Prima Ballerina: A Ballerina Paper Doll in Color

A black and white printable African-American ballerina paper doll with costumes from the ballets Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Firebird. So, one of my first jobs while working in library school was to assist with the digitization of a massive collection of costume design drawings from a group known as the Motley Group (not to be confused with Motley Crue). This let to me eventually finishing my library degree and going onto a degree in Theater History with an emphasis on the history of technical design work.

All branches of theatrical design are about communicating information to the audience seamlessly. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, it is traditional to costume the warring families in different colors. Romeos family might be all in reds, oranges and yellows while Juliet’s family might be in greens, blues and purples. This is useful, because it communicates with the audience immediately which character is associated with which group- important in a play with about 20 characters. Opera and ballet also have costuming traditions. In a medium where people don’t speak and the plots are often rather odd, identifying characters by their colors and style is even more important.

So, when I was selecting colors and costume designs for my ballerina paper dolls, I was well aware that there were traditions that I needed to take notice of. I did my best to keep these costumes fairly “traditional” with the exception of the Firebird. I didn’t like either tutus or the unitards that seemed to be common, so I went with something a little more contemporary.

A black and white printable african-american ballerina paper doll with costumes from the ballets Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Firebird.
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Working left to right, the first costume was from the ballet Coppélia- usually costumed in a “folk” style which is also often used for the first act of the ballet Gisselle or any ballet where there seems to be milkmaids and/or county fairs. Next is a costume for the Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker. This is a costume I entirely invented when I didn’t like any of the versions I was seeing online. For my firebird, I chose to do a more modern costume, rather than a traditional tutu. If I was going to costume something no in a tutu, the firebird seemed like the logical choice. Monica is dancing the part of Odette in Swan Lake- next week’s paper doll, Mia, will have a costume for Odile. It is traditional that the part is danced by the same ballerina, but I wanted to split up the costumes across two sets. For Swan Lake, I settled on a traditional sort of costume with some feather detailing and a headdress. From Sleeping Beauty, Monica is dancing the part of the Lilac Fairy. Obviously, her costume was going to be lilac.

Joy: An 18th Century Historical Paper Doll Set

A Link to Joy, an 18th Century historical paper doll with a riding habit and historical undergarments. Today’s 18th century paper dolls is my second of three. Joy, all of these paper dolls will have virtue names, is from between the 1760s though 1780s. She has underwear and a gown in the polonaise style. Poloniase gowns had a skirt that is raised up and bunched over the petticoat. Usually a gown could be worn either with the skirt looped up in the polonaise or with the skirt down- offering some versatility to the 18th century silhouette. The polonaise gown sticks around into the 19th century and is sometimes mistaken for a bustle.

Joy’s gown was based on this pink silk gown circa 1770-1780 housed at the LACMA. Her shoes are based on this fashion plate from 1778. Her undergarments are based off a set held by the V&A museum dated to 1778.

Link to Victoria, a Valentine's Day printable paper doll in black and white for coloring
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As with the rest of this series, I based her color scheme off my 18th century color pallet which I introduced in the first part of this series. After seeing this gown from MFA in Boston I knew I wanted to do something in a rich red color. Despite myself, I tend to think of the 18th century as being muted in colors, but nothing could be further from the truth.

A paper doll with fashions from between 1740 and 1750. Her hair is styled in a tight series of rolled curls known as a
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It has been so much fun to share this paper doll series over the last few weeks. We have four more pages with one more doll and three more sets of gowns. The whole collection, so far, can be seen here.

Since we’re talking the 18th century, I thought I would call attention to a cool project I discovered this week. The University of Michigan has begun to translate and make available online the Encyclopédie edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert in the 18th century. The section of primary interest to those of us obsessed with dress is the plates on the Tailor of Suits and Bodices, but I’ve used the Encyclopédie to show students furniture manufacture and paper making circa 1790. I love this book and can get lost in it for hours.

