Introduction To French Fashion Dolls:
French Fashion Dolls were dolls created in the 19th century to showcase the fashions of their day and to help teach young ladies how to gracefully grown into womanhood. The dolls are much prized today for their exceptionally detailed clothing and accessories--exceptional examples can be found today with complete trousseaus including everything from nightgowns to opera glasses to evening gowns. The dolls reigned for many years in the mid 19th century as the most deluxe dolls money could buy, until they were usurped by child dolls produced in Germany.
Years of Production of French Fashion Dolls:
The earliest French Fashion dolls were produced by companies including Huret and Rohmer in the 1850s and 1860s. The dolls were produced until approximately 1900, although the bulk of their production and their heyday in quality and artistic merit was from the 1850s through approximately 1885.
Materials Used To Make French Fashion Dolls:
The vast majority of French Fashion dolls have bisque heads, glass eyes, and leather bodies. The earliest French Fashion dolls had porcelain heads (glazed china) and early examples often had multi-jointed wood bodies. Other materials used to make French Fashion doll bodies included gutta percha, blown leather, and cloth. Some dolls had painted eyes; generally glass eyes are more highly prized. A few French Fashion doll heads have been found made with other materials, including rubber (few survive today).
Companies That Made French Fashion Dolls:
Companies that have made French Fashion dolls include Huret, Rohmer, Jumeau, Bru, Gaultier, Barrois, Simone, and many others.
Marks on French Fashion Dolls:
The vast majority of French Fashion dolls are unmarked as to the maker; they are generally only marked with a size number on the bisque shoulderplate. A few marks are known, including F.G. for Gaultier, and some Jumeau French Fashion dolls are marked. A few French Fashion dolls are stamped with the maker on the leather or cloth body
The Demise of French Fashion Dolls:
The French Fashion doll industry was extremely healthy for many years in the mid to late-1800s, with many shops in Paris, France devoted to the dolls and their accoutrements. However, in the 1880s, bisque child dolls(also made in France by companies such as Jumeau) and then in Germany, as the German dollmaking industry began a rapid ascendancy in the late 1880s. Soon, the cheaper Germany production crowded out most of the French production of both Bebes and French Fashion dolls (Poupees) out of the market, and by the late 1890s the French dollmaking industry was mostly history.
Modern Descendents of French Fashion Dolls:
Modern dolls such as Barbie, Bratz, Tyler Wentworth, and Ball Jointed Dolls which have adult figures, made to show off fashions and accessories, can be considered the great, great, great granddaughters of the French Fashion Dolls.
Prices for French Fashion Dolls:
Prices for the choicest French Fashion dolls have climbed astronomically in the past decade. Fine examples with original couture outfits and those with rarer markings, plus those with desirable body features (wood bodies, gutta percha bodies bisque limbs), can rarely be found for less than $5,000 and often for much more. Early Hurets with trousseaus can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Often, early original couture outfits can cost more than the dolls themselves and run several thousand dollars.
More common French Fashion dolls, such as those with cloth or simple leather bodies, re-dressed clothing, stationary (not swivel) heads can be found for between $1,500 to $3,500 depending on the doll and condition. Many collectors who love this era of doll and sewing the clothing for these dolls but who cannot afford the high prices collect and sew for modern reproductions (which themselves generally cost at least a few hundred dollars).