02 September 2016

Playing paper dolls

While researching the concept of Ladies Drawing Night* I came across this image
which filled my head with memories of "playing paper dolls" in the 1950s. What a treat to have a new book of paper dolls and cut out the clothes, with the little tabs that held them onto the doll. Usually the doll was on heavy, shiny paper, and had a slotted stand so she (or he) could stand up. There might be several in the book, the shape the same so the clothes were interchangeable, but with different hair colour etc.

One summer - I was 7 or 8 - the family set off on holiday to "the interior", probably a weekend at Shushwap Lake. At a stop along the way (it was a six-hour drive in those days), the store we stopped at had a book of paper dolls and I pestered my parents till they gave in and bought it ... only to find that we hadn't brought scissors along. Fortunately there were nail scissors in mother's handbag, and I had to make do with those, which rather took away the pleasure of cutting out. I prided myself on my good cutting out, and wanted to get the entire book cut out immediately [how early are our characters formed...] but didn't really get the hang of making the tiny snips needed, didn't like the look of the results, and the earnestly-desired, disappointing book languished.

That was a holiday treat and family finances didn't stretch to all the paper doll books I ever desired, nor was there much selection in the stores that a child living in the country could get to. So we made our own paper dolls, using the underwear models in the Sears or Eatons catalogues as the doll
Perfect for a paper doll (1955; via)
cutting a half-circle at the base, and another from cardboard, for the slotted stand. It was wise to glue the page to cardboard before doing the cutting out, to get sleekly-finished edges.

Then we traced around the outline and used that to design costumes for her. Or him ... though I did find men in underwear deeply unappealing, and why would men need "designed" clothes anyway?
Anyway, they never had legs (via)
Finding full-length children could be difficult. Sometimes you had to resign yourself to making all the clothing in the shape the "doll" was wearing in the catalogue -
Use the one at bottom row right (via)
Ah, nostalgia...
Mother and daughter outfits! (via)
Wardrobes for a variety of activities (via)

*Other sites for Ladies Drawing Night (thanks, Tina!)

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