The Alexander Doll Company made a complete about-face from a long run with composition dolls to the new process of hard plastics. Alexander started their transition in 1947. The first dolls made of hard plastic had the look of composition that their costumer and retail buyers had become used to seeing. Alexander was all-in with this dramatic change of manufacturing and supported it within the doll industry and publically such as Playthings Magazine. This era of dolls was changing quickly with new technology not yet tested. Other manufactures rapidly followed this lead set by the Alexander Doll Company and sent the industry on a decade-long race and sometimes bitter competition for the "next big thing."
Cissy ushering in 2018 with dolledition.com is celebrating the New Year the way any great fashion doll would - with fashion! Cissy has made a special appearance here and has left her box and photographed. Cissy is very fashionable in this 1956 pink taffeta side-drape gown. Wearing a long torso gown of shell pink taffeta with a beautiful decolletage and diagonal side drapery held in place by jeweled clips. Matching pink roses beautifully frame her face. The whimsical tulle and a floral purse are attached to a rhinestone bracelet. Her jewelry includes a blush pink pearl necklace some of the boxed dolls in the pink side-drape gown wore. Her hips and waistline are all accented and elongated by the prominent side-drape.
Greco-Roman influence, togas, capes, wraps, Asian and Eastern influence were huge in this mid-century era of fashion. Pink, lavender, and lilac were among the colors favored by designers. While starting on the Paris runways, many of these trends would then filter into retail, with the robust American market driving fashion in a way never dreamed of before WWII. Madame Alexander took many fashion trends for Cissy, explicitly designed as a fashion doll with the right proportions that could properly wear the design coming from Paris that was very structured and demanded a redefined body shape. This would be the last renaissance for couture fashion. Dior would pass away in 1957. Ready to wear, or "prêt-à-porter" would gradually bring in new designers and a younger audience. The 1960s would abandon restrictive form-fitting design for a more relaxed fashion that hugged the body.
Cissy is celebrating the holidays with dolledition.com in this stunning green brocade side drape 3/4 length gown with an attached shawl. Cissy's ensemble is paired with a straw pillbox hat with a large white rose to compliment the white rose at the waist of her gown. The pillbox hat was one of the favorite styles of the 1950s and became the statement-hat of the early 1960s when worn by Jacqueline Kennedy. Jacqueline would wear pillbox hats made for her by a very young Halston then working from Bergdorf Goodman Department Store.
Historically, the pillbox was also military headgear. During the late Roman Empire, the pillbox, then known as the pilleus, was worn by Roman soldiers. Even these days in some countries pillbox hats, often including a chin strap, can be seen on ceremonial military occasions.
For women, pillbox hats have been part of a bride’s attire since medieval times. Also nowadays you can find many types of bridal pillbox hats made of silk or felt with a delicate French veil. The Pillbox hat belongs to the classic hat shapes. Depending on the shape and size of the hat, you can pin or place it at different angles on the head to get different effects. It has remained a favorite hat for Hollywood, the fashion industry, and even royalty. Both Princess Diana and the Duchess of Cambridge used the pillbox style hat for their fashion statement.
This title should perhaps read "earliest" hard plastic by Madame Alexander. In 1947, Alexander switched over most of their production to hard plastic. The first introduction of plastic on such a scale must have been a nerve-wracking experience for the company to make this commitment. Not only was the public accustomed to the look of composition dolls that dominated the doll market since the 1930s, but hard plastic also had a few hiccups to resolve in its early use for dolls and toys. Although nothing as daunting as the problems that came with composition production, Madame Alexander worked with Dupont to iron out some plastic formula issues.
The Wendy Ann made of composition was also one of the Madame Alexander dolls that made the 1947 and 1948 transition into hard plastic. The costuming for this Wendy Ann is charming, with baby blue and pale pink rayon georgette elaborately trimmed with lace, and a blue satin bow for her hair creates the party dress effect of this beautiful doll. Wendy Ann is wearing black Mary Jane shoes of the period. One of her two hang tags announces "human hair" for her wig. The other tag is a cloverleaf Wendy Ann hang tag.
Gracing the 2017 Thanksgiving dolledition.com blog is this Madame Alexander 1957 Cissy "Gardening." Mid century fashion had an outfit for everything, and every outfit had its hat. This 1957 Cissy "Gardening" is in coral twill overalls and a silk baby blue blouse with it's accent bow. A gold strap and woven straw shoulder bag is the perfect choice for the dedicated gardener. Gold high heels and flower accented sunglasses are the finishing touches to this remarkable ensemble reflecting a 1950s attitude to fashion and feminine perfection. As our Cissy sets the tone for the festivities, may she put a smile on your face - and please, have a blast celebrating your own Thanksgiving.
