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Nostalgia for Paper Dolls

Updated on July 13, 2015

Old-Fashioned Childhood Fun - Paper Dolls

Paper dolls can provide hours of imaginative fun. Despite the draw of computers, television and electronic games, there's still a place for the low-tech play of yesteryear.

All one needs are the pre-printed figures and a pair of scissors. The initial fun is cutting out the characters and then creating lives and activities for them. Making varied outfits for them to wear adds a further creative dimension to the play.

If you remember fondly the hours of fun you had with paper dolls, introduce your daughter to the simple pleasures. There are many colorful ones available or you can make your own.

We used to cut out people and furniture from the Sears catalog to play paper dolls with them. Fun and free.

(photo of Shirley Temple booklet courtesy of Amazon)

Paper Dolls Are Popular All Over the World

My friend, Suzanne, in Australia remembers, "My paper dolls came in books of roughly 10 pages, magazine size, 2 or 3 complete outfits to a page and the clothes would press out although you had to be very careful with the tabs. I would play with them all afternoon.

My mother obviously had a supply of these 'cut-out dolls' hidden somewhere for they would miraculously appear on a rainy day or on the odd occasion when I suffered some childish ailment. I kept the dolls with their frocks, hats and shoes in a shoebox and how I wish that I could pick up that box up again now!"

I love these vintage graphics.
I love these vintage graphics. | Source

My Friend, Joan, Shares Her Memories

Joan Adams - "We loved to take a shoebox full of paper dolls and clothes out on the screened porch. We played with them for hours and hours. We also cut out dishes and silverware from magazines to pretend to cook. I can remember cutting out pictures of furniture too!

We usually got new paper dolls and new crayons on our birthdays and Christmas time!"

My Experiences with Paper Dolls

My Own Creation

Here's one that I designed years ago - I had fun looking at fashion magazines and drawing outfits for the character. In my imagination, she was a trendy career girl working in the city.
Here's one that I designed years ago - I had fun looking at fashion magazines and drawing outfits for the character. In my imagination, she was a trendy career girl working in the city. | Source

Making Paper Dolls with a Child

Paper Dolls

Can Be

Educational

Ones with Victorian Fashion

Great Fashion Designs of the Victorian Era Paper Dolls in Full Color (Dover Victorian Paper Dolls)
Great Fashion Designs of the Victorian Era Paper Dolls in Full Color (Dover Victorian Paper Dolls)

These outfits are so elegant and a child will love acting out scenes from television or movies they've seen. At the same time, they are learning about the styles of that era.

 

Children Can Learn History to Go with Paper Dolls Like These

Medieval Costumes Paper Dolls (Dover Paper Dolls)
Medieval Costumes Paper Dolls (Dover Paper Dolls)

Medieval costumes really expand the imagination and provide hours of fun.

 

Learn about Countries from Paper Dolls

You'll find Chinese, Mexican and African paper dolls plus more nationalities on Amazon. There are many more of this series of paper dolls, so click on it to see the other choices.

Chinese Girl and Boy Paper Dolls (Boys & Girls from Around the Globe)
Chinese Girl and Boy Paper Dolls (Boys & Girls from Around the Globe)

This series shows historical costumes for each country. This one features Chinese children in traditional garb.

 

Memories of Paper Dolls from Lois, Lee and Nancy

Lois Paugh Osteen - "I still have them from my childhood. Some pages of the clothes had not been cut out, my sister and I would play for hours with them.

We would cut pictures from magazines so we could have a big party or a nice house. Our paper dolls were our babies, just like our dolls, love the memories."

Lee Hansen Hoch - "I had a huge box of paper dolls. I distinctly remember the Patty Page and Betsy McCall paper dolls plus I drew my own and made clothes for them."

Nancy Julien Kopp - "My cousin and I spent hours playing paper dolls. Loved getting new ones, especially of the movie stars. We cut out all the clothes and then made up glorious stories for those paper dolls to act out."

Book Related Paper Dolls

These make a great gift by combining a set of the books with the paper dolls. The child will want to read the stories over and over and can act out the books with the figures.

I Asked My Friends if They Used to Play with Paper Dolls

Joan - "We loved paper dolls and played for hours and hours!"

Kat - I loved paper dolls and would color the outfits and cut them out. Dressing up the dolls was fun, I don't remember playing with them the same way as a baby doll.

victorianpassage - "Yes I loved paper dolls as well. I did the same as you and made my own when I was young. I even made a page here telling how as an young teen I made my own paper dolls.

