As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, October, 2003
"Fashion dolls" were aptly named.
Long before Barbie, some 18th and 19th century dolls had
extensive "designer" wardrobes with matching accessories that
included wigs and dresser sets. Depending on the doll maker and
the quality of the wardrobe they can fetch big bucks at auction.
At a recent Skinner doll auction a Jumeau B'eb'e Mabel Rose
Welch 11, Franc,
c.1880, with an extensive original wardrobe sold for $28,200. A
European dolls, made as early as the
14th century displayed the latest fashions and were gifts to
royalty. Forget children playing with them. They were so highly
prized that even kings displayed them in special cabinets. By
the time of Louis XIV the dolls made for his castle came with
their own doll's house and even market shops with enameled
shopkeepers, and a sedan-chair for royal shoppers, along with
attendants. Marie Antoinette and later Empress Eugenie gave
gifts of dolls dressed in the latest Parisian styles. In fact,
Eugenie had dolls made in her own likeness with duplicates of
her gowns. By the late 18th century dolls were shipped abroad to
display the newest fashions from Paris or Dijon.
By the late 19th century, producing
clothes for dolls had become an important industry in France and
America. As late as 1910 dolls were sent abroad to show the
latest fashions. While many were "lady dolls", child-form dolls
also showed French children's fashions.
These fashion dolls had a serious
purpose, by the late 1870s. By then, dress and good taste were
all important requirements for the socially correct, monied
class. The dolls taught young women the proper dress for every
occasion, along with accessories. They also showed the proper
accessories such as opera glasses, writing sets and desks,
sewing kits and playing cards.
CLUES: A 'fashion doll' isn't really
a type of doll, but instead a functional use of dolls. Nearly
any type of doll could, and was, dressed in the latest adults or
children's fashions, and traveled to show current fashions. They
were of different sizes and some were quite small. Heads were
both bisque and china.
Many of the doll-size fans, hats and
furniture you see in shops and at shows may once have been part
of a fashion dolls furnishings. Value of course, depends on
condition and being in as close to original from parts to
costume, as possible. Unfortunately, many fashion dolls labeled
as "all original" may be wearing new clothing and wigs. Look for
the maker's mark on the back of the head, neck or back area.
Since quality can vary within one doll maker firm, don't pay too
much for the name.
The Jumeau B'eb'e Mabel Rose Welch
II that sold for $28,200 had important documentation. The doll
was named for her original owner, Mabel Rose Welch who bought it
while on a European trip with her parents. The body is stamped "Jumeau
Medaille d'Or Paris." While the trunk and some of the clothing
is original, many pieces were added by later owners.
There are many talented designers
specializing in doll clothes and accessories. They used
materials of the period. When well done this adds value to a
doll without an authentic wardrobe. Don't pass up an old doll
Attending as many doll shows and
auctions as possible is a must for collectors. Investing some of
the books such as 15th Book of Doll Values, by Jan Foulke. And,
The Beautiful Jumeau by Florence Theriault.