NOUS DEUX, "The weekly magazine which brings luck" is the only one of the big roman photo family to be still published today, with equal success. The style (from illustration to black and white to color) the stories and the themes have evolved but the principe remains the same: it always ends with a kiss!
In the Tome IV of La vie merveilleuse de Mily, she marries Jacky.
Françoise Sagan and Mily both had a fur coat. Guess which one is real.
The "Twist" years
The Mod/Pop years, here with a Vassarely influence.
The Pop years with a avenue Montaigne boutique touch.
“Who is the girl, who is the boy?"
The “fad” of women dressing like men, by wearing pants and other traditionally masculine clothing, gained popularity in the 1960s. Naturally, Mily had to have outfits in this style, such as Sport. It was a skin-tight pair of pants, a red high-necked tight blouse and a vest-like leather jacket. A perfect example of the early-mod, late beatnik style, it came with a manly watch on a fob, a rather stylish little accessory.
Mily, in her Sport outfit took pride in her androgynous appearance; it was a new and very exciting way to dress. It made her, she says in her diary, look just “like a real boy” echoing the title of the hit song “Just Like A Boy”, ("Comme un garcon"), by Sylvie Vartan. Two years later the fashion had caught on amongst all the young French teenagers. At one point Mily remarks in her diary:
“Beautiful nice stretches under the gray veil and yawns....Tourists walking slowly, walk the Promenade des Anglais....the beatniks with long hair seem to be everywhere lately: They have guitars on their backs, coloured chalk in their hands. Their guitar and chalk pay for their trip and will pay their trip home. Retired folk, who chit-chat on the benches of Nice, gaze at them stupefied.
“Who is the girl, who is the boy? The one who has ‘drumstick’ hair and cow-boy pants is the girl of course, the one who has curls on her shoulders and a little blouse with pink and green flowers is the boy. Isn’t that obvious, of course?”
Michel Polnareff was the first "beatnik" pop singer in France.
Mily's diaries are a major aspect of her profile and personality. They make all the difference with any fashion doll existing at the time.
The wonderful life of Mily
La Vie Merveilleuse de Mily booklets were filled with information about the typical high-bourgeoise high-jinxs of the era. Mily explains, in her journal, the evolution of the doll heroine and how, after a two-year courtship, she decides to get married. The writing is almost poetic in its sentimental and pensive tone. It brandishes a quaint attitude yet is forward in the fact that Mily is a personality in her own right.
Through her diary we find out that Mily was a thoughtful doll. The conception is a rare quality among fashion dolls of the era; in fact it’s rare within the world of dolls of most eras. In the booklets, one could read: “Mily will be your friend. You’ll recognize yourself in her. Her adventures will become so familiar to you that you won’t be able to tell whether it was her or yourself who lived them. And just maybe you’ll decide, yourself, to keep a diary of all the little daily things that happen to you day by day in your life and you’ll yourself will end up by transforming your own life.”
It is these stories, found in Mily’s diaries that added a human touch to the doll. By the time the fourth tome was written circa 1966, Mily married her fiancé Jacky. This was a rare and unusual phenomenon in the world of dolls; there are millions of wedding dresses but never the confirmation of an actual wedding (although there is documentation of the Barbie and Ken wedding, unfortunately denied officially by Mattel -perhaps a good thing because Ken is officially “out” as Barbie doll’s boyfriend and he’s been replaced by a rather lame Australian surfer, who has all the markings of being a homosexual, and weirdly called Blaine, a very un-Australian name).
The way the diaries are laid out - like the famous photos-romans for teenage girls and housewives - is a very important part of the concept of the Mily doll. Photographic heart throb-like comic books were the absolute rage at the time. In America, and throughout all of Europe and the East, shop girls, maids, housewives and schoolgirls dreamily read, week after week, the adventures of the chaste and pure young women and virile, smooth-skinned men facing some force of evil that delays their happiness, just like the televised soap operas. Mily’s diaries were like the popular romantic adventures of the day, which exemplified the middle-class starry-eyed girl and how consumerism and the search for mythic marital bliss in the joyous kinddom of suburbia can proliferate. Yet still she could very well have sung the French 60s hit song, “T’es plus dans l’coup, Papa” (“You’re no longer ‘with it’ Daddy!”).
