Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daughter of the Empire

A friend who lives in London and who likes to read and write about women living in interesting times, has turned me on to a rather fascinating Edwardian woman by the name of Olive Malvery. My friend sent me a funny photo of Olive doing undercover work as a flower girl on the streets of London. Olive was a writer/photojournalist who went undercover, seeking employment in a variety of blue-collar settings, as well as spending nights and days amongst the poor in order to investigate the lives of the working poor of London. My friend is doing quite a lot of work herself, investigating Olive Malvery, and I thought it would be fun to make her a doll likeness of this most interesting woman.

As I said in my last post, I have joined in to do a traveling doll in January. In order to save on postage, since the dolls will be traveling across the world, it was suggested to me that I should make a small doll. Not wanting to wait until then, I worked up a 12" doll body and decided I would try that one out as the Olive Malvery doll. I also thought it would be fun to take photos of the work in progress. Here, I am going to share them with you just for fun.

Here is Olive as she started in a combination undergarment, which is a white cotton corset cover and drawers combined. It is sewn onto the body and does not come off. At this point I had designed the body, which looks a lot like the collaboration one I am doing with Deena, but quite a lot smaller. She stands 12" tall and has one leg with a brass rod that screws into a wooden stand. I added black silk boots, the face and hair. At this point the face is not quite right, perhaps a tad too Italian, and Olive is of East Indian descent. I will be tweaking it as I go along. Keep in mind that the face is flat, and only about 1-1/4" in height. To start I was not sure I could draw a face that small, but in the end I am satisfied.

From there, I put on the petticoat, which is the same white cotton, It has a flounce and a panel at the back to add a bit of fullness and bustle so that the final skirt lays correctly. This is all sewn to the doll and is not removable.

Next came the blouse, which needed pintucks and some loose sleeves. I used machine embroidery to anchor the tucks, make the neckline and attach the cuffs. Working the sleeves into the armhole was a bit challenging for me, because the armholes were so tiny.

Once the undergarments and blouse were sewn into place, the only thing left was the hat, skirt and accessories. Interestingly enough, I was most worried about the hat, which is kind of silly, since making hats is one of the things that comes more easily to me. Nevertheless, I wasn't sure how to proceed. In the photo of Olive, her hat is quite large. I didn't want to make a hat of quite that proportion, as I thought it would hide the face too much and make photographing the finished doll too difficult (one must always be practical :0). So instead, I scaled it down a bit, made a couple of padded wire frames (one for the brim, one for the crown) and attached black silk velvet. I then sewed that to the head and added the plumage.

Prior to placing the hat, with all the costuming, and things being pulled on and off over the head, the face took a bit of a beating. I also felt it wasn't quite right. I added more paint and defined it a bit, neatened up the hair, and felt that overall she was right. From there I added a 4-gore black silk taffetta skirt.

Finally, the accessories. I took a piece of black silk dupioni I had and fringed it for her shawl. I couldn't find a basket small enough, so used a wooden napkin ring and glued a wooden disk to the bottom for a barrel type basket, had John drill holes on either side, and made a twisted bronze-colored copper wire handle. The flowers I found in the bridal section of Michael's.

So, she's finished. Hurray! She is going to live in London at some point, though my friend tells me there is a postal strike there in the UK, so perhaps she will have to wait just a bit. Hoping she likes being at home in London. She ought to, as it's where she lived her life.


  1. Wow....She is excellent! I love the WIP pics showing her undergarments and the stages of her dress!

  2. BRILLIANT, Cindy...thank you so much for sharing. On the contrary, I think her face looks quite East Indian...fascenating woman, and you've certainly brought her to life.! I find it interesting that you found the satire in her life and completely brought it into the forefront in this doll...she was a bright, eccentric lady, from what I gather, and enjoyed gathering information from the underbelly of life. Her perky peeking chest lies deep under that lacey monobosom...but it's there, and I think Olive would've been very amused by your portrayal, inside and out.

  3. Thanks, Sue!

    "Monobosom" Amy? Hahaha. That's a new one for me. You are hilarious! Thanks for the kudos!

  4. Wow, Cindy! She's perfect--I love the inspiration and seeing the progression from the drawers upwards! So many little details on her outfit as well--I love the pintucks!

    Very neat!

  5. Dontcha love that word, Ivy? "Drawers"?!! I swear, it's the word they use in all the Brit costuming books at the turn of the century. I think here, stateside, drawers are things we actually put clothing into, not bodies :) Thanks for the kudos!

  6. Excellent, Cindy!!! I love seeing the progression of work too. Thanks for the link. BTW, love your profile pic. Beautiful. :o)

  7. Hey there girl...I Absoltely LOVE her!!! With me..everything is on a smaller I connect with this size doll . But I feel like you made this lady come alive...and the hat!!! WOW!!! Your friend is very lucky..she's getting this doll???!!! haha GREAT!!!! Colleen

  8. That is so cool Cindy...I love the step by step...Never seen one deconstructed before. So amazing

  9. Cindy,
    She is BEAUTIFUL and it is so fun being able to see her change before my eyes - just really, really cool!! (much more exciting than raking leaves!)

  10. That's very enthusiastic, Colleen, thanks! Small can be good, right? It was just harder to paint the face and sew some of the smaller things is all. I will be fine for the traveling doll project. I just needed to work it out ahead of time :) My friend will enjoy the doll, yes :)

    Thanks, Sonia. Thanks, Kathleen. As long as the pictures come out okay, it is fun to show the whole process. You just can't go back and retake them after it's done, so you have to plan ahead :)

  11. Great pics, Cindy! Your Olive looks lovely. Naked Alien Doll is feeling neglected...

  12. Thanks, Deena. I'm sure you will do a fine job with her.