I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love dressing dolls.
My earliest sewing endeavors resulted in primitively fashioned garments for my plastic dolls and stuffed animals. By the age of six, I was completely entranced by fiber’s infinite decorative potential. I still find it fascinating that a child who is free to follow where his/her curiosity leads, often ends up replicating the chronological experience of humanity. In other words, they can pass quickly through the stages of discovery of in human history within a chosen theme. Water and sand play are good examples of this phenomenon; examining the uses of cloth for clothing is another.
First, by using scraps of fabric saved from my mother’s sewing projects, but not having access to or skill with good scissors, I had to do my best with the shapes at hand -- rather like an early human creating garments from animal hides. As my facility with tools increased, the garments could have openings cut to match the placement of limbs and neck. Belts and buttons could be sewn in place or embellished with applied trim. Later I learned draw out my patterns on paper in order to repeat successful articles, make necessary alterations and better understand the concepts of drapery. Eventually, I had steam & electric motors at my disposal. Some mechanical devices improved the speed & quality of certain types of work; sometimes they diminished one aspect or both.
To this day, I enjoy making miniature clothing. From time to time, one of the types of textile reproductions I am asked to make, is historically accurate clothing for 18th century period or reproduction dolls. I am by no measure an expert on period clothing, but have a basic understanding of the shapes of 18th century garments and appropriate materials. Fortunately, I have had the privilege of examining a number of period dolls--several with original articles of clothing. Building on my fundamental knowledge, as well as what I have learned from the actual process of sewing the miniature garments, I have developed patterns for miniature period clothing and adapted them for dolls of various sizes and shapes.
These images show a variety of dolls wearing successive layers of historically accurate costume. You can see how some details can be replicated exactly, while others must be cut or sewn differently due to their tiny size.
Starting with a linen shift, followed by leather stays and a pocket, two petticoats, a cap and a short gown, this reproduction wooden doll's garments are constructed like their full sized counterparts of everyday 18th century clothing.
A very similar doll begins dressing with a slightly fuller and lace trimmed shift, followed by silk stays and an embroidered pocket, a nearly identical cap, a printed cotton gown, sheer linen apron & kerchief result in the garb of a lady.