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  • Karole from Kimberling

Sewing for 18" Dolls, How Hard Can It Be?

One Outfit Down -- Nintey-Nine To Go


The challenges encountered when sewing my first Scarlett O'Hara outfit (dress and lace trimmed pantalettes) forced me to recognize the inconsistencies between my instinctive approach to everything I do, and my plans to create and sell doll outfits.


Each of us has an instinctive to approach life. Mine is to enthusiastically embrace challenges, envision solutions, and turn those visions into reality. I am completely satisfied when these feats are accomplished. I don't think of selling or publicizing the products or results of these efforts; I really don't understand why it is necessary -- shouldn't they sell themselves?


Being a compulsive achiever means that I can't blame others for my stress, I bring it with me; so decreasing my stress to the level that I enjoy life means setting reasonable goals for myself. After thirty years of managing people and projects in corporate America, I had promised myself that in retirement, I would answer to, and manage, no-one. This decision meant my life should be stress-free. (Really, for me, there is no such thing.) It also meant that there was a limitation to what I could create (the fun part of this current venture) because selling was now also my responsibility.


So, I established these goals for KimberlingCouture - Small World Fashions:

  • KimberlingCouture was going to fit into my paying-it forward retirement activities/philosophy.

  • Success would not be measured in terms of profit: it would be measured in terms of how much enjoyment it provided to others and me. (Success is very important for a compulsive achiever, so this goal was important.) This goal is also a definition of a hobby, not a business.

  • This endeavor should pay for itself, so some selling would be required. Because of my aversion to selling, I had to set a goal which required me to do it. It also meant that I had to find ways to minimize the time and effort I'd have to spend selling.

Experience has taught me that the way we think about things affects our actions, so I no longer think of selling my doll outfits; instead, I think of finding homes for them. Thinking this way encompasses the many options for sharing my small world fashions with others -- donating them for charity sales, creating "special outfits" for friends and family, and yes, selling them.


While I researched the simplest, least time consuming, and least expensive avenues to sell, I was still acquiring fabrics, and cutting out more outfits. And, unable to control my free-wheeling proclivity to involve my new venture in everything else I did, I volunteered to create a surprise doll outfit as a gift for a friend-of-a-friend.


I live in Missouri now, but spent a third of my life growing up in Long Island, New York. On a call with a lifelong friend in New York, she mentioned that she wanted to plan her best friend's first birthday party to celebrate her 70th birthday. During our conversation, Connie mentioned that her friend kept everything; she still had the waitress uniform she had worn for her first job.

"Oh," I chimed in, "What do you think about giving her a doll with a uniform that looked like the one she wore?"


"That would be great," Connie replied, "I think she'd really like that."


Now, I'm already chomping at the bit, ready to sew. "What did it look like?" I asked.


"It was white."


"Uh, Connie. That really isn't enough information to make the uniform."


"Well, I think it was cotton. You know -- like the ones the waitresses in Windisch's Luncheonette used to wear."


"Connie, I don't remember what they wore."


Neither did Connie, so that idea was short-lived. To this day, I cannot describe what someone looks like or what they wear. I could be working with a person for years. and if someone asked me to describe that person, I would draw a blank. I can tell you what people do, how they think, remember what they say, but I can't tell you what they look like. I remember my eyes are brown because it's on my driver's license -- don't ask what shade of brown.


'Well," said Connie, "In high school, she and I made wrap around skirts, light blue ones with navy trim, and we bought navy man-tailored, blouses to match. We always wore them to school on the same day."


Now that sounded like a concept I could work with. So, I sketched out what I thought the outfit looked like, emailed it to Connie for changes, found a pre-loved American girl doll that resembled Connie's description of her friend in high school, and emailed Connie pictures of fabrics for approval. The outfit wasn't going to be fancy -- even the shoes were plain navy flats, but, hopefully, it would evoke fond memories.


But then, I thought -- the real essence of those memories was that Connie and her friend wore these outfits together. So, I called Connie's sister-in-law to find out what color her eyes were, went on the internet to find her high school yearbook (pictures were in black and white back then) to see what her hair looked like, and found another pre-loved doll on eBay,

Here is the result:


Full disclosure -- the collar should have been button down, but I couldn't find buttons small enough. The blouse cuffs did have buttons, but fasten with Velcro which is sewn underneath. The buttons down the front do not fasten -- the blouse fastens at the back with Ultra-thin Velcro. Although the length isn't the most flattering, our high school dress code required that skirts came to below the knee.

I made the lined wrap-around skirt pattern, but modified a major pattern-maker's 18" doll pattern (Simplicity, I think) to make the blouse. The shoes were purchased from an eBay seller in China. I made navy cotton knit underwear(briefs) using a free pattern posted on Pinterest.



PS: Connie's friend loved her present -- she got the doll on the right; Connie kept the other. (And Connie's eyes are a hazel/green.)


Hope to see you next week ...


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