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The Fashions of Madame Alexander

Just hearing the name of Madame Alexander brings immediate images into the thoughts of doll collectors. “Other” dolls sat side by side in the dime stores and grocery stores of the land, but not the Alexander dolls. By the 1940s and 1950s, they were so exclusive they were displayed in their own glass cases in the doll section of big department stores. These were dolls with the higher price tags. These were dolls made for “looking” … not playing.

The Alexander hard plastic “Cinderella” of 1950 came complete with tiara, necklace and bracelet.What was it about these dolls that made them so different from the many others being manufactured? 
It certainly was not their faces. Although beautiful, they basically looked much like the dolls made by other companies. And their bodies were made of the same materials as other dolls of the day. As time passed, the company changed production materials from cloth to composition, hard plastic to vinyl…just like all the other doll producers.

Glenn Mandeville in several of his books about Madame Alexander Dolls gives the question an answer with these words: “The most often overlooked fact is that Madame Alexander was not a doll artist. She was a clothing designer…and to Madame, the dolls, for the most part, were merely the mannequins upon which she draped her dreams.”

Bertha Alexander was born March 9, 1895, in her family’s living quarters located above her father’s doll hospital in New York’s Lower East Side. She and her sisters grew up literally surrounded by dolls. In 1923, they began the Alexander Doll Company, with their specialty being “dainty costumes.” They dressed dolls as they had never before been dressed in America—in gorgeous silks, fine cottons and French voile prints.

During the 1950s, the company produced little booklets that advertised Alexander fashions for dolls. On the back of one such booklet is this description: “Madame Alexander’s Fashions for Dolls are made of the best fabrics obtainable, imported laces and organdies, the finest cottons and flannels. Great care has been exercised in the styling of the doll’s clothes, so that a little girl’s doll reflects the good taste which has been used in the selection of the child’s own wardrobe. Superior fitting and finishing of each small garment assures the little mother of long wear and much pleasure. No frustrating safety pins, but buttons and button holes or snap fastenings make dressing and undressing your doll lots of fun.”

Some of the booklets were issued for named dolls, but other booklets advertised clothing for dolls of three sizes—15 inches, 18 inches and 25 inches. Sometimes a certain style came in more than one color or print. Also listed were lingerie and accessories such as slips, panties, slippers, socks, jewelry and hats.

There were very few character faces manufactured in the Alexander doll line. Most of the dolls through the years and continuing today were like thousands of others. It was—and continues to be—the clothing that made and makes the difference. Most Alexander dolls have very little value without their clothing. The clothes were and are the specialty. The clothes carry the tag, without which it is often impossible to know just who the doll was originally. When one face looks like another is it a girl or a boy?  Was it Tiny Betty or Princess Elizabeth? Could it be Peter Pan or one of the Little Women? It is definitely a case of the clothes making the lady or the man or the boy or girl…whichever you have.  

This 21-inch “Jacqueline Kennedy” portrait doll from the 1960s is dressed in a copy of the First Lady’s inaugural ball gown and cloak. Notice her ring and the tag (far right).Without question, the business of buying Madame Alexander clothing is popular. Studying Internet auctions sees this practice as “alive and well!” In April of 2004, a mint in box Cissy chartreuse check taffeta dress with organdy puff sleeves and a belt marked style 10-54 sold for $400, bringing more than many of the dressed Cissy dolls in like auctions.

The mint in box outfits don’t show up very often, but on any day of the week many used, but good or close to mint Alexander outfits are listed for the interested bidders. Most of these offerings are for named dolls. Very seldom do the tagged Alexander clothes produced by sizes come up for sale. However, in May of 2004, a dress in the 15-inch size brought $67.52. That’s a relatively large amount of money for a doll dress, even in today’s world.

More Alexanderkins clothes are listed than other Alexander clothing. Cissy and Elise clothes run a close second. Possibly there were more of these produced than others. Most of the listings are for dresses, but accessories show up once in a while as well. Recently an untagged camisole for Elise sold for $66, a hat made of straw with fabric flowers for a 12-inch Lissy or a 15-inch Elise brought $113.49, and Cissette doll shoes starting at $9.99 went up to $56.

Since Madame Alexander dolls were expensive dolls to begin with, many are found today in complete, all original condition. A study has not been done, but it is probably actually harder to find the outfits alone than the complete dolls. That could be the reason for the prices the clothing brings. One can certainly take tagged Alexander clothing and put it on a nude Alexander doll and have a great combination.

Beatrice Alexander, known as “Mad­ame” to millions, died on October 3, 1990, at the age of 95. During her lifetime she won many awards, medals and honors. Of which was she the most proud? Possibly the Fashion Academy Awards she won for clothing design four years in a row (from 1951 to 1954). And what made that so special was that her designs were for doll clothes, but the competition was not just doll clothing but all garments manufactured during that period! 