Prima Ballerina: A Ballerina Paper Doll

A black and white printable african-american ballerina paper doll with costumes from the ballets Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Firebird. For years I avoided drawing a ballerina paper doll. I was asked a lot, but I always shied away.

Mostly, because the idea of drawing tutus frightened me. I work in ink. Ink is great for a lot of things, but I have always struggled with transparency and tulle (that stuff they make tutus out of) is known for both its transparency and its texture. That alone was enough to scare me.

Then, on a fateful day last year, I had no choice. I had to draw a tutu for a contest winner. I hated the outcome of my first tutu attempt, but I swore I would tackle tutus again.

I learn to draw tutus (and I still am learning), I have had to learn to let go a little of my natural instinct for controlled linework. I’ve had to embrace the risk of messy linework. That’s been a struggle and while my tutus still aren’t perfect, they are getting better.

A black and white printable african-american ballerina paper doll with costumes from the ballets Coppelia, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Firebird.
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So, for my ballet costumes, I chose to do some classic ballets that I love. The characters are Swanhilda from Coppelia (or Gisselle before she dies, either way), The Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, Odette from Swan Lake (though if you color it black, it could be Odile), the Firbird from The Firebird, and the Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. I chose Monica for this set, because I was thinking about Misty Copeland and also that I’ve only seen one African-American ballerina paper doll before. That would be one doll in Dover’s book- Ballet Dancers. So, here is a second African-American ballerina paper doll. She’ll be in color next week.

Enjoy!

Jazz Age Baby: A Color Paper Doll with 1920s Fashions

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with historical 1920's wardrobe. Back when I started this blog, it was the dead of winter and I was going stir crazy in a one bedroom apartment surrounded by snow. Today, the sun in shining and the weather is lovely and I am still at this nearly six years later.

Time does fly.

Okay, so way back in 2011, I did this paper doll called Art Deco Goddess. I was full of ennui when I wrote that post. It is both mellow-dramatic and whiny. Not to suggest that I’m not capable of being both melodramatic and whiny at my age today, but try to at least steer clear of being too melodramatic and whiny.

Anyway, I just thought of it, because Art Deco Goddess like Jazz Age Baby are both paper dolls with 1920s wardrobes.

Jazz Age Baby, however, owes a fair bit to the hair of Josephine Baker and a bit to the fun wardrobes of ladies of the decade.

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with a 16 piece contemporary boho wardrobe.
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Now technically, Monica should be wearing stockings and a garter belt and slip and all sorts of 1920’s underwear, but I thought another paper doll might want to borrow her shoes or she might want to get to be fairy or in jeans and so I did not give her period underwear. I’m pretty much okay with this choice. I rarely give my historical paper dolls period undies.

Hope everyone has a lovely Monday!

Jazz Age Baby: A Paper Doll with 1920s Fashions

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with a 16 piece contemporary boho wardrobe. People who have been reading this blog for a while already know this, but I love 1920s fashions. I love the hats. I love the shoes. I love the stylized art deco drawings of the hats and the shoes. Seriously, this era is among my favorites.

Nevermind the fact that as a woman with serious hips, I would look awful in these styles. I don’t want to wear 1920s dresses, I just think they are beautiful on other people. (Mostly people made of paper who wear whatever I want them too, because I am their creator.)

One of the lovely things about paper dolls is that I can enjoy clothing that I would never want to wear myself.

I think part of what appeals to me about the 1920s is that people had outfits. It was not an era of mix and match clothing like we have today. People had outfits where hats matched their dresses and gloves and bags. I love the idea of matching outfits, as I have mentioned before. My obsession with trousseaux of clothing is well documented throughout this blog.

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with a 16 piece contemporary boho wardrobe.
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So, let’s talk about sources… One of the interesting things about 1920s fashion is that, in the United States, 1923 is the date before which things are out of copyright. That means that things after 1923 begin to fall under various copyright extensions and other rules. Libraries often steer clear of digitizing works that are post 1923, because of concerns about copyright violation. So, I tend to rely on books more than digitized documents for my post-1923 fashion history needs.

