Clip, Trim and Play!

When I was a young girl, I remember my dad singing a song , “Paper Doll.” If you don’t know the words, you may want to look them up because they are rather unique. To this

Old sheet music of "Paper Doll."

Old sheet music of “Paper Doll.”

day I still remember them. The song written by Johnny S. Black in 1915 is about a relationship that went sour and the gentleman is giving up on women. One line of the lyrics is, “I’d rather have a Paper doll to call my own, Than have a fickle-minded real live girl.” This song was later revived in the 1940’s by the Mills Brothers, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby.

Remembering this song brought to mind the cheapest, most fascinating toys of my childhood, paper dolls. I played with them a lot. After cutting out both the dolls and the clothes, I would stretch out on the living room floor and let my imagination go, as I dressed the dolls for different occasions. I had a set of Elizabeth Taylor, one of Judy Garland and Shirley Temple.  A set of bridal paper dolls was one of my favorites and dolls of royalty with their costumes.

Paper dolls have existed as long as there’s been paper and has been one of the inexpensive children’s toys for almost two hundred years. Yet, I don’t remember our

I never had the jointed kind.

I never had the jointed kind.

daughter playing with them in the 1960’s and 70’s. She’ll tell you that she was too busy keeping up with her four older brothers and they didn’t play with paper dolls.  I wonder, though, if there could have been a lull in this type of play during those years. Perhaps the creation of the Barbie Doll had an effect. I do know that many fine artists are known for their paper dolls of the 1940’s and 1950’s and some collectors know and recognize the work of paper doll artists.

Magazines use to publish paper dolls, some needed their faces and clothing painted. Do any  of you may remember Betsy McCall? She came along after a long tradition of

The Betsy McCall Doll on the front of a pattern package.

The Betsy McCall Doll on the front of a pattern package.

paper dolls published in McCall’s magazine from 1904 to 1926. She modeled fashions that could be made with McCall’s patterns. Clever idea, wouldn’t you say so? When paper dolls surged in popularity, manufacturers of all kinds of household goods took advantage by using them to promote their wares. Pillsbury Flour, Baker’s Chocolate, Singer Sewing Machines, were some of the manufacturers doing this. Some paper dolls appeared in the Little Golden Books and today a “Gone With The Wind” paper doll book sells for $400.

Are kids playing with paper dolls today? They are still being published. I am aware of sets that are magnetic and the clothing attaches and stays put on the dolls without paper tabs. With a little research I learned that paper dolls were on-line. I went to Bella-on-line and found a model in modest under wear that could be dressed in many costumes. With just a click of my computer’s mouse, dresses, wigs, boots, and accessories were dragged over and placed on the doll. It was fun and educational, too. As always, there was the dark side awaiting my research when I came across Japanese graphics that generated cartoon nudity, I found, too, that some doll’s under clothes, which were usually permanently attached, could be removed.

The paper doll books today include “The Barack and Michelle Obama Paperpaper dolls 4 Doll and Cut-Out Book.” There are 30 mix and match coordinated outfits and accessories featuring the Obamas vacationing, playing golf and, at the Inaugural Ball, etc.

I don’t know what happened to my paper dolls, I think I wore them out. I should have saved my Elizabeth Taylor book because a vintage one is selling for $29.95. Another

uncut book from the 1950’s by Whitman Publishing is available at $275.00. Don’t just throw away old stacks of papers, there may be paper doll books waiting to be found. If

This is the Eliz Taylor book selling for over $200.

This is the Eliz Taylor book selling for over $200.

the collecting bug for paper dolls hasn’t hit you yet, – it just may.

18 thoughts on “Clip, Trim and Play!

  1. I was like your daughter…4 brothers…no paper dolls…although I do believe I would have enjoyed them. I do buy the magnetic sets for children today. I remember fondly the song “Paper Doll”…I think Bing Crosby was my favorite version but I liked them all.

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    • It’s not too late to enjoy paper dolls even now, Karen. And, you don’t even have to leave the house. Try the ones I found on the internet. Have fun. Always enjoy reading your comments on shirlandyou.

