Sunday, November 29, 2015

Downton Abbey Was Never Like This

I should have taken a before picture. I found her in the back room of the thrift store, with her legs unattached, wearing a limp, faded Little House on the Prairie get up. Her hair was frazzled and matted in the way nylon doll's hair gets. I borrowed her as a mannequin for a photoshoot of that little pink dress, only to not use her. Those pale staring eyes were just a little too Village of the Damned.

Somewhere along the way I got it into my head to dress her up for the Christmas display at Ye Olde Thrift Shoppe. There was never any question as to what the outfit would be. A Downton Abbey maid's costume, of course! It would be easy and fun I told myself. (Cue Bernard Hermann on the ominous background music.) The wise amongst you are chuckling already, I am sure.

My plan was to use up some old linen hankies for the undies and apron, make a simple black dress, and voila! A couple of hours max, right?
 ****
The background music swells to a thundering climax as we find Heather in the midst of an impossibly messy kitchen, sewing the wrong sides to the right sides as bits of black silk waft through the air on the blasting current from the heat pump just over the sewing table. The dogs swarm around her feet, demanding walks and dinner. Her cup of tea is balanced precariously on a stack of books at the end of the ironing board. She trips over the open boxes of sewing notions on the floor as she staggers, bladder clenched, to the bathroom, having avoided the call of nature far too long, the making of tiny apron strings having taken precedence.
****
Yes, I grossly underestimated both the amount of time and the ingenuity required to make quarter scale clothing. When I was a little girl, I used to wake up in the morning to find Barbie outfits at the foot of my bed, that my mom had apparently sewn during the night. I guess somewhere inside I still thought that doll clothes were as effortless (on my part, at least - my dear mom never let on how she must have laboured).
Anyway, the wee ma'amselle is almost finished, and I have a whole new respect for doll makers. I made bloomers out of a handkerchief, the little corset (with stays!) from a linen napkin, the dress from a remnant of gorgeous black silk, the apron from an old linen shirt. The stockings were nylon knee-highs straight out of the package, no alteration necessary. I pinned up her hair into a tidy Juliet roll. Now I just have to find some shoes for her. There's got to be a free online pattern for size 0 lace up granny boots!
I find it rather ironic that I created a miniature, non-functioning maid as the space around me got messier and messier. A psychologist might suggest that I was projecting my fantasies onto a transitional object, or simply avoiding reality. Perhaps I should hot glue her feet to a Roomba and set her off every morning to vacuum the house. No, too many stairs. I'll donate her back to the thrift store for the Christmas display as planned, and maybe she can be the prize in a fundraising raffle. Hopefully she'll find herself a new position in a lovely tidy home where she can lounge decoratively, and unironically.

7 comments:

  1. Wonderful!!! Proving that one child's trash is another's treasure ;) A lovely, funny story of her makeover as well. I'm sure a lot of us waaaaay back learned to sew this way too, with mini-Me's abounding, seams on the outside, dangling threads and strange fabric combos--at least i know *i* did! You've done her more than justice, and no doubt someone will snatch her up as a showpiece.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That is too funny. Especially the paragraph about how you were working and staggering to the bathroom. Not that I've ever experienced that :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. She's perfect! I especially love the little corset. I learned to sew as a child by making doll clothes and you're right - in some ways it's harder than people clothes. Hope you find (or make!) the right shoes for her too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. didn't you give her a name? she's adorable, can't decide what I love the most - pantaloons and corset, the lace or those tiny buttons. Of course you don't have anything better to do??

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous5:57 AM

    Brilliant! I know you're not a capitalist but I think you've found a potentially profitable niche product here. A Downton fan would pay quite a bit for this doll. Do the same doll makeover with Regency style and you'll have the entire Jane Austen fandom breaking down your door. Jean-Pierre

    ReplyDelete
  6. this is a hoot! but she is worth your effort. my friend once bought a decrepit saint figurine at a junk store, her intention: to restore her color and clothing. i applaud you both for that caring and dedication.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Her star is a bit spooky... but her clothing is spectacular and beautiful. Your attention to detail is exacting; what a transformation this must have been for her!

    ReplyDelete

Please forgive me for using word verification. The spam robots got to me.