To be honest, I don’t recall exactly what I used for this paper doll set, but I know I at least looked at these, as they are part of my history book collection. I know a few of her dresses come specifically from Classic French Fashions of the Twenties.

Sources:

Atelier Bachwitz. Classic French Fashions of the Twenties. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2012.
B. Altman & Co. 1920s Fashions from B. Altman & Company. 4th ed. New York: Dover, 1998. Print.
Blum, Stella. Everyday Fashions of the Twenties as Pictured in Sears and Other Catalogs. New York: Dover Publications, 1981.
Lussier, Suzanne. Art Deco Fashion. Boston: Bulfinch, 2003.

For those who have missed my other forays into 1920s fashion, you can find them all under the 1920s tag.

Beautiful Boho: A Black Paper Doll in Color

A printable black paper doll with a nineteen piece contemporary wardrobe with accessories in color. Summer in Alabama is probably my least favorite season. First of all, it is very hot and humid. Secondly, there are cockroaches. Thirdly, it rains in the afternoons, but the rain doesn’t actually cool anything down.

We are having a freakishly hot June. It’s been in the high 90s for the last week and it is not looking to cool down at all next week. I am miserable in this heat, but I suppose it could be worse.

Someone who is not miserable in the heat (or at least isn’t showing it) is Marisole in today’s colored version of Beautiful Boho. A big part of color selection for me is finding colors I wouldn’t normally think to combine. Part of this is instinct, but I borrow most of my color schemes from various sources around the internet and then alter them as needed. Design Seeds more muted palettes were what I used on this paper doll set. I wanted to use colors that felt like they were modern and came from nature.

A printable black paper doll with a nineteen piece contemporary wardrobe with accessories in color.
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I went back and forth about what to do about Marisole’s glasses in this set. Originally, I had them plain silver, but it just seemed so… well, plain. So, after some debate, I decided to make them a soft grey-teal color. It’s a color that shows up a lot in the paper doll set, but it is also fairly neutral. I also had a lot of fun painting her toe nails with her different sandals.

I don’t think I mentioned this last time, but the paper doll’s hair is based in part on the last hairstyle in this fantastic video of 100 years of black hairstyles 1910 to 2010. My only complaint about the video is that it ignores wigs which were commonly worn by black women, particularly 1940s through the 1960s. Never the less, it is a fascinating time-lapse piece.

Later this week there will be the first Flock post of 2015 (embarrassing but true).

Peach in the Park: A Victorian Printable Paper Doll

Peach In the Park is a paper doll of a black Victorian child doll inspired by BJDs with her own antique fashion doll. She has one dress based on a 1869 fashion plate, shoes, a hat, and a doll. The doll has a dress of her own, also based on an 1869 fashion plate. Peach is part of the Poppet paper doll series and can share clothing with the other Poppet paper dolls. Today’s Poppet paper doll is all about Victorian children’s clothing of the late 1860s and early 1870s. I love Victorian children’s clothing. I just love it. I even love it in the 1840s when I generally think all the clothing looks really stupid.

I think it is a combination of my natural fascination with childhood studies and exposure to books like The Little Princess at a young and impressionable age. It is likely also because I have a fondness for the idea of antique dolls with little wardrobes of perfectly sewn clothing pieces. The Little Princess was full of dolls. Anyone else remember that book?

And I am not talking about the Shirley Temple movie version where her father wasn’t really dead. I’ve never forgiven them for changing that part.

Anyway, we have Peach, a new Poppet paper doll, with an elegant promenade costume from Godey’s Lady’s Magazine in 1969. Her fashion doll also has a Promenade costume from that same fashion plate. I couldn’t find a decent reproduction of the plate online. Because Godey’s plates folded out, when people digitize the bound volumes they rarely take the time to fold out the plates. The result is that the text is reproduced, but not the folded plate. This is one of my pet peeves about mass digitization projects.

