Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Polichinelle and The French Clown

Mignonette and Monette with Marottes
Sometimes, it seems, I flit from one concept in design to another.  Like a wee butterfly from one flower to another.  While creating the long desired costuming for my Robin Woods' Alice, which was in no way an easy task, I'd been browsing a few of the many beautiful albums on Pinterest.  While I am not a collector of antique dolls, I do enjoy looking at them and gathering ideas for my own dolls from them.

One of the costume designs that has always appealed to me is that of the French clown, the Polichinelle, and the jester.  These marvelously unique and colorful costumes are a joy in their design concepts and ornate embellishing.  They are also often accompanied by the doll holding her own marotte, or jester stick.  The marotte itself, was made as a toy on its own, and so the appeal of including such an accessory with a doll costume delighted me.

Found on Carmel Doll Shop
I'd been also looking at dolls on the Grovian Doll Musuem website (used to be The Carmel Doll Shop and I'm not sure if they are one and the same or separate now), when I found a little French doll wearing a charming little Polichinelle costume in pink, cream and gold.  I immediately thought, "What a darling costume for my Wendy Lawton Mignonette", since her wardrobe is French and entirely themed in pink.

Presentation Box From Theriaults
I'd also found among the vast photos (on Pinteretst) of antique dolls in French Presentation Boxes, a marvelous set in blue and ivory that was once offered for auction by Theriaults.  This set intrigued me since its layers were many and the costumes a sure inspiration for Wendy Lawton's Monette, the companion doll to Mignonette, however done in blues and creams.  I had spoken to Jean (Nordquist) about the possibility of creating a presentation box similar to this and creating all the costumes in it for an OOAK doll.  With so much on her plate and a business to run, it didn't seem a likely thing to happen anytime soon, so while I gathered silks and gold trims for Mignonette's costume, I decided to make a companion outfit, from the Theriault's set for Monette as well.  I knew as a sure as the sun comes up that I would also want to make them both marottes as accessories to their costumes.

A marotte is a prop stick or sceptre with a carved or porcelain head on it. The word is borrowed from the French, where it signifies either a fool's "bauble", or a craze.  It is typically carried by a jester or harlequin, and the miniature head will often reflect the costume of the jester who carries it.  They are also considered puppets, and some can be musical.  I've seen a few where you can flick your wrist while holding it and the "body" spins around the stick musically.  Enchanting!  What a lovely toy for a young child.  These may have even been used as "rattles" for toddlers, although I can hardly imagine a these exquisite novelties in the chubby hands of little ones.

And, so I began designing the pink and cream costume with the Napolean hat for Mignonette.  I chose two different silks, both dupionis with different textures, since the original also boasted two differing silks.  By sewing a seam between the pink and the cream, creating "one" fabric, I was able to cut my patterns out by pinning the middles of the patterns to the seam.  Mignonette's little jacket would also have silk piping on the bottom to finish the hem. 

I actually began with the jacket.  This piece is fully lined the Magalie Dawson way, but the hem was left open for the piping.  The piping was sewn in very much the same way I trimmed all the edges of Louise Godey's outfit (and no, I have not forgotten her!)  Silk ribbon, the regular kind, was ruched and sewn to the hem of the sleeves and around the neckline.  Thin gold grosgrain ribbon was used for the trim down the front.  It would also be used along the pink hemline of the skirt and the bands on the hat.  There was more doggone trim on this costume than I care to think about, but I patiently proceeded to add it all.

The flowers are the same silk ribbon I used in ruching.  These were embroidered onto the costume and centered with gold jewelry filigree flowers with a gold bead in the center.  Her stockings, one pink, one white, were made from little girls' tights for their thinness.

She also required slippers.  Two silk slippers were made.  One cream and one pink, and decorated the same as the costume.  I tried carefully to stay faithful to the original antique doll's costume keeping in mind that the original was probably a larger doll, and chunkier than the tiny wooden bodies Wendy Lawton uses. 

