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 Fashion dolls under Napoleon III

Temporary exhibit from October 26, 2013 to February 1, 2014



In conjunction with the reopening of its permanent galleries, the Musée de la Poupée-Paris team will launch a thematic exhibit – "Fashion Dolls under Napoleon III". Located in the museum’s fifth and sixth galleries, the exhibit, comprising 24 enclosures, begins with a look at different types of dolls made during the reign of Napoleon III, progresses to a collection of a few dolls and their rich original trousseaus, then completes its journey with the famous doll Chiffonnette and her legendary handmade wardrobe by talented American specialist Sylvia Mac Neil. Current public fascination for all things Second Empire is increasing due to its appreciation for the incredible sophistication shown by that era. Both the creation of clothing on a human scale and the design of miniaturized models for privileged Second Empire children are among the aspects drawing attention and admiration. Dolls in this exhibit represent high points of taste and original prices. However, rather than being mere monuments to consumerism, they demonstrate how children’s toys were used to transmit moral and aesthetic values as aids to young girls in mastering the arts of sewing and embroidery.

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Violette, fashion doll, circa 1865


By playing with dolls, Second Empire children learned about taking care of their dolls, including how to choose outfits for every situation of life. This is why in a single doll’s wardrobe one can find many baby clothes (baptism dress, diapers, bibs, etc) along with items in the proportions of a young child (promenade dresses, gardeners aprons, bathing suits, etc.) as well as outfits suitable for adults (visiting dress, prom dress, wedding dress, mourning dress, etc.).

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Young girls of this generation learned to sew for dolls using patterns which appeared in children’s magazines of the time, such as La Poupée Modèle, and using remaining pieces of fabric of their own clothes, resulting in mirror image outfits for a child and her doll. However, children could also receive gift accessories, clothing and other delightful trinkets from numerous fashion boutiques for dolls active in the Paris of Napoleon III. The richest or the luckiest received a new doll dressed entirely by some fashion house, such as Worth, with a complete outfit. This was the crowning dream of many little girls; it also provided a means to display social status. 

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Bru doll, original wardrobe by Worth, circa 1869-1870


Contrary to what one might think, Second Empire fashion dolls were not models used to promote the creations of a particular fashion house. That method was previously employed with so-called "pandores.” Now, under Napoleon III, dedicated fashion magazines assumed the promotional role, while dolls, despite being luxurious and refined, were intended for children to play with and to serve in the key role of teachers.

The centerpiece of this exhibition is an extraordinary doll from the famous Huret company for which Sylvia Mac Neil has crafted a legendary wardrobe for 20 years, which today contains more than 200 elements.

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Chiffonnette, Huret doll dressed by Sylvia Mac Neil, circa 1860

Mrs. Mac Neil, already well known in the world of doll lovers for her first book The Paris Collection, published in 1992, has another hit this year with her release of The Enchanting Trousseau of Chiffonnette. The new book presents many items in the Napoleon III style that she has created especially for this doll. From underwear to accessories, summer to winter outfits, muffs, hats, fans and footwear – all are present! The perfect wardrobe for a Second Empire doll. Epitomizing a style, but ultimately embodying a philosophy of collection, this new book by Sylvia Mac Neil promises to be a primary reference volume in the field. As a result of her extremely thorough research, mastering the art of sewing, careful materials selection and high quality photographs, Mrs. Mac Neil’s latest work will surely be a model for doll lovers far into the future.

The Enchanting Trousseau of Chiffonnette and its associated exhibit reveal another way to collect fashion dolls from Napoleon III, a more active, more creative way. That path is to study authentic wardrobes first, and then be guided in making, following the rules of art, an appropriate trousseau for an antique doll.


The Enchanting Trousseau of Chiffonnette by Sylvia Mac Neil (English Edition)

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Exclusively available from the Musée de la Poupée shop beginning October 26, 2013 https://boutique.museedelapoupeepar…


Activities for adults

Activities related to dolls are given for adults:
- Seminars on dolls
- Guided tours of the exhibit
- Workshop by Sylvia Mac Neil to create a hat for a fashion doll


Activities for children

Activities are given all year long for children:
- Workshops
- Birthday parties



Past exhibits Best friends Betting on Dolls Hollywood Stars as Dolls Héros de l’ORTF - la télévision française en jouets des années ’60 aux années ’80 Bécassine dévoile les Trésors de Loulotte Minuscules, the playful universe of pocket dolls Snow globes Barbie Rétro Chic Fashion dolls under Napoleon III ETHNICITIES - Dolls reflecting People Baby-boom 2, French dolls 1960-1979 Poupées ’Made in Italy’, 1880-1979 Jouets de garçons Images exquises Barbie® et Ken® jouent les stars de tous les temps Ken®, 50 ans d’un modèle masculin Baby-boom French dolls, 1946-1959 Le Minor dolls Le retour du Père Noël Nouvelles icônes, des poupées Pandores aux Sybarites Maisons de poupées, l’art de la miniature Rêve ta vie avec Barbie Par amour pour les poupées Poupées et jouets : l’éveil des 5 sens Les poupées des Petites Filles Modèles Les mille et une vies de Barbie Quel spectacle ! les arts du spectacle en poupées et jouets L’Europe des 25 en poupées régionales et folkloriques Boules de poils, le meilleur de la peluche française, 1876-2006 Dodo l’enfant do : poupons et baigneurs, 1855-2005 Arts ménagers pour poupées : la vie quotidienne en miniature Les poupées de La Semaine de Suzette fêtent leurs 100 ans Les poupées Raynal : 50 ans de luxe pour petites filles Barbie raconte 5000 ans d’histoire du costume Tendres doudous : poupées et animaux en tissu Personnages de contes : hommage à la création Poupees de poche : de Mignonnette à Polly Pocket

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