Sunday, October 9, 2016

How to build a great dolly wardrobe

Hey hey, new weekend! It's been consistently hectic in my little corner of the room the past week due to committing to our dear dolly friends the restocking of a few wardrobe staples - the denim shirt, the faded and distressed shorts, and the skinny jeans. I think I must have overcommitted, aiming to finish more than what was in my preorder list. (Okay, sure you can scroll down to get to the point of this post as this part can get boring tee hee) It took me more than a week to finish only several shirts, maybe because they were a little more meticulous to make than other garments. I'll probably pause on the shirts this week and work on the shorts, with also lesser quantity. Same applies to the skinny jeans that I intend to start next, next week.

Those denim shirts...

Okay, enough of my report, which actually is a note to self since I just made the decision of making lesser quantity this morning, and that I might forget about it come Monday. Please bear the journaling over here =D

So let's get it on with the real deal - the Doll Collecting Tips series - which aims to help the doll community decide better as we join hands and traverse the collecting journey together.

After tackling storage, budget and play time in the past few months, I thought that the next thing a new doll collector needs to take care of is his/her dolly wardrobe, or its contents - the doll clothing - to be specific. Honestly, I think finding the right clothes pretty much is just as crucial as finding the right dolls. This is one thing I realized the moment I started collecting dolls as a child. I then started making my own doll clothes when I was about 8 because I wanted to mix and match, and that the Mattel ones that arrive in my part of the country are just way too expensive, and quite frankly, they don’t excite me, too. I have specific looks in mind and the only way to have them is to make them.

Now as an adult doll collector, who likes to style my dolls and take pictures of them, my ongoing goal is to really have a great wardrobe to use. When I say great though, I don’t mean a lot of items in it. I just want to have a decent number of pieces that I love to use often. When I got back to making doll clothing in 2011, my intention was to make anything what my material dictates. I think this was a great strategy back then to build my dream wardrobe because it was based from what I think to me are great pieces. But as the wardrobe grew, while some are very versatile and timeless, I realized that the other pieces just need to go.

I have purged my dolly wardrobe once or twice since I got back to my adult doll collecting, and for the third time yesterday, I finally decided to let go of those I kept for so long but never really got to use in any of my recent photo shoots. They were reserved for like a future photo shoot but I know deep inside I was just too optimistic - that future I was hoping for will not really happen. I decided that what I love NOW and what I can use NOW should only be the ones occupying my dolly wardrobe. 

That is why when I conducted this survey with our dolly friends, I am so happy to know that most of them love the majority of their existing dolly wardrobe. They are either very particular buyers who have specific plans as to how they will use their garments in the future, frequent inventory checkers so they make sure they get rid of items that don’t fit in these plans anymore, or style stars who make time to play around all the items they have such that every single doll garment actually can be a complement to another.

Heaps of thanks as always to these dolly friends of ours for lending their points of view and tips and all things wonderful for us to be able to come up with this post.

Vana, and last but not the least, Tet.

I am so excited to learn from these sensible doll collectors that I made a round-up of tips they shared, something I am pretty sure you guys would also love to hear. So, here we go!

Buy ONLY the doll fashions you love, but still… 

To simply say "buy only what you love" is quite tricky because oftentimes we look at things mostly only at face value. It may look great on the model doll, with its beautiful colors, embellishments or shape/silhouette, but the moment we got home and try it on our doll, we don’t feel the same awe anymore. Remember, doll clothing designers like myself, pick the best model for the clothing we created, or we design clothing for a specific doll with all her specific features considered. So, the next time you see a doll garment and you suddenly felt the urge to buy, ask yourself first the following questions:

1. Will this piece look great on the doll I intend to dress it with? 
2. Will it look great when mixed and matched with my existing pieces?
3. Is it a perfect fit (size-wise) for the doll I intend to dress up?
4. Is it of high quality enough so I can use it more than just one time?

These are just a few of the questions I can think of that we need to ask ourselves before we hit the buy button. You may have more, but definitely pause to at least think about these four.  “Don't buy it, unless you LOVE it. Take your time and choose wisely.  I have paid for so much and later given a lot away.” confesses Terri.

