Friday, September 27, 2013

Toys of the Belle Époque: A Wax “Boy” Doll, 1860

Wax "Boy" Doll, 1860
The Museum of Childhood
Victoria & Albert Museum

Dolls made to look like men or boys have always been rare. Since dolls have always been considered the stuff of girls, most doll-makers and toy manufacturers produce feminine figures, thinking that a girl would prefer to play with something in her own image. It wasn’t until the 1960’s, that dolls were made with different body types for specific genders.

In the Nineteenth Century, one basic style of doll body was crafted that was thought to support any kind of costuming and wig. The predominant body-type featured a thin waist, wide hips and narrow shoulders—all classically feminine characteristics. If a customer wanted a “male” doll, very often the look was achieved by adding a short wig and styling the figure in a “masculine” costume. Only rarely did a toymaker add a specific “make” head to a figure.

This wax doll from the 1860’s from the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, shows one of the typical “cross-dressing” dolls. The body-type is clearly feminine. However, the figure has been costumed in typical male attire. Sometimes, luxurious whiskers were painted onto these female faces to achieve a look of masculinity. Despite its little suit of clothes, we can’t help but notice that this doll would look a little more natural in a nice frilly frock.

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