Our Sindy Museum

Sindy the doll we love to dress

Behind the Scenes with Teenage Fashion Dolls and their Clothes - some Observations and Reminiscences by BillyBoy* 

My Dad was a rather well-known business man, though he is also known for being an eccentric cowboy. He and his brother had a number of important vehicle and shipping businesses in the United States and Europe. They had many clients for their shipping trucks and amongst them were Bosco chocolate syrup, Topps the baseball card and candy company and many toy companies including Ideal Toy Company. I can tell you that the only thing that I remember with delight about that time with my dad was when I’d get to visit these factories. At Bosco I'd get to see all the flavoured sodas and syrups and I’d be given crates of my favourite flavors, and at Topps I'd get the latest cards, which over the years included Mars Attacks (now in the Maison d’Ailleurs museum in Switzerland), The Monkees, The Beatles, Bewitched, The Rifleman, and much later when I was a teenager and had already left home Tron and Saturday Night Fever.

The best experience with my Dad though was going to see the toy companies, like the Goldberger Doll Company, where there were toys and dolls in every corner. What I remember was that not only were there toys that I recognized from those mid 1960s years but toys from many years earlier which seemed tempting and unusual to my eyes. Some were so old, they were covered with dust and I think this stuck in my mind as a pleasure, since it was when I was with my Dad and not unhappy. When I became a collector and found such toys in junk shops, also covered with dust, I felt a strange sense of familiarity and pleasure, calmness and fulfillment.

Ideal Toy Company which was situated in Brooklyn at some point (and then later in Newark, New Jersey with offices in a place called Hollis which is in Queens, New York) was the best though. In my memory it seems to have been stuck in a time warp. While some of the company I recall was very 1960s looking with all the look of the era, other areas seemed very old with offices which had old wooden desks, water coolers and those heavy desk lamps, a feeling which was something later on in life I’d identify as being very 1940s-looking. Ideal did amazing toys and games such as the Rube Goldberg-esque Mouse Trap (for which there was almost a lawsuit unfortunately between Marvin Glass and Associates who designed the game and the famous cartoonist Goldberg), Motorific slotcars, Building Boards, Captain Action an action figure like G.I. Joe, but based on Marvel comics characters, Clancy the Roller Skating Monkey, The Great Escape, Kerplunk, Kindles, Sheri Lewis’s Lamb Chop puppet, Magilla Gorilla, many Walt Disney toys, the fabulous robot toys called Zeroids, iconic Magic 8-ball, Maniac, tons of different model cars, Monkey Stix, the ever classic Mr Machine, Batman Playset, Bop the Beetle, Be a King or Queen outfits, Buck-a-roo!, endless Flintstones toys, Frontier Logs, Gaylord the Walking Bassett Hound, Gunfight at OK Corral Playset, Hands Down, Howdy Doody doll and the original Teddy Bear.

There dolls were legion; the iconic Betsy Wetsy doll, Bonnie Braids doll, Bibsy, Crissy and family dolls, the Deanna Durbin doll, Flatsy dolls, folksinger Harmony doll, Judy Garland dolls in 1939 until 1940 (part of publicity for original theatrical release of The Wizard of Oz), Lolly doll, Magic Lips doll, Patty Play Pal and family dolls, Playtex Dryper Baby, Petite Princess Fantasy Dollhouse Furniture and Princess Patti Fantasy Dollhouse Furniture (which I have kept to this day in their boxes), Sara Ann doll, Saucy Walker doll (an old one which I also kept), Shirley Temple dolls, Snookie dolls (Pete & Repete), Tiny Tears, Tiffany Taylor, Tuesday Taylor and Taylor Jones dolls, Bye Bye Baby, Thirsty Baby, Cream Puff Baby, and the original Mama Doll.

It was a children's heaven, in the factory I remember a complex set of big rooms where there were toys being assembled or boxed, each step was a discovery and each thing was in what seemed like endless examples.

And best of all were the Tammy dolls. Armies of Tammy and her family dolls and clothes were in one place and I was given many of these enchanting dolls which I have also kept until now.

Tiny dresses, coats, hats and accessories like handbags and tennis rackets were in big bins ready to be sewn down into boxes. I still see in my mind a conveyor belt, or maybe just a lot of lined up tables and consigned areas with thousands of identical orange plastic dishes and realistic looking Ritz Crackers, being assembled into the small packages.