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I have this doll since I was 6 yrs old can you give me the value of the Madame Alexander She wears a cinderalla bule dress like the one on top of this page.. She is in very good condition I and now 62 yrs old I got her in 1954 as a gift mr my godmother

thank you
Theodora Fahrenholz , October 09, 2010

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2013 DOLLS Awards of Excellence

The winners of the 2013 Industry’s Choice DOLLS Awards of Excellence (DAEs) were announced April 12 at the Debut of Dolls Banquet held at IDEX in Orlando, Fla. Each entry in this year’s competition was evaluated by our panel of judges: Doll industry consultant Pat Burns, doll writer and historian Penny Herbst, Simon Farnworth of DollObservers.com, author and DOLLS contributor Stephanie Finnegan,

DOLLS editor-at-large Jill Jackson, and Modern Doll President Patsy Moyer. This year’s Industry’s Choice winners go on to become the nominees for the Public’s Choice awards voted on by DOLLS readers. Look for photos of all the nominees, ballot, and online voting instructions in the July 2013 issue of DOLLS.

 

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DOLLS publisher Carie Ferg wins special Colliii Award

Iola, Wis. – Jan. 9, 2013DOLLS magazine publisher and former editor Carie Ferg received a special VIP Award for Outstanding Achievement in the 2012 Colliii Awards. The Colliii Awards are the largest online dollmaking competition in the world.

“We wanted to present the 2012 VIP Award to Carie Ferg as a recognition of the dynamism and innovation she has brought to the doll industry over the past few years,” said Colliii Awards Director James Carlsson. “The VIP Award is presented every year to a person or organisation that has made a significant contribution to the doll world. It was Colliii.com’s pleasure to present this to Carie as a token of appreciation for her hard work.”

Past VIP Award winners include DOLLS’ Editor-at-Large Jill Jackson for her work with "Doll Reader," the Biemann family from Schildkröt dolls in Germany, and such atists as Stephanie Sullivan.

Registration for the 2013 Colliii Awards will begin in July. For more information about the competition, go to www.colliii.com/en.

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Wow, this is some great info on this competition. Congratulations to her and I hope that she will continue to make dolls in the future. There are so many things that can be done in the doll making world and it is good to know that these people who spend a lot of their time and energy on creating them are recognized in this manner. I hope she will continue to create.

 

 

 

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ProSculpt 2012 winners announced

The winners of the 2012 ProSculpt Annual Sculpting Contest have been chosen by collectors and artists from around the world. Winners this year are from England, Italy, Japan, South America, and the United States. Photos of all the winners can be viewed at the Johnston Original Art Dolls website. The winners are:

 

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I'm of the same frame of mind, these are figurines, not dolls and should not be in a magazine devoted to DOLLS. That is one of my main complaints with the Haute Doll mag that Dolls is putting out, seeing Figurines and not dolls, and advertising that is not specific to the magazine bugs me too.
Jennifer Duff , March 17, 2013
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I don't understand how these things can be considered dolls. I would call them statues or figurines but not dolls.
Lorie Schatti , January 17, 2013

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A Chair for Your 16-Inch Sweetheart

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Haute Doll introduces its new exclusive by Horsman Ltd., the modern-style “Heart Chair” perfect for 16-inch fashion dolls. The design was inspired by Verner Panton’s 1959 full-scale contemporary chair design.

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Rockin’ Out at Rockefeller Center: An outdoor winter event showcases model-worthy Manhattanites.

Available on December 6, “Ravena, Winter Chic” is an exclusive BJD from Ruby Red Galleria and DOLLS magazine. It can only be purchased through DOLLS.
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I just learned about a new BJD debuting on December 6—it's a Ruby Red Galleria exclusive for DOLLS. The creation is so spot-on in its costuming and its attitude, I swear that one of the designers must have been tailing me last month.

When my friend Cam phoned me and invited me to the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, I should have said “no.” Any sane person would have, but sanity and an evening with Cam rarely go hand-in-hand. Instead, I agreed, and we headed out to Midtown Manhattan on one of the most crowded, most frantic nights of the year.

As we attempted to approach the skating rink where the enormous evergreen will reign supreme, I looked at Cam and burst out laughing.

“Isn’t this how ‘The Day of the Locust’ ends?” I shouted to him. (That film from the 1970s is among my and Cam’s favorite flicks. It stars Karen Black and Donald Sutherland, and it concludes with a horrible, free-for-all deadly crowd stampede.)

“Don’t be such a Grinch,” he called back. “Or should I say ‘Grinchette’!”

