Sunday, July 25, 2010

Oh My! Oma's Great Makeover

It's a makeover worthy of an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show!  A few months ago, Steiffgal was unbelievably lucky to acquire a 22 cm Steiff felt doll from the 1920's.  Steiffgal decided to name her "Oma", as that was the name of her original owner.  Oma arrived perfect in every way, except for one thing... her attire.

As typical in many cases, antique dolls often appear today in clothing that is not original to their production.  And why is this?  Dolls are design for play, and dressing and undressing them is all part of the fun.  Doll clothes are small and easy to misplace during wardrobe changes.  Additionally, mothers sometimes made doll's clothes from fabric scraps left over from other sewing projects.  These outfits, sometimes matching those of their little girl owners, were often greatly preferred over the dolls original attire.  Pictured here on the left is Oma as she first appeared to Steiffgal earlier this summer. 

Steiffgal is certain that the outfit that Oma arrived in was not the one she left the Steiff factory wearing almost a century ago.  And, her gut feeling is that her delightful orange peasant style dress and floral cap were loving created for her by a talented mother-seamstress, not Steiff.  With the help of European toy expert Ingrid Robson, it was determined that Oma most likely was the Steiff doll model Meta, who appeared in the Steiff line from 1917 through 1919.  Meta is pictured here on the left; this photo is taken from Gunther Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment book.

And here's where the stylists come in.  With expert precision, Ingrid recreated Meta's original outfit for Oma.  Using vintage materials and fabrics, Ingrid created "old/new" period underwear, a frock, matching hat, and shoes for her.  Oma and her new wardrobe are pictured just below... note how closely her outfit closely matches that of Meta!  

According to Ingrid:
 "The bonnet and dress were made using only the picture from the Steiff Sortiment as a guide. The knickers were my own design and the petticoat was taken from the one she was wearing made to match the knickers. As the doll in the picture (Meta) was not wearing shoes I modeled them on the shoes worn by another doll "Marga", from the same time period.  All the clothes were made from old material, the shoes were made from new felt but of good millinery quality. The underclothes were made from a fine cotton lawn actually taken from a damaged Edwardian christening gown. The dress and bonnet were made from a cotton muslin with 'flocked' spots. I bought this many years ago in a job lot in auction and it comes in very useful for dresses for old dolls. The new felt was bought from a little shop in Vienna where I buy most of my felt, they have a good range of colors and qualities not easy to find in the UK these days."

Ingrid continues:
"I am a great believer that dolls not having their original clothes should have ones made with the fabrics from their era including trimmings if possible. I hate to see modern nylon lace trimmings on early 20th century dolls. To this end over the years I have accumulated material and trimmings to cover the mid-nineteenth century to the 1950's. Up to about 10 years ago you could always rely on finding boxes in auction but not so any more. I look for remnants and old clothes in charity shops, antique markets, and other like places.  These days and many of the people in the area I live know I am always on the lookout and sometimes come with bits and bobs especially if someone dies or granny or mother is going into a home and they are sorting out their things."

It's safe to say "what's old is new again" in terms of Oma's beautiful makeover.  Steiffgal wholeheartedly recommends Ingrid's services for other collectors interested in restoring their Steiff dolls to their original attired condition.  Check out her website at

Steiffgal hopes Oma's makeover will inspire you to have a beautiful day as well.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more.

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