Javi loves 100% of his wardrobe because they look real. He adds, “Choose what you really love. (As with) the rest, let them go... “.

Diadema’s dolly wardrobe comprises the type of clothes real people actually wear on a daily basis. This miniature wardrobe, in a way, represents her own fashion sense.

Diadema's Poppy, styled the way Diadema wears her outfits - they even have the same hairdo!

“For the newbie, just choose the right wardrobe that suits your taste. Just go with what makes you happy and satisfied”, suggests Melan. He adds that it’s important that his doll wardrobe also suits his personality.

Tet recommends just buying what you really like. “I am a bit conservative and I like simple and classic cuts and silhouettes. I am not into fad outfits. I want my dolls to look classy always and my younger dolls to look young and playful.”

Debbie is much more direct: "I don't buy junk".

Know your role, as well as your dolls’, in your playtime

This really is a big factor in deciding for the types of doll clothes you buy. You have to pretty much factor in your own lifestyle too, as director of all these playtimes, and the “lifestyles” that your dolls “lead”. Why did you collect dolls in the first place? Beyond just collecting, what role do you want to play with your collection? Are you the photography hobbyist, diorama builder, photo story teller, doll fashion maker/designer?

Eli advises,“If you plan to enter pageants, then get gowns. If not, then don't buy a bunch of which you don't use. Same goes with casual clothes. As a person who takes pictures of dolls in malls, parks, and beaches, my dolls are dressed to fit the setting. The big pieces are gowns which I got because it had a bit of twist in them such as metal like attachment or weird hood. But I have to admit that my current fave is this traditional Maria Clara gown which I requested to be made. I admit I got it for sentimental reasons but I will totally use it in my doll photography activities."

Kenya reminds us, “As with all other things collector related, focus saves a great deal of time and money."

“My dolls have a sense of style, so the doll(s) I most enjoy dressing at the time affect my buying choices”, says Leslie. “It’s not quite practical for my "normal" dolls, who aren't in magazine editorials very often, to have very pricey rare items. But if that's all you love dressing your dolls in, then by all means, stick with what works.”

Sale time! (with a little Throwback Thursday)
Leslie's dolls that she had since forever leading "normal" lives

Tet admits that what she likes from her wardrobe at the moment depends on her mood. “Currently, I am into chic and the modern take on classic cuts. I love gowns still, but simpler with this time, without much bead work. “

Fashionable Friday
Tet's ladies in chic clothing

Vana says it doesn’t matter if it’s casual or formal clothing, as the ways she dresses her dolls varies and is affected by the model, by her actual mood, by themes or tag games which she participates in, and other sources of inspiration.

Build up on timeless, versatile pieces that are easy to mix and match with 

We’re talking about clean-cut tops, well-fitting pants in neutral colors, tasteful skirts, as well as classic-cut dresses. These pieces should consist 50 to 70% of your wardrobe, while the rest are the fun pieces that make each outfit interesting. This might sound like a boring wardrobe, but trust me on this. Like what they say in art and architecture, you got to have a well-planned, sturdy foundation before you decorate it. That is why we have fun pieces that give oomph to your basic structure.

“Start with classical pieces, which can easily be combined.”, advises Michaela. “Should (your purchase) be extravagant, then start with only one part of the outfit, or with a beautiful statement-jewelry, or add some fancy shoes. A good base is important, after that you can start experimenting. Because for what you need the special pieces, when you have nothing to combine them with and create an outfit?"

Michaela's Giselles in classic Shift dresses

Tet advises it is best to invest in classic cuts because they never go out of style. “Separate pieces are nice as well as you can mix and match outfits. Earth colors and not too vulgar designs are a good choice of outfits, too. Dress your dolls sexy but classy and younger dolls to be cute always. Dress your dolls according to their look and age.”

