Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Delight of Fairy Tales - It Begins with Father Tuck

The Delight of Fairytales - Red Riding Hood
My friend, Jenny Norden, recently asked me how long it took me to make an outfit, a costume.  I wasn't quite sure how to answer this (and I know I've brought up the subject before), but it all depends on how long I've been designing the piece in my head, collecting the proper fabrics, and drafting a pattern.  Then we must take into account that I often have to make something three times before it turns out the way I want it to.  But, for the sake of today's journal, let's just say a least for this Red Riding Hood costume.

Father Tuck's Fairy Land Panorama
Let me begin by introducing Delight to you.  In my quest for finding Lawton dolls that need a reincarnation, I came upon a Wendy Laton Rose In Bloom who was in ghastly distress of a new life.  She was on one of my favorite bodies, the wood body that makes up a 12" doll, and she was missing her original dress, and all of her belongings for that matter.  The seller thought she was rare, and we've heard that before, but when I told her the actual state the doll was in, and how I'd help the doll into a good home, she sold her to me (for a decent price). 

Dressed for a walk in the woods.
It was then that I had to figure out what to do with her.  She had this smile that didn't quite fit the solemn portraits I've been creating, and a friend of mine, Betsy, suggested Gigi.  As in Leslie Caron as Gigi.  I researched the clothing, the subject of the film, and in the end decided that the doll's face was more childlike than a young woman's.  I think I'd been looking, at the time, at Tonner Halloween costumes for my (Re-imagined) Patsy, and found a Red Riding Hood outfit.  I fell in love.  It occurred to me that I'd never done a fairytale doll, or costume, and The Delight of Fairytales was born.  I gave the doll hazel eyes and a dark brown wig, completely changing her look from the blonde, blue-eyed Rose that she was. 

Dress with button attached reticule.
My own delight with fairytales goes way back to childhood.  My mother had the crumbling copies of her mother's childhood Grimm's Fairytale books, and I'd spend hours looking through the strange pen and ink drawings on the thin, browning pages.  My own first fairytale book was a Little Golden Book, Little Red Riding Hood (see below for image).  I read that thing over and over again, marveling at the fabulous illustrations between the covers.  I'm certain I imagined myself as the child on her mission, but I'm also positive I was very skeptical of how the wolf, or even Grandmother, could survive the things they went through.  Yes, the wolf dies in a tragic way, but consuming an entire woman that could resurface intact, is simply amazing!  I'm sure I would tell my mother that this was just not "logical".  But, enough of that.

With the velvet vest.
Delight is a child that has a fabulous imagination, and loves the Grimm Brothers fairytales.  She also loves to play dress up, and I won't disappoint her.  She will be receiving some beautiful fairytale dress-up costumes by some of my favorite illustrators.  Today she is wearing Little Red Riding Hood as illustrated in the Father Tuck Panorama.  With all the possible illustrated costumes to select from (and they are vast), Father Tuck's had the Grimm Brothers German feel to it.

I began with her shoes and socks.  I designed the little brown shoes with the white buttons to have that peasant look about them.  A pair of royal blue stockings finished the first day's work.

Since Delight is the same size as Alice Illustrated, the dress took a simple day to put together.  I used cotton sateen for the aqua dress, and white shirting cotton with tiny satin dots on it for the cuffs and bodice.  The apron is of silver and white striped cotton and hangs a bit below her dress, like an old kitchen towel, as in the illustration.  Her vest is marine blue velvet, and this piece caused me lots of difficulties.  First in that I had to recut the pattern twice for a deeper "neckline", and second because I had to pull lined velvet through a half inch shoulder area.  I almost gave up.  Why velvet?  Why the richness of sateen?  Because she's a Lawton doll and they are very used to elegant fabrics.  White double-sided silk ribbon was laced through the vest.  Both dress and vest close in the back with hooks and thread loops. 

Pointy Hood on Velveteen
Yesterday was the second day of designing the hooded cape.  The hood piece is huge.  It had to be drawn in a way that would allow the hood a point at the top, and enough fullness around the face so that you could gather it.  This cape is of red cotton velveteen, lined in red cotton sateen.

Finally, I had one more piece to make.  The reticule.  I used a small key ring as the base and wrapped it in silk ribbon.  Then I used silk dupioni to make the little round bag.  It is only cosmetic and does not open.  I looped silk ribbon around the ring and knotted it on top, then sewed a small brown button to the bodice of the dress to hook the little bag to.  Hah!  Brilliant.  A bouquet of daisies for Grandmother and a basket of goodies by Lawton Doll Company complete the look.

Delight will be costumed as Gretel, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Snow White (no, not Disney Snow White), and possibly other fairytale heroines as time goes on.  She will need a dress up trunk, and I have the perfect Lawton doll trunk for her to store her costumes in.  Suggestions of fairytales would be welcome!

Father Tuck was chosen for Little Red Riding Hood, but will not be used again.  We have untold numbers of illustrators throughout time who've conceived their own versions of these fairytale heroines, and one will speak to me for each story.  I was telling Jenny that working with red made me happy.  Delight has a costume that will take her through the holidays, and Alice Liddell will get her red winter coat in December.  She must.

Please enjoy a sampling of a few of my favorite Red Riding Hood illustrations below.

Miss E. Mouse
My Childhood Book

Johnny Gruelle 1916

Unknown (to me)

Genady Spirin's Little Red Cap

Margaret Tarrnat

Vintage Paper Toy

Trina Schart-Hyman (one of my favorite illustrators, I began collecting her books when I was 16)


(unknown) ...with now-a-days frocks

Carl Larrson

Off to Grandmother's House


  1. Oh, how positively wonderful. I get so inspired reading your blog posts. This one truly takes me back because I had the same Little Golden Book. You must not forget Sleeping Beauty - but isn't she sometimes known as Rose Red? You could expand into the beautiful stories of Hans Christian Andersen - The Little Match Girl, among others. I will follow them all faithfully! Thank you for sharing. It is pure delight to see what new treasure you have devised.

  2. Dear Nancy, Sleeping Beauty was also called Little Briar Rose, and yes, she's in my plans. Hans Christian Andersen will definitely be considered. Thank you! Those Little Golden Books made childhood magical, didn't they.

  3. I have to say this is a favorite outfit for me, I've loved anything Red Riding Hood for awhile now, if I was to collect a theme of stories in dolls, I would choose Red Riding Hood. Don't know if it's the story, or just as simple that I love capes and red capes especially. Any outfit with an apron is also a favorite for me. I love the way you made the apron a bit longer, so clever! Can't wait to see the rest of your upcoming fairy tale designs!!

  4. Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic. This has really made me think and I hope to read more.
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