Friday, February 6, 2015

Meet Louise Godey, The Godey Girl

Louise Godey
Several years after I bought my first Bleuette, I was introduced to the French Fashion doll.  She was a 12" lady doll that seemed to be the natural progression for collectors of French reproduction dolls to own, and a new direction for seamstresses desiring a new challenge from costuming the child doll.  Not wishing to be left behind, I bought one.  I had a seamstress make me up some of the dresses, then I sold her.  I didn't like her body.  I bought another one.  The same thing happened, and I sold her!  I bought another French Fashion doll, a larger one that was very beautiful, never sewed for her and sold her.  It seemed I was simply not going to embrace the French Fashion dolls.  Its not that I didn't enjoy looking, for I find them extraordinary - the antiques.  Then I began sewing for Alice Liddell, and the notion of sewing French Fashion took a turn.  So I thought I'd try it again.  This time my way, and instead of buying an "accepted" doll to dress, I chose to dress a child doll of my own design.  Enter Louise Godey.
Louis Antoine Godey

I'd been studying the fashions of La Mode Illustree for quite some time, then started looking into Godey's Lady's Book illustations as well.  The name The Godey Girl appealed to me, so I began looking for a doll that would represent the children in the illustrations from both publications. 

Louis Godey was born to French immigrant parents in New York, 1804. His family was poor and he had no formal schooling, but he was self-educated. At age 15, he took a job as a newspaper boy in New York. Several years later, he moved to Philadelphia and became an editor for the Daily Chronicle. In 1830, he published the first edition of the Lady's Book, composed of reprinted articles and illustrations from French magazines. The publication was quite popular becoming America's highest circulated magazine in the 1840's reaching over 150,000 subscribers by 1858.  It was the American counterpart to La Mode Illustree.  When searching for the perfect name for my little muse, I chose Louise in honor of Louis Antoine.  For her story, she becomes his niece.

Hair Fashions
Louise Godey is a reborn doll who was once a Wendy Lawton Mirette, from the storybook, Mirette on the Highwire, the story of a little French girl who learns the tightrope under a master acrobat.  Perfect.  However, she needed a new identity including new eyes and a new wig.  Louise is a 14" wood body and porcelain like the others I've recreated.  Her first outfit would be one I'd been studying in La Mode Illustree, probably one of the most fussy and complicated, but aren't they all?

As I began designing the patterns and slowing making (many) mock ups, I was searching for wigs for her.  Her blue eyes had been replaced with hazel ones, and I wanted her to have auburn hair since she already had freckles.  This style of hair you see in the bottom left hand corner of the hair fashions plate is the one I chose.  Two French braids.  It is also shown on the right bottom side of the page.  Easy.  Right?  No.  I must have bought six wigs before I settled on an auburn human hair wig, the same style Alice Illustrated wears.  At least I could style it myself.  Boy, was that a learning curve!

Louise's French Braids
I knew the basic steps to a French braid, but to try it on a little doll wig?  Something else all together.  Each part of Mirette's transformation into Louise Godey had to be well thought out and well executed.  It might be warming to know that I do have a "first" Mirette and she will remain as she is.  When I transform a Wendy Lawton doll, she is typically a second purchase of a doll I have in my collection.  One that is in need of "love" that I find on the second hand market.

Sewing for her would require a new set of patterns.  Alice Liddel is 16".  Alice Illustrated, and the "not forgotten" Delight of Fairytales, are 12" dolls, so I couldn't use their pattern pieces.  I had exactly two yards of this silk taffeta that I bought at Britex two and a half years ago.  It would prove one of the greater challenges of this project since every single edge of this costume has a binding cut from the bias.  Add to this, each ruffle is also cut on the bias.  By the time I was done with this outfit, I felt like I'd been in an E.M. Escher painting.

This outfit was far more complex than Alice Liddell's Botanical Garden Stroll.  I did as much sitting, thinking and stewing over how to approach each piece, as I did sewing most of it by hand.  The sheer measuring and cutting of all the bias bindings and ruffle lengths would send me off for many a break while I wrapped my head around what I was doing.

I began with the jacket.  One of things I feel helps when I making something is understanding what it is.  I know how silly that might sound, but this jacket did not have traditional lappets.  Lappets are those "tongues" or rectangles that are sewn into the bottom edge of a jacket the way a peplum is.  The shape of this jacket is like someone didn't want to bother with lappets and made them a part of the whole.  Then decided to add tiny ruffles around all the edges, with bias binding.  What was I thinking jumping into this project?!  The challenge.  Learning something new, of course.  Determined to get this right, I made at least three mock ups of the jacket alone. 

