Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Boudoir Doll of my Dreams! (....Nightmares?)

Good morning!

I told you guys yesterday that I had something else I picked up at the Phoenix Flea Market...are you sure you're ready for this? BEHOLD:

Beware the stare that will conquer the will of the world!

After I found the red tea dress on Saturday, I walked into the main building of Phoenix, where the desk is, and directly across from it, hanging in front of the locked cases by a bonnet string and wrecked as could be, was this 1930's boudoir doll. Standing, no less! Might I add that standing, this doll is even more striking.

Now, in my many antique trawls through Etsy and Ebay, especially when searching "Marlene Dietrich" or "Mae Murray" or any other similarly femme fatale screen names of the twenties' and thirties', a lot of times these dolls will pop up tagged with those women's names, as their faces bear more than passing resemblance to the smoldering beauties of the time. The dolls are meant to be the finishing touch to a neatly made bed in a pretty, 1930's bedroom... imagine like a throw pillow, but more glamorous. I've seen dozens of them over the years online, all in mint vintage condition, all with three figure price tags...but never in real life.


The doll, in spite of retaining her good looks, has lost a lot of her lustre due to the elements. Was she kept in a barn? An old shut-up house? An attic with a window? The sun damage to her clothes and body are extreme-- top set of false eyelashes have fallen out, the enamel on her face and hands has both crazing and outright cracks, and a dress that was Alice Blue at one time is now a faded oatmeal color, with the lace in her bonnet and trimmings falling off in pieces. In spite of it all, there's something actually extra beautiful about her distressed condition that reminds me of a Jan ┼ávankmajer piece. 

In summation: THIS DOLL IS SO HELENA BONHAM CARTER, PEOPLE. I was smitten, smitten, smitten at first sight.


The woman at the front desk of the Phoenix called out to me, "She sure was beautiful at one time, huh?" And I was holding the doll in my hands, turning her over to see if the stuffing was coming out or if most of the damage was just fading. "I bet she was!" I murmured back, looking at the smoky eyeshadow and kohl-lined eyes of the figure. A notecard had been pinned to her skirt with the legend "30's fashion doll, $42." Keep in mind, I do not spend more than $20 on anything, EVER-- furniture, college tuition, booze, whatever-- without second guessing myself over and over again as to the sense of spending so great a sum of money. I sure wasn't about to spend $42 on a doll, however charmingly wrecked it was. But I also knew that I would not find another one like this in any condition for under fifty bucks, in Tennessee, in the year of our Lord 2013.

This is where Matthew comes in as an enabler. "Babu, you should get that. You've already come back to look at it like twice since we've been here." At the same time as the man feared bringing so obvious a piece of voodoo into our house, he knows me well enough to tell when price alone, and not virtue of the item itself, is holding me back from making a purchase.

How I feel about this doll (intrigued!); how Matthew feels about this doll ("Its eyes pierce my soooooul!").
As I came back to examine it, woefully, a third time, the same woman at the counter hollered to the woman who owned the booth, sitting on a folding chair near the checkout, "Make this girl a deal on this baby doll! She wants it so bad!" I did! I did want it so bad! And, magically enough, SHE did-- make me a deal, that is. "She says she'd take thirty!" the woman relayed to me. For thirty bucks, I silenced the nagging voices of doubt and pulled the trigger on this crazy thing. AND the red dress. No away-from-home dinners this week, and I think my checkbook and I will be on speaking terms again. Jubilation, though! What neat stuff!

While it's by far one of the least "good" deals I've made on something, I was beaming for the rest of the afternoon. And, as Matthew pointed out, this doll sits squarely on the interstices between several things I like-- creepy, but glamorous, but antique, but unusual, etc, etc. And oh, that cap! Those bee-stung lips! Those heavily made up eyes! I have her on the top of my chifferobe in my bedroom now, and I'm telling you, four days later she is no less creepy or wonderful as she was on day one.


Interested in your own boudoir doll? The prices are high, but here are some of the neater ones I saw on Etsy this morning:
Boudoir Doll Sterling Co.Rare Beauty


Vintage boudoir doll, tattered elegance, beautiful face
Sterling Co Boudoir Doll Dressed in White Satin 
Collectible Antique Sterling Co.Boudoir Doll Angelina

What do you think? Could you bear to have such a thing in your home? I'm remembering shades of people's reactions to the-Charlie-McCarthy-doll-that-got-away I posted a few months ago, and thinking that human-like creepy dolls from the early twentieth-century might not be for everyone, but they sure are for ME! Do you like the well maintained ones or the slightly-broken-down versions better? Any creepy dolls lurking around your childhood bedroom when you were little? Do tell!

