Friday, 20 December 2013


Or, bespoke is best.

Crissy, 2014, in her original dress from Ideal.
Thirty-eight years ago I was given a doll for Christmas.  She arrived boxed, wearing a gaudy ankle-length pink gingham dress, with a broderie-anglaise collar and cheap white plastic shoes.  Her eyes opened and closed and what set her apart in the doll market at the time was that she had the ability to lengthen and shorten her hair (there was a knob on her back that twirled to adjust the hair length and a belly button ‘button’ to unlock or lock the chosen length in place).  The box said she was called ‘Crissy’ and, as an obedient 5 year old, this name seemed as set in stone as my own name, and I have called her ‘Crissy’ ever since.
Thousands of children across the world will remember their own, or their friend’s or sister’s ‘Crissy’.  You might well have had your very own ‘Crissy’.  What set my ‘Crissy’ apart from all others was her bespoke wardrobe, her very own couture, stitched by my Russian Grandmother.  Crissy had an entire wardrobe of fabulous and sophisticated clothing; one suited to cocktails, nights at the theatre and formal luncheons.  Some of the outfits still remain intact today, (not all) and I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my Grandma Helena’s creations. 

Grandma used to help me dress Crissy, explaining how a stole ought to be placed (lost now, unfortunately) and whether Crissy’s hair would be better suited in an up do or down…  There were rules of what ‘went’ with what… a sense of proportion to understand.  I’m definite that these rudimentary lessons on style permeated deeply into my eye for design as it is now.  Unpacking Crissy’s clothes, I could hear my Grandma’s voice telling me about the parties she attended, ‘so much music’, ‘so much dancing’, ‘so much romance’…  She told me that sometimes she would be still stitching the finishing touches to her gown an hour before that evening's dance would begin…

Crissy’s wardrobe was made up of scraps of material from Grandma’s stash of fabrics, she was brilliant at making something fabulous from near to nothing, I thought she was incredibly clever then, and on reflection, and seeing her creativity through the clothes she has made, even more so now. 

Sylvie plays with my Crissy doll now, Crissy is often invited to share tea with Sylvie’s other toys, but her days of glamorous premieres, sumptuous parties and balls far are behind her.  Her wardrobe remains, a symbol of an era past and a tangible way for me to remember my Grandma.

Christmas 1975, South Australia.  Look in the foreground and you will see Crissy on the floor near my brother, my Grandma is on the RHS, that's me with the blonde bun unwrapping something with my Mum.
Full sleeved evening gown in light magenta silk.

Detail of collar.

Magenta silk evening gown.

Detail of hand stitched rolled hem.

Straight woollen plaid skirt with yellow cotton dolman sleeve shirt, buttons at back neck.

Ready for an evening out to dinner.
Front of silky cocktail dress, missing a waist band detail.

Back of burnt orange silky cocktail dress, note the detail to cover the knob at the back.

Showing Crissy's full length of hair.

Wish I had the belt that must have attached with the press-studs that remain...

You can see her pretty shoulder blades in this dress.

Wearing a cape against the elements.
As a child, one of my favourite outfits. A skirt and shirt ensemble.  Gosh I loved the bow at the neck!
My absolute all time favourite gown for Crissy, then, and NOW!

The pink flower (tattered now) is the original from the 70's.

The fan back detail that I adored, the height of glamour I thought at five years of age.  The dress demands that the hair be worn up, of course.

This wikipedia article is an excellent and concise summary of the various Crissy dolls created by Ideal. If you had a Crissy, click here to find out which version you owned!

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