Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Miss Unity - The Emblem of the UFDC

The emblem, or symbol, of the UFDC (United Federation of Doll Clubs) has been an instantly recognizable one for over sixty years.  The image is a stylized version of a wooden doll from the 1830's in a blue gown with two rows of black ribbon at the hem, and a two or three-tiered (depending on how you read the image) white ruffled lace collar at the neckline.  And, the elaborate hair styling is a wonder to behold.

As the UFDC (founded in 1937 by Mary Lewis) was growing into a larger organization, a contest was held in 1955 to create a "distinctive and exclusive emblem".  Ten members, representing ten clubs within the UFDC, entered submissions in the competition.  The winning illustration was entered by Mrs. Charles A. (Ruth C.) Williams of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  Ruth was known in the doll world as simply, "Darcy".  Darcy was also known as "The Wooden Doll Lady", both a carver and collector of wooden dolls. 

Darcy's inspiration for the emblem was an illustration by Charles Philipon (1830), of a toy seller.  In the seller's hand was a polichinelle doll, and to her right (left in the illustration) was a doll in a full and fancy gown with an equally elaborate hat decorated with plumes.  I would imagine that the gown itself, along with the toy seller's hair styling, were the key sources Darcy used to illustrate the emblem.  She added two wooden hobby horses, one held in each hand.  When the emblem was receiving its final touches, the hobby horses were removed, leaving just the doll. 

A full details on the history of UFDC's emblem can be read in a copy of Doll News, Summer 2015.  It was just my luck that someone listed the pages from this issue on Ebay, along with a copy of the history of its founder, Mary Lewis, from a Spring 2013 Doll News issue.  These came in handy for my own research and inspiration, but was also confusing when I began to design one more doll for the Helper Room at the UFDC convention this summer (August 1 - 5).

It was obvious to me that the emblem was of a wooden doll with carved wood hair, but I also noted in the article that dolls like Ginny had been used to symbolize Miss Unity.  Madame Alexander had done the same - with wigged hair, but with not such a fancy style.  Tonner made a small resin one that was 6 1/2" tall - and a tinier resin doll, 2" tall.  Miss Unity had also been designed in a white dress with black lace trim, and one with blue ribbon trim!  And, Peggy Jo Rosamond created an extraordinary paper doll of Miss Unity with a rose colored gown and one in golds and greens.

I suppose all along I knew that when I'd decided to create one, I would be faithful to today's emblem, using the blue gown, but I also wanted to select just the right doll to make her from.  With such a variety of images of her out there, I wanted to do something different, unique.  After I'd finished the nautical dress for Mary Lennox, I was in a "blue" mood anyway).  I'd ordered some beautiful blue silk from India that still has not arrived, and time was at a minimum.  Finding a reasonably priced lady doll to work with was even trickier.  But, I had this 16" wood body Lawton stashed away, and thought I'd see what I could do with her.  Could I make her into a lady doll?  Could I create this hair style from existing wigs?  The answer was, Yes.  At least I'd try.
I contacted the chairman of the Helper Room and asked if she'd be interested in a late submission, and also asked when I'd have to have her done by.  Jill was very receptive to the idea and told me to take my time.  This was good news, and also a relief, time wise  I had my doubts that I would be able to pull off making the wig.  As it is, her wig is one, and pieces from three others.   I also had to begin thinking about an alternative to the silk from India.  But, first thing's first.  If I couldn't make the wig, she would never be Miss Unity.

The wig is one that held pig tails of sausage curls.  I began by pulling each curl away from the others and wrapping them in both clockwise and counter clockwise twists around the band that held the pig tails, then hand stitched these rolls into place.  This wig is completely hand stitched.  I did not trust glue to this effort, and wanted it to look as "natural" as possible.  Earlier, I had purchased one of Tonner's 6 1/2" resin dolls to work from.  I measured the width and height of his hair sculpt and calculated how the dimensions should be according to the doll's head I was using. (See Tonner's little resin to the left.) 

A couple of days were spent trying to figure out how to make the hair piece that is the most recognizable piece to this doll's image.  Let's think about this for a minute.  If hair is parted down the middle to create side rolls, it is also parted down the back.  Where does the hair come from that is on top?  It had to be a hair piece.  So I made one. 

This hair piece consists of three twisted rolls, one on top the other at the base, then a profusion of rolls nestled into the crown.  I tried using a wig cap as the base from which to work, but found that a piece of buckram, dyed dark brown, would work better as it was stiff and could support all that I had to sew to it.  I saved the soft wig capping to sew to the bottom of this piece to provide a base to sew the top curls into.  So its sort of like a little hat of hair that eventually got sewn onto the wig with the side rolls.  I think I put just as much effort into making this wig as designing and creating the clothing.  More, maybe.

After finishing the wig, I did something easy to get the doll dressed.  I made her stockings.  Then I made her slippers.  These little black leather slippers have the same criss-cross strapping as Gay Event's did.  Has anyone made the connection that I took to making this doll since she was from the same year as Gay Event?  1830.  I'm drawn to the styling of the costuming from this era. 
Next I made her pantaloons.  I used a fine Swiss batiste to create them, and edged them in a Swiss embroidered lace with a simple design.  They have a small waistband and are closed in back with a small white button and thread loop.  I don't expect this "cabinet doll" will ever be undressed, but I wanted to make sure that if someone looked, the finishings were all finely done.  I don't know about you, but one of the first things I do when I pick up a new doll, is lift her dress up to see what's beneath.  Why do we do this?  Good question. 

Last week, fed up with India, I bought some very lovely and expensive sateen with which to make her gown.  Upon receiving it, I knew this would have been the best choice after all, since the drape and color were glorious.  I chose a batiste Swiss embroidered lace that would lend itself to three ruffled layers for the collar.  Two just didn't seem quite enough. 

Her billowing sleeves with wrist bands were a delight to create.  The two rows of black silk ribbon were a little more difficult to do.  When I add rows of ribbon or soutache, it takes a lot of measuring and marking on the cloth to stitch them equidistant to each other.  There is a relatively simple design to this dress, but I think you can make it into "more" if you desire.  The back is closed with a hook and thread loop at the neckline and waist, and two little black glass beads with thread loops at the back.  A black double sided silk ribbon is the tie around her waist.   

The last thing I did to Miss Unity, was change her eyes from brown to blue.  I'd originally thought her eyes would be brown considering the color of her wig.  But, after reading about her and studying the dolls and paper dolls done of her, I knew that she'd never be Miss Unity unless she had blue eyes.  I hope Jill will be pleased with her as an addition to the Helper Room.

I have started work on another dress for Mary Lennox and with Miss Unity completed, I'll pick up where I left off.  June flew by.  I did a little traveling at the end of May into June, and it seems that one day quickly blended into the other after that.  Last week, we suffered a horrid heat wave bringing daytime temperatures into the triple digits.  I do plan on having a more relaxed month in July, then its off to convention on August the first.  I hope you're enjoying your summer and getting out to enjoy the sunshine, doing the simplest and happiest of things.  Even reading a book under a shade tree is "summer" to me!

Miss E. Mouse


Tonner's 2" Resin

Peggy Jo Rosamond's Miss Unity Paper Doll

Miss Unity Dolls at the UFDC Headquarters