Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fashion Dolls

As a little girl, I was enchanted by dolls. I only had two dolls to play with, but I also had a collection of dolls from around the world. Each time my father travelled for business, he would come home with a doll from the country that he visited. He took great delight in presenting the doll to me and I can still remember those moments in vivid detail.

Although today dolls are generally viewed as playthings, it wasn't always so. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, fashion dolls were used by dressmakers as a way of illustrating the latest styles to their potential clients. Dolls dressed in the latest Parisian styles were on display in fashionable shops along the rue Saint Honore and also sent monthly to London and to the courts of Europe. The dolls were considered "precious" and sometimes even had diplomatic immunity during times of war.

Although the most fashionable dolls originated from Paris, dolls were also made up in England and sent to the American colonies, where England was the dominant cultural influence.

The two wooden dolls shown in the photo are from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England and are known as Lord and Lady Clapham. (Although the Department of Textiles and Dress in the V&A has approximately forty dolls in their collection, only these two were on display when I visited in July 2008.) Dated from about 1695, Lord and Lady Clapham came complete with their accessories and the wooden chairs on which they sit.

Fashion dolls were popular until fashion plates and fashion journals became more established and widely accessible in the nineteenth century.

P.S. As a follow-up to Thursday's post about Aprons and Random Acts of Kindness, here is the list of winners:

Kelly of The Chic Geek
Judith of Studio Judith
Ms. Lucy of Enchanted by Josephine
Renee of Circling My Head

If you are a winner, please email me at