Text by BillyBoy*
It was toward the end of the 1950s that the fashion doll trends splintered and separated into three distinct formats. Just as in the beginning where the “adult” dolls were either leaning more towards a young girl mood or busty teenager or adult allure, one of the three new aspects could be called the “Queen of Outer Space” school of design and demeanor which, just like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s look in the B-picture, includes tight, strapless clothes, negligées in net and sequins and peroxide hair tones.
The first mood was definitely as Warhol "Superstar" Candy Darling would say, a "blonde on a bum trip” look, and the fashions, even though influenced by Paris, took on a slightly seedy aspect when commercialized and left unlined. Figure-hugging capris, sheaths, and twin sets in knit were standardized.
The second school, the “Tasteful First Lady” syndrome had that clean, sober, and mature look that portrays the kind of Fifth Avenue authority-- the Sak’s, Bergdorf, and Bendel’s mentality seen in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
"I Love Lucy" and "Tasteful First Lady" couture with the "Gee, Mom!" school .
The Cosmopolitan Doll and Toy Corporation of Jamaica, New York featured their Ginger and Little Miss Ginger in outfits that this author feels look like “I Love Lucy” couture. A full skirted short sleeve dress in cotton black stripe print with a ruffled petticoat is covered by a jacket in red with pointed lapels folded back to reveal that they are in the same print as the dress. Two big buttons are on the lapels. The sleeves, also in the striped print, are trimmed in the same lace as the petticoat. Her hat, very “Lucy-goes-out-and-buys-a-hat-despite-what-Ricky-has-said”-ish, in straw with flower trim really gives the word “matching” a run for its money. As a matter of fact, the whole outfit does. Ginger and her smaller namesake did however have very Balenciaga-looking hats. A big picture hat in horsehair, flat like a carpet, is the acme of simplicity. The oversized straw boater, the kind that men wore in 1900, and just like the one Balenciaga invented for women, is fashioned in stunning miniature, complete with the black velvet band with stylized bow at the back. She had a few things like the full skirted white bib fronted sleeveless jumper dress under which went with a simple pale pink collarless shirt which had that early Hubert de Givenchy separates look about them.I must insist though that her wardrobe, although sitting neatly on the edge of the “Tasteful First Lady” syndrome with its couture references does evoke Lucy, Donna Reed, and a host of other television sitcom characters.
"Just about" Queen to "Very extremely" Queen
The Nancy Ann Storybook dolls by Nancy Ann Storybook Dolls, Inc. of San Francisco, California had their own Miss Nancy Ann (naturally!), along with a nameless Kellogg’s Lass and Sally Starr (also an anonymous advertising fashion doll) all have outfits with the same qualities as Ginger's wardrobe, reflecting its black and white TV fashion. Mary Hoyer’s Vicky doll, who was available with surprisingly tasteful wardrobe pieces (including a mink stole for a whopping sum of $2.95) was made to be dressed via equally tasteful patterns. Her contribution to the “Tasteful...” runs the full gamut within the category, from direct Parisian silhouettes, American adaptations, and television middle-class variants to home “couturier” creations. Vicky’s clothes, by pattern proxy, fill this slot.
On the “Queen from Outer Space” front which runs from cold to hot, from “just about” Queen to “very extremely” Queen, there are a number of examples. Deluxe Reading Corp., makers of popular Penny Brite, the pre-teen fashion doll, came up with another creation named Candy Fashions-- The Dream of Every Girl. Her glitzy box brags she is “the doll with the world’s most exquisite clothing” and that the set comes with four “completely matched ensembles.” Looking like a very “new at the game” starlet, Candy in dark tinted Breakfast at Tiffany’s oval glasses, has a dress form for each outfit. The fact that she sports open toe pumps with a winter suit should be the dead giveaway. Her “pocketbook” comes with tiny play money. Hard, cold cash to be precise. The packaging also, I might add, has Candy, darling, in an extremely low-cut bouffant cocktail dress and skintight bodice with a Marilyn Monroe halter neckline which is, of course, sleeveless.
The disturbingly short dress is further emphasized by the angle of the illustration which is from the curb up! A cinch belt, wide and in nasty-looking black patent, is gleaming from the tiny waist while hastily draped over the shoulders is a skimpy stole with tassle edges. Her gesture, while holding up her purse in one hand and waving with the other, seems to say, “Let’s get the hell out of this joint...Taaaaaxi!." The shoes and calves are at a fetishist’s angle and there is no trace of hosiery. A genuine floozy...to say the least.
Hong Kong Lilli, Babs and Miss Seventeen
Another, Beehler Arts cheaply made “High heel doll” (she doesn’t even have a name!) comes for all intents and purposes, in a plain brown wrapper, like smutty "girly magazines" and she wears a blue felt swimsuit that reeks of Frederick’s of Hollywood. She has that Shirley MacLaine tossled "Can Can" or Sweet Charity hairdo in the Roux hair dye shade of nothing less than “Ultra White Minx” and, I kid you not, what appears to be a snarling expression. Maybe it is my imagination run amok, but at least it looks like she was heavily influenced by the film Juvenile Jungle (“A girl delinquent...a jet propelled gang...out for fast kicks!”) and Dorothy Provine in Live Fast, Die Young (They called her ‘teenage tramp’...the road she travels tonight is a one way highway to hell!”). It is not surprising that the doll and the films came out the same year, 1958.
Prior to the popular Barbie doll's debut in 1959 with her perky breasts and slim figure, arched eyebrows, blue eyeliner, and the ubiquitous ponytail, there existed a German doll, sexy and coquettish which, prior to (by at least the first five years) the Barbie doll, influenced decades of dolls. After Lilli doll’s physical shape was “acquired” by Mattel (so they claim!) and adapted and transformed into the best selling Barbie doll, at least three sizes of the Lilli doll’s moulds continued to be used to create a number of various, lesser known, and at the time, much less expensive lines of fashion dolls. While Barbie doll led the way for quality and usurpted concept, what is referred to as “Hong Kong” Lilli (because it was manufactured in Hong Kong by Fab-Lu Ltd. and other makers and not in Germany like the original doll), Babs, and Miss Seventeen managed to bring sharp high fashion and sophisticated elegance to the doll world as an alternative to the Mattel-created blond bombshell.
A new creation: the teenager and suburbia
"Child cum adult"
The distinguishing marks between the child, more popularly called "kid," and the new creation, the teenager, lie essentially in the clothing which clearly sets the teenager apart from the parents as well. Teens also developed attitudes to distinguish themselves from the others but perhaps with a little less success. Concerning this new race of “child cum adult” within the female’s new symbol of hardness, there were several categories of attitude. These attitudes corresponded to, in fact, a number of different levels of vestimentary elegance which at its most tawdry stage was a leather jacketed hoodlum-look which was the least appreciated by the majority of adults and was not seen commonly in fashions for post-teenage women at that time.
Another level was one where girls aspired to such a look but just could not dare it. Capri pants turned into peddlepushers, tight sweaters into tunics, and quintessentially it all turned into the Barbie doll, which represented a social trend which soon turned into the chunkier, "cleaner" Tammy doll by Ideal. Tammy was an example of another social trend which balanced this new aggressive look for some doll-playing girls within society. She and such dolls (like Randy, the Babs doll’s sister for example) warrant a story unto themselves in a later chapter.