Features

My dolls

... a childhood hobby for the 40's

by Ann Robbins Talbot

I never took my dolls to bed for a snuggle under the covers. I never brushed their hair or washed their faces. But I loved them. My dolls were paper dolls.

My dolls had last names Anna Neagle, Deanna Durbin, Greer Garson. Each doll had lovely clothing negligees, business suits, party dresses, ball gowns. I would invite them to lavish parties that my eight-year-old mind would imagine. There was no television for patterning my play, so my parties were pretty primitive girls-nights-out.

Part of the joy of my paper dolls was cutting everything out. The dolls were made of light cardboard with perforated outlines to be punched out. But I soon learned that if I punched the dolls out, teeny pieces of cardboard remained around each doll. The dolls needed to be cut with a pair of scissors. Cutting out the clothes made me realize how clever the tabs were for attaching the clothing to each doll. Most had straight, white tabs to fold back over the doll. Some had longer tabs that met and attached to each other in back of the doll. Many had dotted lines to cut so parts of the doll's body could be pushed through. Once my Uncle Harold cut out some clothes for me and, not cutting on the lines, left lots of extra paper. I learned the clothes would not fit unless you cut carefully.

My family rented a cottage for two weeks one summer. It was a long crowded ride to New Hampshire with seven of us in the car sitting on suitcases. Everyone put their clothes in their proper bedrooms, got into their bathing suits and ran down the dock to jump into the cooling lake water everyone except me. My mother found me cutting out the new paper dolls I had brought.

As I got older, the attraction of paper dolls was designing clothes for them. Several of my friends had the same hobby and we would spend our after-school hours together. We used Mongol colored pencils, a product that let you color, then brush water over the coloring making the result look like a watercolor painting. Our sets grew from eight colors to asking Santa for the deluxe, twenty-four color sets.

Paper became our obsession. Whenever a family member received a birthday card, we would ask for it later to use the back side for dress designing. And Christmas was a bonanza. All those beautiful reds, greens, silvers and golds. Wrapping paper, ironed flat, was great if it had tiny pictures, dots or stripes. One of our group had a dad who worked for a paper company. He would bring home ends of paper cut from custom orders. This was a goldmine for us.

From sixth grade on, I used only one designing doll. Her name was Mopsy and she came from the newspaper. Mopsy was the star of a cartoon about a working girl by Gladys Parker who also made a set of paper dolls. I did not have the set but I cut Mopsy from the Globe and mounted her on cardboard. By this time I was an expert cutter.

Imagine my delight last week to find a set of Mopsy Modes paper dolls for sale on E-bay. I scanned the picture that the seller had taken. It did not come out clearly, but there was my favorite doll looking right back at me after all these years. She was only about six inches tall, a very handy size. And she ended up with a wardrobe numbering over a hundred outfits. I wonder where it went.



January 4, 2008


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