Sunday, 27 October 2013

Whom Do You Love? Vintage Vogue Dolls

 So-called 'serious' collectors look for 'mint' dolls and if possible, those that are NRFB, letters that stand for 'Never Removed from Box'.  Vintage dolls never removed from their original packaging often are 'new' in appearance, although the tissue paper used to protect them can damage and discolour them, especially if they are hard plastic or vinyl.  In particular, the pretty pink tissue paper that was the trademark of Madame Alexander had a negative effect on dolls that never saw the light of day.

Collectors like myself who have little money for luxuries seldom can afford vintage NRFB dolls.  Instead, we restore dolls that the serious collectors would reject outright.  Many doll collectors collect the damaged or well-worn dolls initially and then sell them, upgrading their collection to 'mint' dolls.  Having my own doll business for a brief time gave me the opportunity to find both the 'mint' vintage dolls and the damaged or well-worn dolls.  I have to confess, however, that I still love the dolls that I restored myself and never would consider selling them.  I do love the mint dolls but often the restored doll will be displayed next to her more valuable sister.

This post features dolls by the American firm of Vogue.  Vogue made a number of baby dolls, girl dolls and fashion dolls throughout the 20th century.  Most famous perhaps of these were Ginny and Ginnette.  The little girl doll Ginny outlasted the baby doll Ginnette for some reason.    Ginnette was my first doll.  I remember that, as a child of three, my baby sister somehow got hold of my Ginnette and sucked her painted hair from her head.  I have been unable to find that first Ginnette.  My mother has been less careful with dolls that were damaged, whatever their personal history.  My favourite childhood doll Clara likewise has vanished in the mists.

None of the dolls displayed in the first two photographs are from my own childhood, but they are examples of a 'mint' doll and a 'restored' doll.   In the first photograph, a mint 'Princess' Ginny is displayed on the far left.  A restored Ginny is displayed on the far right.   Although the Princess is mint, I added the garland of flowers.  The Ginny on the right is a classic walker, which means that she has a mechanism that makes her head turn from side to side whenever her legs are moved.  She is a 'bent-knee' doll from the early 1950s, which means that her legs are jointed, allowing her to be posed in a seated position in a fairly natural fashion.  When I bought her, she was very dirty, naked and almost entirely bald, with only a few strands of red hair.  I gave her a blonde mohair wig from the same period and one of the most beautiful unmarked Ginny frocks I ever saw.  It may be handmade, but it was made from a Vogue pattern.  Her socks and shoes are Vogue.  The shoes are marked.
 Between the two Ginny dolls displayed in the photograph above is a vintage 'mint' Jill doll.  Jill was the 'fashion doll' in the Ginny family of Vogue dolls.  This one is mint and all original, which means that none of her clothing or accessories has been replaced.  In the photograph below is a restored Jill doll.  She was dirty and naked and her hair was an utter disaster when I bought her.  I gave her a beautiful black ballgown and some stockings and lingerie that were sold for Barbie.  I made her jewelry from genuine amber and jet.  It consists of a pair of drop jet earrings, a jet and amber necklace and a matching bracelet.  In the collectible doll market, this Jill doll and my restored Ginny doll would be worth far less than their mint sisters but to me, they represent something special as well as making me proud of the fact that I was able to restore their beauty to them.

The History of My Dolls

'Shadow' of Onyx Cissy: Onyx Cissette

Onyx Cissy

My mother always loved dolls.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered she loved baby dolls and was more indifferent to any one older.  Oddly enough, it is the same with human beings.  She loves babies but once a child begins to exhibit any signs of maturity, her interest and any genuine liking wanes considerably.  I do not slander her here.  She will be the first to admit it.  She told us again and again before we reached puberty that she could not stand the idea of her children as teenagers.  With what dread and misgiving did I approach that age!  Indeed, my dread was more than justified.  She did not wish for me to acquire any of the normal teenage qualities or interests.  Perhaps that was why she encouraged me to skip grades in school and to graduate at the age of 15.  It did not give ma any real opportunity to learn from my peers!

This is all beside the subject of dolls.  Although my mother loves baby dolls best, I love dolls of any age, but only if they are beautiful.  I am not keen on 'character dolls' that display their defects or less than perfect qualities openly.  I feel that life has ugliness enough to go round.  Why surround myself with it in my private sanctum?

To me, dolls are household gods and goddesses.  They have been my confidantes, my friends, my guardians and protectors.  They have witnessed the heartbreak and heartache and agony I show to no one else.  They have witnessed my little triumphs and silly joys as well.  In a word, they are the lares of my own personal space, however small and insecure that may be at times.

I may not have my first doll with me now but I do have a couple of my childhood dolls and I treasure them.  My own efforts at collecting dolls follows the pattern of my own childhood.  When we were children, the local doll and toy shop featured dolls by Madame Alexander and Vogue.  The characteristic blue box with pink tissue paper that was one of the hallmarks of Beatrice Alexander's creations filled me with joy as a child.  Curiously, I did not think to buy any dolls by Madame Alexander as an adult until I had my own daughter.  I then went to the local doll shop (thousands of miles distant to the shop we frequented as children) and discovered that the owner needed some one to manage her shop on Saturdays.  I took the job with delight and a serious interest in doll collecting was born.

At first, I worked there in order to obtain beautiful dolls for my daughter Freya.  At some point, I realised that there was more to it than that and it would be unfair to pretend that a doll I myself wanted was a gift for my daughter.  My mother did that all too often and it was neither fair nor emotionally satisfying.  I therefore separated the dolls I 'earned' or bought into two groups: Freya's dolls and my dolls.

'Gone with the Wind' was one of my favourite books and films as a child.  I cut my teeth on fairytales by Andrew Lang and the Brothers Grimm.  The first Alexander Dolls I bought for myself were rather naturally fairytale characters and portraits of Scarlett O'Hara.  I have a rather wonderful collection of Madame Alexander 'Gone with the Wind' dolls as well as dolls that represent characters from many of my favourite fairytales. 

Somewhere along the way, however, I was seduced by the return of the beautiful fashion doll Cissy to the doll scene.  Cissy was one of the larger Madame Alexander dolls in the 1950s.  She usually was 20" or 21" and jointed.  Her clothing and accessories were spectacular.  In the late 1990s, the Alexander Doll Company brought her out of retirement and began to make Cissy dolls.  The first 'new' Cissy dolls all were brunettes with brown eyes.  After a year or two, however, other hair and eye colours were included.  Famous fashion designers were given an opportunity to add to the Cissy mysique on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Madame Alexander dolls. 

The Onyx Cissy shown above dates from the very first year of the reissue of Cissy.  Her hair was styled differently, more like her 'Shadow' but I thought she might look even more beautiful with her hair down and changed the style accordingly.  Many doll collectors who did not look twice at Onyx with her original hairstyle gushed over the revised 'look'.  I personally think she is one of the most stunning Cissy dolls of the 'turn of the century' now.