Since the jacket is shown only from behind, I had to "make up" how it would look in the front.  I studied some of the other jackets in La Mode, and chose to decorate the front edges with 14 little antiqued brass buttons.

When it came to the skirt, I chose to make it in two, no, three pieces.  There is the under-skirt with two bias ruffles edges in bias trim.  They lay on top of the skirt as decoration.  Click on the image of the outfit-only and study it for a few minutes and you'll discover some very interesting designs.  The waistband on the skirt is a simple band giving way to the one the apron and attached bustle own.  If you look carefully, you'll notice that the bustle overlaps the edges of the apron.  I sewed these together on one side to hook on the other over the underskirt.  Not wishing to be left out of the fuss, the waistband on this piece has its own bias bands at the skirt edge and one on the top of the waistband.  Its a miracle I didn't go blind creating this.

The Bustle
When it came time to design the blouse, I began with the attempt to make the one in the illustration.  Two things happened.  One is that I felt if I did, I'd toss the project.  The pieces where just too tiny to make.  The second was that this heavy blouse, which is almost a front closing jacket in itself, would not lay nicely under the jacket I just spent so much time making.  Decision made, I improvised. 

At first, I'd sent away for white jacquard trim since this seems to be what they used down the front of the blouse and also on the "cuff" of the sleeve (edged then, in lace).  Made up for a life size child, this would all be quite doable.  Try it on a small doll?  Time to improvise.  This blouse is not a delicate batiste affair.  Even the illustration imparts that information to you.  So I chose a white silk dupioni and decorated it in French cotton laces.  Four little pearls make the buttons down the front, and it fits very nicely, smoothly, under the jacket I have no name for. 

I'd even bought Sylvia Mac Neil's book, Chiffonette, looking for the style name of this jacket.  She has plenty of jackets with lappets, but even she wasn't crazy enough to try this.  This book, by the way, can be purchased at Dollspart from my friend Barbara Froelich, and is just gorgeous. 

I'm getting tired of writing, and I'm sure you're getting tired of reading this.  So I'll wrap it up.  Louise needed boots.  I bought a few goat skin hides from my favorite Italian Ebay store Rolipel.  I chose, for Louise's first garment, a mustard colored leather for her side button boots.  It was called "Smooth Polished Mustard Beige".  I had to make a pattern for these from the boots Mirette wears.  These took a few tries as well, so when I got it into my head to make her real fingered gloves, I had to stop.  We will do this another time, and I will make her a pair.  After seeing what Sylvia did for Chiffonette, I'm convinced I can make this happen.

It has taken me nearly a month to make this costume, and it was only through sheer will and determination that is found completion.  The next outfit I make for her...well, I'll try to find a less complicated design.  I do think it would have been a bit easier to construct for a larger doll, but Louise is petite and she due to have as lovely a wardrobe as I have the patience for.

Please enjoy the following photos with details of this fussy, frilly, elaborate little costume.

One more note.  Louise is holding a tiny valentine I made from one of Jean Nordquist's Make and Take kits.  These little valentines are made for a 12" doll, so don't tell Louise.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Miss E. Mouse

The Back of the Jacket Over the Bustle

No Name Jacket

All Lined and Bias Trimmed

Little Boots

Another View of the Boots

Happy Valentine's Day Louise!


  1. Miss E. Mouse,
    This is such a stunning outfit, with beautiful details! I can imagine how time consuming this was to make by what you wrote. Everything you make is done so very well, you're at the top when it comes to designing from an illustration...I know no one else that comes close to you with this talent. Mirette makes the perfect French girl, I love how you transformed her!

  2. I'm in lurve! This girl is my dream - a young girl wearing proper clothing for her generation, when late childhood/early teens meant wearing adult style clothes in miniature.
    I hate to ask such a personal question of such a refined young lady, but what style of body does she have under her stunning outfit? Cloth, biscue and child shaped, young teen or fashion lady?

    1. Oh thank you Jenni, and Lori. Patience was my only friend in constructing this garment. This doll has a spring jointed wooden body with porcelain hands and head. Her ankles even tilt, so making these boots on her feet was quite a challenge, as opposed to making them on a form. More boots and shoes will be made for her so the practice was good. I'll take of photo of her "sans garments" on my next post of her for you.