Nice to know others drew their paper dolls too."

printabledolls - "I love paperdolls and I collect paperdolls! and I love to read articles and news on this fantastic world."

Frischy - "My sister and I loved paper dolls too. Our dolls had amazing adventures."

KAngelArt - "I was a Barbie doll fan, but nothing could beat taking a paper doll and tracing over it to make my very own fashions! Very easy and very fun! I even made my very own paper doll for a school assignment in 7th grade!"

Little House Paper Dolls

My Book of Little House Paper Dolls: The Big Woods Collection
My Book of Little House Paper Dolls: The Big Woods Collection

Children love the Little House on the Prairie television series. Extend the fun by getting paper dolls. Instead of passively watching TV, a child with these can act out the scenes and even invent their own pioneer stories.

Using their imagination while playing is important for children.

 

1930s & 1940s Memories from My Aunt

Cj Garriott - "Playing paper dolls was a winter day activity on the Kansas prairie in the 1930s and 1940s. I cut pictures from a clothing catalog, finding first the "dolls" I liked, usually making a family (mother, father, myself and sisters) then adding a couple of playmates. Aunt, uncles, and cousins often got represented also. Usually I could find a dog and a cat or two in a magazine to cut out and add to my imaginary world.

I would then look for outfits that would fit over my dolls. Sometimes the doll I liked had clothing that needed to be trimmed down, in order for other outfits to fit over satisfactorily. Mother showed me how to make tabs on the shoulders of clothing, so they would stay on the doll.

I kept them in pages of books (which we always had a lot of), keeping them unwrinkled. Daddy would round up heavy paper envelopes that had come in the mail on which we would paste my dolls."

"After I was married, I saved the Betsy McCall paper doll pages for nieces."

Paper Dolls of Famous People

Shirley Temple Paper Doll Book
Shirley Temple Paper Doll Book

Everyone loves Shirley Temple. Her movies keep her memory alive and new generations fall in love with this adorable little girl.

 

When I was little, my grandmother gave me a set of Shirly Temple paperdolls to play with in the car on the long road-trip home. After that, I was hooked on paperdolls, and my parents bought my sister and me all the disney and barbie paperdolls. I had so much fun with them! We played with them unil they simply fell apart. I think I still have the pieces put away somewhere, where I couldn't make myself throw them away.

— KAngelArt

Handing Down Paper Dolls from Generation to Generation

Marsha Cooper - "I don't really remember having paper dolls myself, but I remember my mom's that she had kept. A lot of them came in the McCall's magazine and my grandma cut them out. I remember how excited I was to find books of paper dolls for my own daughters. They played with them for hours at a time with their friends. They each had theirs stored in manilla envelopes. We found one of those envelopes in a box not long ago. Now my granddaughters are having fun playing with them. It does my heart good to watch them enjoying the "simple' things over worrying about getting on the game system or a phone to play games."

William and Kate Paper Dolls: To Commemorate the Marriage of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton, 29th April 2011 (Dover Royal Paper Dolls)
William and Kate Paper Dolls: To Commemorate the Marriage of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton, 29th April 2011 (Dover Royal Paper Dolls)

Royalty always appeal. Earlier generations had paper dolls of Princess Elizabeth and later, Princess Diana. Here's the latest royals and what a wardrobe they have!

 

Remember Ones of President Kennedy and His Family?

Jeanine Clarice Gentis - "I used to cut the ones out of McCall's Magazine as well of paper doll books my mother bought me. I even had the President Kennedy and First Family paper dolls."

Beverly Owens - "Oh I loved paper dolls! There wasn't much money to buy the ones in the store so, I would cut out the Betsy McCall ones from the magazine. Grandma would also let us cut up old Sears catalogs for paper dolls."

Pat Thompson - "I know I had a lot of paper dolls. I perfected my scissor skills cutting them out. I don't remember using catalogs or McCall's. The only ones I do remember are the Sleeping Beauty dolls."

Barbara Crafts - "I cut Betsy McCall out each month for my daughter, gluing the doll to stiff cardboad. Oh, how I love paper dolls."

Would You Give Paper Dolls to a Boy?