One memory stands out in my mind of Ideal Toy Company which was typical of many moments when my father and mother would disagree on what was or was not suitable for me. It was around 1964 or 1965. My father had a business lunch with Mr Abraham Katz and Mr Lionel Weintraub, then both heads of the company.

In those days my mother was quite eccentric in her own right, exceptionally glamorous and a devoted wife to my dad and a mom to me. Her first job of the not too distant past had been as a fashion model (she is 17 in the photo left), and she is an extraordinary character. She even looked like a fashion doll.

There were other wives there and one was a doll clothing designer so naturally she and my mother, probably as bored as I was (and she didn't have the proximity of toys as a potential excitement as I had at this moment) started taking about clothes. I fiddled and squirmed on my chair quiet but restless, the toys and dolls burning a hole in my brain nonetheless.

When it came to leave as the other times I’d been to their facilities I was shown around the toy display areas and offered to choose a toy. How could one decently make a child come to such a place and allow them to leave toy-less? The people who ran Ideal I recall really were generous with me and not only were they good business people and great toy makers but I think the older generation of people there genuinely liked to see the reaction of children to their toys. I have in my memory the feeling it was a very family-oriented business and very old school style of doing things.  I know that as a child I felt like I was in heaven those times I had the privilege to be there. I have a vivid memory of one time when I was shown all the boy toys and Captain Action and his boy sidekick, Action Boy.

Somewhere in the place however, maybe it was when I was following my Dad around, I had spotted in some corner a bunch of older dolls, not newer stock being readied for shipment but old stock which had not been cleared out. Naturally I was oblivious to all and everything except looking at anything that resembled a toy and even more so, a doll. Amongst these toys were some slim dolls in pretty dresses.  Shyly, I stood behind my mother and whispered to her I wanted one of those dolls. My mother laughed. She said to my father “He wants a doll” to which he grimaced and surely flushed with embarrassment even more than when I asked for Tammy dolls because at least with Tammy she had her brother and dad doll which somehow made it more “family” oriented than just a plain out and out gay fashion doll. I would later get Tammy dolls though not this first time. Mr Katz and Mr Weintraub were smiling too, I am sure also out of embarrassment. My father tried his best, in a short period of time, to convince me to take a boy’s toy. To no avail. Abe Katz, then an elderly man, looked at my father (and this is according to my mother’s recollection of the moment) and said, “If the boy wants a doll, let him have a doll. It’s a good way to stimulate the mind, a play doll. Trust me. I insisted in my own way which was to become more and more abjectly sad looking and naturally with Mr Katz’s approbation I was given the doll which I liked because of her dress. It was a green cotton dress with white piqué and beige lace trim and it had a matching jacket and hat along with a necklace and high heeled shoes. She was called Jackie after the First Lady and I loved her. Apparently she was very short-lived and out for a brief moment in 1962. Now she is a rare collector’s item but I still treasure her as being one of those special dolls from my childhood. On the way home my parents argued up front in the car about my choice and I could hardly care as I was already scrutinizing the fashion doll with delight.

Marx Toys was also a client and from that old firm I received Miss Seventeen dolls (old stock) and loads of other toys and dolls. Miss Seventeen also was a very short-lived doll, made under license from Rolf Hausser of Bild Lilli fame. They only came out for about a year in 1961 and by the time I was given some from the old stock rooms of the company they had long disappeared off of the toy shelves of toy stores. Like Barbie and all the others, it was the alluring severity which was so enthralling. I guess by the time it was clearly established I liked dolls and after Mr Katz’s intervention my father just gave in. I know he was deeply displeased by it but he always gave in to my mother’s decisions regarding me. The Marx dolls, like Miss Seventeen who was so sophisticated looking looked like many of the dolls of the time, svelte, glamorous with those impossibly high heels which mesmerized me.

 

 

Much later on I received some of the short-lived and very limited Marx US Sindy doll line but I did not like her as much as the British version. I did not like the colours of the packaging in particular and I really did not like the Liberty print style brown dress with elasticized waist. I still have the things I was given and brood at them at times foolishly. These were amongst the very last dolls I’d receive from them.

