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Vintage Sleuthing: Ribbon paper dolls

vintage sleuthing

tan Bucilla ribbon doll

In the course of our vintage-lovin' lives, we've seen quite a few of these framed ribbon beauties. As luck would have it, a pair of ladies in frames with removable backs came into the shop, meaning we could get up close and personal with how they were made. Which, in turn, meant it was time for another edition of Vintage Sleuthing. The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed. Really, why would they need to be.

OBJECT: Cardstock ladies with hand stitched ribbon dresses and, gulp real hair and mohair.

back of ribbon doll

CLUES: After reviewing the usually hidden flip side, we suspect these dolls were made by hand, perhaps from a DIY kit. Bucilla was a noted maker of such kits.



Godey's Lady's Book

  • Godey's Lady's Book, a popular women's magazine from the 1800s was the go-to source for up-to-date fashion news. Pages were often saved and framed. (Framed pages from the original Godey's are still popular, we've had some really nice collections.)
  • According to Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson writing in the NJ Herald, Victorian gals started cutting out the figures and adding layers of ribbon and lace to make them more decorative.
  • In the early 1900s, kits that included a printed card stock doll to which you stitched bits of your own ribbons or ribbons that came with the kits.
  • A variety of materials were used to decorate the paper dolls: flattened silk flower petals, lace, ribbons, feathers, tatting, beading, glitter and other frills that can nicely be framed behind glass.
  • Judy Johnson and Helen Johnson from Paper Goodies have recreated one of these lovely doll kits.
  • If you're inclined to give this a try yourself or as a rainy day keep-the-kids-busy activity, Kim Stoegbauer has a tutorial for some really simple dolls on the DIY network site.

CONCLUSION: These intricate and charming ribbon paper dolls are sublime. It's vintage that was made by hand so no two are exactly alike. It was an exercise in style and handwork by someone somewhere between the 1900s and the 1930s likely. And since these two are not glued to the background, they can be easily removed and reframed to suit your fancy.

 Petal ribbon dolls

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