Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet Jane (Jess) - January 2008

Jane (Jess) came into the family back in January 2008.

"Watcha gonna bring to the picnic?" asks Kirsten.

Kirsten's had earlier made some very imperfect homemade treats...ah, well, it comes from the heart? And those raspberry-strawberry things are tasty!

Elizabeth though is a master pastry chef...the tarts and bundt cake are quite fancy!

Meanwhile, for some strange reason, Josefina is baking bread in her horno...inside the room...

Of course, she's bringing bread and melons. (The shawl is custom made, but it matches the Harvest outfit quite well!)

Addy's is preparing her pie and has lots of flowers.

She has apple pie, meat pies, and candy...

Josefina and Kirsten get the picnic table ready...

Oh, oh, will all these dishes and treats fit on the table?

"Let's try it anyway," says Josefina.


Whew! Need to sit down! When do you think she'll get here?

Squeaky, squeaky! Speak of the devil!

"Gasp! All for me!?" cries Jane.

"You're so wonderful!"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Town Fair Dress Comparisons

In 1997, American Girl designed a limited edition "town fair" outfit based on 18th century prints. The original town fair outfit came with a mob cap, red striped apron, green gown, and windmill; and a complete set can go for auction for over $100. I managed to snag my authentic AG town fair outfit (gown only) for $32 on Ebay. Jess is modeling it with a red cloak and borrowed lace cap. Elizabeth on the left is modeling a pinkish version made by Dollies' Dressmaker. Personally, I think Dollies is the better version. She once told me that she has never seen the original in person, so her outfit indeed is based on the historical print.

The tan gown on the right was also made by Dollies' Dressmaker.

Felicity checks out her China cabinet. (I got the jelly cabinet for $13--the price also included the shipping! The model ship and blue teapot are Christmas ornaments I found in California for $4 each.)

Close up of the prints:

The yellow cups are from the Chocolate Set. The colonists, to protest the tax on imported tea, drank chocolate instead. Collectors always debate whether getting the older version of the Chocolate set is worth it. In my opinion yes. As you can see on the left, the older version has more delicate twisted handles and more detailed art. The glaze is less yellow and shiny. (Oh, and don't worry, I don't have 3 chocolate sets! I only found the four extra cups alone in an Ebay auction. I'll probably resell them now that I have the older version of the complete set.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Good-bye Jess, Twin of Jane

Sniff. So a couple of Christmases ago, I got a brand new Jess from my boyfriend; I named her Jane. But I also nab a $25 Jess from Craig's List in very nice condition. So for a long time, I considered them twins, and only had vague ideas about selling her. But then a couple of weeks ago I traded in my second Jess for a "free" Marisol and a $60 Kit. Do I regret it a little...maybe...But Marisol is so pretty...

Anyway, Jane had a very serious personality and Jess was a bit goofy. I made a 1930s story for them but it's a bit tediously long, so I'll just summarize.

(The two 1930s dresses are both from Dollies' Dressmaker. The orange outfit is based on an American Girl book illustration. The green one has little Scottish terriers on the print.)

Serious Jane is on a deadline and has to type up her story.

Jess, who's supposed to be copy editing is very bored and spins around in her chair.

She starts decorating her desk with movie posters...

Jane feels exasperated and stalks off...

Jess, feeling sorry, tries to cheer up her sister by decorating the office.

Jane realizes Jess was just being herself and likes the new decorations.

They make up!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ibsen, A Doll's House

Elizabeth stars as Nora in the 1879 feminist Ibsen play, A Doll's House. She's blond and looks Swedish...

Nora: "I have other duties equally sacred ... Duties to myself!"

Elizabeth as Nora looks out and bows to the audience.

Of course, all the audience members clap.

...and she's congratulated by Diana.

The dress was made by Dollies Dressmaker. She created it for the 1970s AG doll Julie, because in 1971 the movie Nicholas and Alexandra was very popular and hence many fashion designers that year drew inspiration for their line up from imperial Russia circa 1900. So I'm probably a couple of decades off fashion-wise. The detail on the dress is very delicate and beautiful. If you see her reproduce the pattern again, you should certainly snatch it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Colonial General Store

Remember Felicity's father owned a general store in Williamsburg, Virginia? I attempted to recreate the store. The background is a retired scenes and settings book that AG used to produce. Can you tell what is part of the scenery book and what is an actual miniature toy I bought? Have fun finding them.

The Textiles Section

Josefina, armed with fashion dolls and the finest textiles from English factories and English traders, tries to entice shoppers.

Selling English imported goods started to become more difficult for shop owners in the 1770s because many of the colonists were angry about taxes and mercantilism and were boycotting English imports in favor of homespun cloth. Some historians argued that the boycott movements propelled women into the political arena, because they controlled what colonial households consumed. Was this empowerment? My friend Kaylan discovered another side of this thesis when she researched female shop owners in the Boston area, who refused to sign non-importation agreements and who were branded as loyalists. After the British evacuated Boston and eventually lost the war, these exiled women lost their stores, their homes, and their means of independence. The women did file claims to the British government for their losses. They got very little back.

Looks like Josefina might have a customer in that Tory Elizabeth Cole!

Girls and women in the 18th century did not own that much clothes, so they added variation to their wardrobe by changing stomachers (the triangular bodice attached to the front of the gown), petticoats, and trim detail.

The Bake Shop Section

Jess is a baker and she stores queen cakes, bread, and tarts in her pie safe. Actually, if you lived in colonial times, you were more likely to buy the raw ingredients, such as flour and sugar, from the store rather than fresh pastries. But hey, let's pretend. By the way, pie safes were a German-Pennsylvanian tradition, and were meant to keep baked good fresh. So my pie safe's screen grating is rather inaccurate! Read more about what real pie safes looked like from Antiques Roadshow.

The Porcelain Section

Marianne is looking for an inkwell. Blue was all the rage in the 18th century, because blue pigment was expensive to make and therefore conveyed ostentatious wealth. If you wanted to show off, you might commission a portrait of yourself wearing a blue gown. Next time you visit a museum, you should take a note of the paintings' colors especially ones dated before the 19th century. Whether it was the Virgin Mary or a Vermeer painting of milk maids, the paintings with blue figures would have been very expensive commissions.

Marianne sits her at her Windsor writing chair with a swinging arm! To Marianne, the chair is quite new, because the model with the writing arm was invented around 1770. However, it is quite strange that no one painted the chair green or a different color. Read more about Windsor chairs at Antiques Roadshow or read a general history. She writes out invitations to a ball. The silver sander is filled with “pounce” to sprinkle on her writing and dry up the ink blots.

Across the room, Kirsten enjoys the sweet treats she had just bought with her tea. Shhh! She's supposed to be drinking chocolate instead of tea, but she's addicted to the stuff. Let's pretend that Kirsten's relatively wealthy. So she gets her tea relatively fresh. Of course, her servants will probably try to resell the tea to the local merchant who will lace it with a bit of arsenic to keep it tasty and resell it to the middle class. Then the middle class bring back the tea leaves and it's sold to the poor...let's just say the poorest rungs of society, if they choose to imitate their betters, get quite the potent mix.