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Buying a Doll at A Doll Show

One Doll's Story


French Fashion, Gesland Body, Without Clothing
Richard Saxman
Every doll collector approaches a doll show a different way. Some collectors run to their favorite doll dealer and immediately pick a doll out. Others need to see every single booth before they can even start to decide what to buy. Some only window shop, some go crazy and buy absolutely everything that appeals to them that they can afford, Different strokes for different folks.

I'm usually a deliberate doll buyer at a show. I like to "kick all the petticoats" and be absolutely sure of the doll I choose. True to form, at the recent UFDC doll convention, I decided that I would only buy one doll, if I bought a doll at all. I was specifically looking for a French fashion doll to add to my French fashion doll collection. This is easier said than done, as I only was looking for a doll with a type of body that I didn't already have--I have dolls in my collection representing most common body types as well as many uncommon ones. I also have many different sizes of dolls. I needed something that was different, that would help fill a hole in my collection as well as "wow" me. Easier said than done.

I started the show poised at the doors with my best collecting friend, Julie. We do this every year...even though I SAY I'm deliberate about doll buying, there have been several years at this show where I have had my socks knocked off by a doll at my favorite dealer's booth which I purchase right away--the type of doll that would be snapped up by someone else very quickly if I didn't get there first. I can safely collect with my friend because she is totally into character dolls, and I am not.

So, the doors opened and we sprinted in....at a ladylike pace...and ran to dealer #1. It was already a mob scene. I looked around, saw a few very nice dolls but all that caught my eye were either a version of something I already had or were way out of my budget for this show. I moved on.

Within less than 30 minutes, my friend found a unique character piece! I was still looking. And looking. One of the things I was most interested in at this show was a French fashion doll with a poseable wood body at or about the 17 inch size. There were very few of these dolls at this show...of the few wood-bodied French Fashions I saw, some were too big, some too small, and most just didn't have that "wow" factor. I finally found one that I liked well enough but she was a bit bigger than I wanted and she had a few broken fingers. She did have a lovely face, however. Price was not outrageous. I nearly put her on hold, but I wasn't satisfied. I moved on, with her in the back of my mind.

Two dealers also had French fashions with kid over wood bodies; very hard to find. One of them was priced too high, the other didn't have "the face," so I passed on both, although I considered trying to see how far down I could get the price on the first of the two.

Then....standing there, naked, in all her glory, I saw an F.G. French fashion with a Gesland body (stockinette over wire armature) and perfect bisque arms and legs. She was so pretty! Big girl, 19 inches, and I did not have one with a Gesland body. I'd always wanted one, but the few I'd tried for at auction always went over what I wanted to pay.

I happened to know the dealer and I knew he had a good reputation. We talked about the doll--I saw that she retained her posability, I saw that her bisque legs were marked with numbers (4) that matched her shoulder plate. I also saw that she was naked. Totally naked. Bad for a fashion doll....clothing for French fashion dolls is extremely expensive, and hard to fit and find. Rick, the dealer, showed me that she had her original chemise and a nightie. Nice, but not display-ready.

I haggled and got the price down just a bit, which would help with the clothes, but not enough to buy then and there. My husband, who has a level head, was going to be at the show on Thursday...this was Monday. I didn't feel right putting a hold on the doll because I wasn't sure (and...I still was considering the wood-bodied doll as well) so I was taking a chance but I decided to wait and look at both dolls again on Thursday. If either wasn't there, it wasn't meant to be.

Thursday arrived and I dragged my long-suffering husband Russ down to the salesroom. First we went and looked for the wood-bodied doll. She had sold! Things weren't looking good. Next, we went looking for the naked F.G. And..there she was. Still naked. This probably helped me, because if she was all decked out, I’m sure she would have been gone.

A bit more haggling ensued but I couldn’t get the price down any further. But, the more I saw the pretty face and the perfect bisque feet...I was a goner! I closed my eyes, handed over my credit card, and she was mine.

I immediately went over to a dealer who deals in antique doll clothing. He didn't have much at this point--just one dress that was very pretty and that should fit, but which was very frail. VERY frail, when he started putting the outfit on the doll, it started shredding at the shoulders. Did I mention that Gesland-bodied dolls have shoulders like linebackers? This one did. Because of the shredding and because of the fact that I think neither one of us thought the dress was going to come off again in one piece. I got a bargain on the outfit.

After I got the doll home, I put the doll on my lap and stared at the outfit. Hmm. I had to repair it (using natural-fiber netting to stabilize the shredded arm fabric) but that would require undressing the doll. I did it...and the dress suffered only a tiny bit of additional damage.

As I was in my doll room searching for a supplies for the project, a French fashion outfit that I had forgot I owned caught my eye. I bought the outfit about 10 years ago at auction. I had always regretted it...the dress overwhelmed every doll I'd ever tried it on...the shoulders were huge...oh wow, HUGE, like for a Gesland-bodied doll! I ran over, grabbed the dress, grabbed the doll...and wonders of wonders, it was a perfect fit. I mean, what are the odds?

The photo on this page is of the doll as purchased; click on it to see the doll in her beautiful new outfit!

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