Greek Costume Dolls
As the downsizing continues at my mother-in-law’s house, I am bringing home boxes and boxes of photo albums and souvenirs to sort through. Not only did I find these five souvenir dolls from Greece, but I found the luggage tags that my grandparents-in-law had on their luggage when they sailed from New York to Piraeus and back!
The ship that they sailed on, the Greek Line Olympia, sailed from 1955 to 1974, and I am guessing they went in the earlier part of that era. I am not absolutely sure that the dolls were purchased on that trip, but I think it is likely. New clues may turn up as I sort through the boxes.
The detail in the dolls’ costumes is amazing. They have painted cloth faces, and cloth bodies. They are wearing multiple layers and accessories, exhibiting many different craft techniques, such as felting, weaving, and embroidery.
This doll has a bunch of loose fiber in her left hand, and a distaff tucked into her belt. There is a broken thread coming from her right hand, which leads me to believe she once held a drop spindle there.
This doll’s costume is heavily embroidered, and she is wearing a necklace of coins. More coins are attached to the top of her scarf.
This doll’s clothes are much more delicate than those of the first two. Her green dress is made of silk taffeta. I love her little apron, which is woven in a supplementary warp pattern. After weaving, threads were pulled away to display a yellow fringe in the warp (lengthwise) direction, and a black fringe in the weft (crosswise) direction. Her bodice trim and belt are made of a dark braid that I believe were originally silver.
Underneath her headscarf, her hair is dressed in the famous Princess Leia cinnamon bun style.
This male doll has a felted coat, boots, and hat, pleated trousers, and a dagger stuck in his waistband!
This doll is dressed in the ceremonial guard uniform of Athens, the fustanella. He has on four pleated layers plus an undergarment. He also has a short white cape, pompoms on his shoes, and a great little handwoven bag.
Three of the dolls have this label somewhere on their clothing, but I have not been able to find out anything about this workshop.
Last year about this time, I was taking a close look at the costumes on Greek stamps that I bought as a souvenir in Athens. And a few months ago, I came upon this huge 2-volume set of books on Greek costume, published in 1984 by the Benaki museum. (It was sitting on a clearance shelf, right at eye level as I came through the door of a used book store. Three bucks. Sometimes they just about jump up and down on the shelf and shout your name. You can tell they are just so relieved that you finally got there to rescue them.)
Even though it is full of amazing pictures like these —
— I couldn’t find any that I thought matched the costumes on these dolls. So I am not sure if the dolls were dressed to represent any certain district. But I am so glad I got to take a close look at their craftsmanship.
On another note, as far as the very tattered quilts I recently brought home, my husband remembered that when he was little, his parents would go to auctions, and he is pretty sure that these quilts were included just as packing material. That would explain why they are all so different, and why they are in such bad condition. I have always known his family as great caretakers of their things so I am glad to know how they got these quilts.
I cannot believe the detail on this clothing…..how tall are the dolls? Wonder if they were made for tourists or to document costumes. and how wonderful you have that book…just waiting to be rescued! 🙂
They are only 9″ tall. I think maybe the YWCA was running a program to provide income for women after WWII, using the handcraft skills they had. My grandmother-in-law was a teacher, so I can see her buying these both to help support other women and to show to her students back home.
It’s always great to find something you’re looking for, but to find unexpected treasure is even better. I couldn’t believe how much time must have been spent of the tiny dolls’ clothes and accessories. They’re amazing. The outfit on the girl took my breath away. I thought I did something great when I made jumpers and matching purses for you and Tris!
Yes, if someone had asked me, “Do you want some Greek costume dolls?” I would have said no, because I just don’t have room for dolls. But when I started looking at them carefully and noticing how beautifully they were made, I gained appreciation for them as miniature exhibits of handcrafts! I imagine that they were purposefully labor-intensive, maybe the YWCA was trying to provide jobs after WWII.
For some reason my computer is acting strangely. However if you want to know more about the dolls, I suggest you contact Dr. Linda Welters at the University of Rhode Island who is probably the foremost expert in America on the subject of Greek costume – she is in (although she may be retired by now) the Textiles department. And she will probably be interested in knowing about your dolls.
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 8:44 PM
Thank you, I will look her up!
How lovely to see these dolls, my Greek soul doesn’t get nutured near as much as my Irish, though I have both.
I am really in awe of the work that went into the different regional costumes! Souli is one of them that is featured in the book — if you are true to those roots, you should be wearing stockings with complicated knit patterns and pointed toe shoes! 🙂
I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
Thank you, Chris
I bought costume dolls in the 1960s and I would guess that yours are earlier than mine, suggesting the 1950s. Fascinating post, every time we go to Greece I hope and usually do find a display of Greek costumes.
Thank you for that info, it helps me figure out their dates more accurately!
I was in Athens once and I’m sure I went to the Benaki museum, but I don’t think I paid much attention to the costumes. But looking at this book, I am in awe of how much time and art went into all aspects of their dress. If I ever go back, I will pay a lot more attention!
Thanks for the update on your quilts. It makes sense that they were abused as packing material. If they were acquired that way through auctions, perhaps the auctioneer had determined they were too damaged to sell on their own.
The dolls! The books! The photos of human-sized costumes! What a treat to have it all together. And yet, there is another thing to archive appropriately. 😦 That gives you one more thing to do. (Like Kerry’s collections, sometimes they just have to stay, because there is no better place for them to be.)
I know, I was reading about Kerry’s new collection of yarn samples and weaving patterns, and I think it’s the fact that it’s such a perfect snapshot of an era that makes it hard to think about using any of it or separating it. I am enjoying building up a timeline of my husband’s family history by matching up old family photos and paperwork to the actual objects they purchased. It is taking all my crafting time this summer but it is just as much fun.
I’m glad you’re having fun with it. That’s really important.
I recently starting following your blog. I too had a downsize project this month but it was my mother. I live out of state so I had to let go items I would have liked to have brought home.
I need to photograph and post the treasures I did rescue.
Thanks for following! I will check out your blog too.
I don’t set out to collect things, but I have a hard time letting the good stuff go without making sure it goes to a good home, so I sympathize with your downsize plight.
Wow–they sure don’t make souvenirs like they used to! Those dolls are amazing, in their detail and authenticity. Folk costumes are so interesting and beautiful–seeing photos like the ones from the book makes me sad that the world has moved away from such gorgeous cultural traditions.
What fun! And those books were quite a find!
Wow, these are cool! You didn’t even mention them to me. Also, I am way behind on my blog reading.
On Jul 27, 2017 7:44 PM, “Deep in the Heart of Textiles” wrote:
> TextileRanger posted: “As the downsizing continues at my mother-in-law’s > house, I am bringing home boxes and boxes of photo albums and souvenirs to > sort through. Not only did I find these five souvenir dolls from Greece, > but I found the luggage tags that my grandparents-in-law” >
There have been so many cool things in the family
junk collectionvaluable archive. 🙂
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