Friday, December 30, 2016

From Disastrous to Dazzling A Christmas Doll for a Friend


My long-time friend, Debra R., and I exchanged Christmas wish lists this year. Usually we ask in a phone conversation what the other desires, but this year we exchanged lists by email.  Both lists were very short.

Debra wrote: "I love the 18- or 19-inch fashion dolls and outfits or a pattern that fits them. I can't think of anything else right now. I missed out on 2 of them on eBay. They were dressed in brides dresses." 

Confession: Now that I have re-read her list, I was so focused on finding the doll that I completely overlooked her desire for "a pattern that fits them" (so I am making a mental note of this). Her email was dated October 30th, so I immediately began searching eBay for the doll.  The first search resulted in zero listings.  To receive notifications about future listings, I saved the search.

Weeks passed without a single listing for a black 1950s high-heel fashion doll. I kept asking myself, Where are these dolls? Are people holding on to them for some reason? What's the deal?  I felt like a mother unable to find the latest "hot" toy or other newfangled item for Christmas for a child who so desperately hoped to receive it.  Feeling frantic, I wondered if I would be able to purchase one in time. This year was not turning out like last year when I was able to find four dolls of this type for her, but last year's search began much earlier than October 30th.


19-inch circa 1960s high-heel fashion doll, marked V20 on neck

Things were looking quite dismal until I received notification of a new listing on eBay during the first week of December.  After viewing the seller's photos (particularly of the doll's hair) I was not sure this would be the one.  The hair was in horrible condition.  It looked like steel wool, a tangled mess. Not knowing the quality of the hair, if it was dry and brittle and would easily shed, I wrote the seller to inquire.  Her reply was not very reassuring and simply stated, she didn't think it would shed.

The potential doll's hair... what a gnarled mess!

The seller sent these close-up pictures, which made me feel even less hopeful that I could work wonders with the hair if I won the auction.  I thanked her for the photos and confided that my intention was to win the doll as a Christmas gift for a friend who collected this type doll.  She replied back that there was a lot of interest in the doll and suggested I bid high.

As it turned out, I was the only bidder and won the auction for the beginning bid for which I was grateful.  Winning was the easy part.  Dealing with the unknown (her hair) would certainly be a task, I thought.  My plan B was to purchase a wig if the hair was not salvageable.

Doll's appearance upon arrival

After the doll arrived nude with her nicely made flounce dress and matching shawl enclosed in a plastic bag, I made note of her overall condition. With the exception of a few missing eyelashes on one eye and her dreadful-looking hair, she did not require much.

I began working on the hair by first detangling it as much as possible with a plastic bristle brush, gently brushing through small sections at a time while dry.  There was not very much hair loss at all and thankfully, the hair was not brittle.


Wet hair combs through easier and conditioned wet hair combs through even better.  I used two water-based leave-in conditioners to thoroughly drench the hair to complete the detangle process.  I had purchased these conditioners for myself years ago, did not like their effect on my hair, but decided to keep them to use for dolls.  One is a no-name brand.  The other, which was applied more liberally than the first, is Infusium 23. This worked like a charm, the hair was completely detangled, silky, and bone straight.

Her missing right eyelashes can be seen in this close-up.

While still wet, I smoothed out her bangs with the brush and my fingers.  I next rolled the ends of the
hair with foam rod rollers, which were left in overnight.




Make-up brush and bristles from it that were used to repair missing eyelashes

While the rolled hair dried, I replaced the missing eyelashes using a few bristles from a makeup brush that closely match the color of the existing lashes.  After cutting the needed width and extra length of bristles from the brush, I applied Aleene's Tacky Glue to the flattened out ends and allowed the glue to dry.  The bristles were held together with a paper clamp before applying the glue and while the glue dried.


Additional glue was added to the dried glued ends of the bristles which I attempted to push under the eyelid, but most rests on top of the lid, attached with glue. I kept the doll lying flat while the new lashes dried.  After drying, the excess length was cut away as illustrated in the next close-up.

The rollers have been removed and the excess length of replaced eyelashes trimmed with a fingernail clipper.



The hair turned out great!

After the rollers were removed, I finger combed the back of the hair to loosen the curls, which will eventually fall even more with time.

Next, her ears were pierced using blue quilting pins as illustrated below.



The eyelash repair can be better seen in this photo.

The doll was pantiless and shoeless upon arrival.  I added a new pair of undies and borrowed a pair of blue shoes formerly worn by one of my dolls.  There was no time to order shoes, wait for their arrival, and ship the doll with Debra's other gifts in time for Christmas.  I used blue rubber bands to replace the missing shoe straps, as illustrated in the next photo.


With her hair restyled, then dressed in her flounce dress and shawl, new undies, borrowed shoes, and pieced ears, she now looks dazzling!

"I love my doll!  Where did you find her? She looks as good as new.  Did she come with the dress?  Where did you find blue shoes?" These were some of Debra's comments and questions when we spoke on Christmas.  I described the ordeal I went through to find her (not thinking I would, what the seller said about all the interest, and the condition of the doll's hair).  Debra said, "Well you could have fooled me.  Her hair is beautiful!" After sharing the seller's suggestion that I "bid high," I added, "I think she was trying to punk me into spending more."  We both laughed.


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18 comments:

  1. She is gorgeous. You did that. What a transformation!

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  2. The hair looked like felt, it's wonderful that your treatment worked so well! She does look like new now. It's a beautiful doll and so is the dress.

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    1. Felt is a perfect way of describing the hair before the transformation, J.J. Thank you!

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  3. She is beautiful. Her transformation is amazing

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  4. You did such an awesome job of bringing her back to life.
    Your eyelash trick is so good I'm stealing it to fix one of my dolls. :-)

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    1. Feel free to steal the eyelash trick, Maricha. I was going to use bristles from a paint brush (I have done that in the past, and I have used a hair brush, too), but the paint brush bristles were too light in color.

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  5. Stunning makeover! I've used false eyelashes for humans to replace missing lashes in dolls, but never thought of makeup brush bristles -- what a great concept!

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    1. Hi Gini,

      For newer dolls, I usually do use eyelashes for humans or will buy those made for dolls, but for vintage dolls, particularly those with sleep eyes like this doll, the eyelashes are much thicker than those made for humans. I try to keep vintage dolls as close to their original appearance as possible.

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  6. Truly amazing! You did a fabulous job in making her over. Her hair turned really well. I was hopeful in the initial pictures and as I read down further I was like wow, it is coming out great. The curls, shoes, earrings and added eyelash made all the difference in the world. I am sure that your friend was very happy to receive her.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Thank you, G.G. Debra did seem thoroughly pleased and so am I. This doll couldn't have showed up on eBay at a more opportune time and I am so glad that I was the only one interested. Few if any probably wanted to try to tame her mane, which worked out in my favor.

      Happy New Year!

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  7. You did such an incredible job on her hair! I'm in awe if the transformation!

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  8. She looks amazing! between the "on call doctor" and your "all around dolly skills" you beauties got it going on over there.

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    1. It does help to have a doctor in the house. It was the resident doctor who suggested I use bristles from a hair brush when I repaired eyelashes on another doll years ago. It worked like a charm that time too.

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  9. You should open a doll hospital! She is lovely! And thanks for the tip for using conditioner - I had been using fabric softener. She is adorable!

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    1. Hi DeMar,

      I have used fabric softener in the past, but I have always gotten better results with conditioner. Thank you for stopping by, reading, and commenting.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!