The ideals of beauty…as reflected in dolls


You might remember a few weeks ago, I posted a link to an article about bias in film toward an “idealized” beauty of the 1950s.  Kodak skewed their color film to bias a blue-eyed blonde with red lips and an overall cool tone to her coloring.  But it wasn’t just the coloring that epitomized the era; I’ve written before about how doll bodies conform to the fashion sensibilities of their times, like Patsy with her roly-poly body that looked great in sweet little 1930s bishop-style dresses. Likewise, 1960s Barbie’s outrageously strange proportions have morphed into Lammily in our times.

This week I’m comparing a hugely popular 1950s doll, Toni, with a similar-sized modern one, Wellie Wisher Emiko.


You can see first of all here, their body shapes are very different, even though their bust/waist measurements are almost the same.  Emiko’s torso is flattened out, whereas Toni’s is cylindrical.  The same dress can be made to fit both, but ends up looking very different!  See both in the same dress here and here or in the pattern below.

It’s also interesting to note that Toni looks quite “made up” with a fussier hairstyle, heavy lipstick and blush, and even some eye shadow, whereas Emiko’s coloring is more natural, yet both dolls are beautiful reflections of their own time.

I’ve been on a vintage sewing spree lately for 18″ dolls (more to come on that soon), and decided to also sew for Toni, using vintage Butterick 7973, supposedly sized for her.  (image below from Pinterest)


Well, I bought the original 14″ version, but it didn’t really fit too well, and since I was altering it anyway, I thought it would be fun to see if I could make the same pattern look nice on both body shapes.  It took more adjusting than I had anticipated, but so far it’s going well!  Toni’s body lends itself to darts, which were a major feature of 1950s bodices at the waistlines, even for little children who didn’t really need them.  Those same darts made the dress quite ill-fitting on the Wellie body.

The pattern was re-released a few years ago, as Butterick #5865 without any indication of who it would fit, and I posted some pix on flickr of one dress I made on a variety of dolls, noting that it seemed to fit the Journey Girls the best.  It’s also a reminder that my photography skills have improved a lot since 2013, because the pictures are not that great! 🙂


Anyway, I’m hoping to do a little sew-along of 1950s styles to fit 14″ dolls and hope you’ll join in!  They are quite easy to sew, and a great place to show off your small bits of vintage fabric and trims!

Get the pattern here

Share your pix on the Wrenfeathers flickr page here:

Speaking of the flickr page, I LOVE seeing what you’ve made with my patterns, and even though I’m on yet another historical bent, it’s nice to showcase sewing for our modern dolls that reflects modern interests and different cultures.  Check out what Lisa did with clever use of prints that mimics embroidery on the kamiz:

And Carol shows us that Little Darling’s Karate Gi will fit the Wellies too:




16 responses »

  1. It’s interesting to see that the dress doesn’t fit both bodies the same way. They looked rather similar in shape, at first glance! I’m lookingn forward to your series of dresses! You are so generous to share all this with us!

  2. Wonderful post! Last year a friend (a P.E.O. sister) gave me her Toni (P90), c. 1950. I re-wigged and restrung her and collected patterns from the era but have yet to sew for her. Our P.E.O. chapter is celebrating its 50th birthday, and my plan is to make Toni a birthday dress and take her to the party. I had wondered how she compared with the Wellie Wishers, so this was a timely post. Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Jen, for sharing your kamiz pattern on my Hearts for Hearts Mexico City doll.
    I’m going to make the Toni dress for my Hearts doll as Stitchin’ for Kids is transitioning to Hearts for Hearts dolls because Mattel is discontinuing the multicultural Les Cherie dolls. The Hearts for Hearts dolls are close in size to the Les Cheries so patterns don’t need too much adjustment. I hope Hearts comes out with a blond tho as some of our hospitalized children I’m sure are blond, and the nurses try to match the doll to the child.

  4. Oh, do hope I can keep up with the sew-along; already baffled what to use for fabric for today’s pattern? Sure something will jump out at me soon, as Camille could definitely use another dress!

  5. Such a great dress for spring/summer.
    Can’t wait for the 50’s. Since granddaughter now has a Wellie would fun to make some more outfits. Just like my grandmother did for me. 🙂

  6. Hello! I have been having trouble printing the latest pattern in your newsletter. It says it’s password protected. Is there any way you can help me? Thanks!!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. Hi Jen! Thank you so much for the wonderful patterns you produce. Unfortunately, I’m not able to do any sewing – we’re redecorating my family room, and i have 6 6′ bookcases’ worth of books stacked on the floor of my sewing room until we’re done. I can barely get in the door! I tried to save and then print this first pattern, but when I attempt to print, the file says I need a password. Week 2 worked fine. I’ve never had this happen before, but was wondering if anyone else had the same problem?

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