Souvenir Dolls



Dolls as Holiday Souvenirs


French can can doll and two souvenir Tyrolean hedgehogsKeepsake doll, Fifi, from Paris and two hedgehogs from Austria in 1961

I don't know about you but when I was a child I collected dolls of all shapes and sizes dressed in the national and regional costumes of places I had visited as well as many brought back by relatives from their own travels.

Many of these dolls were tacky and have long since disintegrated or fallen apart. Others were of better quality and have stood the test of time. Most of these were passed down to my daughter and now to my little granddaughter.

But there's one that I kept for myself.

From the start I called her Fifi. She was treasured because she was brought back from Paris for me when I was about thirteen years old, by our much older (by seven years) lodger who was my first great crush. Fifi has stood the test of time and I will never part with her. The crush was much less enduring!

A keepsake doll might be created in a national costume as a souvenir of a special holiday. 


Dolls as reminders of special occasions

"Souvenir" is a French word which has been adopted into the English language. In French it means "to remember". There is also the Latin "subvenire" which means to occur to the mind.

Dolls have been used as souvenirs in many cultures for centuries.

The Russians have a tradition of Matryoshka - nesting dolls. But apparently these began around 1000AD in China. (More about their history can be seen on a blog at this link.)

I also came across a You Tube video showing a lady who is making dolls in order to preserve the history of nuns and their different habits.

Many visitors to Japan take home a vintage Hina doll as a keepsake of their holiday. These dolls are made of porcelain and, as any other, vary in quality.

Hina dolls are associated with the Hinamatsuri Festival which takes place on 3rd March. This festival is celebrated by little girls until their tenth birthdays. You can find out more about Japanese traditions associated with dolls here.


Dolls as Friends

Back in the 1920s there was a craze for dolls which were known as "Boudoir Dolls". In a way these were the forerunners of today's Barbie dolls. They were owned by wealthier women who often passed the time creating adventures for and stories about the lives of their dolls.

They were known as boudoir dolls because they often lived on a lady's bed by day. Their clothes were the height of fashion. Unlike Barbie these dolls were often some 32ins (80cm) tall and rarely shorter than 14ins.

Today such dolls in good condition are very collectible and sell for high prices. You can read more about them here.


Why dolls fascinate humans

Dolls undoubtedly hold a fascination for humans. This is no surprise because they represent controllable versions of ourselves. We usually begin as small children mimicking the behaviour of our mothers towards us.

As we grow older we use the doll more as a proxy by allowing it to live in ways which aren't possible in our real lives. The success of dolls such as Barbie are testament to this.

Dolls have been used by child psychologists to allow a child to act out, in miniature, events which cannot be spoken about for one reason or another.

When I create a doll I am always surprised how they become so much more than fabric shapes filled with polyester fibre. As they acquire facial features and hair, etc. they seem to develop personalities of their own.

A keepsake doll might also be created to remember a beloved relative, such as a grandmother, as I did with one of my prototype dolls.




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