Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Playing Dolls in the 1950's.

My earliest recollection of playing with dolls was dragging a stuffed doll in a blue checked dress with dark braids my aunt made for me around the house. I must have been 3 or 4. I was an only child, so  dolls were more than just playmates they were family.

When I was a whopping 5, I remember serving tea parties to a selection of bears, dolls, and stuffed animals and my black cocker spaniel, Susie. Amazingly my puppy cooperated in being dressed up, wheeled around in a baby carriage, and doing all sorts of playmate things.

Back to dolls, I received an 18" Sweet Sue for Christmas in 1953. OH, my goodness, I was a lucky girl. This came from my grandparents who had $$$ money to splurge on beautiful things.
We did not.

She was a beautiful doll with eyelashes and glass eyes that would sleep. Heavy thick curled hair that could be combed and reset into long ringlets or brushed out into a more contemporary style. 
She walked when held by her waist and her head moved side to side.  
Here she is today, not too fresh in her original dress, escaped from the trunk.

American Character dolls were made in 1951-1961 in many sizes. There were a hard plastic, some were walkers and some were jointed with bendable knees and flex angles and elbow. 
Sweet Sue and Toni were found in gorgeous gowns or as brides. Most are unmarked.

Here she is on the lower left in her original dress with shorter hair, with a 23" Mom from the 
Robert Tonner (Inspiration) Collection. My blue sash is long gone as is the original hat.

Store bought doll clothes were expensive. My aunt and my other Grandmother were responsible for several outfits for my Sweet Sue. The red jumper and white blouse I purchased with birthday money. My mom wanted me to buy clothes for myself, as they cost less than this adorable outfit.
Most of my doll clothes were hand sewn. My favorite was the purple floral with the pink bow, 
 sewn by me, probably in 1959-60.

I found these hangers still in the original package 4 for 15 cents for dolly clothes.

This is of the original patterns I made clothes from.  The red coat below is from this pattern.

The cute red corduroy coat with flannel lining was a copy of my first grade coat. 
My mom hated to sew, but she made this flannel-lined coat to match the one
she sewed for me almost every year of grade school. 

I remember setting up a sewing club on our porch with lots of neighbor girls sewing for their dolls. We shared scraps, notions, thread, and pattern pieces. I remember copying patterns on brown paper bags. We shared everything, and everything was homemade. I even attempted to sew leather shoes, to no good result.

My lust for clothes for my dolls was huge. So I began at a very early age--6 or so, sewing for my dolls after taking a sewing class at the local YWCA.  Here is an original pattern from 1953. I remember making a red and white striped nightgown, and many dresses from this pattern. I usually only did in and out stitches as I was always in a hurry to finish. But I do remember cutting, pinning, and learning to follow directions. First following by the pictures and then later reading. I was gifted my first sewing machine when I was 14.

Here is the back of the totally hand-stitched wedding dress, even the lace edging is hand sewn on to it. Hooks and eyes were the preferred way to attach the backs of dresses. When McCall's, Butterick, and Simplicity began reprinting vintage patterns, I bought them all for this doll, even though I hadn't looked at her for 20 years. Someday I may sew for her, again.

This cute set of capris and top were (1958 or so) was really modern for my tastes.
 I think I borrowed that pattern from some friends.

I read tons of history kid. I made a whole series of "Gone with the Wind" dresses and accessories in the late 1950's. This gray dress, had a huge bow print which I used to make the sleeves. The fabric was from the 1940's.

The black dress on the left has long sleeves with a cuff and a puff wrist underneath. Very civil war 1860's. I am blessed with the ability to three-dimensionally think, so I drafted my own pattern alterations. I think that "Little Women" books inspired several of these fashions also.
The wool fur-trimmed cape, muff, and boots were all hand stitched. 
The hat was copied from one on a Goodey's ladies fashion prints for a project for school. 

Cast off jewelry was adapted for my dolls, and kept in a purple velvet(felt) travel case. The mirror is silver-plate, and I purchased it at an antique flea market in 1959. It was $2, a lot of money back then.

Here are a few dresses from another pattern, with a petticoat that must have been a gift, since it looks store bought. Anyone remember wearing cotton petticoat/slips under their dresses?

My dad was a talented craftsman, he built this trunk for my dolls I think in 1956-7. It was too heavy 
to carry so I would load it into a wagon to haul to a friend's house. The blue dress and slip with the velvet jacket, was made by my seamstress grandmother. She gave me my first sewing machine.

The pose-able, jointed-leg-ankle ballerina doll had high heels as well as ballet shoes. Her original outfit disintegrated. This was my version with the 50's rick rack trim and straps.
 I have the strappy silver heels, and original ballet shoes, the ribbons are gone though.
She was trimmer than Sweet Sue, but they could share some clothes, but not shoes.

