Paper Doll Parade


On Saturday my sister Naomi came to visit me and brought with her several boxes of vintage paper dolls that she had bought from eBay.

After lunch we settled down to sort them out as they had been packed en mass and we needed to pair dolls with clothing.

My entire dining room was covered in paper doll paraphernalia. We needed to create separate little piles for each doll and her outfits so the dining room table was quickly covered. I brought in a plastic folding table to hold more stuff but we still ended up covering the computer chair, the top of the display unit and an upturned cardboard box.

The scene in my dining room with paper dolls everywhere.
The scene in my dining room with paper dolls everywhere.
The Lennon Sisters Paper Dolls
The Lennon Sisters

Some of the dolls are in very poor condition with sticky tape and even staples holding broken parts together. I was quite horrified that someone would mend a paper doll by putting staples on her face. It looks awful. Some of them were quite sturdy card too so must have survived some very rough play. Naomi plans to repair them if she can by removing the old tape and staples and re-attaching the limbs in a less ugly manner. Where that isn’t possible she will either print a copy of the whole doll from her disc or from the free paper doll website or attempt a “transplant” replacing the damaged part with a copied one. She hasn’t worked out all the details of how she will do this yet but thinks it will be a good pastime for the winter months.

As well as researching the paper dolls themselves and finding out who they are and who published them we are also enjoying learning about the many celebrity paper dolls some of whom we knew nothing about. For example I had never heard of Mary Hartline or Dorothy Provine before this. We look up their bios or find YouTube clips of them to learn what they used to do. Some of the dolls are very good likenesses.

Three hours work got about half the dolls and their clothes sorted out. Many of the books had two dolls in them in different poses.  In some cases we had print outs to use for reference which was helpful. Trying to match up dolls with clothes by trial and error reminded me very much of similar times we had shared as girls doing much the same thing with our old paper dolls. The first hour of any game with them was usually spent trying to find clothes for them especially once we started making extra clothing for them ourselves.

Doll sorting in progress.
Doll sorting in progress.

We still have quite a lot of work to do with them obviously so the boxes will stay with me for a few weeks until we have finished the sorting. That will give me the opportunity to photograph a lot of them as well.

I’ll be bringing you the results of some of Saturday’s work in future vintage paper doll posts.

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