Updated: Jan 5, 2021
“What fabulous treasures we found today!” A timeless exclaim of shoppers of yesteryear and today! Indeed, the discovery of precious pieces to add to one’s trove is always a delight, as these Mademoiselles pictured amongst the spoils of their shopping day in Paris would giddily agree!
This article and the pictures within are meant only to inspire you. This is in no way a blueprint of must-haves nor an attempt to define specific eras, although, with few exceptions, most range from the early 1850s to the 1870s. In some instances, I will reference them by specific names or the atelier or shop that initially represented them. However, principally, the goal is to present you with a treat for the eyes and a spark to kindle your imagination. The tiniest of items is often the perfect addition, while other times, a lovely central piece brings a vignette to life.
Although Jacob Petit was the great initial “influencer” in 1844 with his manufacture of china doll heads, which grew into a flourishing business in Paris by 1870, Adélaïde Aimée Calixte Huret had a resounding impact in the area of fashion dolls and the associated “necessities” these pampered princesses would require. In these years, against the backdrop of the Second Empire, under the rule of Emperor Napoléon III and Empress Eugenie, life was rich and full. Madame Farge, the first seamstress, and designer extraordinaire Huret employed, was married to a manufacturer of canes, parasols, and umbrellas. Monsieur and Madame Farge became inspired to use their skills to develop scaled items perfect for the wonderful poupée Enfantine (young lady doll) Huret created.
All manner of other craftsmen, artisans, and manufacturers soon followed suit, creating every necessity and luxury imaginable, often priced the same or higher than their life-size counterparts. Many dollmakers began to adopt the wise market strategy Huret used for sizing her doll to a standard of 17.7 to 18 inches. This became the ideal size of most fashion dolls and allowed these magical furnishings to be used for most poupées or lady dolls.
The poupée had grand selections of everything required to be properly groomed, attired, and amused in the manner of a Parisian lady. Layers of undergarments gave the desired shape and contours to a multitude of gowns for every occasion. From heels to boots, her feet were well clad. Short gloves for daytime or sophisticated, long gloves for an evening soiree were a must, along with delicate fans, fringed parasols to shade the sun, sturdy umbrellas to ward off the rain, and hats… Oh, the hats! Feathered, flowered, lacy, extravagant, or simple, the hats were the perfect dainty complement to the day's costume. Handbags were made of a multitude of materials and may contain a scalloped hankie, a coin, or tiny silver vinaigrette for smelling salts. Fine jewelry, fur wraps, opera glasses, and lorgnettes were also a must for attending an evening play or performance. For the early morning or evening retiring, mademoiselle could don a housecoat or nightgown and cap with warm shawl and slippers.
The young ladies of the day also required writing implements and fine stationery to maintain the strict etiquette rules pertaining to correspondence. Fine penmanship and witty repartee were a few of the skills society imposed on a young lady, along with needlework, crochet, or elegant handwork. Everything required was at hand. Silver or gilded chatelaines with thimbles, scissors, awls, and needle-cases were a must, as well as decorative étuis filled with ivory or silver tools and spools of colorful threads. For amusement, there were “loterie” games, cards, dice, chess, and checkers. Minuscules, miniature series of books, were perfectly scaled and stocked mademoiselle’s desk and library or were tucked in her travel bag.
When the time for travel came, a summer fad for Parisians, our Mademoiselle Poupée was outfitted with every possible form of baggage for her personal belongings. Necessaires laden with toiletries, a sac du voyage for the train trip to carry immediate necessities, baskets, hampers, hat boxes, boxes for gloves, fans, jewelry, and hair accessories. A roomy trunk was required to carry her gowns, millinery, and footwear. Perhaps a comfortable campaign (folding) chair for picnics and a travel rug would also be included.
Enjoy a lavish array of all manner of accessories that have been garnered and generously shared by discerning collectors. You will see many of the objects just mentioned, as well as scaled desks, enameled lamps and gilded tables, fine Paris porcelain, and other rare adornments for these fine furnishings and the pampered poupées that claim them. Many items are from Maison Huret, while others came from Maison Giroux, Mlle. Bereux, Au Calife de Bagdad, Paradis des Enfants, Simonne, and many exceptional shops, craftspeople, and artisans.
The pictures will continue this story. Whether you prefer a few well-placed items or a sweeping array of treasures, there is simply no right or wrong way to endow your Mademoiselle with her luxuries and necessities. She will surely glow a little brighter when she is displayed amongst her riches and will whisper her wish for yet another “little present” ~