The not so flat world of paper dolls

We may be way beyond the golden age of paper dolls, but their enduring presence over centuries does not lie. They are fun, engaging for toddlers, and usually affordable for parents. Today, we owe their survival more to book publishers and artisans than toy makers. It can be tricky to navigate through what is on the market, if you are mindful of stereotypes, diversity and body image issues that can arise. In our opinion, Dansereau by Dominique Dansereau and Paper Thin Personas by Rachel Cohen offer the best commercial options.

Better yet, say Kelly Burstow of Be A Fun Mom, make your own, from family photos. Use your photo cutout to draw a silhouette and create a paper wardrobe. Drawing them is also so simple. Making a paper doll brings a fine opportunity to draw, cut and manipulate images and to stimulate imagination for family story telling.

There is of course the long history of paper dolls and a vast vintage market out there, for history buffs and collectors. Paper dolls and the fashion industry are inseparable. For this reason, like their 3D cousins, paper dolls too carry a long history of woman’s body representation and gender roles. For a brief women’s perspective on the history of this “innocent” toy, see this documented articles published in 2016 on the (American) National Women’s History Museum website.

On the contemporary arts scene for grownups, it is impossible to ignore the life size realistic works by New York artist October Lane. The Paper Doll Project makes you think and will serve as an excellent helper to parents with teens.

Clothing in color sample. Source: Dansereau.co, 23 Janurary 2022.

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