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 d├ęcor.  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!

Love,
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

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Alice and the Queen's Baby Playset Revisited

13" Alice Darling
Sometimes we must make dreams come true for ourselves, and this is one I've been dreaming of since 1992. 

Long ago, before there was online shopping, Ebay, and extensive Internet searching, dolls could only be purchased (at least for me!), through a brick and mortar shop.  What the store offered was up to the discretion of the owner, and unless you were given, or purchased a catalog, you had no idea what else might be out there.  For me, I was limited to what Toy World in Cupertino, CA had to offer. 

The Ultimate Illustrated Alice
However, each fall, the owner would host a doll fair, and one year, in 1991, Robin Woods aka Alice Darling, came to Toy World and introduced a lovely trunk set called The Ultimate Alice.  She'd only brought one with her, and I bought it.  She was also promoting her line of Let's Play Dolls, that she designed and Madame Alexander produced.  I fondly remember her playing with the dolls in front of her audience, showing how they could be posed and telling us how they should be cared for.  This was one of the happiest days of my life and I was excited to bring home, not only the Ultimate Alice Trunk Set, but the two extra play sets offered in this collection: The Gold Dress Playset, and The Card Playset.

Catalog Cover With Alice Darling in Pink
Years later I would purchase the book, The Ultimate Illustrated Alice, from which Robin got her inspirations for the costuming.  Since then, and most recently, I've poured over and over this book looking for my own inspirations.  In her own words, "(Her) Alice (Darling) goes to visit her namesake, Alice in Wonderland, and becomes The Ultimate Alice - with costumes inspired by the Cooper Edens edition of Alice...All of Alice's costumes and the dolls themselves capture the artistry of the last hundred years of Alice..."  Indeed they do.

Alice Finds the Key and Queen's Baby Playset
Since my first purchase of the Ultimate Alice Trunk Set, I have acquired two more on the secondary market (can't help myself!), but I was never able to purchase the two new selections, one on a doll, one as a playset from the 1992 catalog.  Robin and MA had a disagreement, to put it mildly, and she no longer worked for the company.  The new sets did not get made (many things didn't), and the following year dolls that had been in production had been farmed out to a lesser manufacturer which produced hideous dolls in cheap costumes.  And, that was the end of Let's Play Dolls.  I still grieve.

The Ultimate Alice Trunk Collection
But, all these years I kept the catalogs and would continue to enjoy looking.  I could also use them to acquire other dolls and outfits from the secondary market.  And, then I began designing and sewing.  I only thought to create Alice and the Queen's Baby Playset , and Alice Finds the Key, after a year of sewing for Lettie and Polly.  Finding the right fabrics and acquiring like-trims produced 23 years earlier, would prove to be quite a treasure hunt.  I think I'd finally collected enough of a starter box of fabrics and trims about a year ago.  Yet still, I had other dolls to sew for, things to learn, and I wasn't sure I wanted to sew for vinyl play dolls.  Still, these two costumes kept nudging me to be made, so I caved.  I undressed one of my Alice Darling's and began the work.  It wasn't like I didn't have these two costumes committed to memory after twenty-three years of looking at the catalog pages, but what I didn't realize was how detailed the construction would be.  And, of course, you could not see the back sides of them, or underneath the dresses.
The Queen's Baby Playset Dress
So I began to make Alice and the Queen's Baby Playset for spring.

During this entire process, I was often dismayed that I could not replicate it exactly, but I continued to try for a close match.  I was plagued by the construction of the apron, working with organdy, and helpless to find a pink and green striped wired ribbon for her hair.  As I think back on what Robin may have used for the pink ruffled trim (attached to a band), it may have been a grosgrain ribbon trim.  But, nowhere could I find this, so I used a pink sateen and made a facsimile of the pieces.

Earlier, I had collected a pig, and also a pair of slip-ons that I would create her "baby" and shoes from.  Beneath it all, she wears her original stocking and under garments. As most of us know, the pig was the Duchess's baby, but perhaps "Queen's" rolls off a child's tongue more easily than "Duchess's".

Trims and Appliques
One of the most difficult trims to find, was a scallop edged organdy trim for the apron.  This does not exist.  I looked.  And, looked.  But, what I did have was a second, and new, sewing machine that could make adjustable length scallop edges with a bit of programming.  And, so I made my own trim.  It does not give a deep scallop like the original edging, but it gently waves the edges for a similar look.  This trim was important to make since it edges the cuffs and pockets, as well.  I used a 1/4" size silk bud trim for the inset trimming.  Little pink centered daisy appliques substituted for the originals.  I also cut the leaves off another flower applique to enhance them. 

All Tucked In
The dress is a basic empire waist with large puffed sleeves, the cuffs being the difficult detailing.  The width of the skirt is exactly 44", the width of most cotton fabrics.  When I make other outfits for the Let's Play Dolls, this will be a standard.  Robin Woods was always and forever about frills, ruffles, laces and ribbons. 

The slippers were fun to enhance.  I took a tiny strip of soft pigskin (don't tell the "baby") and made a tab at the front of the shoe to thread ties through.  The ties are pink and metallic gold embroidery threads braided together.  Her bow is a wired ribbon in green, pink and mauve checks.  I have several wired ribbon rolls, tried, and stored now, attempting to find one that I liked well enough to use. 

The Slippers
In figuring out how the apron fastened in the back, I noticed the playset on a doll on another page in the catalog.  It appeared to tie with an organdy ribbon.  So I fussed and fiddled to get the two bands centered into the waist band I'd made, along with the ruffled straps.  Patience and courage were the terms I'd use.

And, finally, I made a blanket for the pig baby out of cuddly baby blanket fabric.  I tucked the noisy little beast in and he is quite warm and happy now.

Where I Found the Tie in Back
All the while making this outfit, I've been working in turns trying to make Alice Finds the Key.  The green velvet I'm using is so slippery and thin that I've had to hand sew most of it and am not excited by the machine work.  Sewing appliques on this stuff is going to be a nightmare, so I've purchased two other dark green velvets in the hopes that one will prove better.  I will not give up, but I do need to remain patient until this one comes together.

The Back, The Bow
And, so, my first Ultimate Alice now has her baby playset to enjoy.  I did my best to replicate the sewing construction of the other Let's Play Dolls dresses I own, and this included using snaps for closures.  I have another dress I wish to make for her that I don't believe was ever produced (either).  While awaiting the arrival of the two velvets, when this fabric arrives, I may make it.  These dresses are so much fun to dress a doll in and my Let's Play Dolls remain one of my favorite collections of all time.

Love,
Miss E. Mouse








A Dream Come True