When I first started thinking about how I wanted to make cloth dolls I began looking back to the Boudoir dolls of the 1920’s and 30’s. Part of their attraction was how they reminded me of the Bradley dolls that I had as a child. Much as I loved them, because they came stuck to a stand, you really couldn’t play with them. It felt like we had unfinished business that I might be able to exorcise through my Claras. Just like the Bradley dolls, Boudoir dolls were made for decoration and not for play although I suspect quite a lot of playing did go on!
For anyone not familiar with them, they first appeared in the early 1920’s in France where there was at the time an influx of Russian emigres following the revolution. One of the cultural imports that they brought with them was their skills at doll-making and the craze for what became known as boudoir dolls soon took off. The dolls had cloth bodies and long limbs and because it was the Jazz age and a time of great interest in cinema the dolls were dressed up like actresses, flappers, dancers or partygoers. Some were slightly sinister and subversive, but all were glamorous, stylish and sexy. It’s out of keeping with today’s world but interestingly many of them were smoking cigarettes!
The craze spread across the Atlantic and many dolls were made and enjoyed in the US. Unfortunately, the stock market crash put an end to many of these new companies making the dolls and whilst interest in them continued into the 1930’s it was the end of the craze.
I returned to this original source of inspiration for the next little batch of Claras. I knew I wanted to do something special but was struggling to decide what. I came across a picture of a doll in a beautiful bicorne hat and thought it would really work. I can imagine girls with hats like this in the musical halls of Paris, living it up or going to fancy dress parties. I’d like to think of the Claras all living and playing in that world!