Why we love some dolls and not others, Part IV: Making it work by guest blogger Milady Blue

by Alison Rasmussen


Guest Blogger Milady Blue continues her shopping saga with Tim Gunn's Make it work! catchphrase. What happens when the doll you just ordered isn't the dolls you thought you'd love, but you're not a customize her, yet you don't think you can send her on to someone else's collection? 

Why We Love Some Dolls and Not Others
Part IV: Making It Work

by Milady Blue
Special guest writer

Earlier, I mentioned things that could be done to correct whatever inadequacy a doll has that could make a collector ambivalent about having that doll in hand. This included such things as sending the doll to an artist to correct mistakes in the face up, buying wigs, better clothing and the like.

If you are a soft-hearted--and, my little brother Chet would argue, soft-headed--individual like me, you can’t really bring yourself to get rid of the doll. It is weird, but sometimes it happens with collectors.

Much of “sucking it up” and just keeping a less than beloved doll all depends entirely upon what kind of collector you are. Some folks like high fashion dolls dressed in the latest and hottest designs, some like the art of dolls, and some, like me, are more like overgrown kids. There are many, many reasons to collect dolls, almost as many as there are dolls themselves. Here are ways some of the different types of doll collectors might “make it work” with a disappointing doll.

High Fashion Collector: These can be some of the pickiest doll collectors around, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. These folks know what they want, and will pay the price for the dolls. In this case, a high fashion collector might decide she can recoup her investment in a disappointing doll by doing a little mixing and matching with the outfits, tweaking the makeup, or using the doll for practice until a truly wanted doll enters their collection.

Art Fans: In some cases, collectors might be OOAK (One Of A Kind) artists who can turn a less than beloved doll to their advantage. Enhance the existing faceup on the doll, and resell for a profit is the easiest way to go about this. The artist could also potentially do a complete makeover on the doll, including stripping the face paint altogether and redoing it, rerooting the doll and then selling it for a good price. In addition, many of these artists also keep the outfits from the dolls, while selling the redo nude, or in a modesty wrap.

Of course, not all artists are interested in just straight redo of a doll’s faceup and hair. Some use the dolls as part of art exhibits, or even use pieces of them to make jewelry. I have seen jewelry made from cut up pieces of Barbie or Ken dolls that collectors are willing to pay some pretty impressive prices for.

Another potential artist might be someone who makes clothing, jewelry, furniture or other items for dolls. They have their own collection of well loved dolls, but keep a less valued doll to use for a “working
model.” A seamstress, for example, would not be willing to use pins or scissors near a well loved doll, for fear of damaging it, but a doll considered inadequate for whatever reason, who is the same size, is
fair game. If they scratch this doll, so what?

The last type of artist is a rather unorthodox one. I am a writer, or at least, I would like to be, and I frequently use my dolls as characters in the story or stories I am working on. Sometimes, when I get stuck, I can take the dolls who are representing the characters in the scene, and get them to “act out” the scene to help me get past any kind of blockage I might be having with completing the scene satisfactorily. I don’t know of many other collectors who do this, however, and I am speaking only of my own experience. A doll who is a disappointment otherwise, might work just fine as the stand in for a character in one of my stories.

History Fans: This is a class of collectors who will buy a doll they might not like, simply because that particular doll would be just right for a historic person. Part of my own collection is dedicated that way. Well before the TV show, The Tudors, I was a huge fan of King Henry VIII. I am fascinated with such a colorful, larger than life character who was married six times to some incredible and not so incredible women. Since my collection focus is Tonner dolls, I selected two dolls I am not overly enthusiastic about to serve as Henry’s wives, specifically Cinderella for Wife # 1, Katharine of Aragon, and Euphemia for Wife # 3, Jane Seymour.

Photographers: There are collectors who like to buy a whole variety of dolls so they can take photographs of them for various reasons, and with varying degrees of success. Some dolls, while not exactly popular or beloved, are still very photogenic, and the photographers just love to snap them up for their own purposes. Then, too, many of these particular collectors like making dioramas, and prefer to have many different faces so their photos do not look like a clone colony on its way to taking over the world.

Big Kids: I would have to say this is the doll collecting niche that seems to best define me. I enjoy actually holding on to my dolls and playing with them. In addition, I am a writer, so the dolls I buy
rarely remain in their intended role. A high fashion model from Tonner might become the beautiful Princess of my own fairy tale. I managed to get a lot of laughs from the Cheery About Agnes Dreary group when I stated the opinion of my Agnes doll, who does not like fairy tales because of the poor roles for women. In classic fairy tales, the woman is completely helpless, and waiting for Prince Charming or the Knight in Shining Armor to come along and save her bacon. Collectors like this might be willing to overlook flaws that might banish a doll to the attic or eBay, so they have something to play with in whatever scenario they have in mind for their dolls.