With pink roses in her luxurious blonde hair and bouquet, and a beautiful Margaret face, this stunning Princess Margaret Rose is a breath of fresh air. The gown is of silk organza, and is the most beautiful shade of blue with pink taffeta underneath. Trimmed with silver braid at the hem. Delicate jewelry includes a refined beaded necklace and crystal drop at the center of the sweetheart neckline. She also has her clover wrist tag. This doll was a first place winner at the 2017 Madame Alexander Doll Club Convention. The golden era of the Alexander Doll Company was in full swing at this point in time. The company was working on all cylinders and had recently moved to their new factory building in Harlem. Department stores and retailers vied with each other for exclusives that they could claim as their own. This might help explain some of the rare and difficult to find color combinations dolls like this occasionally show up.
Yikes, another year has flown by and it's Halloween 2017. Love this time of year... even if it's hovering around 80 degrees this go around. In all of it's forms and traditions, it's a unique experience. My first Halloween I was a ghost. I got the idea, as Mom used to recite it, that what I was hearing was "twick-a-tweat" my first year out. At three, it was all about the delivery. It worked like a charm, and I used it to my advantage until that Christmas when I tried to wrap my little head around the concept of flying reindeer. Halloween in my neighborhood is a BIG event. I always look forward to the first wave of trick-or-treaters, many experiencing their first Halloween... It doesn't get much cuter. This year, dolledition.com is featuring this charming witch to create the magic and mayhem that is part of the experience. So settle in, grab some candy corn and get happy - and pass it on!
Cissy wears, as described by the 1957 Alexander Doll Company Catalog, an elegant "afternoon gown" of lilac taffeta. Interesting details are the skirts box pleats and the bolero jacket. The taffeta dress is accented with a corsage and accessorized with a lucite purse with accent flowers from the hat. Lilac was a huge color trend of mid-century fashion, and it was a favorite of the Paris runways. Cissy transitioned from the painted finish dolls of 1955 to mid year 1957 when the infused Cissy's were first introduced. The No. 2143 Cissy was made as both types of hard plastic dolls. This is a beautiful example of the infused Cissy of mid-year 1957. To further present the perfect picture of fashion, Cissy has auburn hair with curls that are accommodated by her very chic mushroom style lilac straw hat.
The dolls of Madame Alexander are extensive and diverse. Sometimes decades overlap in what is loved, cherished and desired. Occasionally it’s a dramatic and complete transition into something new. Dolls have always reflected the world they are created. Technology changes, culture evolves, trends come and go. Every so often, as with the Baby Boomers, an entire generation moves on and grows out of dolls and toys and into young adults. This golden age was a unique collaboration of events that fell into place to make this creativity possible and with an audience that could support this elaborate collaboration of the creative choices of the company with the factory. The unions play an important part on how production unfolds. Retailers were the backbone of it all, with their stores, their distribution and their patrons. These flat-footed dolls were part of an unusual chain of events that needed each part of this chain. The result was the ability to produce some of the finest dolls of the Madame Alexander Doll Company.
1964 was the last year for Elise in this more familiar mold and body design. She was about to graduate in 1965 into a more long neck and straight torso design. Elise had also grown to 18 inches, from her debut in 1957 of 16 1/2 inches. Now that the Alexander Doll Company was strongly moving from hard plastic to vinyl, this Elise head is vinyl. The popularity of ballet in America was still huge, and it was growing in its influence in fashion. Audrey Hepburn was one of many influences in this trend. A former ballerina herself, her iconic "Funny Face" dance sequence in black leotards and black ballet flats helped bring ballet in another form into mainstream fashion. The ballerina length for dresses was another popular inturpitation of the movement of ballet into fashion.
One of the many introductions in the 1950s fashion parade was the ballerina length dresses and gowns that Dior made famous. Dior specifically used the phrase " Demi-Longueur" to refer to this longer hem line. It was hugely popular, would be translated by any number of fashion designers, and would also be called Tea-Length, 3/4 Length and Ballerina Length. It would be used for evening, day and the newly introduced "Cocktail Dress." The Prom Dress, just gaining national popularity, was also another category that might be "Demi-Longueur." Some of the most iconic and desirable wardrobe by Madame Alexander for fashion diva "Cissy" were dressed à la mode in this 3/4 length dresses and gowns. Still a classic, it appears often in bridal fashion and on the Paris runway.