Back to the paper doll- Peach has, of course, a French fashion doll with her who I have left unnamed. Her fashion doll has a walking dress of her own with a hat attached. I have rarely drawn something as small as the fashion doll and I am worried a little about the fit of the gown. I did a quick Photoshop fit test, but you might want to leave some black border for wiggle room on that one. I love the whole paper dolls with their own dolls which are also paper dolls thing. It is hard to pull off though.

A black and white printable paper doll of a ball-jointed doll with Victorian 1870s clothing and her own doll to dress. Peach is part of the Poppet series and can share clothing with the other dolls in that series.A color printable paper doll of a ball-jointed doll with Victorian 1870s clothing and her own doll to dress. Peach is part of the Poppet series and can share clothing with the other dolls in that series.
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Anyway, I used several sources when working on today’s paper doll. The doll herself is based on the brown-complexioned bisque bebe dolls produced in France and Germany by companies like Steiner, Bru, Jumeau and many others. You can see some examples of these dolls on my Pinterest Board about Antique dolls. These dolls were most common in the late 19th century. As I mentioned above, her dress is from an 1869 Godey’s Lady’s Journal fashion plate. I used Dover’s excellent book- 80 Godey’s Full-Color Fashion Plates, 1838-1880 (ISBN: 978-0486402222), now out of print, for the 1869 plate. I know there are lots of sources online today for fashion plates, but too many of them omit the context of the plates, since plates were often cut. That is why I like having books of fashion plates in my collection for reference.

Next week, I will share a related Poppet clothing set with some underwear from the 1870s- when even children wore staybands or corsets- and two more outfits and a ballgown for her doll. Also, another pair of shoes with stockings.

I really do have to draw more historical children’s clothing for the Poppets. I had far to much fun with this set.

Remember that you’ll need to cut along the shoulders of the paper doll, so that she can wear her dress.

Beautiful Boho: A Black and White Paper Doll

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with a 16 piece contemporary boho wardrobe. It has been a while since we saw Marisole, hasn’t it? I mean… at least since early April, I think.

As her friends grow, I find I sometimes miss her. She is the longest running paper doll on this site and I really do still have a fondness for her.

Today, Marisole is rocking a wardrobe inspired by the boho looks of brands like Free People. I have only recently discovered Free People and if I had a job where I could get away with wearing their clothes on a regular basis, I would. I also wanted to draw a jumpsuit. I don’t like jumpsuits, but they are in fashion and I am trying to be more open minded about them. Today’s Marisole paper doll also has glasses, because I think glasses are cute and I don’t draw enough paper dolls with glasses.

I also have horrendous eyesight and am blind as a bat without my contacts in. As a child, I had glasses and I hated them. Maybe a paper doll or two with glasses will help kids not dislike glasses so much.

A printable coloring page of a black paper doll with a 16 piece contemporary boho wardrobe.
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Over the years that I have been drawing paper dolls, which has been a fairly long time, I have come to realize that I really value diversity and variety in my paper dolls. I can’t imagine just drawing modern paper dolls or just drawing historical paper dolls or just drawing fantasy paper dolls. One of the things I like about paper dolls is that they can literally be anything. I’m about to get through the last of the backlog I have of Marisole Monday & Friend’s paper dolls. I have one more after this colored and one more waiting to be colored.

That means it is time for me to return to my sketch book. I’ve made a poll to help me decide what I should make next for them. Below I’ve listed my four major ideas. Vote on one of them and I might make it.

What Should I draw Next for Marisole Monday & Friends?

  • A ballerina or dancer. Tackle your fear of tutus. (38%, 36 Votes)
  • Space princess! Like a normal princess, but with ray-guns in space! (29%, 28 Votes)
  • Something for Marcus. Anything. Poor boy needs some more clothes. (19%, 18 Votes)
  • A warrior with armor. Lots of Armor. (14%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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Lois: A Paper Doll of the 1930s

Link to Lois, a printable historical paper doll with dresses from the 1930s I love the styles of the early 1930s and I wanted to create a paper doll that showed them off, so here is Lois- a paper doll of the early 1930s. That is to say, everything in it comes from 1930-1932.

