A Look Back with Linda and her Real 50s Doll


One of the most special things about Doll Diaries – in my opinion – is how dolls and the love of dolls transcends age! The members of the Doll Diaries community range from elementary school age all the way up to Grandmothers and everyone in between – it is so fantastic and just makes my heart happy. With this being 50s week, you can’t imagine how many of our fans have taken a little trip down memory lane! Linda even took the time to send in photos of her doll from the 50s – what a treat!!


Sweet Sue was given to me when I was 6 years old with the idea that she would be my “one big doll.” Since I was an only child, Sweet Sue frequently went with on grown-up events as my companion. She became my friend. This first email includes purchased outfits that mirrored the time period and the styles I was wearing in the early 1950’s.

School dress code was skirts or dresses… every day for girls. They were usually plaid, striped or a small flowered print. We had straw hats that itched, usually held on by an elastic string that was too tight. Anklet stockings were made of rayon or cotton. They sagged, just like the doll’s and slid down into your shoe. We were very glad for the invention of nylon anklets that “stayed put.” White Mary Jane shoes were worn in the summer, black patin leather ones in winter. Purses were often plastic that got stiff in the cold weather.

For birthday parties, that were always held at home and not every year, you played Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The blind fold was a flour sack dish towel, and if it slid down, you could “peak.” The parties were usually after school so you wore a “school dress.”

For a time, plastic jackets were popular. They snapped up the front. Headscarfs kept your ears warm. Tennis shoes were either blue or red for girls…. (P.F. Flyers) and for boys they were black Converse high tops. Tennis shoes were for play…usually just in the summer and for gym. You wore slacks out to play or under your dress if it was cold or a gym day.

A Minnesota doll had to have a snowsuit to play outside….and mittens and usually a scarf around the neck. This type of boot went over you shoes and zipped up the inside. They were usually brown or red. Boys had black ones that buckled up the front.

Of course the iconic style of the 1950’s is the poodle skirt, ponytail tied with a scarf, saddle shoes and bobby socks. I had one in 5th grade and made this one in later years for the doll.

In the mid 50’s, bride dolls were popular…..all sizes. Everybody wanted one. My mother made this dress for Sweet Sue out of satin material from her wedding dress. There are pearls sewed around the neck for a necklace. The doll also had silver sandals and grown up nylon stockings with a seam up the back.

Part of the fun of playing dolls is changing the clothes and imagining them in different activities. My mother was a good seamstress and enjoyed the small size (and quiet model???) that went with sewing doll clothes. Simplicity Patterns have reissued the main pattern she used if anyone wants to recreate a 1950’s wardrobe for their dolls. It is pattern number 3929 and has been resized to fit the 18 inch doll market. It is labeled “Simple to Make”.

Here is the skirt and blouse make from the old Simplicity pattern (#4128, below)….great for travel. Saddle shoes, bobby socks, a shoulder purse, and hair tied back with a ribbon complete the look. Ribbons seemed to work on the doll better than they ever stayed in my hair! Sweet Sue is standing by her travel trunk that held her clothes. There is a decal for each of the states we visited on our trips on the new Eisenhower Interstate highway system.

The quilted robe and nightie were some of the first items the doll received from the sewing machine. She also had fuzzy slippers with a pom-pom on the toe from the “dime store.” In the bathrobe photo, you can see the soft, pink, plastic curlers that we wore in our hair to get curls….or the clips to get a wave in our bangs! I sometime hope to make her a pair of “baby doll” pajamas like we wore. The tops were short, gathered and full with puffy, short bottoms.

Here is the coat sewn from the pattern—almost an identical copy to the sketch. It was a soft corduroy. The tam stayed on the doll but mine never stayed on my head. In one hand she has a muff to keep her hands warm and in the other her Bible.

Another aspect of playing dolls is that they can do things that you’d like to do!
These two outfits are from the second pattern that my mother used (#3728, below) It was fitted and more complicated.

I was too old to wear this delightful princess style coat when it was popular…. but Sweet Sue got one…. with a real feather for her bonnet. My sister-in-law who is two years younger, did have a coat and hat in this style.
A popular entertainment event was the Shipstad and Johnson’s Ice Follies that would come through the cities on tour. They put on program of fantastic ice skating with exotic costumes. Again, not something I could do, but Sweet Sue got her own Ice Skating outfit with sequins hand sewn on it! Real ice skating for us meant bundling up against the cold, walking to the neighborhood out door rink and resting by the wood-burning stove in the warming house.

Here are the original doll clothes patterns from the 1950’s. They fit a slimmer body than the American Girl doll. For some of the styles, that matters for others that hang loosely, it doesn’t.

Growing up in the 1950’s was a time of fireflies and Dairy Queens, bikes and roller-skates (clip-ons!), jumprope contests and piano lessons, comic books and the Trixie Beldon mystery series, walking wherever you wanted to see your friends but being “home by dark.”


Thank you so much Linda – this was such a treat!!

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