Elise of 1963 was in a unique position in the Madame Alexander doll line-up. With both 21 inch Cissy and Jacqueline taking their final bows in 1962, this years 18 inch Elise got star treatment. She received the attention of a portrait doll, and was presented in a number of stunning outfits. This particular doll featured above is a rare example is of Elise with a Marybel face. The No. 1740 Elise Scarlett also came in the more familiar Elise mold. 1963 would be the last year for the 10 inch fashion doll Cissette. Madame Alexander seemed to be in a flux of what direction to take herself with the overwhelming success of Barbie's 1959 debut. Alexander would give a go at this market with the short lived introduction of 12 inch Brenda Starr in 1964 - renamed Yolanda in 1965. Regaining leadership in the ever changing doll industry with the American fashion doll seemed an elusive effort. Into her 60s by now, Madame still had a few surprises up her sleeve, and would regroup with the success of the eight inch American and International dolls.
Madame Alexander did the gowns of the Princess Margaret Rose Bridesmaids in different colors — shades of pink and blue are more familiar. This is a lovely buttercup yellow organdy with pink taffeta underneath. The affect has an iridescent feature to it that's both romantic and unexpected. The soft pink roses in the dolls hair, dress and bouquet all reinforce this feature. This c. 1953 doll touches on both the perennial favorite theme of the wedding party, but also the British royal family. Princess Margaret herself would have been about 22, and becoming a huge celebrity on her own by now. Her early relationship with Peter Townsend (just divorced and older man) would just now becoming headline news, giving Margaret both the status of royal princess but a media celebrity. When her sister, now Queen Elizabeth, had to deny permission to marry Peter Townsend, Princess Margaret became an international icon for tragic young love.
United Federation of Doll Clubs - their Summer 2017 magazine DOLL NEWS has my newest article "Elise - Over Time". Elise is the quiet one. Never as high profile fashion doll like her bigger sister Cissy or the legacy of Barbie, Elise did have quite a long doll career. From 1957 through her final bow in 1992, her design morphed several times and again as several different personalities. Some of her most interesting years were her bell-bottoms and mod fashion years of the mid sixties to early seventies when she was featured in the annual truck sets featured by FAO Schwarz.
The Competition Dolls of the Madame Alexander Doll Convention is my favorite part of the convention. The mix of dolls entered is unique to each convention, never to be repeated exactly the same again. I entered the ten dolls this year — which proved to be an insane amount of work to handle, pack and then to repack to come back home. My pride and joy this year is a 1951 lavender Maggie that won the Conventions Favorite Doll ribbon this year. The layers of time, thought and effort are numerous in the overall process. Alas, my biggest goof was entering one of my all-time favorite dolls, a 17 inch hard plastic Wendy Ann in the wrong category — the 101 of basic mistakes. Oh well, she now has another chance at another time.
1966 was a very interesting year for "Elise". She spent her first years as the more demure little sister for 20-inch "Cissy," who got a two year head start. "Elise" made her debut in 1957, and the two dolls tended to be a shadow of each other, and available in many of the same outfits and matching extra boxed clothes. "Cissy" was retired, with her last appearance in 1962. "Elise" however, was just getting started. She had a number of mold and body tweaks... and grew from her original 16.5-inches to 18-inches in 1964. In 1965, the new "long neck" 17-inch version appeared and "Elise" would stay in this format until 1992. For this one year, "Elise" was renamed "Polly" along with "Leslie," a black version of the same doll. "Elise" also started her use as "Maria" of the Sound of Music series in 1965.
"Elise" was about to get a huge career bump in 1966 by FAO Schwarz. The new 20-inch fashion doll "Coco" got all the headlines in the company 1966 catalog. Alas, "Coco" was a very problematic doll for the Alexander Doll Company. Production issues and the association of the dolls name with Coco Chanel, but without licensing, caused many problems. However, at FAO, "Elise" was given the first of a series of their exclusive trunk sets that sent her on tours dressed for the new decade. She was available in bell-bottoms, short skirts and the newly popular a-line "baby doll" dresses. The formals and prom dresses were still available, but "Elise" was now styling for her generation. In 1966, FAO also had an "Elise" exclusive as a Queen - with all the royal flourishes expected of a doll from Madame Alexander. Queen Elizabeth made a visit to the United States this same year. With a long doll career ahead of her, "Elise" was used for the now iconic FAO exclusive Elise trunk sets until the early 1970s.
