Friday, May 2, 2014

The Other Alice - Alice Liddell - That's Where I Live

Alice Liddle - That's Where I Live
"On July 4, 1862, Charles Dodgson took his neighbor Alice Liddell on a picnic and told her a story that later became a book called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (which he published under the name Lewis Carroll).  Mr. Dogdson taught mathematics at Christ Church at Oxford University in England.  He was a shy man, but he always felt comfortable with children, whom he got to know by photographing them.  Alice was the child friend he liked best of all."  This is an excerpt from the book The Other Alice, The Story of Alice Liddell and Alice in Wonderland.

Alice's First Gown
Several years ago, my dearest friend Betsy Fixler (who loves to send me books!), sent to me a copy of The Other Alice when she discovered that I collected "Alice" books with beautiful illustrations.  I was skeptical of liking this book as it was so very different from what I'd been collecting.  Yet, once I opened the book and began to read, I was captivated by the story, the history, and naturally, the fabulous illustrations. 

This was during a time when I was still making Etrennes, and tiny peg wooden paper dolls.  And, so I made one of Alice Liddell, and if my memory serves me correctly, Betsy is the one that owns this tiny treasure (about 2" tall over all - see photo below).

That's Where I Live
I guess during this time, I began thinking that one day I'd like to have an Alice Liddell doll of my very own.  A real doll I could dress and play with.  It was only recently that I learned Robert Tonner had made a 10" porcelain one very early on.  So maybe my Alice Liddell is the second!  At least she is the only one I know of.

The Book
Last fall, the autumn of 2013, I purchased a Wendy Lawton Marcella doll who was missing her Raggedy Andy, and therefore quite affordable.  This was the face I decided would become my Alice Liddell.  She would need brown eyes and a brunette bobbed wig.  She would also need gorgeous silks, textured cottons, and velvets  with all the trimmings to create a wardrobe for her from this book.  And, indeed I did purchase the first set of these fabrics from Britex last fall, a birthday shopping trip from my husband.  And, I also took the pains of learning how to change the eyes in the Wendy Lawton dolls, and gave my Alice a pair of pretty brown glass eyes.  She was ready to go, but I wasn't.

What I was lacking was confidence and the motivation to begin such an undertaking.  After all, these were "French Fashion" style garments, and I had a mind block from making them.  There's no arguing with myself when I'm in a "no can do" attitude.  So I continued to sew for Daisy, and once the Easter outfit was done, I guess I felt ready to jump in.  I had no excuses, nothing planned, just a summer ahead of me ripe for a long and patient project. 

From Marcella to Alice Liddell
As with reading a book, it is best to start at the beginning, and so I decided to try the garment we'll call That's Where I Live.  It took me several days to draft out all the pattern pieces for this one, yet I knew that they would be used many times for the other garments, so I sewed my mock ups, made the changes, did this again, then began to create Alice Liddell's first outfit. 

It is made from an Italian shirting, textured cotton.  From what I've learned, summer dresses in the 1860's were typically white, and of light cottons, especially for children.  Children during this time were dressed very much like adults, and were often very uncomfortable.  Their clothing was suitable for standing in and posing, and not for much play.  So I have decided to give my little Alice a break, and make sure her dresses are as fun to play in, as well as look elegant in. 

My Marcella and Her Raggedies
Staples of this wardrobe included many layers of undergarments, little jackets and something called a false sleeve.  Perhaps the false sleeve could be worn with other dresses and jackets, like this bolero style one.  Pinafores and hats, parasols and gloves, belts, garters, little drawstring very much for a nanny to look after!  And, my Alice will have them, too.

Was this a difficult outfit to make?  Not really.  Surprisingly so.  Yet, the collar, those darned collars!, was something that took me two full days to make.  This 16" wood body and porcelain doll is a thinner, longer bodied doll than the ones I've been working with.  The problem with the collar when all was said and done, was that it was too long around the neckline, so redrawing the pattern just one more time did the trick.  I've done ruffles, very complex and complicated sleeves with the Lettie Lane outfits I've made in the past, so no.  This was not too difficult.  And, I enjoyed every minute making it...except for the ruffle around the bolero edges.  The little jacket looked like a porcupine by the time I had all the pins in place. 
Paper Lantern Sleeves

I thought the false sleeves would be a challenge, but I made them as one would a gathered skirt with a waistband on the top and one on the bottom.  I think Dodgson would have called them paper lantern sleeves.  And, that is what I will call them.  And, I've done plenty of attaching double-sided silk ribbon to edges and in rows.  Alice's garments will require lots of embellishments, the gold silk autumn dress being the most fussy.  But, I have time.  We've only just begun!

I have to admit, finally, that I'm having fun sewing, and am grateful I took the pains to teach myself the most difficult things first.  (I did that with painting, too!)  There's so much more to learn, but I now feel like I sort-of, kind-of, know what I'm doing.

The Other Alice is one of the sweetest books I've ever read, and am rereading it now.  I'll be living "Alice and Dodgson" for the remainder of the year, and I can't think of a better place to be.  With each new outfit (and yes, I'll make her shoes as well - she is wearing the pair she came in), I'll share more on the story of Alice and her friend.  However, if you love Victorian times, this historical time in England, and are enchanted with the story Dodgson wrote for his little friend, I would recommend picking up a copy. 

Miss E. Mouse

The Real Alice

Wendy Lawton sculpts a beautiful face.

That's Where I Live Close Up
Part of Her Elegant Wardrobe - False Sleeve, too!

Beneath It All

One of Dodgson's Photos

The Tiny Peg Wooden I Made

Just the Beginning.  And She Lives Here.

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