Object in Focus

Female Doll’s Clothes


Silk taffeta robe à la française. Image copyright of Cora Ginsburg Inc, New York and courtesy of Titi Halle








Prepared by: William de Gregorio, Bard Graduate Center and Peter McNeil, University of Technology Sydney/Stockholm University

Read the full paper here.

This set of dolls clothes, comprising a rust-colored silk taffeta robe à la française and matching petticoat, white cotton pockets and fully boned stays, was sold by the Cora Ginsburg Gallery, New York to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, Washington D.C. in 2002 (Figures 1-3). According to the Gallery it came from an English collection, hence the attribution of the pieces to England. Made for a doll approximately 12 to 14 inches tall, the set was constructed in exactly the same manner as actual clothing of the period. The open robe is trimmed with self-fabric ruched robings in straight rows around the neck and down each side of the skirt, with single-tiered cuffs on the elbow-length sleeves accented with a bow. This style of trim dates the piece to the 1770s, since the scrolling robings of the previous decade had fallen from favor. One wide flounce runs around the center of the petticoat, while a thinner band of ruching accents the hem.

While many dolls survive in clothes made of brocaded silks, crafting a doll’s dress out of plain textiles ensured that the illusion of miniaturization was not disturbed by the incongruity of scale that accompanies figured examples, as in a similar dress and petticoat of pink taffeta in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The original doll would no doubt have worn this ensemble over a hooped petticoat and chemise, along with the stays and self-striped cotton pockets on a linen tape that remained with the gown, as a slightly earlier doll in the Manchester Art Gallery that retains its yellow linen hoop does. It is impossible to say whether the gown was created at home or commercially by a doll vendor, though the sophistication of its manufacture – the bodice is lined in linen, as in corresponding full-sized clothing – indicates that it may have been made by a professional.



Related material

Visual sources

All images copyright of Cora Ginsburg Inc, New York, courtesy of Titi Halle

Fig.2. Fully boned stays

Fig.3. White cotton pockets





Max von Boehn, Puppen und Puppenspiele, Josephine Nicoll (trans.), (New York, 1966)
Yassana C. Croizat, ‘“Living Dolls’: François I Dresses His Women”, Renaissance Quarterly, 60/1 (2007)
Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and John Harold Plumb, The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-century England (Bloomington, 1982)
Walker’s Hibernian Magazine, Or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (May 1786)


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