I think she is this doll.
This is a Belle Ballerina doll from the Belle Doll and Toy Company.
This is an eBay picture on Pinterest. I couldn't track down the original owner.  Her legs are hard plastic while her head and arms are a softer rubbery plastic. My doll has faded unevenly---and she has been stored away from light. I hope she doesn't begin to disintegrate as some early soft plastic dolls have. I remember her box as being prettier, but this was the day and age of catalog houses. My grandmother probably would have purchased my doll at Marshall Fields or Gimbel's in Milwaukee
 and not through Sears.

Any shoes were expensive then. I picked these plastic white and black sandals up much later, and are a bit large, probably for a 21" doll instead of her 17-18".

My doll trunk was lined with original heavy Contact paper and, it is just now beginning to lift up from the wood. The drawers were generous and the hanger rack pulled out. 
All the brass trim has rusted over the years, I may replace them and Redo the surfaces.

Here is a hoot, a bra and girdle (from research they belonged to a Miss Revlon doll-I never had)...and honestly the girdle is stretchy woven rubber with a sheer floral insert in the front. That had to have been from my mother---she is still cursing me for not burying her in one of her iron girdles. 
My dad also made me two doll beds, which got passed to my cousins. The green fabric in the upper left was a coverlet, made from vintage fabric from my parents first apartment in 1946.
Honestly everything in our homes had more lives than a cat.

Um, the gray and white clam diggers are from fabric my mom used in our homemade camper bedding, in1956. The plaid skirt was made from one of my old skirts, zipper and all. The light blue dress was made from scraps of blue taffeta from my grade school, All-City-Orchestra-Dress. I never remember actually purchasing fabrics for any of these things, everything was OLD or a REDO. 

This has been quite a trip down Memory Lane. 
Now I need to get the Oxyclean and freshen some of these clothes.
I might need to find some more hangers, lol. 

Thanks always for visiting. 
I will try and respond to every comment and answer every question.

All the opinions and photographs in this blog are my own, I have not been paid or reimbursed in anyway for my opinions, posts or any products shown or anywhere I shop.
 Please do not use photos without linking back to this blog without my permission. 
Thank you for your cooperation, Sandi Magle

I will be sharing at these fine Parties!'



  1. Nice post. Thanks for sharing. I remember playing with dolls in the 50's similar to yours. Mine were made in Canada. I have a few that maybe one day I will blog. Take care. Thelma

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, I had to dig them out for another site post, and then realized 'playing with dolls' is universal. Thanks for your comment. Sandi ---oh and please share your dolls, Sandi

  2. I had some of those doll clothes hangers (along with some clothes) that were passed down from my mother! I used to love to play dolls!

    1. yes, those hangers have to be really old. I found those in an old bag of clothes, I honestly don't remember when I acquired them. Thanks for stopping by, Sandi

  3. This was such a wonderful trip down memory lane Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. I have photos somewhere of playing with these dolls with friends. But, I'm keeper of like 4 families photos, and my own are not in very good order. Thanks for stopping by, Sandi

  4. Thank You! Loved everything. I loved my rubber baby doll and Barbie too!

    1. Dear Barb, thank you for stopping by, sorry I missed your comment. Appreciate all comments anytime. My baby rubber doll disintegrated, sadly.

  5. Sandi, I love taking this trip with you! As a child I loved dolls as well. My dad passed away when I was 9 months old and mom had to go to work. She had 8 childen, me being the youngest. He had been a member of a 'Moose' club. They would come every year and bring us oranges and us 3 young girls a doll. I'm sure they were no special dolls, but I loved them! Sad that I don't have any of them or no recollection of what they looked like. She remarried when I was almost 8, but I only remember having Barbie dolls after that. You have an amazing collection and I loved reading about them and the clothing. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  6. Someday, something will trigger your memory. They are all buried, but the Barbies were such a phenomena as we were growing up. It was crazy. Thanks for stopping, Sandi I'm torn between resewing these with a machine--so the Grand might play with them later?

  7. What a lovely post. I took me back to my childhood. I had a doll like yours and I still have a beautiful wooden wardrobe that I would hang my stuff in. I have several sizes of vintage hangers.
    Love the memories.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful posts at Over The Moon Party.
    See you next week.

    1. Thanks so much Bev. It was fun dragging it out, but everything needs to be cleaned and ironed. I figured if she ever gets into American girl, we can play together with Sweet Sue.


Thank you for any and all comments. I will reply to any questions!
And great to meet you, Sandi