Sunday, September 26, 2021

Connecting Then And Now With This Adorable Steiff Play Doll

What's old is new again, especially when it comes to this relatively modern Steiff doll under discussion here. Our friends in Giengen started producing fine cloth dolls on a commercial scale at the beginning of the 20th century. These gorgeously rendered playthings appeared through the early 1950s. After that, dolls with rubber faces (and sometimes rubber bodies) represented a significant portion of the Steiff doll line through the 1970s. Moving forward, the company's doll offerings included mostly well-dressed children and characters in synthetic materials as well as artist collaborations.

This Andrea doll is a sweet nod - with a modern twist - to Steiff's legacy doll production. She is 32 cm tall, unjointed, and made from soft woven fur. She is stuffed with a mix of polyfill as well as weighted beans. She comes to life with a shock of longer brown hair decorated with red ribbons, oversized brown and black pupil eyes, a button nose, a pink painted mouth, and airbrushed facial highlights. She wears a white cotton "onesie" that is both underwear and a white t-shirt, a red calico dress decorated with yellow ladybugs, and red shoes which are integral to her body. This sassy lassie appeared in this size only in 1999. At the same time, Steiff produced two other similarly constructed dolls; a girl dressed in blue named Babinchen and a red-headed boy in overalls named Andreas. Both were also 32 cm.

Andrea has three features that connect her with the past.

The first is that she is clearly designed as an appealing child. Starting around 1908, Steiff began producing their most adorable and humanly proportioned child dolls. Before then, Steiff's dolls were more caricatured (for example, had exaggeratedly long legs, arms, or torsos) and often represented adults or professions. Steiff's kids were usually dressed as students or in traditional outfits, and sometimes even in regional attire. They were playful, distinctly youthful, and looked precious in school room vignettes and in the company's print and postcard advertising. Today, these child-inspired antique felt dolls are coveted by Steiff and doll collectors worldwide.

The second is that she is (relatively) finely attired. Steiff has always paid special attention to their doll's clothing and their detailing. For example, Steiff's early 20th century dolls were "dolled" up head to toe, with well-made and finely accessorized outfits. Most girls had shoes and hats, while adults could have layers and layers of clothing to match their real life counterparts and inspirations. Police, soldiers, and firemen had perfectly to scale boots, tools, and helmets. Of course, Andrea - as a play doll - is not on that level. But she does have shoes, underwear, hair accessories, and a dress that is perfectly appropriate to her. Her outfit is well planned and coordinated for what she is. It is also sweet (and probably not a coincidence) that her dress perfectly aligns color-wise with her prominent chest tag. 

And last but not least, she features Steiff's signature center seam facial construction. This is hard to miss if you don't look closely. This means she has a vertical seam going right down the middle of her face. This helps to add to her symmetry, as well as youthful appearance. Steiff introduced this legacy design feature with their debut doll line in 1903. By the late 1930s, this construction was replaced with a seamless, pressed felt faced design. Given today's manufacturing options, Andrea could have been designed and produced without this seam. But in Steiffgal's heart of hearts, she believes she was made with it to remind collectors of her turn of last century relatives - and the beauty and joy they generated... both then and now. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this modern play doll has added a touch of childhood wonder to your day.

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

The teddy bear search engine