“I’m not sure there is a female Grinch,” I replied. “I know there was a Smurfette, the only blue gal around. But a Grinchette? I have to check my Seuss.”

And so this intellectual discourse continued as we fought our way through the jangling and jostling crowd—and, yes, the mass of people were LITERALLY jangling as they jostled. A huge number of them had on Santa hats with bells affixed or had bells attached to their lapels or collars. They were rude but they were rhythmic!

Since our trekking was so slow, and the other gawkers had gotten their much earlier to stake out their spots, Cam and I didn’t so much watch the tree lighting as watch the other folks’ reactions to all of the events.

A shrill shriek would emerge from the people way ahead of us.

“What is it?” I’d ask.

“Il Vole,” Cam would reply, referencing the teenage opera singers.

A cheer would erupt.

“Who is that?” I questioned.

“Chris Mann, from ‘The Voice.’” Another opera singer, who is marketed as a heartthrob.

Then just a smattering of applause.

“Mayor Bloomberg,” we both declared.

Since we were merely hearing the audio playback of the concert, we gazed at all the young men and women surrounding us.

“I think there is more wool here on Sixth Avenue than in all the sheep farms in Scotland,” Cam proclaimed.

Looking around, I had to agree.

Guys and girls were all decked out in the “official” apparel of the season: woolen flap hats, jauntily tied scarves, and boots. Girls had on legwarmers—“Hello, Flashdancers”—and fingerless gloves. (“What’s the point of that?” Cam groused. “Are we supposed to WANT our fingernails to turn blue?”) We had our very own Joan & Melissa Rivers Red Carpet fashion critique.

There’s a certain hip look that New Yorkers achieve—even when they are multilayering, they still come across as thin, chic, and hip. When I add scarves and sweaters and hats to my wardrobe, I look bundled up and ready to explode: envision the Michelin Tire Man, but not as perky.

When these twenty-somethings put on the extra bits of fabric, they look like they are taking a break en masse from shooting the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. It really is quite amazing.

“I wish we could bottle their youth,” Cam lamented, looking at all the rosy-cheeked kids, teens, and college students who were scrambling about.

“Yep,” I agreed, “but can you imagine how much it would cost? And just how big would that bottle have to be! Better just to dream about it.”

And, wouldn’t you know it, just in time for Christmas . . . a doll that perfectly embodies that free-spirited New York City style has loped onto the scene.

The ball-jointed doll, which is a collaboration between DOLLS magazine and Ruby Red Galleria, is fittingly named “Ravena, Winter Chic.” Limited to 100 pieces, she’ll sell for 149.95. And, like all the other fashionable femmes who congregate in Manhattan, she weighs only 2 pounds, 6.9 ounces! The “Ravena” doll is bundled up and beautiful. Quite a feat, indeed!

Like her advertising copy says: A New York City native, the harsh NYC winters don’t stop “Ravena, Winter Chic,” a DOLLS dressed doll exclusive by Ruby Red Galleria, from exploring the city she loves. From uptown boutiques and coffee shops to downtown restaurants and theater, “Ravena, Winter Chic” bundles into her purple tights and faux-fur boots, corduroy short pants, pansy T-shirt, black motorcycle-style jacket and cozy knit hat to hit the streets in style. Even when the elements are unforgiving, “Ravena” survives and thrives in the city that never sleeps! The fully dressed 12-inch ball-jointed vinyl doll features removable wig and eyes, plus underwear and a sweet “love” tank top.

Ruby Red Galleria always has a way with its wardrobe, and “Ravena, Winter Chic” is no exception. I am sure Cam will be ordering one online. He’s probably circled December 6 on his calendar. After all, if he was willing to chew “instant youth” vitamins or spray on “adolescent forever” cologne, can you imagine how happy he’ll be to have a chic New Yorker to call his own?

“Exercising and eating well . . . who could be bothered,” Cam knowingly observes. “I’d rather play my way to younger days.”

And, yes, it can’t be denied. Cam has the healthiest inner-child in town!

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Pullip and Dal Doll Lovers Event
Fans of Pullip and Dal pose with their dolls at PUDDLE 2011. Photo by Mike Hurlock

The fourth Pullip and Dal Doll Lovers Event (PUDDLE) drew 60 doll lovers from 10 different states and Canada to the Elk Grove Village Holiday Inn in June. This year’s theme, cranes, was inspired by the sandhill cranes at the group's charity organization, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Six custom dolls and other items donated by sponsors like The Sleeping Elf and Denise's Dolls were raffled off at the event, raising $500 for the center.

The weekend started Friday night with dinner at Mitsuwa Japanese Mall in Arlington Heights, followed by a tea party at the hotel. PUDDLE officially kicked off at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting with an organized buy-sell-trade opportunity, and dozens of fans milled around trading and buying doll wigs, eye chips, bodies, clothing, and more.