 

 

 

 

In the early 1970s, for my birthday my Dad thought it was time I learned about business and after my request to be given a toy company (I think I was joking) he gave me stock in a then rather obscure toy company called Mego Corporation. They had just come out with a now highly sought-after 12-inch action figure of sexy, American football star Joe Namath called Broadway Joe Namath with his iconic manly yet ironic Mod-About Town Wardrobe and their short-lived Maddie Mod doll, a cheap fashion doll who wore wild Pop and Psychedelic clothes. Shortly thereafter and as I took a real interest in this company I got to briefly see the factories in Hong Kong, I was fascinated at how the toys were made and especially packaged.

All these experiences I had as a child and as a young man of course contributed greatly to my work in the profession of doll making both commercially and later as contemporary art. My first really important doll designing work was for the famous Barbie doll by Mattel and later, my very special life work, the Mdvanii doll from whom my mother's exotic Russian good looks were the inspiration. 

Working with Mattel and other toy companies, I got to repeat the experience of seeing factories but with a more refined eye not only of the countries where they once were made such as Japan, but Hong Kong, Malasia and Taiwan. I also had the privilege of seeing companies all over Europe, such as Gégé and Bella in France, (and of course Mattel), Pedigree and Palitoy and the offices of Ceji Arbois and others. Here are a few of the things I learned and observed.

 

1. Fabrics for doll clothes

You will have noticed that many fashion dolls outfits are made from the same fabric and you many have wondered why?

Fabrics were bought on the Hong Kong fabric market and were often traded amongst toy companies of the second level of manufacturing to save money. A second level manufacturer is not directly owned by the toy firm but they instead contracted to do work for them, and these were the sorts of firms that Pedigree would often use. A first level company, for example Mattel, is one who owned their own doll making factories. When a company bought a fabric from the wholesaler, what it did not use went to a kindred company after the usage of the fabric for let’s say for a specific doll outfit used for a couple of years. Nothing was ever wasted. Ever!

With the exception of Mattel, who had fabrics made for them in huge quantities and used every bit of it until it was gone, most companies sold off remaining stocks of fabric which was not completely used up, which is the case with Pedigree and many of the European companies.

 

As you can see from the photos above, a somewhat anonymous doll outfit title called Modern Miss with the unauthorized use of Yardley illustrations (made by Mego Corporation) and their own brand Maddie Mod outfit uses fabric identified with Sindy. These two outfits are circa 1971/72. The jumpsuit is in fact exactly Sindy’s 1971 Lovely Lively paisley jumpsuit with a cheap chain belt instead of the white buckled half-belt and the maxi waistcoat was also used for the bathing suit of the Funtime Sindy 1973-74. Another use of the fabric, also made by Mego for Maxi Mod doll (Lordy, they were Mod back then!) uses the same paisley print for an entirely different outfit called Holiday Cruise (Ref 2412). This outfit in the box also uses a solid yellow fabric which we have seen on a number of Sindy outfits, a thick yellow nylon.Also the same outfit and packaging was made for different markets using different names besides Maxi Mod, in the United States, Maxi Mod was distributed by M. & S. Shillman Inc. of Brooklyn, New York….it’s all so confusing at this point. Who didn’t use this fabric it would seem ? 

 

 

I also have a Vicki sample doll from Pedigree, given to me by an executive at Pedigree which uses a fabric used later for the German toy manufacturer Plasty who did a Maddie Mod-genre fashion doll called Petra as the Vicki was never given an outfit using this fabric.

 

 

 

 

 

Another example is the iconic 1973 Lovely Lively Sindy doll dress fabric in a floral print with a bubblegum pink ground and white paneled box pleat skirt which is known to exist made into a dashing hip-hugger flared pants and midi blouse with flared sleeves ensemble for Action Girl and also as a rather nice clone doll trouser suit (not shown).

With the rather well-made Hong Kong manufactured late-60s and early 1970s fashion doll clones, (most possibly made at the Mego factory) we see they all come with different hair styles and clothes, but with various outfits using recognizable fabrics seen for example on Sindy in the UK, Tanya doll from Italy, Palitoy’s Action Girl and, as shown below, the cotton print for Pippa’s red, white and blue abstract Vondel Park outfit from her Amsterdam Collection. 

