Saturday, July 19, 2014

Audrey’s Baby Doll

After many years of hard play time, neglect, and storage, Mary unpacked her mother’s old doll and decided to have it restored.  It was originally a gift to Audrey on her 4th birthday in 1924.  What you see here is the new version after Judith Dommergue, aka Doll Doctor On Call, worked her healing magic. 

When I took her into the studio for a few pictures I was immediately struck by the way her expression changed as I changed her pose.  I used to play with dolls (GI JOE, of course!) but I don’t remember this flexibility.

Audrey’s doll had serious problems: head fractures, no hair, peeling skin, a single arm, leaky sawdust stuffing, no clothing save the original bodice.  She had also lost her voice.

Ms. Dommergue and Mary made a list of repairs: a face lift, voice box surgery, all new sawdust, a new do, make-up, arms, and a hand sewn wardrobe.  Today Audrey’s doll is the complete package front and back, and she says Ma-Mah (sometimes Bah-Wha).

OK, you may think this next part is weird, but it’s a necessary step in documenting this kind of toy: Doll Lingerie.  Ms. Dommergue created a slip and bloomers contemporary to the 1920’s.  The new arms are a match to the originals. New skin tones and makeup subtly accent her contours.

The last thing to show is what we call her bodice. According to the dictionary, a bodice is “the part of a woman's dress (excluding sleeves) that is above the waist”. Bodice sounds nicer than torso and thighs, but if you know dolls then please comment.

This garment is one of the few original parts of Audrey’s doll.  In this view of her left side ( A, below ) you can see the original seam stitching at the bottom center.  New stitching, upper center, was necessary to replace the old sawdust. I didn’t expect to see this intricate floral design on a child’s doll (B).

The only “before” picture we have of Baby Doll is Audrey playing with her in front of her rural home near Hawley, MN, ca. 1924.  Her family was typical of the times: cash poor, hardworking farmers.  This gift was probably extravagant for that time and as such it was a sign of the love her parents had for their first child.

Audrey grew up, went to college, married, and lived far away from Hawley after WW II.  She came back to visit often. We are fortunate to have these pictures of her and also to have one of her precious keepsakes. 

I had to promise my photographer friends I would never post about Doll Lingerie again.

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