Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gonna Buy A Paper Doll That I Can Call My Own

I have mentioned before that I did not play with dolls. I always had a real baby to play with and dolls just could not do the same things.

But I loved paper dolls. They were found in McCall's Magazine. Betsy McCall was her name. Each month she would come out in a different pose with different clothes. I dutifully cut them out every month.

Betsy was usually dressed in a bathing suit or some sort of brief clothing. Never underwear... that would have been indecent. The reason for small clothes was so that the other outfits would fit properly and the original outfit would not show at the edges.

I loved Betsy McCall because her clothes fit so well. In order to change her clothes all you had to do was set the clothing (usually one piece even if it was two pieces like jeans and a shirt) on top of Betsy and fold the strategically placed flaps over her to hold the clothes in place.

She usually had the brief outfit, a daytime outfit, and a glamorous evening gown. She was in a different pose each month so the clothing did not interchange. But that only meant you would have a lot of Betsy's to make a group.

Then there were the paper dolls that came with the Tonette home permanents. They were there to keep little girls who were getting the perms from fidgeting while mothers tried to get the curls in their hair.

I cannot remember if they started that way but the paper dolls and clothes were perforated at the edges so you could carefully punch them out and play with them. There was not as large a variety as Betsy McCall but they were fun too. And they added to the collection.

You could buy paper dolls too. They were not terribly expensive but my family did not have a lot of money so they were usually an unnecessary expense. I did have a few of those.

The best thing to do was make your own. I cannot draw so I could not make them from scratch. Some girls did. But I had the next best thing... catalogs. Sears and Roebuck, JC Penney, Woolworth were but a few. I lived in very rural areas so mail order was the way we got a lot of merchandise.

The catalogs had an abundance of models, both male and female. And they were grown and children. We would cut the ones we like out and look for other outfits in the catalog that would match the pose of our models. They were not always a perfect match of course but close enough would do for our purposes. They had to have enough room in the catalog to be able to add the flaps to make the clothes stay on. It was a great way to add to our collections of paper dolls.

On rainy or snowy days when we were on the farm we would go up into the attic and play paper dolls. It passed so many hours and gave Grandma a break.

One day we made a discovery. My mother and her sisters used to play with paper dolls too. As a matter of fact she was the one who showed us how to make paper dolls from the catalog. Anyway we found some old cigar boxes full of paper dolls.

It seems that when my mother and my aunts had cut paper dolls from the newspapers when they were young girls. Newspapers had new paper dolls every week. And they had their catalog paper dolls. There were so many of them. It was like finding treasure.

My youngest aunt is about 5 years older than me. She had as much fun as me, my sister, and my cousins. We had such a good time with those old-fashioned clothes. We were always very careful to put them back into their cigar boxes and leave them in the attic until nest time.

I wonder what ever happened to all those paper dolls. I know my sister and I lost ours in a house fire. But the paper dolls in Grandma's attic probably were discarded when they sold the farm. What a shame. I would like to see paper dolls make a comeback.


  1. Emma, I don't recall that I played with paper dolls, but you certainly had fun.

    1. I certainly did. Somehow they were fun but regular dolls were not. I recommend them for all little girls. They hardly take up any room at all.