The Vondel Park's fabric variations above are an interesting example of outfit variation. Fabric was made in a run and bought in terms of yardage. Each run could be slightly varied, as you can see in Pippa's outfit. Many fabrics are known to exist in extremely intense colours to softer almost pastel shades (but with the exact same fabric tones and alternation of pattern), all made over a short period from different runs with different batches of dye... these are called "dye lots". The Maddie Mod outfit and Funtime Sindy's fabric above is another example of this phenomenon, and there is even an unidentified Hong Kong made Pippa-sized outfit of the fabric (not shown).

Premier Doll Togs Inc. also used this abstract print for one of the better made Crissy by Ideal sized outfits (Number 2037 for Crissy and Number 3021 for Velvet circa 1973/74) as shown left on Kerry and Crissy. So we see that this otherwise unremarkable cotton abstract print was used from amongst the smallest to the largest fashion dolls popular during the era. Becoming iconic by the sheer volume used gaining a popular culture familiarity as we saw the same fabric for many years shared amongst many dollies.

Clonewear is also known as "aftermarket" clothes - as they were created after the original big brand name dolls (like Tammy, Sindy, Crissy etc.) were released for sale. Premier Doll Togs, like most aftermarket companies specifically labeled their clothes with the dolls' names that could wear them on the boxes or packaging with special stick-on labels. They did not name their outfits like Ideal did for Crissy, or Pedigree for Sindy. Actually, none of the US aftermarket companies named their outfits though the secondary market of doll manufacturers who copied brand name doll's outfits often did.

 

There was tremendous profit in look-a-like dolls and what are now known as "clone" reproductions and often these products relied on marketing tricks such as looking similar to the branded teenage dolls and outfits. In the USA, there was Premier Doll Togs (of Brooklyn, New York who were self-proclaimed "Toyland's Glamour Stylists For Dolls"), Totsy (of Holyoke, Massachusetts) and the prolific Shillman Company - all companies which specialized in clonewear clothes and clonewear doll accessories and like the Mego Corporation, mostly made in British Colony of Hong Kong. They were found from coast to coast in "five and dime" stores like Woolworth's and in fact all over the world even in the most remote places. These companies all made packs of things which fit the most popular dolls such as Ginny by Vogue Dolls, Crissy by Ideal Toys, Dawn by Topper Company and naturally Barbie and Tammy. There were Tammy-copy shoes, hosiery, clutch bags, jewellery, cameras, sports gear, and other specific Tammy doll intended items. These all resembled many Sindy items as well of course.

 

 

In the UK firms such as Chad Valley made Babs and Mary Lou (N.B. a complex clonage - Babs was a license from Fab-Lu Ltd in New York which was a deal struck with Marx Toys in the USA who had manufacturing plants and sister companies in Germany, and she was modelled from the original Bild Lilli by Rolf Hausser in Germany who as everyone knows was the inspiration and prototype for Barbie - Mary Lou was Fab-Lu's Randy who was a copy of Tammy - phew!), Faerie Glen made Tina and GiGi, and there were many cheap teenage dollies and clothes sold under the names like Linda, Peggy, Petite, Pretty Miss, Liza Jane, Fashion Teenage Dolls or just Fashion Doll.

 

 

Indeed even some of the large firms got into the act producing both branded dolls and clone versions. For example Palitoy produced Tressy, Action Girl and Pippa in the UK. As Bradgate, the wholesale division of Palitoy, their offerings included Chelsea Girl (sometimes called Chelsea Miss) - a 12 inch fashion doll clone and outfits, and Lulu - a Pippa clone and outfits. We won't even begin to talk about Triki Miki, a Pippa-sized Action Girl who was made by Shillman for US Woolworth's as an exclusive. Her clothes were made from all the rest of all these dollie's leftover fabrics, although I think it was because she was so poseable I guess they called her "Triki" but perhaps also in my imagination because she was really good with a needle and took her mother's (Action Girl?) wartime austerity advice to heart of "make do and mend". Clever and aptly named Triki, her clothes nonetheless were fantastic looking and very fashionable and not a scrap was wasted.

