Last week, the kids and I went for a special outing at the Marietta Museum of History. They have a wonderful tour for smaller children on the second Wednesday of each month that is very interactive. This past week the theme was “Jobs”. The kids were able to pan for gold, ring a train bell, print like old fashioned printers, and try out a very old pump organ. One of my favorite exhibits is a beautiful collection of women’s fashions that spans more than 100 years. In this area they even have dress up clothes for the children to play in. There is something for everyone at this museum and the tour guides were wonderful with the children.

When the tour was over however, we spent just a bit of time in the gift shop. They had many child friendly, and pocket book friendly, historical souveniers to choose from. Nate found himself a small train right off the bat, but Ruthie, ever indecisive took a little longer to choose her prize. In an effort to speed her decision up a bit, I led her to a spinner of what I thought were just coloring books about historical sights and figures that she could choose from. After giving each side a looksee, she finally settled on this!

Paper dolls! And Gibson Girl paper dolls no less!

The 6 year old Sasha buried deep down somewhere silently sang over her daughters choice.  I so loved paper dolls.

a typical house dress

Can you imagine hanging out around your house in this little number?

I have had the best time cutting out the outfits for Ruthie so she can put on little fashion shows.  We still have many to do because the details on the outfits are so tiny, one must be very careful with the scissors. I can’t wait till we have the whole book ready to play with. (Yes, I said we…I want to play with them too!) There are probably close to 20 outfits in the book, not to mention the Gibson Girls handsome escorts.

My mom, Carole Jean, was a lover of dolls in general and though I liked dolls, I never had the same zeal for them that she had. I had an incredible international collection of dolls  I inherited  from my Dad’s much younger sister when she “out grew” them (another blog for another day), but I never really actively added on to the collection myself. My mom still collects dolls to this day.

I did however really enjoy paper dolls. Over the years I had many sets, more than I can remember from Barbie Fashion Plates to all kinds of assorted dime store paper doll booklets that you had to cut out yourself.  Mostly I just loved the outfits. I enjoyed imagining what it must be like to have so many wonderful clothes. This probably had much to do with how I ended up in the fashion industry for so many years before I had children.

Mom often made us some very unusual gifts at Christmas time. I think often, this had much to do with resources available to her. She wanted to have a great display under the tree every year, but as a single mom, had to be resourceful in order to make that happen.  One of my most cherished gifts she made me over the years was a  home made paper doll that she made to look like me. It was actually made out of a couple of layers of muslin that she had ironed together with stitch witchery and drawn on with art pens. It came with several outfits, including some that looked like actual outfits I had in my closet.

I happen to still have them.

And Ruthie’s little souvenier choice inspired me to dig them out of my hope chest and lay them out on Harriet’s table for her to look at and play with a bit.

They are in pristine condition.

And before you look at them, remember, Carole Jean is a remarkable artist. These were made to look like me somewhere around the age of 10 to 13 years old. I  don’t remember my exact age and unfortunatley this is one of the few pieces of art she created that she did not date and sign.

This is the main doll. In true paper doll fashion, she gave me some elegant and modest unmentionables.

And here are some examples of the amazing outfits she made for me. The pink dress in the middle was exactly like my Easter Dress that she sewed for me the prior Easter.

And example of an everyday school outfit. We went to a school where the female students  had to wear dresses. This wasn’t an actual outfit that I had, but it wasn’t too far off from a typical outfit.

And just like any good paper doll, it had to have a beautiful night gown.

See, even the Gibson Girls had beautiful nightgowns.

Anyway, the whole thing was a very fun walk down memory lane, and will continue to be as long as Ruthie wants to play paper dolls. She was so impressed by the dolls that her Granny made. I detected a bit of pride in her awe of the set, and excitement that she would one day probably have the chance to show them to her children.

It also sparked a desire to just play with Ruthie more often. So often I am so busy that I don’t set aside time to just show her how to play and have fun. This is sure to change with every outfit we put together over the next few weeks.

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