November 21, 2015 “Dior’s Greatest Fan: Madame Alexander’s Cissy”
Program and Display by Barb C.
Photos and synopsis of Nov. 21, 2015 CDC program by Pat D.
It was post WWII with its somber military styles. Now was the time for Paris and the fashion world to regain its fashion status and also a time for children to be indulged. It was the perfect time for Madame Alexander Doll Co. to introduce Cissy, and the first of the modern fashion dolls. There was one fashion designer in particular which Madame emulated, it being the sophisticated Christian Dior House of Fashion established in 1946.
Dior said “Simplicity, good taste and grooming are the three fundamentals of good dressing.” His fashions featured bright colors, flowers, natural fabrics with classic and elegant lines. Bodices were boned and accessories included coats, purses, furs, hat, gloves, jewelry and high heels. There was also the “After Five look” with semi-formals and “Evening Wear” with stunning formal couture gowns. Dior loved sheers, polished cottons and florals.
But Madame Alexander’s Cissys were not knockoffs of Dior fashions. Madame was a recognized fashion designer in her own right. What set Cissy apart was her mature figure, high heeled feet, high quality and detail and her amazing fashions. Madame says “Cissy has shown herself to be a good role model of etiquette and appropriate attire.”
The 1950’s: Cissy began her life as a 20” doll when introduced at the 1955 Toy Fair, but starting in 1958 was described as being 21” tall. She was made of hard plastic with vinyl arms, jointed at neck, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows and knees. Hair colors included blonde, ash blonde, brunette or redhead. The face is very rounded with blue sleep eyes. Eyebrows, lips and lower lashes are deftly drawn and cheeks are pink with upper lashes being three-dimensional of hard plastic. With her high forehead, high eyebrows, small nose and mouth and large emphasis on highly-defined eyes with dark lashes, the Cissy Doll face mold is a clear reflection of 1950′s ideals of the female visage as they were publicized in the era’s advertising, TV and movies.
Cissy was available as a basic doll sold in underwear and mules or as a dressed doll in a variety of evening wear, bridal gowns, afternoon and day dresses and casual outfits. Everything was tagged with the name Cissy Madame Alexander. Petticoats of tulle and taffeta with lace and trimmed in bric-a-brac, underwear, bras and high heels always completed and complemented her fashions.
The 1960’s: Cissy’s head mold became a little bigger giving her a “no neck” look and lips were painted larger. 1962 showed very dark painting on her face. Mostly blonde Saran wigs came in 31 styles with an occasional redhead. Brunettes were the rarest and even rarer in a flip style. There were 3-16 extra outfits designed and sold annually at around $15.
The 1960’s – 1996: 1959 brought another fashion icon, Barbie, and the modern fashion doll changed with a shift to cheaper contemporary fashions and doll sizes. So, Madame decided to try a different head mold and name. 1960-1962 saw the production of Jackie in the same size as Cissy and with couture styles as the first lady would wear. Unfortunately, Madame did not ask for permission and she had to stop production. The Jackie head was then used on Cissy. From 1963-1996 all portrait Cissys used the Jackie face with the exception of Coco.
1996 to today: The Madame Alexander company released a new face sculpt for Cissy. The vinyl head shows more adult makeup with eye shadow and heavy lashes. We now see more redheads. And the clothing is luxurious with dramatic colors, textures, and jewelry. Most of these cost $500-$800 and the secondary market holds their values.
Thank you to Barb C. for a most delightful Powerpoint program with the history of Dior and how Cissy was influenced by this genius of fashion, along with the history of Cissy herself. And we thank Barb and other members who brought their dolls for an amazing display from Cissy’s beginning to current examples of this fashion diva. Bravo!