 

The design of one clone dress (see above) is clearly made from the design of the 1973 long-sleeved Fun Fashions dress (S800) for Sindy which later on became the 1974 Sindy dress Spring Date, though was the clone dress made before or after these dresses? On top of all of this, Palitoy's Mary Make-up had a nearly identical dress as well, although with a slightly different and a bit more complex diagonal sleeve inset. Her dress is from 1967. Could it have been the inspiration for the later dresses? As you will see, a re-occurring theme is fabric and design, and it gets very difficult to establish who first made what and when. It seems quite incestuous with all of these exchanges of fabric and designs and these endless cross-over doll outfits.

 

One final example, as you can see with the photo above of the outfit called Chrysanthemum for Palitoy’s Action Girl (also sold as Dollikin in the USA and had the same outfits) the sleeves are made from a commonly used fabric of Mego Corporation, a white industrially-pleated nylon organdy. It has been used on a myriad of other second-rate though occasionally pretty doll outfits over the years between the 1960s and 70s. It was also used for the blouse shown below left which strangely is very well made and was manufactured by Mego. I acquired it at their factory in the 1970s. These somewhat cheap but effective organdy fabrics were very useful so it was also used for Sindy’s early 1970s Belle of the Ball outfit which has been found with a stole made in this white fabric instead of the habitual blue version shown below right.

2. Manufacturing by the Mego Corporation

The Mego Corporation was one of the most successful manufacturers based in Hong Kong. They often bought other firms' leftover stock and it was one of the ways they made their initial success in dime-store toys, they used cast-off moulds, secondary market fabrics and cut costs on everything. Nothing was ever wasted by them in particular.

Apart from their own dolls, the Mego Corporation made many generic dolls outfits and the doll clothes of many other companies such as Pedigree and Palitoy (notably Action Girl and Action Man) as well as even lesser known dolls such as Modern Miss and even the Linda doll company clothes which I have seen used fabrics seen on many European doll company clothes. Linda doll was made in Hong Kong but distributed from Germany, basically they were all clone dolls and their clothes.

I quote the Mego Museum here, "In 1975, Palitoy Bradgate one of Mego's distributors in the UK, began their relationship with Mego through two product lines. While Mego would work with many UK distributors such as Denys Fisher, Marx Toys, Pedigree and Burbank Toys, Palitoy would remain the most memorable for their unique handling of Mego's core product lines..."

This is why you find Mego labels inside Sindy clothes of the very early 1970s. The 70s were a difficult period in Britain and cutting costs for Sindy was essential to the survival of Pedigree. Though the clothes were imaginative and still quite good quality, you do see a slight dip in that quality. Unfinished edges, cheaper fabrics and less accessories besides the most basic, all calculated to save cost. Gone were the days of birthday present dollies for Patch wrapped up in a gay package, Paul's thermos, and tiny well-moulded toiletries for Sindy.

After Mego dropped their own Maddie Mod doll, they continued to produce teenage fashion doll clothing. Post 1973 production continued on the original outfits designed for Maddie Mod. Some continued to be packaged as Maddie Mod clothing, however others were subsequently picked-up by other companies and were switched to their own branded dolls, including Sindy. This is why you find Maddie Mod outfits such as Pantastic, Sweet Dreams and Love Story are more readily recognised by Sindy collectors as Red Flares, Negligee and Casual Day.

    

3. Uniformity in packaged outfits

All doll outfits I have seen being manufactured have a very clearly defined positioning in the packaging and very distinct accessories and clothing elements. Sometimes you can actually see the guide lines indicated in the printed background cardboard.

However, it was a very common practice that at the end of a run, if some piece of clothing or accessories were missing either they are replaced with something similar or a new batch was quickly made up to respect delivery dates to retailers, usually something similar but not identical.

As for dolls shoes, when one type of shoe ran out then another was substituted and it was of absolutely no consequence to the manufacturer. It was a business and not an art and the goal was respecting prices and schedules. Often a cheaper item was more desirable since that would mean a slightly bigger profit on the end sales when a run was finished. Every penny saved would add considerably to the profit margin when dealing with the large quantities manufactured.

Companies also traded accessories and also some items, like shoes were copied, pirated and sold on the sly to smaller companies which sold to non-rival regions. So when Sindy had her red kitten heels in Europe, in Asia little girls may have these very same shoes in a cheap package for a cheap copy or maybe just cheaper copies of the shoes. It all was very subjective and based on individual circumstances and a minor executive’s or a factory chief’s hasty decisions.