It’s common to speak of the last century of fashion as though it happened in neat decade compartments. In reality, fashion doesn’t care what decade it is. It moves based on cultural and social shifts, often subtly, and then you look around and notice that the silhouette has shifted. Rarely, fashion changes dramatically over a short period, but only very rarely.

So, when looking at the early 1930s, as this paper doll does, you might be struck at how close these dresses are to the late 1920s. In truth, they are very similar, because fashion just doesn’t change that quickly. The Great Depression will catch up with the styles of the 1930s, it just hasn’t yet. All of these dresses are drawn from images in the book Everyday Fashions of the Thirties As Pictured in Sears Catalogs published by Dover. The Sears series from Dover is an inexpensive way to gather up books the show what people wore, rather than what fashion magazines thought people should be wearing. I own almost all of them.

Lois is a printable historical paper doll with two dresses, two hats, a coat, underwear and shoes from the early 1930s in black and white for coloring
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I have mixed feelings about my color choices. I knew I wanted to pick a color scheme where I hats could go with either of the dresses, but I don’t know how successful I was. I really do like how the white hat contrasts with her dark skin and I like how rich the red coat looks, but I’m not so sure about the yellow dress. The early 1930s is a very art deco influenced period and that makes me happy. I love the asymmetrical styles and the often surprising details.

Lois is a printable historical paper doll with two dresses, underwear, shoes and hats from the early 1930s in color
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Unlike my 1920s Pixie Lynn, I actually gave Lois some undergarments. She has a girdle decorated with flowers to go under her dresses. She should, technically, have a slip to go over that and panties to go under it, but its a start.

I would have to pour through all my posts to be certain, but I think this is my second 1930s paper doll ever. The first was way back in 2010 for my original Curves Series and is just called 1930s. I got totally distracted looking through those old paper dolls trying to find the 1930s set I was pretty sure was there. It’s strange to go back and look at things I drew four or five years ago.

Some of them paper dolls I still really like and others I don’t. It rather makes me want to take on a project like Julie’s toddlers where she goes back to older color schemes. I’ll have to think on it. I don’t want to “redraw” old things, but there are some ideas there that I think could be reexamined fruitfully.

Frocks and Gowns in Color

A printable paper doll of a young black woman with a brightly colored wardrobe So, this is going up a little late today. Sorry about that, but life got crazy this weekend. I want to talk a little bit today about coloring last week’s paper doll and a little about diversity in the paper doll world.

So, when I color a paper doll set, I start with a pallette. I knew I was going to be giving Monica a fairly rich brown skin tone, so that opened up and closed down certain color options. For example, I tend to avoid putting brown colored clothing on brown colored paper dolls, unless the tones are really different, since it can blend too easily. Since she was going to have a rich skin-tone, I decided that bright and color dresses made a lot of sense.

The strapless gown with the belt was based on this gown by Andrew GN and since it had a red top and a pink bottom, that informed the blues and the greens as contrasting colors in the other gowns.

A printable paper doll of a young black woman with a brightly colored wardrobe
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I’m a big believer in paper doll diversity. I think it is really important to have a variety of concepts and skin-tones and, ideally, a variety of concepts in a variety of skin-tones. Truthfully, I tend not to think of my paper dolls in terms of ethnicity, but in terms of color. It it less about, “this paper doll is African-American” and more about “this paper doll is a dark brown with red undertones.”

I used to think I was the only one who thought this way about paper doll skin-tones until I read this post from Julie over at Paper Doll School. I was comforted to find out that we both tend to think in terms of “color” not in terms of ethnicity.

The result of coloring things, perhaps?

What I do know is that no matter how I think about skin-tone, it is crucial to me that I offer readers of all backgrounds and colors paper dolls that reflect them. People should be able to see themselves in the toys they play with.

Yes, I know a lot of my readers are adults, but adults play with toys, too. At least, they should. :) I do.

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