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  2. I loved the Betsy McCall doll who by the 50’s was featured in American Girl. I designed and then created my own outfits for her to go along with those that came in each issue. I couldn’t wait for the next issue of my American Girl Magazine to see her new outfits. I had my own carrying case to store them all.

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    • So, you were designing clothes since you were a child. No wonder you enjoy being a part of a special line of women’s clothes today. Thanks for writing Suzie, you have wonderful memories to hold on to.

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  3. I remember playing with paper dolls, but Barbies were always my favorites. I don’t know if children still play with paper dolls or not. I personally don’t know of any that do, but with the rising costs of everything, maybe paper dolls will make a come back?? Imagine all of the neat paper dolls that could be made on a home computer system, using todays’ graphics software!!

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  4. I loved this! You brought back so many fond memories of my childhood with this posting. My mother used to sing “Paper Doll” to me when I was young, probably every night at bedtime. I had no idea for years what it meant. For me, it was just a sweet song about paper dolls. And I guess it still is because of the memories associated with my love for my mother and for paper dolls! About five years ago I even bought a CD of the MIlls Brothers with that song on it.

    I remember in particular that I had a set of The Lennon Sisters paper dolls. I also remember a happy occasion where my aunt took me to a little general store and bought me paper dolls. I was thrilled! I don’t think any of mine lasted very long though. I also remember constantly being frustrated at the clothes falling off the dolls. Thank goodness for those little shoulder tabs, but still, you had to be very careful. And yes, I loved the wonderful Betsy McCall paper dolls. My mother and her sisters would share magazines, and I was always delighted if I was lucky enough to find Betsy and her clothing still intact by the time the magazine made it to our house. I can still recall the feel of the paper and being ever so careful to cut them out on the lines.

    I also cut out people and clothing from the Sears catalog and made my own paper dolls!

    My daughter was born in the 80’s, and unlike myself, she never wanted to play with dolls, let alone paper dolls. So I can’t speak for the generations since mine (I was born in the 50’s), but I suspect that paper dolls would not amuse children anymore. But I would love to learn that I am wrong! Maybe someday I will have a grandchild to play paper dolls with and to sing that song to, a “paper doll that I can call my own.”

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  5. I LOVED paper dolls! I had the Lennon Sisters and, I think, Dinah Shore, as well as many “nameless” paper dolls. I was alone a lot of the time, and that’s how I spent my time. They suddenly disappeared; I guess it was when we moved to another house. Then, along came Barbie. I was never interested in Barbie. I still wonder what happened to my stack of paper dolls.

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  6. Don’t know if you got my comment yesterday…we played paper dolls by the hour. Had some of the same sets as you; another favorite were my Roy Rogers and Dale Evans set. Have a couple of pages of Betsy McCalls. Fun times! O, yes, and we also cut models from catalogs and made clothes for them. Hugs, Linda

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  7. I loved playing with my paper dolls, such sweet memories. I just happen to come across the newer ones that are magnetic….doesn’t seem it would be as much fun to me.
    I love following your post.~Blessings~

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  8. cute, i played with paper dolls all the time, my elizabeth taylor one was the national velvet, with a horse of course. we, my sister and i, loved paper dolls and we played with them all the time..

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    • And we didn’t mind at all that the horse wasn’t three dimensional. So, you’ve always loved horses? From the response I’m getting, I surely wasn’t alone when it came to playing with paper dolls. Thanks for writing.

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  9. I think I remember playing with paper dolls for a little bit. But you are right. I was busy following those brothers around! Also, I remember you cutting out a paper doll chain. I thought that was really neat!

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  10. just found this post today…what memories it brought back!
    i too had the lemon sisters paper dolls…and i also used to cut some out of a catalog…but my favorites were a whole family. mom, dad, an older boy and girl and a younger boy and girl…and tons of clothes for them. i played with them for hours on end and kept them in a shoe-box…but then we moved to a different house and somehow in the move they were lost 😦 i was about 9 at the time and i remember being devastated that my favorite paper dolls were lost!
    i remember seeing some a few years back that were made like flannel-graph the clothes would stick on. 🙂
    thanks for the memories!

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