Silk slippers are not easy to make since they don't stretch around a foot like leather.  I took apart a pair of existing Lawton shoes that weren't well made, and used the inner bottoms and soles to create the fit.  The ruched silk and flower and single beading rather hid the ill fit on the top.  However when the stockinged foot went into the slipper, they fit like a dream.

The hat was composed, not on buckram, but on thin cardboard.  I drew out the shape of the Napolean hat on the cardboard, made two, then using these pieces as a pattern, cut out the silk about 1/2" larger all around - then glued the silk to the cardboard pieces.  Trimming along the way, I added this lovely little gold "scroll" trim that had a tiny, shiny gold band running through it.  It was just the right touch.

In the meantime, while working on Mignonette's costume, I begged Jean to make me a couple of tiny porcelain heads for the marottes.  I ask so much of my dear friend, but she seemed excited at the prospect of my making them, and has made them herself, so she consented to make them for me.  She is an absolute angel in these regards! So while waiting for her to get these wee heads to me, I began Monette's costume.

Monette's French Clown, as I mentioned earlier, was taken from the presentation box costume offered by Theriaults.  This would be another jacket, though loose and long, a long sleeved tunic, and the skirt, a pleated affair.  The hat was a bit unusual, although I remember that Boneka had made a similar styled one in blue for a munchkin in their Riley as Dorothy presentation box for a UFDC luncheon (which I have).  I thought of this only after I'd drawn out my own pattern based on the look of the original.  Its rather a silly looking cone with flared sides.  But, jesters and clowns were supposed to have whimsical costuming!

This one did go together a bit more quickly although I did have to design yet another collar, and collars have always given me the fits.  This is not a circle.  Its more of a crescent shape, done twice, one a little larger then the other.  Both were sewn together and gathered gently at the neck before trimming it off with a bias strip.  Silk bias strips also finished the edging on these crescent shaped collar pieces.

The original costume seemed to boast pom-poms in an aqua or turquoise color, but this didn't suit Monette's coloring or compliment her existing wardrobe.  So off came the darker pom-poms (yes, I tried them first), and I replaced them with French blue ones.  I also did this because I had tiny pom-poms in the same color that could be used for her marotte.  Her shoes are little white leather ankle pull-on boots with matching pom-poms.

By this time, the heads for the marottes had arrived.  I began with Mignonette's.  I did a careful study of antique marottes found on Pinterest.  (I might add that it was Jean that prompted me to join Pin and start my own boards as well as just have fun looking.)  The main costuming of a marotte is a hat and a collar.  It was in the search for hat ideas that Nellie Polder's board on marottes was intrinsically valuable.  I selected the two horned hat for Mignonette's and the one horn for Monette's, since the French Clown costume had a little marotte next to it wearing a similar hat. 

Step by step, I began building these two accessories by adding first a stick through the neck, a ball at the bottom, and painting them white and cream for the corresponding costumes.  What I discovered through studying the photos on Pin and the need to have a place to drape "points", was that there needed to be a body beneath the décor.  Sure.  You can simply add a collar to the stick and call it a day, but I don't do that, do I?  LOL  So I made a little barrel of silk, gathered it top and bottom about the stick and stuffed it with fiber fill.  These gave me nice little bodies to work on.

Mignonette's marotte is decorated like her costume, and so is Monette's.  Pom-poms included.  I'd noticed that lace collars were often used on antique marottes, so both got one.  The wee hats are also stuffed with fiber fill (batting?) to maintain their form.  Each marotte is about 3 1/2" tall, not including the hat.  These were fun to make!  Except for adding mohair to the heads which is always a nightmare for me.  Glue, mohair and me don't mix!  I did find some curled mohair among my stash that I'd made a very long time ago, and this worked lovely for Monette's little "puppet".  I'll have to remember how I did that.  I added gold beads to each marotte's costuming to resemble tiny bells.  Do click on these photos to see the details.  There's a lot there and its fun to look at.

At the end of this, I feel like I have two new dollies, and I think they'll enjoy wearing these costumes and playing with their marottes for some time to come.  How perfect for April!  April Fools!

Miss E. Mouse

One in pink found on Nellie's board.

Inspiration for Mignonette's marotte's hat.

