communication between countries.
In the United States, the popularity of the fashion doll as a child's toy begun with the commercial usage of plastics after World War II. Many types of dolls were offered in the marketplace from baby dolls to fashion dolls. The fashion doll stood out in that the doll was modeled after the adult figure with clothing that can be taken on and off. In many doll offerings, clothing and accessories were sold separately so that the doll's wardrobe was expanded and its play value increased.
Photo2: Fashion Dolls of the 1950s. Left: 19" fashion doll of the 1950s with a 14R mark at the back of the head. She is wearing a vintage gown of the era. Right: 17" fashion doll of the 1950s with a 14RA mark at the back of the head. The 14RA doll is wearing a customized gown and wrap by the author. These are fashion dolls that were sold inexpensively in grocery stores; hence, the reference of these dolls by collectors as "Grocery Store" dolls. Photo by Roselyn Gadia-Smitley.
In the 1950s, many toy manufacturers offered fashion dolls in their lines of merchandise. Among the most popular fashion dolls were "Cissy" (Alexander Doll Company), "Revlon" dolls (Ideal Toy Corporation), and inexpensive "dress-me" dolls by several companies. These inexpensive "dress-me dolls" were sold from 1950s through the 1970s. Cissy and Revlon dolls were sold in department stores and specialized toy stores.
Enterprising toy distributors acquired fashion dolls to emulate Cissy and the Revlon dolls and sold these inexpensively through grocery stores. These fashion dolls were made from stock molds provided by doll manufacturers. They differed in quality in their materials and clothing styles. Among the most varied and numerous were the 18"-20" fashion dolls marked 14R. Today, these fashion dolls are referred to as "grocery store dolls" by collectors. The 1950s fashion dolls of these types is illustrated in photo 2.
Presently, the popularity of fashion dolls has a wide audience from children to adult collectors. Several surveys noted that collecting fashion dolls is among the most popular hobbies worldwide. In the global marketplace, affordable popular fashion dolls are: "Barbie" by Mattel, "Bratz" by MGA Entertainment, and "LIV" by Spin Master. These are current (2012) fashion dolls in the play line categories as shown in photo3.
Photo3: Fashion Dolls (Play Line). Left to right: 11.5" "Barbie" (2012) by Mattel, 12" "LIV: Katie" (2010) by Spinmaster, and 10" "Bratz: Jasmin" (2002) by MGA Entertainment. Barbie is marked Copyright Mattel 1998, LIV is marked Copyright 2009 Spin Master Ltd., and Bratz is marked 2001 MGA Ltd. Identifying marks are found at the back of the heads. All dresses are custom made by the author. Photo by Roselyn Gadia-Smitley.
Among collectible popular categories are: "Barbie" Collectibles by Mattel, "Cissy" by Alexander, and "Tyler Wentworth" by Robert Tonner. These dolls are shown in photo4. There are many more fashion doll offerings which will costs hundreds of dollars such as those in the ball jointed categories. Ball jointed dolls can have many articulated joints and are customized by many collectors.
Photo4: Collectible Fashion Dolls. Left to right: 11.5" "Barbie Wedding Day" Reproduction Collectible (1996) by Mattel Inc., 20" "Cissy on Stage" (1990) by Alexander Doll Co., and 16" "Tyler Wentworth" (1999) by Robert Tonner Doll Co. "Barbie Wedding Day" is marked Mattel 1958 at the back of her head. "Cissy on Stage" is marked Alexander 1990 at the back of her head. "Tyler Wentworth" is marked Robert Tonner Doll Co. Inc. at the back of her head. Barbie and Cissy wear their original gowns. Tyler Wentworth's beaded evening ensemble is customized by the author. Tyler Wentworth originally wore a white tailored (button front) cotton blouse and a black pencil skirt. Her original clothing pieces are kept with her box. Photo by Roselyn Gadia-Smitley.
History of present-day and historic fashions are reflected in the clothing and accessories worn by play line and collectible dolls. Owning a fashion doll captures a moment when the doll was created. I enjoy my collection every day and wish the same for all collectors.
For additional articles, click at these links:
Collecting Barbie Dolls
Collecting Barbie Dolls On A Budget
Collecting Fashion Dolls To Restore: (Homepage)
History of The Doll