If I could dig up the earliest of my first email correspondence, I could tell you exactly when I entered the collecting world of Bleuette. I would know because the doll was just about all I talked about. I recall seeing one of these reproduction dolls in a Doll Reader magazine in an advertisement for Global Doll Corporation. At the time, they were located in Lincoln, CA, which was about a 40 minute drive from where I live.
I'd actually phoned them to ask about this doll in their ad, and the owner was more than delighted to sell me this reproduction she'd made, as well as some clothing from the La Semaine de Suzette patterns that the company offered. However, it was the history of Bleuette that also captured my interest, and I'd bought a copy of Bleuette, the Doll and Her Wardrobe, by Barbara Hilliker, before I left the office. While it was Becassine that tickled me most, and would become a passion of mine for many years, the illustrations from the publication that offered the doll, La Semaine de Suzette, would continue to enchant me.
When I set out to delve into a new project, I do my research first. If an expert is available to consult with, that person is my first stop on the journey. And, in my opinion, no one loves or knows more about Bleuette than Martha Nichols, the moderator of the Bleuette Sewing Club. And, she just happens to be one of the nicest people I've ever come in contact with. And, accessible!
I wrote to her a couple of weeks ago and much of what I will relay is the wonderful information she shared with me. Let's face it, there is nothing we love better than to talk about and share our passions.
I'd recently bought another Wendy Lawton 16" wood body doll and was trying to come up with something to do with her. I'd found her for a decent price, and loved her sweet expression. She was once "Lucy Gray", and I have this doll in my collection, so recreating her into another was an easy decision. I must have been browsing my books when I once again came across the image that graced the covers of the yearly journal of La Semaine de Suzette (Suzette's Weekly). These hard bound copies would hold a year's worth of the weekly publication. The children dancing around the teacher always touched my heart. Especially the two children in the front; the one in the striped dress and the little girl to the right of her in red.
I had on hand, one of Nada Christian's mini Bleuettes and thought, Why not make a Suzette with her first Bleuette? I love dolls with their dolls! And, wouldn't it be wonderful if "Suzette" was receiving her very first Bleuette? This is when I contacted Martha. I wanted to know how this doll was dressed, what kind of box did she come in, what was her original hairstyle and color? Within a day, Martha had not only given me all the information I needed, but a scan of the original advertisement for the doll, as well as a photo of the original chemise she wore. One of the seamstresses from her group (and I think it may have been Marie Scopel), had recreated the chemise for one of her own dolls.
The Bleuette dolls were available to pick up directly from the publisher, Gautier-Languereau, but she could also be mailed direct to the child. She came in a plain corrugated cardboard box that would have simply been addressed to the child with a stamp for postage. The first Bleuettes wore a little chemise with lace atop blue ribbon, and wore no shoes. It was later, by demand from the collectors, that shoes would become available, as well as ready to wear outfits. The doll was wigged with blonde curls. So with this information at hand, I began my Suzette and Her First Bleuette.
I must also make note that there wasn't a real Suzette. How they came up with that name remains to be known. But, for me, one of these little girls dancing on the yearly journal cover just had to be "Suzette". For all we know, the name "Suzette" could have been an endearing name for a little girl, like "Missy" (as in Miss so and so), or for that matter Chiffonette (meaning fluff).
The striped dress won out, and the look of the child in red became style I wanted. I changed "Lucy's" eyes to a natural hazel and bought her a wig that looked most like the little girl's in red. Her dress is a simple fare of raspberry and white striped cotton, fully lined and closed with mother of pearl buttons and thread loops in white. A black silk dupioni sash is worn empire style with a bow in the back, and she wears a large hair bow in the same silk. On her feet are a pair of black French-style child shoes tied with large double-faced silk ties in black.
Her First Bleuette was the smallest of the three mini Bleuettes I had left, to work with. I am not going to grump about "scale" here. Certainly the Bleuette would be half this size were this a real child and her doll, but we can "interpret". Can't we? This one is about 4 5/8" tall.
Suzette's First Bleuette wears her white chemise trimmed with the blue silk ribbon beneath the lace. The front of the chemise has one long box pleat creating fit around the neck, yet volume at the hem. Each sleeve has one box pleat down the center creating fit around the arm, and volume (a tiny bit anyway) at the shoulder. Her wigging is golden mohair.
I created her corrugated cardboard box from another one with the thinnest corrugation I could find. The ends are "tapped" with brown paper, which felt authentic to me considering Scotch Magic Tape hadn't been invented yet. A small copy of the advertisement has been saved for posterity.
Suzette will need to learn how to sew for her doll and the weekly patterns with Tante Jacqueline's instructions and encouragement will grow with her through the years.
If I've created the look of innocence and joy a little French girl would have experienced receiving her doll in the post, I've succeeded.