Kenya has quite a few dresses, but the bulk of the items she keeps are primarily separates - lots of tops, pants and skirts. Her doll wardrobe was primarily 90% Mattel (mix of playline and collector) and 10% Integrity Toys (Fashion Royalty). “Though I had a modest collection of Fashion Royalty, it wasn’t enough to mix-n-match with. I leaned more towards Mattel because the clothes were affordable and fun.”

Terri loves buying dresses the most, but has also acquired quite a collection of tops and bottoms, too. She also suggests that we choose classic pieces that will look good years down the line.

Ford has his doll wardrobe in this set-up – a good mix of tops, pants, and skirts.

Casual style clothing is also a favorite among these doll collectors.

“These are smart casual clothing.” describes Melan of his doll wardrobe. “I adore this kind of clothing because it’s easy to mix and match and you always can play with them. You can also reuse by just pairing them with a different wardrobe collection. “

Melan's Erin in her casual atelierniSHASHA clothes

Leslie says much of her items are for casual wear because her dolls lead "everyday" lives.

Eli’s favorite pieces in her wardrobe tend to be the more casual style and beach/tropical, too. "I love them because I get to use them more. “

Invest in well-made garments and good-quality fabrics

When you are already decided with the types of clothes you want to buy for your dolls, it gets easier to narrow down your seller options. If you choose to buy some timeless pieces, that’s when you want to invest a bit more, or budget for. Doll fashion makers who are really passionate with their craft put so much emphasis on quality. These well-made items required a lot more time to produce, and use the best materials, too thus they can really be a lot more expensive compared to their play scale counterparts.

“Always look for well-sewn clothing and nice fabrics. A cheap doll wearing a well done outfit looks fabulous but with a cheap looking outfit, even an expensive doll looks cheap”, asserts Vana. For Vana, everything is in the detail. “ I love detailed and realistic clothing. This means working pockets, tiny buttons and rivets, realistic fading, decorative stitching and of course, first of all, good workmanship. I adore the talent and accuracy my favorite designers invest in sewing or knitting clothes.”

Vana's Vanina vacationing in Hvar, Croatia

Javi has all kinds of garments, including dresses, jeans, jumpsuits, overalls, hand knitted sweaters but each one has a common factor: all clothes look real.

Leslie also adores the items in her wardrobe that are handmade by talented artists in Etsy. “I appreciate the time/effort each piece makes. I know that those items, either in limited number or OOAK, are special.”

Diadema loves to invest in custom-made by extraordinarily talented people, too. She continues, “They are not mass produced, meaning I only get to share them with few people.”

Debbie buys doll clothes based on variety options, fit and value for money. She adds that while priced higher than brands that offer these values, hand sewn items are of much better quality. “As they say, “you get what you pay for,” or “quality costs more.”

Debbie's Goddess in her handmade atelierniSHASHA outfits

With all the emphasis on good quality items, that means we avoid glittery play line fashions, as Ford suggests. “Total mess (at storage) and very difficult to mix-match.”

Clarify the information in the item you plan to buy

Pictures can be deceiving.  As much as doll clothing makers like me want to show our handmades in the best light through creative photography, there may be other aspects of the garment that you need to pay attention to that we may have missed to include in our listing descriptions. Always communicate your concerns before purchasing. Often times, makers assume that you have already digested the information provided once the purchase has been made. Returns and refunds are possible but can be a hassle too.

“Ahhh the rest (the not-often-used wardrobe items)…..”, sighs Eli. “These are the ones bought when I was less knowledgeable about what I wanted out of my doll collecting and was just buying anything remotely doll related. I've even ended up with stuff that don't fit. Most of them I got because I had so many ideas on how I was going to do these photo shoots, but then I realized those were not feasible due to my lack of skill, time or access to a certain setting i.e. forest or body of water without the danger of losing the doll. In other words, I was too optimistic.”

“The others are mostly stock outfit the doll came with. They're not crappy. I just don't use those often because they didn't really fit with the theme. I mean, who wears a trench coat in the Philippines? Though, come to think of it, they now seem to fit the settings here (Note: Eli moved to the US recently). Hmmm."

