November 30, 2016

Dainty Delicate Dolladine, The Prettiest Girl That Ever Was Seen! [Doll Dress & Photo Shoot]

THIS is the way we dress the Doll:— 
You may make her a shepherdess, the Doll, 
If you give her a crook with a pastoral hook, 
But this is the way we dress the Doll. 

For all of you doll and Bustle Era fashion fans out there, this post is for you!  Greatly inspired by Lydia Ann (follow her adventures here: Lydia Ann the Traveling Doll), and the more local companions - Anna Bauersmith's traveling doll Cali & Allison's Lucinda - it's about time we had a little adventurer too!  With neither the appropriate China head, nor the craftiness to make one like Lucinda, what's a girl to do other than pull out her childhood American Girl Doll?  That's right, meet our first-ever, official traveling doll of the Young Sewphisticate: Virginia Rose, called Ginny.

To welcome our newest addition, today's double feature includes both a fun photo shoot and look into the construction of Ginny's first Victorian dress.  

The ladies - Judy & Ariana - and the doll.

Completed Project Shots:

*All of the photographs presented in this post are the original creations of The Young Sewphisticate.  Copying our photographs without obtaining permission and/or leaving proper credit is prohibited.*

During the shoots for our upcoming installments of the Historical Interpretation How Tos, this impromptu series at the Hamilton House arose after Ariana, my "museum twin," agreed to model with Ginny.  In addition to being one of my nearest and dearest friends at GCV, Ariana is a delight to work with in front of (and behind) the camera.  She just looks the part!  

The model: Ariana, standing by the desk of John D. Hamilton.

Part I - Just a Girl & Doll 

Bless the Doll, you may press the Doll, 
But do not crumple and mess the Doll! 
This is the way we dress the Doll. 

First, you observe, her little chemise, 
As white as milk, with ruches of silk; 
And the little drawers that cover her knees,
As she sits or stands, with golden bands, 
And lace in beautiful filagrees. 

Part II - Tea for Two

Now these are the bodies: she has two, 
One of pink, with rouches of blue, 
And sweet white lace; be careful, do! 
And one of green, with buttons of sheen, 
Buttons and bands of gold, I mean, 
With lace on the border in lovely order, 
The most expensive we can afford her! 

Part III - All Dainty & Delicate

Then, with black at the border, jacket 
And this—and this—she will not lack it; 
Skirts? Why, there are skirts, of course, 
And shoes and stockings we shall enforce, 
With a proper bodice, in the proper place, 
(Stays that lace have had their days
And made their martyrs); likewise garters, 
All entire. But our desire 
Is to show you her night attire, 
At least a part of it. Pray admire 
This sweet white thing that she goes to bed in! 

It’s not the one that’s made for her wedding: 
That is special, a new design, 
Made with a charm and a countersign, 
Three times three and nine times nine: 
These are only her usual clothes.
Look, there’s a wardrobe! gracious knows 
It’s pretty enough, as far as it goes! 

Part IV - Pretty, Little Lullaby 

So you see the way we dress the Doll: 
You might make her a shepherdess, the Doll, 
If you gave her a crook with pastoral hook,
With sheep, and a shed, and a shallow brook, 
And all that, out of the poetry-book. 

Bless the Doll, you may press the Doll, 
But do not crumple and mess the Doll! 
This is the way we dress the Doll; 
If you had not seen, could you guess the Doll? 

Just for outtake!  As she bolted across the room, the camera clicked at just the right moment for this...oh Ariana, how you make us laugh!  

The face of excitement.

Poem is "Dressing the Doll" by William Brighty Rands.  Special thanks again to the model, Ariana! 

Doll Dress Construction:

Ginny's first outfit and outing were successful I'd say!  It amazed me how much work went into such a small outfit.  All things worth doing take time, and doll clothing, as I found out, is no exception.

Doll sized details!

In looking for doll-sized Bustle Era inspiration, I came across Pixie Faire, a one-stop-shop for all things 18" doll clothing related!  They must have hundreds of patterns and a very dangerous historical, I splurged on the 1880s Mary and Laura Pattern.

My review?  Highly recommended!  All of the pattern pieces fit together perfectly, and, though I only briefly skimmed through the directions, they seemed clear and easy to follow.  I would definitely purchase from Pixie Faire again.

Since I was in a rush to complete the outfit for photos, I machined anything that wouldn't show with finishing touches by hand.  The outfit is constructed in two parts including an underskirt:

A very narrow placket.

And the overdress which fastens in the back:  Rather than dealing with button holes, I cheated and used velcro and snaps.  The trickiest part of the project was getting those facings to play nice.  Next time, I would skip the facings entirely and add a full lining.

Tiny darts and fold up cuffs!

No outfit would be complete without the accessories!  Check out the cutest, little Victorian boots and mother of pearl buckle that I ordered through Etsy:

Hand-stitched straw hat & matching ribbon belt.

The little straw hat, made in Anna Worden Bauersmith's doll millinery workshop, that started the whole project: 

From the front, decorated with ribbon, flowers & feathers.

From the side.  I added a tiny comb to help secure the hat.

From the other side, with a floral pin serving as a doll-sized hat pin!

And finally, Ginny all put together:

Bless the Doll, you may press the Doll, 
But do not crumple and mess the Doll! 
This is the way we dress the Doll; 
If you had not seen, could you guess the Doll? 


  1. How utterly and completely adorable! I love that you made a new dress for your dollie! You did a most wonderful job on it (of course) and the fabric is divine! Her had is so sweet as well! What a fun project!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Gina! I loved trying out doll scale, though the amount of work despite the size is deceiving! Won't stop me from more sewing adventures, of course, this is the perfect way to stash bust!