5_costume_contest_newEvery attendee received a door prize, thanks to generous donations from many sponsors. Distribution of the door prizes was followed by a secret gift swap and lunch break. Afterwards, an informal Q&A-format customizing workshop answered questions for many fans new to the hobby, followed by a display of fully customized and modified dolls entered in the customization contest. Winners of an online photo/art contest which was held and judged before the event were announced along with the customization contest winners. The photo and art entries can be seen at www.puddlestyle.com/photoart.html.

Many fans continued the fun over dinner in the hotel restaurant and in the hotel lobby until the wee hours. Krista Farmer, who traveled from Toronto for the event, said “It was a crazy cool day.” Although the event officially ended Saturday night, 11 fans stayed for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Willowbrook Wildlife Center Sunday. — Jane Easterly

For information on PUDDLE 2012, visit www.puddlestyle.com.
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R. John Wright Convention

Attendees at the third annual R. John Wright Convention enjoyed the festivities of several major holidays coupled with outstanding dolls,R. John Wright introduces the “Wicked Witch of the West,” the newest piece in the Wizard of Oz series, at the Halloween Masquerade Luncheon. all rolled into four fun-filled days! R. John and Susan Wright chose “Celebrations!” as the theme for their 2011 event held at the historic Desmond Hotel in Albany, N.Y., which was co-chaired by Loretta Nardone and Lillian Wright.

The convention opened with St. Patrick’s Day reception Wednesday evening, where everyone laid claim to being a wee bit Irish while enjoying a scrumptious dessert buffet. The sales room opened immediately after this kick-off event, with conventioneers hoping the “luck of the Irish” would help them find that perfect doll or dolls.

Thursday began early with the Easter Morning Breakfast; those attending this ticketed event didn’t have to search for large, beautifully decorated baskets serving as table centerpieces. They were filled with molded felt eggs in pastel colors. At the end of the breakfast, the eggs were distributed and the happy new owners opened them to find “Peep,” a 3-inch yellow mohair chick as their event souvenir. His companion, “Posey,” was available for sale. After breakfast the special and competitive exhibits opened, along with the helper room. This year’s special exhibit, arranged by John and Susan Wright’s daughter Emily, was titled “Happy Holidays” and showcased R. John Wright dolls and animal characters and the traditional holidays that inspired them.

That afternoon, attendees boarded buses for the short trip to Bennington, Vt., for a tour of the R. John Wright facility along with other local activities. The Wrights explained the development of their creations from concept through completion before everyone had the opportunity to visit with their employees as they made various doll parts and accessories and shopped in the R. John Wright store. The day culminated with a Fourth of July BBQ followed by fireworks at dusk.

“Rose Fairy,” a new addition to the Flower Fairy series, was available for purchase at the Valentine’s Day High Tea.Workshops by dollmaker Gail Wilson and a program by Alan Pate, a leading American expert on Japanese dolls, were offered on Friday, along with several roundtable discussions on various topics. Attendees dressed up for the frightfully fabulous costume parade leading into the Halloween Masquerade luncheon, with prizes awarded in five categories. After lunch, the newest piece from R. John Wright’s Wizard of Oz collection, “Wicked Witch of the West,” made her debut in front of an enthusiastic audience.

The ticketed Victorian Yuletide Dinner featured traditional table decorations and an enchanting program, “A Victorian Christmas,” presented by Nardone. The event souvenir was the 10-inch “Mary Frances,” the latest addition to the Victorian Children Collection. Available for purchase was her 7-inch little sister, “Baby Grace.”

Saturday morning’s activities included another program by Pate and a workshop conducted byElaine Romberg won the Best of Show ribbon in the Competitive Exhibit for her exceptional Lenci Leprechaun Gnome type character doll. Emily Wright. That afternoon, a Valentine’s Day High Tea charmed conventioneers with fine teas and delicacies. The newest addition to the Flower Fairies series, “Rose Fairy,” was available for purchase. The evening’s closing event was a New Year’s Eve Gala Celebration. This elegant banquet featured another entertaining program produced and presented by Nardone. When the souvenir dolls were distributed, delighted attendees found the adorable 12½-inch “Celebration Scootles” would be going home with them. As an added bonus, her delightful twin brother was available for purchase.

As the convention ended, attendees were already making plans for next year’s “Around the World” event, which will be held at the same location June 20-23, 2012 and will celebrate the magic of children around the globe. There will also be an added treat as the first bear event held at an R. John Wright convention will be incorporated into the excursion to the Wrights’ facility in Vermont. For more information, visit www.rjohnwright.com or call (802) 447-7072. — Pat Burns
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