Sunday, February 11, 2018

Mignonette as Little Bo-Peep and a Special Valentine

How sweet, and wonderfully portrayed in story books, are the rhymes of Mother Goose.  Doll artists and figurine sculptors have portrayed the image of Little Bo-Peep many times over - and yet still, there is a freshness to each rendition.  She is the young child or youthful miss who wanders the meadows and hilltops with her crook in hand, shielding her eyes from the sun under a straw bonnet, in search of her flock that ambled off on a spring day. 

The romantic portrayal of the shepherdess was used in formal portraits as early as during the reign of Marie Antoinette.  Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (my favorite portrait painter), painted her queen as a shepherdess, upon request, however in luxurious blue silks and flowers.  The simplicity of the shepherdess, innocence of the young girl in the meadow, was popular as a way for painters to describe springtime and eternal youth.

Little Bo-Peep has been dressed in period costuming from the early 1800's by Kate Greenaway, with full skirts and paniers from the days of the French Court, and in short, simple little dresses from the 1920's.  She's timeless regardless of the period costuming, but one detail always denotes Bo-Peep.  Her shepherd's crook.  Otherwise mistakes can be made between "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and Bo-Peep, if Mary's school books aren't visible.  I noticed this recently when researching Bo-Peep.  I guess the easiest way to tell the difference is that Mary's lamb followed her around, while Bo-Peep's were never present.

The history of Little Bo-Peep is not as endearing as the nursery rhyme connotes.  But, this is true of many English nursery rhymes as most had political origins.  The phrase "to play bo peep" was in use from the 14th century to refer to the punishment of being stood in a pillory. For example, in 1364, an ale-wife, Alice Causton, was convicted of giving short measure, for which crime she had to "play bo pepe thorowe a pillery".  The earliest record of this rhyme is in a manuscript of around 1805, which contains only the first verse.  There are references to a children's game called "bo-peep", from the 16th century, including one in Shakespeare's King Lear (Act I Scene IV), for which "bo-peep" is thought to refer to the children's game of peek-a-boo.  Needless to say, these early references are seldom considered when we think of the sweet little shepherdess weeping after the disappearance of her naughty flock.

Little Bo-Peep for Mignonette has long been in my hopper.  Maybe for as long as I've owned  Mignonette and Her Malle du Voyage, by Wendy Lawton.  I always feel it necessary to begin a new journal posting, describing an outfit I've made for her, with a little background.  "Mignonette" is not a true mignonette, which was a tiny French pocket doll, but a doll inspired by an antique Simon and Halbig mignonette who came with a trunk and trousseau.  Wendy Lawton procured this treasure from an antique store while attending a UFDC convention in New Orleans.  Mignonette and Her Malle du Voyage was the Masterpiece Edition from Lawton Doll Company for 1999.  Boneka had done the wardrobe for her faithfully reproducing each costume in the antique doll's trousseau.  Mignonette is my favorite Lawton doll, and will remain so through time.  What inspired me to create Bo-Peep for her, was that her trousseau came with two little lamb figures made in bisque.  These, too, were faithfully reproduced, however, in the Lawton doll factory.

Pink was the color theme for the Simon and Halbig doll, and this was also the color theme used for the 9" Lawton doll.  So whenever I've made her a new costume, I choose shades of pink.  I was tempted to use silk, but Bo-Peep is a little shepherdess, and simple cottons were more appropriate.  I chose this precious print in tiny pink flowers for her over dress with paniers, and a lovely green and white stripe for the skirting.  The stripe is so thin and fine that it could be described as a lawn. 

When designing the pattern, I chose the illustration (third down) for the basic look.  I was attracted to the sleeves of the over dress and the little white apron.  The fluted sleeves are not a gathered piece, but a semi-circle of fabric that is pinned to the upper sleeve length, very much the way you would inset a sleeve at the shoulder.  There is an under dress of a white, sleeveless bodice that the skirt and apron and sewn to - very much in "doll dressing" fashion.  This allows the over dress to fit comfortably over all.  There is no "one way" to design a Little Bo-Peep costume, so I used elements from favorite illustrations to design Mignonette's.

Her little bonnet was made on a PNB hat mold and I added a pink ribbon to hang loosely behind her so as to not overcome the details of her bodice.  Below are "must share" illustrations that were just a few of my favorites.  But, read on below them! 

Prior to making Little Bo-Peep, I wanted to make Mignonette a Valentine's Day dress.  When I was pulling pinks and greens together from my stash, I once again came upon this little silk plaid in dark peach and light gray.  In my lace and trims stash, I found this vintage silk jacquard that appeared like it might go well with the plaid silk.  The question, of course, was what to do with it?!

This basic pattern, which was used on two Christmas dresses two Christmases ago, is one of my favorite looks for these 9" Lawton's.  The drop-waist with puff-topped sleeves.  I had to be very careful since I didn't have but a bit of this vintage silk jacquard trim, yet I used it as a main design to the dress.  There are four rows on the long bodice, and one row at the hem of each sleeve.  I pinned them on at equal intervals of the checks on the bodice.  I enjoy sewing on checks and plaids as the lines are so easy to match up.  There's no question in placement.

I also found this lace that I've had in my stash for quite some time, and used it as an overlay for the skirting.  I wondered as I was designing this dress if I was over doing it.  But, what is a Valentine other than flowers and lace and frou-frou?  A large bow in the same fabric tops her pretty sausage curls.

So which dress is she wearing right now?  Well, she'll be Bo-Peep for awhile and enjoy the little sheep that came in her trousseau.  I wouldn't want this precious little girl to weep for having lost her sheep.  Oh, and one more thing!  I almost forgot to mention her crook.  Wire and needle felting wool!  And, of course, its prettied up with a pink bow. 

Wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day and wishes for an early spring.

Miss E. Mouse 


  1. I love 'catching up' with your projects. The variety and detail is just amazing. Have you considered selling your wonderful patterns??

  2. Hello D.H. Thank you for enjoying all these many projects of mine. My patterns are paper towels and I make the clothing directly on the doll as I go along. To make patterns for sale, you have to be so exact, have a publishing program, too, and that's no fun. I'd hate for someone to come back and be disappointed with a pattern I'd made. Or go to all that trouble, then no one want them! LOL

  3. These two outfits are so beautiful, just the style I love....especially the Bo Peep set!