That's all for today...I'll see you guys back here tomorrow (provided the evil spirits I've obviously invited into my home don't carry me awaaaay.....)!

PS: Check out this great article on 1920's boudoir dolls made to look like your favorite silent movie stars! They had me at "a flapper favorite". WANT. SO. BAD.

16 comments:

  1. Your doll is gorgeous; those eyelashes, wow!! And oooh, I have almost the exact same story-- I'm a diehard cheapskate, but a tattered, objectively creepy boudoir doll captured MY heart at an antique shop, and I think I paid around $35 for her (big money!). This is mine; she has a similar dress/bonnet deal going on like your lovely lady: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1tX-AnQunq0/T0MUAVy4PNI/AAAAAAAABow/fP0inGOnIV4/s1600/nightwear6.JPG. She definitely does give visitors a jolt, but I think they're SO glamorous and endearingly spooky, and the prices online are absolutely crazy. Definitely a justifiable purchase ;)

    Now, how do you know her dress used to be blue?? I'm wondering if my white-gowned doll could've had another color scheme once upon a time!

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    1. AAAAH! I love your doll! I'm also glad I'm not the only person who finds their combination of tattered-ness and glamour irresistable, even at a more-than-$20 price tag! :)

      The weirdest part about my doll is that the part of her skirt that she would have been sitting on, if she was on a shelf, for example, is still perfectly pale blue, from waist to hem, which is the only way I could tell that the whole dress had ever been a color other than faded, yellowed white. I guess she was sitting on a shelf somewhere for many years, but it just boggles my mind to think about *where*, in that she would have had to been exposed to both light and heat for a long time to have the kind of wear she does. Mysteries never cease!

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  2. She's beautiful!! I ADORE Boudoir Dolls! The best one I've ever seen was, I think, on Ebay a couple of years ago. All dressed in black...blouse, capris, and heels...pencil thin brows, downward painted eyes, the most eccentrically curly red hair, AND a cigarette dangling from her mouth! She looked like a cabaret singer secretly working for the French Resistance. God I wish I'd snatched her up! Nice find! I love decayed beauty! She's achingly lovely!

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    1. Oh man, the one you described sounds like a doozy of a doll. Did you see that link I put at the bottom of this post? Silent movie star dolls! That's the only way I think this one could be better, if it was specifically made to look like Bebe Daniels or Nazimova.

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  3. i don't have any tattered dolls, but i have a whole pile of tattered old stuffed animals on one of the built in bookshelves in our bedroom. i think your new lady is pretty, even in her tattered state.

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    1. Thanks! I really do think the disrepair adds charm to her. And I love that you take in all those poor lost little lambs of childhood past, they're cuter for having been loved so hard that their stuffing or eyebrows or noses have fallen out.

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  4. Oh, how fun! I know how it is...sometimes you just find that one totally unnecessary, extremely weird and yet completely impossible-to-pass-up thing. Good job Matthew for enabling!

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    1. Haha, my guy's a keeper! He could tell I really wanted the dang thing. And now I'm glad I got it!

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  5. This is amazing! I'm just entranced by her eyes and eyelashes... And I love your story of obtaining it, especially the "make this girl a deal on the baby doll" moment.

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    1. I was way too shy to try and haggle at a bricks-and-mortar store, even if it has "flea market" in the business's name, so I can't tell you how relieved I was when that woman did the dickering for me! It worked out beautifully!

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  6. YIKES! I may side with Matthew, but less from the unflinching gaze and more for the tiny hands! I'm glad you showed a picture of you with it for scale reasons- that thing is huge. Glad that you left with no regrets!

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    1. Haha, I hadn't even thought about how without scale, you would think the doll is normal sized...no, definitely part of the draw was how ENORMOUS the thing was. She has tiny feet in boots, too, which I spared you because *I* thought the picture was too creepy (which is saying something).

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  7. I love it! I am sometimes inexplicably drawn to weird dolls, but I just can't be that guy. Seriously, who is creepier, the doll or the thirty-something guy who collects dolls???? Hahahahaha!!!!

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    1. I love that your non-doll collecting is a lifestyle choice... "I love them, but I can't be that guy" just cracked me UP. Shine on, you crazy diamond!

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  8. Those photos of you and Matthew are KILLING ME. I think you did the right thing on getting her. I also think you did the right thing on letting Charlie McCarthy go. : )

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  9. I've never seen one in person, but I always associate boudoir dolls with those old naughty French postcards. Evidently I desperately need to become a 20s film star so I can have a boudoir doll produced in my likeness. Love the Mistinguett one! And Nazimova! And Valentino! :-)

    Congrats on your find! Sorry Matthew has to live in the tub. It's the price to pay for the love of antiques...

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