The Shirley Temple doll from 1939 and the clothes my mother and sister made for them in the early 1940s are now stored in my cedar chest: a wool coat with a real fur collar and matching hat, a two-piece black taffeta party dress with wool embroidery and, impressively, a wool snowsuit and hat to match my own.
Several dolls in my collection have a mannequin air about them. Mattel’s Barbie Basics Black Label dolls model denim and black dress fashions.
It was a long time, four children and two house moves later that the mannequin doll came to mind. I had to have one! Fortunately I found my first Fashiondol doll in a small collectables store in Gloucester, Mass. Then another one on E-bay. I now had two dolls to dress in 1940’s clothes.
When I went shopping with my mother in a department store during the 1940’s I was fascinated by the doll-like mannequins on the counter. The dolls were wearing miniature versions of adult size fashions the store was selling. I wanted my mother to ask if she could buy one of those mannequin dolls! All the dolls I knew of represented children. Did I sense that adult fashions had an edge over most of my doll clothes? It was during WWII when she gave me a mannequin doll “learn-to-sew” kit. It proved to be too hard for me so my mother tried to make something pretty from the pattern but had no luck. Later on, when I had gotten married and left home, I forgot about the mannequin doll and didn’t take it along with my other precious dolls.
It was Christmas 1939 when each of my two sisters gave me a doll. One was a Shirley Temple and the other a Debu Teen doll. Shirley was a 13 in. Ideal Toy Co. doll, all composition with sleep eyes. She had a curly wig of mohair that seemed to need resetting all too often. My sisters did their best to help but gradually Shirley had fewer and fewer curls. After awhile both her mohair wig and her filmy dress from the movie Baby Take a Bow became limp and bedraggled. So, my mother and sisters made new clothes for her and I loved them for it.
The 1940s Fashiondol mannequin dolls were a learn-to-sew doll and came with a set of patterns. The dolls were used during World War II to teach girls to sew. The doll was made by the Latexture Products Inc. and the patterns by the Simplicity Pattern Company. The patterns were scaled down versions of the adult patterns available in the store. In this way girls could learn to sew using a minimum of fabric. After making the scaled down version of the dress, a girl might then be able to talk her mother into buying the full size pattern to the actual dress.