I’ve always been a doll girl.
I got a Kirsten doll (American Girl) when I was six for Christmas. She was my pride and joy, and I still have her.
I got started sewing doll clothes by hand as a teenager, but not for Kirsten. I had two fashion dolls at my disposal: my mom’s Francie and a super classy Barbie wannabe from a grocery store who came to me wearing a blue crocheted Southern Belle-ish dress designed to be worn over a toilet paper roll crinoline.
I named her Martia N. Woman. She generally pranced around in the nude, proudly showing off her ragged waistline where you could sever her torso from her hips and legs. Her head also easily popped on and off, so all in all this doll made for some interesting play scenarios, periodically becoming a legless torso walking on her hands, or else a disembodied pair of legs might go wandering around our house, or the huge ball that held her head on becoming her Shrunken Head while her actual head was sitting in state somewhere odd. She terrorised our Playmobil population as the Fifty-Foot Woman. She had pinkish-red hair that I cropped off with a pair of scissors so she had an interesting set of roots until I created a variety of yarn wigs for her, gluing them on and periodically stripping one hairdo to be replaced by another. Later I changed her name to Winona because of Winona Ryder (about the time Little Women came out).
But I digress. My mom had bought me a book with simple patterns for doll clothes for a variety of doll sizes, so I cut up an old choir robe my dad brought home from somewhere to make Martia-Winona and Francie their first dress. It was light blue, long, and trimmed at the neckline with lace. I was very, very proud of my creation and I think it’s still kicking around somewhere.
At twelve-ish, I added Felicity to my doll collection, and I later acquired a variety of Actual Barbies and Kens, all with names and personalities of their own. Then I added Madra, Gene, and Trent to my doll family, and a Brenda Starr (whom I renamed Genevieve and who took on a rather “Miss Frizzle” persona because I made the mistake of using some Rather Bizarre Prints to make her some dresses at the very outset).
I’ve sewed for all these dolls at various points of my life as well as for a few other dolls not belonging to me.
For instance, this Kewpie doll.
This sweet little Effanbee doll was fun to sew for. That brown trim on the collar? TINIEST BIAS TAPE EVER.
Barbie clothes were my practise run for the clothes I’d eventually make for myself. I learned a huge amount about construction techniques and styles on a small scale before I ever attempted to sew something nice for myself. I loved doing it and it never seemed like a big challenge to me, perhaps because that was most of my intensive sewing experience up to that point.
Brooke in navy blue lace
Vivien the Spiffy
Elvis in blue jeans with a satin jacket. Yes, I did tan topstitching on the jeans to make them more realistic.
Trent and Madra were a hot item. Gene was always trying to break them up. She was annoying. For some reason, though, I had to have that element of drama in my doll world.
Gene the vaguely medieval and Trent the gloomy Russian
Madra in a dress based on 1840s lines.
I think I like sewing for American Girl sized dolls the best, however. They are just big enough to get into a lot of detail if necessary but can easily be finished in a day.
Josefina models a Civil War era plaid dress.
Felicity in another variation of the plaid dress above.
Closeup of the sash and fabric.
Kirsten in a Victorian dress.
Felicity models a Victorian housedress and apron.
Felicity in a 1930s dress I copied from a picture in an old Sears catalogue. I absolutely love 1930s styles.
This vintage Shirley Temple doll was a real treasure. I was so honoured to get to create this dress for her.
So that’s a sampling of my doll clothes projects. I really haven’t done any of that for a long time, largely because they just didn’t sell at a fair price for the work they require, but with two girls who now each have their own American Girl I anticipate I’ll probably be picking up the tiny scraps of fabric again soon. I’m not averse to still making them for other people, either, except that they aren’t as cheap as people always seem to think they should be “for something handmade”.
Do you sew for dolls? Which ones? Maybe you can point me to some of your work. I love to see what other people come up with for their dolls.