"Jacqueline" by Madame Alexander arrived as a replacement for the extremely popular fashion doll "Cissy." Introduced in 1955 by Alexander, "Cissy" was a hard plastic doll with an intriguing group of sophisticated hairstyles translated as wigs. By 1957, the doll competitors were switching over to vinyl fashion dolls with rooted hair. This enhanced the very popular play activities of washing and setting your dolls hair. "Cissy," like most of the other wigged dolls by Alexander, were advertised as being able to "wash and set" your dolls hair. They often included rollers, a comb and inductions in the hat box that came with the larger dolls. This was a bit of a stretch. The "wash and set" capabilities were not the strong point of these beautiful dolls by Madame Alexander. Unlike Toni and the Revlon Doll, not only did they produce the better play doll, they also had a strong product tie-in with their dolls.
"Jacqueline," arriving in 1961, was a 21-inch doll with a hard plastic body, vinyl arms and head with rooted hair. Unfortunately, the beautifully executed and costumed doll was arriving just as "Barbie" was taking over the doll world with her own fashion revolution and lower price points. These price points were a big part of "Barbie's" attraction to both children and their parents. Even tied into the immensely popular first lady Jaqueline Kennedy, the doll was the right doll, just not at the right time. Regardless, "Jacquline" is beautifully costumed fashion doll using elegant fabrics to capture the change of direction fashion was taking in this new decade, Only available for a year and a half, "Jaqueline" marks an important mile stone in both design, technology and the development of the mid-century fashion dolls created by Madame Alexander for the baby boom generation.
Spring and June Brides are universal wedding tradition. The June wedding is a very romantic tradition and a huge industry that seems to never downsize. For Cissy, being a bride was hardly and option but a necessity to navigate twentieth century culture. Career options were still pretty limited, and a wife was one of the top five choices. For Madame Alexander, the annual Cissy bride was always an opportunity to design with a flourish and create something magical. The fun of collecting fashion dolls is the fashion they represent from the period they were produced. The wedding costumes done for Cissy are an intriguing look at the mid-century bridal trends that found their way to Cissy. Princesses got married, movie stars got married, prom queens got married... Cissy got married from 1955-1962. Perhaps it was cold feet or maybe she became the ultimate fashion victim - regardless, she is at her most beautiful each year in her bridal gowns, and the many wonderful variations of sleeve, veil, headpiece, and train details with, yards and yards of tulle, dozens, dozens of flowers with "pearls" and "diamonds" to finish it all off. Each year, under the gown, is the surprise element of a garter... the final flourish.
Cissy was hitting her peak of production and popularity in 1957. One of her biggest production changes also happened this year. The painted, bisque like finish she was introduced with in 1955 was changed over to a new infused finish. The skin tone of the doll now was added to the plastic rather than over the plastic as before. The lips, eyebrows and lower lashes were still added on in separate steps, but the infused plastic saved several steps and time in production of Cissy. The sealant coat at the end of the process still remained, and was probably the magic touch that gave Cissy that beautiful bisque-like quality that still survives in certain Cissy dolls today.
With two pristine mint dolls of the same production number to compare, it's a wonderful opportunity to look at the two finishes side by side. Within both the painted and infused types of finishes, there were any number of small tweaks happening as the company explored the production possibilities and to remain at the top of their industry. These are both No. 2114 of 1957. One is a blond and one is a brunette. The brunette has her box marked by the name of the doll, style number, and hair color. She also has the newer 1957 square hang tag that replaced the previous rectangular tags of 1955 - mid 1957. Alexander was also phasing out the use of both a coarser Saran fiber for wigs and a finer Saran. Only the finer Saran was used after 1958.
Cissy made quite a splash at her 1955 introduction. She probably got her best publicity from the controversial press regarding her adult figure as a child's play doll. A concept now used often by celebrities and politicians who generate controversy for sometimes world-wide free press that would be difficult to pay for but gets everyone talking. Cissy was the classic doll at the right place at the right time... so much fell into place to create the magic. World Wars would force the doll and toy industries to relocate to America to reinvent the industry. To this point, composition was the end product for the newest and greatest for dolls. The plastics available after WWII would help change everything, and the doll world was set for new renaissance that just happened to be based in New York. While the fashion world was still ruled by the Paris runways, those business were after the American market so they could survive in a world that had only about three thousand haute couture clientele left. And again, the American fashion industry was also based in New York... along with the home for a worldwide resurgence of ballet. In this ta-da moment, in Harlem was the former Studebaker auto factory, (210,000 square feet of floorspace), and now home to the Madame Alexander Doll Company - the rest is fit for a Broadway musical!