I am always looking for tips and tricks for safely dressing dolls. Once, when I was about 7, I was trying to put a dress on a doll and one of the sleeves tore off – needless to say I was traumatized, but fortunately my mother was a great seamstress and repaired it quickly! So now you know why I like to collect tips for safe doll dressing.
Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful for your dolls. Bear in mind that these tips might not work for everyone and that this is a work in progress so the list will continue to grow!
Over the Head? or Up from Below?
Never pull clothes over the head. Slide up over the legs and hips whenever possible.
Okay, I know there are some vintage Barbie sweaters that have to go on over the head, SO one can slip a tiny plastic bag over the head and hair of the doll and then ease the sweater on gently. This works better for me than taking the head off. I know some people like to do this, but I wouldn’t, especially on a vintage doll.
Over tiny fingers
Put tiny plastic bags or gloves over the doll’s hands so lace sleeves or trim will not catch on their fingers. When the hands of the doll are almost coming out of the sleeves, you may be able to insert the tip of your pinkie finger up into the sleeve to help guide the doll’s fingers past the sleeve edge. (This works for the legs of tight pants as well.)
Glove with tight sleeve on a Francie doll.
Glove with lace sleeve on a Francie doll.
Tiny plastic bag on a Tonner doll.
Stockings and Tights
Stockings are always easier to put on a hard plastic leg, but with patience they can be put on softer legs. Here is how I do it:
- Gently turn the stocking almost all the way inside out by using a very blunt and smooth object (like the end of a narrow make-up brush).
- Put the end of stocking against the toe of the doll and carefully roll the stocking onto the foot and up the leg.
- Gently pull and adjust as you are going along to insure a smooth fit.
- (If you lay the doll down flat on her back, raise both legs up to make the doll into the shape of an “L”, it makes it less wobbly.)
I have pierced several of my dolls’ ears and have never had a problem with green ear. Hypo-allergenic silver or 14k gold filled are a good choice for earring posts. Whether you make your own earrings or buy them, it is a good idea to test the earring posts with a magnet because 14k gold does not have junk alloys in it and will NOT stick to a magnet.
I usually display dolls for several weeks in the same earrings and I have never even noticed the beginnings of problems.
Never store your dolls with their earrings still on – even 14k gold filled ones. You just might end up with the dreaded GREEN EAR.
I am not including information on working with green ear as there are plenty of tutorials on the various doll boards and magazines.
Stains on dolls and the cloth that left the stain
I have several newer dolls (within the past 5 years, not vintage ones) that came wearing dark blue or black clothing that have left stains on the body. I have never tried to clean up the dolls but here are some tips I found (I don’t know if they work or not):
As with the green ear thing, there are many tutorials out in cyberspace on how to remove stains from dolls. Super-strength Clearacil in a tube seems to be a favorite and this supposedly may work for green ear as well. (Some people use generic acne cream – as long as it is untinted, it should work in the same way.) You just put it on the doll in the affected areas, wait anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks, then take it off to see if the stain has lifted. You can also wrap the doll in plastic during the waiting period. A friend tried this with a vintage bubble cut Barbie and it took ONE YEAR to the day, but it worked and he sold it for big $$$$. Mr. Clean Eraser Sponges will remove some stains as will CLR (calcium, lime, rust). I have heard that if you use CLR to remove stains and then dye the doll, the areas treated with CLR will not take the dye, so bear that in mind and test it out whenever possible!
People on the internet doll boards recommended soaking the clothes in one cup of cold water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Another friend tried this technique with Gene’s El Morocco outfit with great success. She even put the wet outfit on the doll to let it dry. The outfit bled a bit in the water bath, but never stained the doll again. I have never tried this but only heard about it!
For getting yellow stains off of white clothes, I have used a mix of water, Oxyclean, and generic Woolite then allowed the items to soak overnight. This has worked quite well for me. I use about one quart of water with about one tablespoon of Oxyclean and one of Woolite.