Saturday, May 21, 2016


[This post won't be of general interest, but while Mike's away, I'm indulging in doll fix-ups.]

Nina Ballerina was my Christmas present in 1956. (That was how long ago? No! Don’t tell me that!) Researching online, I find convincing evidence that she is a “Valentine” doll sold through Niresk Industries (here). In other words, she’s a “knock-off” doll and was sold through magazine ads at a bargain price.

Ad copied from "Doll Reference"
Truth be told, Nina was not my favorite doll. We had very little in common, Nina and I. I know nothing about ballet, and Nina knows nothing else. Since she’s perpetually on her toes, she has no interest in clothes other than ballet tutus. I was troubled by this the moment I laid eyes on her because I loved to dress my dolls. I suspect this doll appealed to Mother, who was attracted to the poise and grace exhibited by ballerinas.

In today’s doll world, patterns for ballet costumes abound, and that set me to thinking about Nina. I occasionally run across her tutu, which has deteriorated beyond practical repair, and also her ballet shoes, but I’d lost track of Nina except for a vague recollection that she was stored somewhere in a pretty box. “Aha! That’s where she is,” I said aloud to the ghosts when I spied a grouping of boxes on top of the cabinet in Hallie’s room. And there she was!
My Nina without her dilapidated tutu
Though her trappings have deteriorated, Nina herself is in great shape – for her age, that is. She has a hard plastic body with a vinyl head. Unfortunately, the mid-century vinyl is breaking down at this point and feels tacky. However, I cleaned her face with doll cleaner, and that helped immensely. Fortunately, when Nina was new, Mother suggested I not remove her hairnet, so her saran hair is in good condition. I decided that after 60 years, Nina had grown up enough to do without the hairnet.

Nina never had clothes of her own. Instead, she borrowed from the bride doll, my Niresk doll of 1955. As a ballerina, though, she was never the same after I removed her clothes. It was difficult to stretch on her leggings and lace up her dancing shoes. She should have remained a pristine shelf doll.

Today we can find the original “Nina Ballerina” ad online, and my Nina wasn’t exactly as pictured. The ad says, “Almost two feet tall,” when in reality, she’s only 18 inches from the top of her head to the tip of her tippy toes. Also, her tutu is skimpier than shown --  only two layers of netting instead of the lovely flouncy netting shown in the ad. I see all of that as false advertising, but Mother probably figured she got her money’s worth.

I notice one very charming special touch: on the bottom of her ballet slippers, it says “Capezio since 1887, Dancico Cobbler” (here), an unexpected bit of whimsy for a “low end” doll.

Well, I think Nina deserves a fresh tutu and new leggings, and it wouldn’t take much to do better than her original. Later . . . KW


Hallie said...

That little tutu is ridiculous compared to the advertisement! Who wouldn't disappointed with the misrepresentation? I wonder if the text in the ad included a disclaimer.

Kathy said...

I'm sorry that I caused some confusion here. My Nina is not shown in her tutu but only the underpants. And I draped a doily over her for modesty's sake. I have since taken her tutu apart in order to use it as a pattern for her new one. This is a work in progress and I skipped a step.

Kathy said...

It seems like I've read the text of that ad, but I can't find it now. I do think that Mother may have been disappointed in the doll, which probably explains her lack of interest. I can tell you that the doll is only 18 inches, and if you measure from her heel to her head, she's closer to 16 inches. Mother said Nina Ballerina's size was odd and she didn't know how to sew for her. Translated, that means she didn't want to take the time because Mother could draft patterns.

Mother was a busy lady. She made most of my clothes as well as her own and even helped my sisters with what they needed. My sister Nina was getting married and the grandchildren were beginning to come along. So, as I grew older she became less and less interested in making doll clothes herself but she let me make them, and I loved doing it.

And you know, she loved it, too, but her interest was in heirloom sewing for the very antique dolls of her mother's era. She collected the dolls and then dressed at least five of them, leaving one or two for me to finish.

Hallie said...

Oh! I'm glad those were just the underpants. Ha!