The French Gégé company (who was the equivalent in size and fame as Pedigree), made the Mily fashion doll (and many other iconic French dolls) which coincided with Lines Brothers own distribution of Sindy in France. Sindy was distributed as early as 1963 and although not as famous as Mily became moderately successful and remained so until the mid-1980s. However, Mily was the more successful rival doll to Sindy, naturally as she was so completely French with all of her clothes, implied personality and lifestyle. But it seems there was some sort of link between Gégé and Lines Brothers however because both fashion dolls, though one was so distinctly French and the other was so completely British, shared at times identical clothes and accessories. Most collectors are not aware of this but interestingly the Sindy dolls and clothes with the French-language packaging have a most unusual mixing and matching of her usual wardrobe pieces and accessories sometimes quite different from the British equivalents. Yet, we can find that Mily had the same oversized plastic guitar as Paul from Group Gear for her Yéyé outfit (her’s was yellow, Paul’s was green). "Yéyé" is the equivalent to the expression "Mod" in France by the way. And whilst Jacky, Mily’s sultry and rather virile Latin lover had cigarettes (Gitanes) and whisky as accessories in his clothing sets which British Paul would never have had, they did share the same sunglasses as Sindy. These are just a few of the polygamous accessories and clothes which lay between Sindy & Paul and Mily & Jacky. Oh ! la ! la !

When companies went bankrupt, the unsold doll clothing stock was sold off, sometimes by forced liquidation sales, sometimes by the company itself, to a much smaller firm and quickly re-packaged. A great example being Topper’s famous Dawn doll who, after the company’s bankruptcy between 1971 and 1973 much of her remaining clothing stock was sold under the name of Tina Mod and Mammy on cheaper generic Dawn copies (and other names – all organized by Zapf in Germany for various under-distributors, such as Wenco, as seen on the packaging). A number of these Dawn clone dolls were made in Hong Kong for Zapf, a toy company in Germany who are the ones, one presumes, who bought the liquidated Topper outfits as well. It probably was an unexpected windfall for them since the Topper company going bankrupt had not really been predicted because on paper this famous company looked solvent.

Take Topper's Dawn Glimmering Stardust a.k.a Palitoy Pippa's Snow Queen outfit of silver brocade lamé (with star pattern) coat and eyelash lamé trapeze gown from the Rio collection. Tina Mod and Mammy had it repackaged by Zapf for Wenco (and others). ON TOP OF THIS WILD AND BAFFLING NEWS, you’ll notice, WITH STUPEFACTION, that the fabric of the dramatic silver lamé brocade coat is the identically and exactly the same as Sindy’s 1972 Startime handbag (Ref 12S205).  

AND THE SPOOKIEST THING OF ALL? The star pattern in the lamé brocade is EXACTLY the company logo of Manufatura de Brinquedos Estrela S.A. doll company in Brazil who makes…..wait for it…..the Susi doll, which was the license of Tammy and Sindy in that part of the world!

(Musical accompaniment includes here a dramatic: Dum, Dum, Dummmmmm!).

Susi had several outfits made from this silver lamé as glittery fabrics have a great appeal in Brazil. Susi would go grocery shopping in a silver lamé mini skirt and top! That lamé really was worked to death it seems.

We also see with Susi the reuse of the beautiful silver leaf patterned brocade fabric used for Sindy's 1972 Miss Beautiful gown, reworked and redesigned as Miss Susi. Incidentally this fabric was also used for a variation of the Pippa outfit Sterling Silver from her Paris I collection.

As well as all her flash clothes in sparkling metallics, Susi also seemed to have a fondness for inappropriately exposed flesh via fishnet and see-through gauze fabrics for jumpsuits, super-short mini-dresses and blouses, with masses of lace and frills on her seemingly endless amount of long gowns and over-the-knee dresses which compete with ornate wedding cakes.

Susi stands in a league of her own in terms of personal style and gives America's Barbie and Britain's Sindy quite a run for their money... so to speak! Her incarnation in France, Bettina made by Clodrey in the 1970s seems to have inherited her Brazilian fashion sensibilities as well as their fabrics, all sourced from Hong Kong but made in France. 

