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Dolls For Dressmaking
The doll hobby has developed a new profession, that of doll dressmaking open to all women who sew well. Many are now making a good living from it, often charging as much today for a doll outfit as formerly they charged for a lady's gown. Old silks, velvets, and laces are in demand and the costumes are often very lovely, especially those made for the fine Parians and French-bisques. Old fashion magazines are at a premium. Volumes of Harper's Bazaar, Demorest's Magazine, Peterson's Magazine, and Godey's Lady's Book have risen from fifty cents to ten dollars, and the color plates of yesteryear are copied for dolls of the same period. Clever women collectors find an outlet for their creative abilities in costuming their own old dolls, and as Mrs. Clear says, "acquire an education in the manners, customs and dress of historic periods that goes much deeper than anything learned at school."
When dolls have their original clothes and these are not hopelessly worn, it is better not to re-dress them for clothes are evidence of age. Many dolls, however, are found without clothing, and it is amusing to dress them after looking up the suitable fashion era. Taffeta is correct for almost all periods. Old cotton or silk prints, delaines, and so on may be used. Modern taffeta is apt to cut and crack because of the fillers used, but old taffeta of the Civil War period is practically indestructible. Rayon is an anachronism for old dolls and should never be used.
Old buttons are fine to give an appearance of age to a costume. The Leghorn hats of a generation or two ago are also useful since Leghorn bonnets were much worn in the earlier periods. Delightful scoop bonnets may be created by cutting a small Milan straw hat in two and wiring it. One hat makes two bonnets. A niece of the writer makes wonderful doll bonnets from old straw hats, old cloth, and ribbons. She soaks the hats in water and reblocks them over the bottom of a round or straight-bottom jelly glass, or according to the size on a soup or tomato can, and shape desired.
Mrs. William Walker of Louisville, Kentucky, who sews for her doll collection, finds that many a seemingly hopeless old dress may be saved by lining it with net and darning the material down to the net with fine stitches.
An old-fashioned pinking iron is a useful article for the doll dressmaker, since pinked ruffles and flounces were often used. Pinking is a term used for finishing the edges of a ruffle with tiny scallops. The old irons came in sets and made one-fourth-inch, three-eighths-inch, and one-half inch scallops. They are to be found in antique shops or through advertising in mediums like the Swopper's column in Yankee Magazine, published at Dublin, New Hampshire. It was thus that the writer found a pinking machine which did the job by the turn of a crank. For those too young to have seen the old pinking iron in action, it may be explained that pinking was a laborious process which consisted of laying the single or folded cloth the width of the desired scallop on a hardwood block and hammering the iron down on it until the cloth was cut through. Today there are "pinking shears" but the end result is not so attractive nor so oldfashioned in appearance.
Many people also make a hobby of collecting old doll clothes, either as an end in themselves or as an adjunct to a doll collection. Where does one look for old doll clothes? One source is the dressmaker who re-dresses dolls. She almost always has a few discards on hand and will sell them reasonably, or you may buy clothes off an old doll in the hands of an "antique picker," even if you don't want to buy the doll. Antique dealers also have old doll dresses for sale at fifty cents to a dollar apiece. In short, old doll clothes, like old dolls, are just where you happen to find them.