Eli's Ace McFly in a weather-appropriate outfit

Eli further warns, “Don't buy everything you see. Take a breath. Ask the size. This seems basic but trust me this is something you should practice doing. Just because they say it fits a 1/6 scale doll doesn't automatically mean it will fit your doll. There are different bodies out there, so double check."

Kenya adores her OOAK items because they are unique and fun to incorporate with other clothing lines. She likes her vintage too, but with regards to fit, it’s a hit or miss situation. “I collect primarily modern dolls – so sizing can sometimes be a problem. “

“I love the way the "designer" doll clothes fit my dolls,” Terri tells.  She remembers that every now and then she gets to buy something ill-fitting items, but for the most part she does quite well. “For example, I mostly use Mattel Barbie dolls for my dioramas and pics and I did some research and found that they are the exact same size as the FR Nippon Misaki doll. This meant I could buy from Clear Lan, which opened up a whole new world of doll clothes for me.”

Terri's Trichelle in ClearLan overalls

 “I enjoy Sparkle Girlz fashions because they fit Barbie and most other playscale dolls,” notes Debbie.

Spend some time experimenting with your existing items

Ford adores his entire collection, which is a wonderful mix of play line and designer items. “I may not be able to use a particular piece as soon as I get it, but sooner or later I will find a piece that perfectly matches it. Sometimes I think of my collection as a living, breathing collection. They just keep on surprising me with great and on-trend ensembles.”, beams Ford.

Ford's Modolls in his mix of play line and designer items

Vana supposes most of us will have owned play line clothing at some point, so to tap into this rather not-much-preferred-by-adult-collectors group, she mixes them up with designer pieces of factory items from high-end brands. “These (items) can be fun too and can help to create new styles.”

“The rest of my wardrobe isn't necessarily for my collector dolls--it's for the dolls I've had forever that often help complete scenes/group settings or it's very casual wear. “ explains Leslie. “Some items are sentimental because I've had them for many, many years, but I have a lot of clothes because I still have a lot of dolls and have collected since I was little, parting with little along the way.”

Javi “recycles” his not-so-loved items. These oversized clothes, crazy prints are sometimes paired with his other ready-to-wear staples.

Michaela says “I do not have a specific taste. I like many styles, classic dresses and evening gowns but also jeans and suits. My dolls have a really big wardrobe LOL! I love to create new outfits. It makes so much fun to put a complete outfit together with shoes, jewelry and a bag after choosing the doll, because the makeup should fit as well. And then comes the best part for me, I so love to photograph it."

Make an inventory and purge every now and then

Sometimes, we surprise ourselves with items we have already forgotten about. Some of them are still useable, but most often, they have already deteriorated in quality, and in beauty. Most of these items I gave out to my nieces because the young ones really don’t care about trends anyways. These just gotta be cleaned up and kept bright-colored, and they’re the happiest!

Also, having clothing that have been sitting in your wardrobe “waiting” for its moment only gives me a heavy feeling. The nagging sight of it reminds me to work right away on the photo shoot theme, which I frankly don’t have the excitement for anymore. And letting go of these kinds of items, really eases, if not, removes the burden. Every time I take out items from my dolly wardrobe, I feel lighter, happier even.

Terri confesses to have accumulated a lot, okay, a whole of doll clothing, in the past two years. “ In recent months, I have given away most of the Mattel clothing to my friend's daughter and kept the really nice higher-end clothing for myself.”

Leslie goes through her items once a year and look for items that are out of date (past fashion trends) or whose condition is deteriorating so I can make room for the new stuff. It's a constant revolving collection. “I always sort through my items and if it isn't really wearable anymore because of its condition, it either gets tossed or donated.”

Kenya shares that she’s in the process of weeding out most of her dolly wardrobe as her taste and requirements change over the years. She proudly and amusingly reports that she already got rid most of what she deemed to be crap. “I’m trying to stay away from things that aren’t of any use in all aspects of my collection.”

A photo posted by @aneky43251 on
Kenya's gal doing a mirror selfie

Michaela only buys doll clothes that she really likes, and the rest, like those that come with the doll, she sells after photographing them.