4. Why do many rival dolls seem to have the same outfits?

 

 

Mily by Gégé had a sailor's navy blue caban coat called Petite Mousse (in English Little Cabin Boy) almost identically made to Sindy’s Reefer Jacket the same year it came out, poppers and all. She had the exact same jumpers in red rib knit jersey cotton with the same placement of poppers too. Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another example is the Maddie Mod 1968 outfit Carnaby Corduroy which is a blatant copy of Sindy’s 1967 Trouser Suit. This was made by the Princess Grace Doll Inc, British Colony of Hong Kong (which was a Mego affiliate for which Mego put their logo on the Maddie Mod boxes by 1973).

 

As noted above, a number of Mego's Maddie Mod outfits were picked up by Pedigree, as well as those mentioned above, from Maddie Mod's 1973 catalogue Blazer Beauty (also known as Blazers' In) and Sweater Weather (aka Knitty Gritty) became Sindy's 1974 Blazer Beauty and Sweater & Trousers. Although Sweater Weather's jumper was shown in the catalogue with an "M" on the chest, I do have this mint in packet and it does not have one. 

 

Also the 1975's Campus Coed for Dinah-mite, Mego's 8 inch doll who was a mixture of fashion doll and action figure, was an exact copy of Sindy’s Jumper n Jeans of the same year.

 

 

 

Some of these similarities were based on contractual relationships with firms co-operating with one another, others were ruthlessly copied whereby by hook or by crook companies swiped ideas, concepts and dolls clothes if they thought it was a good potential seller or easy to manufacture with a good profit. Usually they made a deal between companies, sometimes it was just "accidentally" simulated. I quote the Mego Museum which you can find on-line. Concerning their Fighting Yank action figure, "Unfortunately, unknown to the company in NY, the Hong Kong factory they contracted to produce a "knockoff of GI Joe" literally duplicated parts of the original. The duplication included the trademark "backwards" Joe thumb and Mego was forced to settle with Hasbro out of court".

So for the fashion dolls there were really few goals for the companies concerned apart from the profit, which is perfectly acceptable of course. Sadly in reality, creativity and real fashion looks with many of the details one found in real fashion was lower on the scale of values. But because these were fashion dolls this need could not be completely overlooked as this counted enormously in this market. It was a delicate matter for some creative executives who occasionally had to fight with the money holding corporate executives to stress the beauty and imaginative effects.

Instant appeal on consumers by first impact impressions, wholesale and bulk costs and unit manufacture and sales were the basic incentives for the most part and the actual doll fashion designers hardly played a role in how the final retail wardrobe looked. What was sold to the public was often extremely watered down results of their ideas, much to their frustration. Most of their clothing designed was too costly to make and were often modified but normally the effects were just as satisfying if not sometimes plainer and they lack the incredible detailing and miniaturization of the pre-1970 years. One of Sindy’s first designers Valerie (née) Sanders confirmed this many times to me over a number of years in correspondence with her.

5. Did Tuffin and Foale really design Sindy's first wardrobe?

Although Tuffin and Foale did have an influence on Sindy's first wardrobe, I think the unsung Pedigree house designers should get some credit, notably Valerie Sanders. Most of the designs by all the famous designers whom were approached by Pedigree (Hartnell, Quant, Hardy Amies, Tuffin and Foale) were simply too complex to make. They had to be watered down and simplified.

So where should the credit go, to a complex design which we have never seen or the simplified pattern made by the in-house pattern maker and the in-house person who decides the fabrics?

Also, is it a coincidence that Tammy, her boyfriend Bud, and her brother Ted had a similar red, white and blue striped jumper to Sindy's own Weekenders matelot top? I often get the feeling Sindy collectors forget that Sindy was a direct license of Tammy who already was a huge success worldwide and had a vast wardrobe and an even bigger one with hundreds and hundreds of clothes and accessories exclusive to the Japanese. Personally I have the strong conviction that the idea for Weekenders was an amalgam of Tammy, Bud and Ted’s easy to make "matelot" jumper and the simplest of trousers to make which were the jeans, thusly making the first Sindy a recognisable and profitable doll. Red, white and blue is very British and also very classic in any basic attire, and jeans - what could be more teenage?