Intelligent, but not too liberated.
However, despite all the emphasis on Mily’s own intelligence, she still seems a middle-class girl who upholds bourgeoisie propriety and convention. Nonetheless, Mily does bear ressemblance to the leading character in the Prix Goncourt novel by Francoise Sagan called Bonjour Tristesse. In this famous, run away novel of the era, the teenage girl drives fast cars, smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol clandestinely and generally reeks havoc on her entourage. Mily has a note of this character’s personality. A bit naughty, a bit rebel, a little like a female James Dean. When Mily makes reference to Christian’s red Triumph, it’s a direct reference to the novel.
Publishing Mily’s viewpoints was, at the time, a precarious situation for Gégé as each word and phrase that was committed to Mily’s “thoughts” had to be carefully weighed. Her ideas couldn’t be too forward or they’d shock the doll purchasing parents, but then again, they couldn’t be too archaic to bore their teenage owners. Mily’s romantic interests had to titillate and thrill the doll owners, but not scandalize the parents. The diaries had to emphasize that Mily was well brought-up and intelligent, but not too liberated.
Mily, the perfect heroin for roman-photo, could be an inspiration for a new genre: the roman-photo fashion!
This 1965 Galeries Lafayette catalogue of toys and gifts reveals exactly the context of Mily's lifestyle. She is also advertised in it as a toy...and so is Barbie.
With the Olympics games happening in France, winter sports became all the rage.
"A horrible little bourgeoise"
The years between 1966 and 1970 were important in the sense that they were a period of changing attitudes, not only for the human world but for the doll world as well. The vehicle of Mily’s diaries allowed Gégé to explain, quite clearly, the viewpoints of the time. It allowed a justification of her high-fashion wardrobe without making her seem like a brainless sex object. In 1968 she even had official sports clothes to wear for the Grenoble Olympics of 1968 (Baby had her hair trimmed to get rid of those ugly poufs on the side of her head so she could wear the ski helmet) The French, so reactionary, especially at this period, couldn’t allow even a plastic fashion doll to get away with the old-fashioned value system.
Mily represented the youth student movement that, in May, 1968 caused a revolution which ultimately concluded in the resigning of President Charles de Gaulle. At one point in the first journal, when she started seeing Jacky, Mily is called "a horrible little bourgeoise” by the jealous boy doll when Jacky learns that she’s going to visit Christian at his parents home in Val d’Isère (a very fashionable ski resort of the era and also the name of a ski tunic and tights from the first collection), Christian was studying to be a doctor and drove a red Triumph. (“I will be able to pass my driving test”, Mily wrote in one entry. “Christian can lend me his red Triumph, if he hasn’t already wrecked it”). Jacky, on the other hand, sometimes went to St. Pierre de Chartreuse (a little less ’in’, but the snow there is surely as pretty”) and apparently couldn’t bear the thought of Mily seeing other dolls.
La "Nouvelle vague"
When Mily finally turned 18 (April 10th, 1964) she mused that Jacky, “will be able to take me to see films yesterday still forbidden to see. It’s funny. Have I aged so quickly?” Only a doll in love would dream of the boy doll who could take her to see adult films. Filmmaker Jean Luc Godard was all the rage in France and the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) cinema was forbidden fruit for the under 18-year-old crowd but was an achievement when one could finally go see these then-considered racy films about illicate teenage love affairs, adultery and such. One notable film, with Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg was called Pierrot le fou. Bardot also was still considered hot stuff.
Jacky obviously had nothing to fear from Christian, even during the formative years of the “free love” generation and with all these saucy plots in films and books. Barbie and Tammy by Mattel and Ideal Toys in America at the same time wouldn’t even approach the subject of adult films let alone let those dolls go to them! But, like Barbie and Tammy, Jacky had a formal wedding tuxedo and Mily had a traditional white satin wedding gown with all the fluffy trimmings. Of course, while he was still her fiancé, Jacky was very macho. He wore clothes called Jacky 70 (in 1970 of course) with it’s bellbottom pants, long tapered jacket in flamboyant tweed or stripes and pink crepe large-lapeled shirts - and without a tie! Imagine that. He wore neckkerchiefs, trenchcoats, aeronavale uniforms and the usual man-ly stuff, like blue jeans and print shirts and boating, skiing and sports attire.
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