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Dressing Up Dolly ... How Times Have Changed

I loved dolls as a child. My sister and I took our dolls everywhere, and we made them clothes from any scraps of fabric we could find. As the mother of two children, I made even more doll clothes for them. The fashions may have changed, as did some of the materials, but homemade doll clothes were always a staple toy item, far more affordable than store-bought ones, with endless new ideas coming my way. Looking at dolls over time, some have changed a great deal while others remained the same, with only their clothes changing. Barbie got a slightly more realistic figure. New brands popped up and we started to see dolls that could walk and talk. But many times, the best dolls are a blank slate, no tricks or batteries required.

Doll clothes have changed quite a bit over time, but there are still plenty of collectors (many of whom are adults) that love the costumes of the past, even from periods long before their time. This 1877 calendar girl is so lovely, with frills and lace details; she is more likely to be seem as part of a collection than in the rough-and-tumble world of child's play.

This doll pattern for crocheted sock-hop outfits is reminiscent of the 1950s and is a great way for doll enthusiasts to remember the days of jukeboxes, soda fountains and saddle shoes.

One thing I noticed about dolls over time is their imaginary lives and responsibilities. Some dolls are babies, to be rocked and fed and sang to by little mommies and daddies. But as children get older and times have evolved, it seems many dolls have a lot of career aspirations! Dolls are little cowgirls, astronauts, teachers, dog walkers, doctors and so much more, often in the same play session.

No wonder Barbie was able to acquire such a lovely dream house; she had 19 jobs but no eyelids to sleep! With all these imaginary careers, dolls go through a lot of wardrobe changes. Since the outfit makes the job, a whole closetful are required to complete the fantasy.

I have written several doll-clothing books over the last few years for dolls of varying sizes, but I always try to think from a child's perspective. Where is my doll going? What big adventures await her? What clothes will she need to fulfill her many roles? I have created beach clothes, Halloween costumes, Christmas ensembles and snuggly jammies for babies. For 18-inch dolls there were chef's coats and nature vests, nurse's scrubs and school clothes. The dolls in my studio would be a dream come true for my childhood self!

When you make your own doll clothes, look for cute little buttons, fun fabric patterns, fat quarter sales and whimsical trims. Ask the children in your life where their dolls go and what jobs they have. Children have imagined such vibrant and varied lives for their dolls that they may surprise you with their answers. Look for simple patterns that can be altered and added to in ways that will create many outfits from the same basic pattern. If you know a child that loves to take a doll to family events, play dates or parties, consider an outfit that matches that of the child. Kids may or may not like getting dressed up, but they like having their dolls appropriately dressed for every occasion.

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