Sunday, May 11, 2014

Day at the Beach

Josephine - Day at the Beach
I began collecting the vinyl fashion dolls of Franklin Mint with their beautiful wardrobes and wardrobe trunks many years ago.  One of my favorites has always been Josephine, the Gibson Girl.  To me she was the image of life in the glory days after the Gold Rush, setting, San Francisco.  Maybe its because I'm a Northern California girl, or maybe I've just had my nose in so many books about this era.  There is no doubt that the history of San Francisco is an exciting one, but during the 1890's?  You bet.

Advertisement for 22" Doll
Sad to say that Franklin Mint is no longer producing these collectible vinyl dolls as they used to, and for new collectors, its the secondary market only.  My biggest beef with collections like Josephine's was that they made a limited number, and style, of outfits for her.  They were all ball or evening gowns, save for a nightgown and robe.

Gorgeous, and popular as the vinyl dolls were, they seemed to bank their profits on the 22" porcelain, cloth body Gibson Girls.  One of them was called Day at the Beach.  Long before I began sewing, I'd always dreamt of having this very outfit for my Gibson Girl.  Nautical, fresh and summery.  And, what would stop me now?  Except the well defined, and occasional dents in my confidence?  Nothing.  So I set my sights on stripes, and began.

15 1/2" Vinyl Portrait Doll
Interestingly enough, the minute I went to purchase a copy of an original advertisement to work from, the very doll, the rare and hard to find 22" doll showed up on Ebay.  So I bought her.  What could be better to have than the original costume to work from?  Sorry to say, the doll is not as beautiful as the ad portrays, but having this large costume to study and work from was enormously helpful.  For once I was not just designing from an illustration, but an actual piece of costuming.

Charles Dana Gibson  (September 14, 1867 – December 23, 1944) was an American graphic artist, best known for his creation of the Gibson Girl, an iconic representation of the beautiful and independent American woman at the turn of the 20th century.  While he worked as a magazine illustrator for 30 years, the development of the Gibson Girl from 1890, and her nationwide fame, made Gibson respected and wealthy.  Even the Gibson, a gin martini, his favorite drink, was named after him.

Charles Dana Gibson's Girls at the Beach
The Gibson Girl was idealized as a statuesque, narrow-waisted feminine figure, portrayed as being at ease and stylish.  She was fragile, yet voluptuous and had an exaggerated S-curve torso shape achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset.  She was a member of upper class society, always perfectly dressed in the latest fashionable attire appropriate for the place and time of day. The Gibson Girl was also one of the new, more athletic shaped women, who could be found cycling through Central Park, often exercised and was emancipated to the extent that she could enter the workplace.

Half Slip With Ruffled Kick Pleat
In addition to the Gibson Girl's refined beauty, in spirit, she was calm, independent, confident, and sought personal fulfillment. She could be depicted attending college and vying for a good mate, but she would never have participated in the suffrage movement.  There are wonderful images and stories of these women in antique magazines such as The Ladies' Home Journal.  One of my favorites!

So with the several ball and party gowns that Franklin Mint created for this 15 1/2" vinyl portrait doll, she definitely needed a Day at the Beach to round out a proper wardrobe.  (And, I do believe a cycling costume and travel suit would be appropriate as well.)

Side View and Large Bow
Finding a navy and white pin stripe cotton in April, is not an easy task.  Nor at any time.  When June comes along, there are lots of nautical and 4th of July prints, but something as simple and refined as a dark pin stripe, seems a life time quest.  So I began with an 1/8" stripe in an Italian men's shirting cotton for the skirt.  A complimentary navy cotton for the nautical bib collar, which is detached and hooks behind the neck, and my pima batiste for the blouse were my fabric choices.  I used baby flexi-braid for the trim so as to keep the trim in scale for this doll.  Double-sided silk ribbon was used for her tie, and straw hat band.

S-Curve - Swan Bill Corset (gasp!)
In creating the bib collar, I actually photocopied the original by laying it flat on the glass plate of the copy machine, and shrunk it down 80% leaving room for seams.  It did take a couple of tries as the first bib collar was too small, but it was not a difficult piece to make.  It did take time though.  Time and patience since the braid had to be sewn on, and a nautical anchor had to be hand embroidered on the front.  The original decorative anchor for the 22" doll's collar was an applique sewn on.  I'm sure the embroidery would be considered more authentic. 

There was also a unique design of the skirt that I had to work with.  There is a rise or scoop at the front, tapering down to the back and this is more clearly defined by the two rows of red braid outlining this "wave".  The skirt has eight pleats on either side of the front panel.  The pleats in this case were overlapped giving the skirt its fullness.  I'd not overlapped pleats prior to this, so it was something I had to reason and figure out.

I also had to make the slip that went beneath it.  I don't enjoy making underwear, as it can never be seen, but in the case of Day at the Beach, it seemed necessary.  It took me two days to make one good slip, as I had to figure out how to make the four-ruffled kick pleat in front.  Each ruffle on the slip was made as a complete ruffle with overcasted edges, then top-stitching so I could cut pieces to fit the triangle of the kick pleat.  By finishing the ruffles prior to attaching them, I could assure the gathers were consistent and didn't have to fuss with long threads and pulling them as I pinned them to the fabric edge or face.  And, again, it was wonderful to have the original as an example to work from.  In fact, this entire outfit was made as close to the way Franklin Mint created theirs, as could be.

The 22" Franklin Mint Doll
The large bow in the back is created from a long shaped piece that is part waistband, part ties.  Its all one piece.  It is narrow at the waist, then widely shaped, then tapered at the ends.  An 1/8" machine sewed hem was made on the edges of this "waistband tie". 

While the original 22" doll wears her hair in a long braid going down her back, I didn't have the heart to undo the perfect "Gibson" bouffant my 15 1/2" Josephine wears.  Judging from the pen and ink drawing of girls at the beach (above), I feel safe that her hairstyle would have been appropriate at the beach.  I made a little straw boater for her to wear, and now all she needs is a picnic basket and a few tickets to enjoy on the boardwalk.  Especially one for the gypsy fortune telling booth!

I am so pleased with the outcome of Day at the Beach.  I was doubtful I could pull it off, but I did.  Its notable since this is the first lady doll outfit I've made.  This might be considered French Fashion in the doll world, or it might be seen as early Edwardian.  For me, its just fun.  Whether spending a day on the boardwalk, going to a carnival, or even attending the circus, its fun, elegant and so very Josephine, Gibson Girl.

What shall I do next?  A cycling outfit for her, or another delicate dress for our Alice Liddell?

Miss E. Mouse

Gibson Girl Fashions

Elegant Gowns

Daily Threads

Tea For Two

Fragile and Voluptuous

Strolling In the Park

The Man Responsible - Charles Dana Gibson

Josephine - Day at the Beach

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