Javi also confesses to having a lot of Mattel clothes in the beginning, but upon realizing that the fabrics used and the finish do not satisfy him anymore, he decides to sell such and started buying online. “Nowadays, I love most of my clothes.”

Chanel has arrived.
Javi's OOAK gal in atelierniSHASHA shift dress

The Dolly Wardrobe - an on going process

Truly, our dolly wardrobe will always be a work in progress, an ongoing separate project, a work of art that never gets finished. We probably change clothing items more frequently than we do with our dolls. This may be another aspect of collecting to consider budget for, however, it shouldn’t necessarily rattle our brains again come general budgeting time. It’s always nice to keep a great balance of our staples and fun items, at any time. And the tried-and-tested ways to accomplish this are the ones our dolly friends have generously shared with us today.

As with these dolly friends of ours, balancing the right slices in the wardrobe pie continues. The need to spice up our clothing collection with fun items, as well as making sure our staple items are always in good quality to perform at its best, will carry on with our doll collecting journey.

Dream items to maintain exciting wardrobes include tops that are sexy, structured and the again trendy off-the-shoulders, as well as basics like long-sleeved and tank types in a variety of color options. Boucle and duffle coats, as well as turtleneck sweaters were also in their add-to-wardrobe outfit. Our doll friends also wished for more skirts in varying lengths, silhouette and fabrics. Staple bottoms like denim pants, and leggings should always be in top shape. Home-y pieces like pajamas, lingerie, underwear and robes will be perfect for Friday night stay-ins in our doll houses/dioramas. A black jumpsuit, denim overalls and special evening gowns and OOAK pieces surely will give oomph to our wardrobe, as well as Avant garde and high fashion pieces. Homme clothing, which aren’t as ubiquitous as the girls’, need to be given more attention to as well.

I hope that with this post, you guys can create your own formula of balancing your wardrobe's dolly clothing proportions. I am very much getting a lot from this list myself. Editing this post teaches me everything I needed to know, even as a not-so-novice doll collector.

Okies, gotta go do some groceries for the upcoming week. Drop by and let's have a chit-chat, ayt? BRB....


  1. Wow! I really loved reading this post. So much good advice and wisdom from the doll community. Great pics too. Wonderful job, Shasha. I anxiously await your next post. I hope it covers posing dolls, how to make them stand up, etc. Such a struggle for me at times.

    Thanks again!!


    1. Yey, glad you enjoyed the post, Terri! Yes, the doll photography, which will include doll posing should be coming soon as well! I'm so excited for the next post, too!!!

  2. As usual, great piece. I can't wait to hear about the next topic. Oh and I love the pics that accompanied the article.

    1. THanks so much, Eli... super glad you loved what came out of the interviews =D Yes, choosing the pics was a little challenging but it was so much fun!

  3. A great article and great pictures!
    Thank you again Shasha :-)

    1. Thank you so so much, Guyloup! I always enjoy tips myself and looking at pictures so I pretty much decide the post to my preferences, but I'm so happy you guys love it, too!

  4. It's a big pleasure to read the article and the photos are the icing on the cake.
    I noticed that most of us like casual clothing and that we all agree about the importance of basic pieces. What I have to put on my To do List is to go through my dolly wardrobe and to sort out what is out of date.

    1. Awww, Vana, thank you so so much! Yes, most of us do like casual and basic pieces - all because most of us have a thing for mixing and matching because it's so much fun! Glad to hear you are putting one of those tips into action, love! Good luck in digging your wardrobe, and if you can, please let us know what it's like! To me, it is at first a bit saddening, but eventually, it became freeing ;)

  5. Great advice and pictures of fashionable dollies. My dolly wardrobe is long overdue for a good purge and refreshing, especially now that I've branched out to so many different body types. Perhaps my ladies and gents will get some new clothes and accessories for Christmas.

    1. Thanks so much, Jewell! Yes, we do need some purging every now and then and the holidays will be perfect as we will be gifting our dolls new clothes then! =D


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