The original Tammy designer whom I had the pleasure to meet as a child and speak to on the phone occasionally in the late 1980s confirmed that the patterns for the Tammy clothes were used as a basis for the first Sindy collection. Tammy and Sindy wore extremely fashionable clothes to the point the real fashion details were considered very carefully. Look at Lunch Date for Sindy and Tammy’s version School Daze. In the year 1960 when Tammy’s wardrobe was being designed the popular belle shape for a skirt dating from the late 1950s was slimmed down to a very Mod and very British straight shape for Sindy’s 1963 debut on the toy shelves (though Sindy actually appeared in late 1962 advertising and test marketing). Study the two doll’s first year collections and you’ll see many similarities. Another is Tammy’s cheerleading skirt and Sindy’s skating skirt.

I know for a fact that Tammy originally was to have a red, white and blue jumper and jeans, just like Sindy. The coy one-piece Playsuit suddenly came into real fashion amongst the United States upper-class suburbanites at the time the first Tammy collection in 1960 was being put together (Tammy was conceived and put together as prototypes as early as 1960 though she debuted in 1962). This was the reason, and this was confirmed by Judy, Tammy’s first designer at Ideal Toys to me in a telephone conversation in the early 1990s, Ideal Toys decided that it was easier and less costly to make Tammy one in Japan for her debut outfit rather than to make the jumper and jeans as originally planned for her. This turquoise and white playsuit was copied ad infinitum by Hong Kong manufacturers for years and years to come. In fact, only the ones with the Tammy woven label are real since the copies are nearly exact sometimes. The Hong Kong copies are very good but they always have a little something which give them away as fakes, such as the thinness of the cloth or the unevenness of the stitching. Remember Ideal Toys made their clothes in Japan at first, where the quality of doll clothes was at its highest level of quality and was superior to nearly all other commercially-made dolls clothes of the time. Japanese factories were very efficient and every second of every worker’s time and every penny was counted. 

Ideal Toys made their clothes in Japan, Pedigree made their first collections in England and later Hong Kong, and Estrela had Susi’s first wardrobe made in Brazil. Not only did each company have to consider the cultural norms of their doll's clothing range but also the consequential costs, for in each country every penny meant the difference between profit or loss. The original Tammy jumper however turned into Picnic Party and also Ted’s top instead of her debut ensemble. The jeans appeared in another outfit in her first collection, Beau and Arrow. Boyfriend Bud actually came out rather late, just as Tammy was being fazed out by Ideal and was supposed to have a Life Guard's swimsuit, but since the decision to end the line came just as he was to be launched he ended up being packaged with Ted's outfit, meaning there was an over-run of them and this was a great way to get rid of them. In fact, I think Bud himself is a modified Ted head mould which means they were not selling Ted well and wanted to come up with a new strategy to sell the male bodies and clothes which remained.

 

 

 When Sindy's collection was being conceived the jumper and jeans re-appeared and were simplified even more by Valerie Sanders. Just as with Tammy's and Barbie's jeans, which had real pockets and top stitching, her jeans  originally had real top stitching too though not as detailed as her rivals, but even this was quickly replaced with the familiar printed-on trompe l'oeil decorative stitching. The jumper had no shoulder seams inset for the sleeves and overlocking for a finish instead of interfacing as well – a big cost saver in terms of overall sewing time and a reduction of the number of complicated and tiny pattern pieces to sort out and to stitch together for a doll sweater.

 Brazilian Susi doll, who had a choice of several outfits when bought new in the early 1960s also wore a similar red and white striped matelot top and jeans as well and she even had this outfit illustrated on her first box. 

 

Sindy, Tammy and Susi used the catch phrase "The Doll You Love…To Dress". In Portuguese ; "A boneca que você gostará de vestir". This, in any language, seems to be definitely true for all our fashion dolls.

BillyBoy* June 2011

Dedicated to my parents who spoiled me silly, and to my partner Lala and my son Alec Jiri who spoil me even sillier. 

Copyright 2011 BillyBoy* all rights reserved, written permission needed for reproduction of text or any photograph or any parts thereof.

Some text excerpted from BillyBoy*’s autobiography entitled: My American Family In One Era, Out the Other 

Article: Mily de Gégé A 1960s Pop Culture Doll from France by BillyBoy* (copyright 1998/2004) http://www.fondationtanagra.com/index.cfm?article=1510&cfid=423676&cftoken=46150835

Visit the Mego Museum website for further information on Mego dolls and action figures: www.megomuseum.com