Vote in the Poll

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Melissa & Doug Joey Magnetic Wooden Dress-Up Pretend Play Set (25+ pcs)
Melissa & Doug Joey Magnetic Wooden Dress-Up Pretend Play Set (25+ pcs)

See how the manufacturer cleverly disguises this as a magnetic toy (so they don't have to call it a paper doll). Fun for boys.

 

My mom bought paper doll books for us for our birthdays for a long time. We would design, color, and cut out extra outfits and hats and shoes and wigs for our paper dolls, making sure to include carefully placed tabs to fold under.

— Joan Haines
Source

Did You Play with Paper Dolls - when you were a kid?

Vote in the poll

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Nancy Carol Shares Her Memories

Nancy Carol Brown Hardin - "Not only did I play with paper dolls, but I also created them. By that I mean, I drew the paper dolls on cardboard and cut them out. I always gave them beautiful features, and lots of hair. Then, laying the doll on paper, I would trace around her body, including her arms for a long sleeve outfit, or stopping on the upper arm for a short sleeve. If I wanted a form fitting dress (we used to call them "tight skirts,") I'd trace the entire form ending below the knee. After removing the doll from the dress tracing, I'd fill in neckline, hemline, sleeve endings.

Then the fun really began, when I decorated the dress with lots of colors. I used to look at newspaper ads to see how the women looked and what they wore, as my inspiration. I'd cut them out, remembering to leave the tab for the shoulders so the dress would stay on. If it was a tight skirt, I usually put tabs at the hips too, to keep the skirt in place.

This little hobby went on for several years, because my niece, five years younger than I, loved my paper dolls, so even when I stopped playing with them, I made them for her. Now I wish I'd kept some of them, but sadly, I did not."

My Sister Shares Her Memories

Karen Kolavalli - "The paper dolls we had most often were families cut out of catalogs. I remember we would create houses for them by placing books together--each book cover was a separate room and bigger rooms could be created with books that had the same color covers.

I loved Betsy McCall paper dolls from McCall's magazine and thought Grandma McGhee was very unreasonable when she wouldn't let us cut them out if she hadn't finished the story on the other side.

And one special Christmas with all the Martin cousins, my gift was Lennon Sisters paper dolls that came in a cardboard and tin carrying container. I found quite a few for sale online. Apparently they came out in 1960. I found some on eBay that sold for $31!

Also, I have a vintage sheet of Betsy McCall paper dolls that I have framed. I've heard that our generation is buying back our childhoods.

Ooh, forgot the paper dolls from the Sugar and Spike comic books! When we'd go with Mom to the grocery store, sometimes we each got to pick out one dime comic book and I always picked Sugar and Spike."

Collectors Love Vintage Paper Dolls

Collecting Vintage Paper Dolls

Paper Dolls of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s: Identification & Value Guide
Paper Dolls of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s: Identification & Value Guide

If you saved your paper dolls from the early years of your childhood, you might wonder if they are valuable after all this time.

Take a look in this book to see what collectors are paying for vintage paper dolls.

 

A Vintage Paper Doll from My Collection

Isn't this combination paper doll and valentine a cutie! The doll and the army nurse outfit are perforated for easy punching out. I'm guessing this could be WWII, but don't have verification for that.
Isn't this combination paper doll and valentine a cutie! The doll and the army nurse outfit are perforated for easy punching out. I'm guessing this could be WWII, but don't have verification for that. | Source

Tell Us Your Memories of Paper Dolls

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    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 2 years ago

      My mother was a big fan of paper dolls when she was small and shared that love with us when we were growing up. They don't seem as popular these days.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 2 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      This is a fun trip back through my childhood. Your page is beautiful and I loved reading everyone's memories about playing paper dolls.

    • profile image

      poutine 6 years ago

      This lens is bringing back a lot of fun memories from my childhood.

      I loved playing with paper dolls then, too bad I never had the Shirley Temple's ones.

    • piedromolinero profile image

      piedromolinero 7 years ago

      Yes, I remember these paper dolls form my childhood. My younger sister had some but I never could understand the fun playing with them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      My sister and I loved paper dolls.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Oh my word yes, I loved my cut-out dolls. I'll never forget them and the happy times I had playing with my paper dolls. (I suppose the ones I had are now 'vintage' paper dolls) Blessed by an angel today

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      Your paper dolls you designed are great! You are a talented artist. Thanks for this lens - I really like it!

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 7 years ago

      Yes, I loved paper dolls and all their beautiful clothing. You have a wonderful collection of paper dolls here.