To do Heirloom quality doll clothes, the first thing you need to know is how your doll should be dressed for her era. There are many books to help you understand the different fashion periods.
There are basically two kinds of dolls to dress: lady dolls ( fashion dolls) and child dolls, which can mean anything from newborn to pre-teen. Remember that dolls at any given period in time were dressed in the fashions of their time, whether the dolls represented children ( of any age) or adults.
It is interesting to note that the earliest “infant dolls” did not look like infants; they were simply dressed as infants and put in cradles or cribs. Today dolls representing infants LOOK like infants– and this trend began with the Bye-Lo baby doll. This doll was by Grace Storey Putnam, and was the first doll truly looking like an infant. Grace Storey Putnam was a sculptor born in 1877 who had to support herself and her family after a divorce in the 1920s. She sculpted the doll while actually looking at a three day old baby. This at the time was revolutionary–It had not been done before, but was the beginning of dolls that looked like real babies, that are still popular today– although the soft materials of today’s dolls make far more realistic babies than the porcelain, composition. paper mache, celluloid and other hard materials of Putnam’s times.
Here is an example of a very old doll dressed as an infant, but the doll does not look like a baby. You will often find these dolls dressed even as “ladies” when people find them stripped of original clothing, because they do not “look like babies”. This is why research is so important if you want to do heirloom quality doll dresses.
To get back to the fashions— whether infants, children or ladies–the dresses on your heirloom antique dolls should be authentic to the times of their introduction and manufacture. Research today is easy– we have the internet. If you are seriously costuming dolls, though, there are books you should have at your fingertips.
For an overview of the fashions of the different time periods, I have never found a book that is better than one called the Evolution of Fashion. This wonderful book not only shows drawings of the fashions, but shows the shapes of the pattern pieces to make them, and information –very important– on the fabrics used as well as what was worn from the skin out. The book can be expensive but you can still find bargains on it. Mine is soft cover which I find easier to use than hard cover, as well as it being less expensive. Don’y hesitate to buy a good used one. Mine is extremely used, and it still is just fine!
Whether you are making dolls or dressing antique ones, you will find this book a necessity, it covers fashions from 1066– 1930. Enjoy!