The New Paper Dolls: Fine Art & High Fashion

The New Paper Dolls: Fine Art & High Fashion

Tess Wilson
Jun 13, 2011

When we were little, my cousin Amy and I would play with paper dolls for hours, patiently attaching clothes with those teeny paper tabs, trying not to tear the battered dolls we'd inherited from our aunts, and seeing who could come up with the best outfits. (Yes, we figured out a way to "win" paper dolls.) Twenty-five years later I saw an exhibit at Rare Device featuring exquisite paper dolls- it's nice when your favorite things return to you...

In the intervening years, I was only vaguely aware that paper dolls still existed. Every once in a while, I'd see those paper doll books — Amy loves Marilyn Monroe so I sent the Marilyn paper doll book to her little daughter- but there wasn't anything new. Then I saw Amy Earle's Wool & Water show at Rare Device a couple of years ago, and was amazed at the beautiful things she was doing with paper dolls. They were charming, and painstakingly crafted, and just a bit creepy (as all paper dolls should be), and even better, they were affordable. You could buy her original hand-painted creations- almost like little dioramas- or buy the printed paper doll cards and create your own scenes. Whether you had hundreds of dollars or $12, you could take home some fun. The first five images above are all Amy Earle's work: The Black Forest Picnic, Little Maple, and Nurse, I Need You. As much as I love the look of the completed dolls with their little brads, I'd be tempted to keep the print intact. The Nurse set would look excellent on the wall above the Best Made First-Aid Kit, for example.

  • Darling Emily of The Black Apple is the perfect person to create paper dolls. She is so stylish, and her creations are so pretty and sweet with just the perfect hint of darkness. You can buy her paper doll sets, or her, as she calls it, "paper doll epic".
  • The Margot Tenenbaum paper doll from Claudia Varosio is pretty cute, but is not intended to be cut and dressed.
  • Finally, when I was looking up those old Marilyn Monroe paper dolls, I was amazed to realize that Dover is still creating new sets, including this spectacular Alexander McQueen book. Now, those are some pages I would like to frame on my wall (with an extra set for playing, of course).

Images: 1-5 Wool & Water, 6&7 The Black Apple, 8 Claudia Vorasio, 9&10 Dover Publications

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