Inspiration for Monette's marotte's hat.

Polichinelle and the French Clown


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry! That was so badly written that, when I read it through it made very little sense, so I deleted it.

    Back to the start! Thank you so much for yet another lovely and intersting post.
    Now the question.....which comes first - the doll that you then need to find apersonna/series of outfits for, or the outfit ideas that you then need to search for the right doll to wear?
    I ask because I am keen to make a series of outfits from a favourite set of books from my childhood, but can't for the life of me think which doll I should use.
    I want one that stands well and has a good fbody shape for a 7 or 8 year old child, but an spending far too much time on-line searching for her!

  3. Okay, first. Both Monette and Mignonette are Wendy Lawton dolls that have their own French wardrobes made by Lawton Doll Company. The outfits I've been making for Mignonette (and with this one, a companion outfit for Monette) are merely supplemental to their wardrobes. If I do create a doll and wardrobe, she is most often conceived through my having read a book whose heroine I'd like to bring to life, or a set of fashions (Louise Godey), or paper dolls, I'd like to dress a doll in, and so on. Then I look for a doll suited to the theme. Hailing from across the pond, you might know of the Josephine books by Mrs. Craddock. She was a little girl of about 7 or 8 years old and was dressed differently in her stories. A doll like Tonner's Barbara McCall, for instance, might have been a good choice since she wore her hair in a short, blonde bob. So, if the stories were illustrated, I'd be looking for a doll that resembled the illustrations. If the book was not illustrated, I'll be making notes on the features the author gave her and descriptions of her clothing, noting also the time period she lived in. Can you share with us what character to wish to bring to life? If so, maybe I can come up with some suggestions so you can start having fun creating her.

  4. Aha! Joesephine is one of the three girls I loved as a small child - my pre-school and early primary heroines. But I am thinking of working on Ameliaranne first because she too has so many different outfits and I have some of the books to hand.

    Ameliaranne stories were all illustrated by Susan Beatrice Pearse but the stories were written by several authors and I fell in love with her when I was four, wishing I was one of her little sisters. Oh to have a big, intelligent, carng sister to look after and play with me instead of a big brother who tried to lose me all the time!

    The third girl I really loved to read about was Milly-Molly-Mandy. Her author, Josephine Lankester-Brisley, was aunt to one of my mother's friends and she based the books on her niece, Millicent. I called Millicent 'Aunt Millie' and she wasa lovely lady. The stories were originally written to entertain her when she was ill.

    Sadly, M-M-M always seemed to wear the same dress,so there's not much to do for her and I already have my mini Milly picked out. My Bravot Loulotte will dress as her sometimes and, at other times either as herself or as my mother, who looked very like her as a child in to 20s and 30s.

    Somehow, Ameliaranne is eluding me, though - she is a slightly plain child and few dolls are designed not to be pretty. Oddly, I feel the need for her to have some resemblance to the pictures I grew up with. She has black hair, small features, dark eyes and pale skin, according to the stories. The first book was published in 1920 and the series was still in print in the 80s when my daughter was little.

    I'd love to hear your ideas as to which dolls would be suitable. I had thought of an early Sylvia Natterer girl because of their little features but can't find one that is suitable - yet.

    Thanks for all the information of how you go about things, too. It is very interesting to read about how someone else has gone about the decision making.

    Best wishes,

    1. Dear Jenni, I think you are spot on for the early Sylvia Natterer dolls. I see a Myles and Maisie up on ebay right now. They may not be the size you want though. Think about Diana Effner dolls. These are vinyl, and may be a little larger, easier to dress, too. I am almost thinking that a cloth doll might be wonderful for Ameliaranne. You could make her yourself. I do love Susan B. Pearse. Vogue Doll Company used her illustrations to dress a Just Me with several outfits for a UFDC convention. Again I think Sylvia's little moppets would be just the style, but Effner might be a good second choice if you didn't wish to make a cloth doll. Darling project!

  5. My daughter have lots of dolls like this and majority of them are still not broke. So I want to make an antique display cabinets for those doll which was most favorite for my daughter.