Thursday, September 29, 2011

All Dolled Up

How did a lady know what was in vogue before the first issue of Vogue or any other fashion magazine was available?  French designers issued dolls dressed in miniature versions of their latest creations.

Circa 1780

When a group of 17th century Georgetown nuns decided to form a convent they wanted every detail to be right - so they wrote to France for a description of what to wear.  They were sent a doll, dressed in black robe, guimpe, cap and veil.  When the doll arrived in New York en route to Georgetown, customs officials placed it in solitary - claiming it looked like the work of the devil.  Fortunately for well-dressed nuns everywhere, the doll was released and sent on to the convent.

During the 18th century, French fashion dolls dubbed Big and Little Pandoras were sent all over Europe, displaying the exact clothing to wear at formal functions (Big Pandora) and at more informal gatherings (Little Pandora).  The dolls were exact replicas of fashionable French ladies, down to the hair style, jewelry, and makeup. 

Circa 1740 and 1750

 Circa 1785 and 1790

Circa 1787

Circa 1820

Circa 1750 and 1740

Circa 1750

The Pandoras became so popular that, during Napoleon's blockade, safe passage was given to the fashion dolls to London, Rome, and the rest of western Europe.