Paper Dolls of the American Revolution

Friends, I have a new obsession.

I have posted before (though you probably already knew, at least if you grew up an American girl) about the awesomeness of Dover paper doll and sticker books.

The other day I was in downtown Grass Valley at my favorite place- Booktown Books. Where I found a fan-freaking-tastic vintage paper doll book from the late 60s (blog coming soon) as well as this one...

I'd like to think that if it weren't for the fact that I have an almost-four-year-old daughter I wouldn't be buying, playing with, meticulously making folders for, and generally getting myself lost in the world of paper dolls. But such things are not for me to know.

Meet ( from left to right) Ruth, Thomas, Sarah, Benjamin, their parents Prudence and John, and their grandparents Hannah and Samuel.

Lest you think this is all just silly girly frippery and a way for me to avoid housework, I assure you, it's educational!

In this book the family's clothing is divided into four categories based on time period and economic status, with each outfit thoroughly described and placed in the context of what the typical American's life was like at this time. It is obvious that a lot of research went into its making. I have chosen one page from each category to show you just how much Mycelia and I are learning about the sartorial experiences of our pioneering ancestors (and to indulge your love of very vintage fashion):

In traditional working class garb we see that "Prudence is dressed as a farmer's wife in an outfit showing German influence. Her bodice is attached to the corset and decorate with ribbon; elbow-length sleeves have shaped cuffs. Her gauze apron is for "dress up" and is held on by a cloth belt. Her red turned up shoes are highly prized by rural folk. John work clothes are of homespun cloth in dark colors; the shirt has a dropped shoulder, popular well into the 19th century; there is probably a ruffle at the cuff which is won folded inside for everyday wear. He wears a flat felt hat and carries a powder horn and a shoulder patch containing shells."

For a middle class family during the revolution (description is for the outfits on the left page)... "During the Revolution, Samuel calls upon his experiences as a young sailor to become a privateer for the new Continental Navy. Although there are no official Navy uniforms, privateer officers dress in the formal uniforms of military officers. Hannah is wearing a linen dress with a divided skirt; the front opening is bordered along each side with crewel-embroidered panels. The bodice is laced over the chemise in a zig-zag pattern. The sleeves of the bodice are quite short, revealing fitted chemise sleeves. The petticoat is quilted and decorated with crewel embroidery; quilted petticoats are popular because of the lack of central heating in homes."

For an upper middle class family toward the end of the revolution (description is for the outfits on the left page)... "Prudence wears a dress of imported silk. The bodice is worn over a matching corset and and joins at the center front with concealed hooks; the elbow-length sleeves have a ruffle that is worn turned back. Her hair is "creped" and powdered (to crepe, the hair was tightly curled with an iron, then teased out until it stood quite high); the back of her hair is worn in large spiral curls. She wears a small cap, or fontage, of ecru and white lace. John's formal suit is of blue satin with silver trim buttons; the waistcoat is of pale blue silk taffeta with elaborate ribbon and silver embroidered trim. His shoes have a modified tongue treatment, but he wears the ubiquitous silver buckles that are a status symbol."

And finally, this is after the war when John and Prudence and the kids decided to move West (again, description is just for the left page) ..."Sarah wears a simple dress with fitted sleeves, and a pinafore with a lrage pocket for carrying herbs and berries she might pick as she walks. Her stole is a keepsake quilt she made from scraps of material given to her by her friends and relations from home. Benjamin wears his farmer outfit with the addition of full length Indian leggings and moccasins. The younger children are dressed in simple homespun attire. Ruth carries a precious scarf given to her by her grandmother. Thomas carries a small bow and arrow."

You can check out other great Dover paper doll books here and more in their American Family line here.

But whatever you do, don't do what I just did and start searching for paper doll books (vintage and/or handmade) on Etsy, or you'll get your blog posted much later than you'd planned!