When Jennie Graves opened “Ye Olde Vogue Doll Shoppe” in Somerville, Massachusetts, she set out to design superior quality clothing for high-end doll companies like Kämmer & Reinhardt. In the late 1940s, after more than 20 years running this successful small business, Graves introduced her own eight-inch composition doll. By 1951, demand for the miniature fashion doll had grown and Graves renamed the new hard-plastic series “Ginny” dolls, after her oldest daughter, Virginia.
Ginny was an immediate hit, particularly because of her many detailed outfits available for purchase separately. Graves continued to insist on using high quality fabrics for the doll’s attire, including taffeta, cotton, felt, velveteen, and brocade, sometimes even embellished with lace trimming. The first plastic Ginny products were marked “VOGUE” on their heads and “VOGUE DOLL” on their bodies, sometimes including a patent number.
The series of miniature toddlers in stylish adult clothing was sold in packaging that read “Fashion Leaders in Doll Society.” The success of the Ginny dress-up dolls allowed Vogu...
Vogue also created additional dolls in matching outfits to grow the Ginny family, first adding her baby sister Ginnette in 1955 as a drink-and-wet companion. The company soon released other characters, like the brother-sister duo Eve and Steve in identical plaid, or the Rock ‘N Roll styled teenagers Jill and Jeff. Jill, who was modeled as an older sister for Ginny, even had real earrings to wear in her pierced ears. Younger brother Jimmy was born in 1958, in outfits to complement Ginnette, but because of slow sales, Jimmy was discontinued the following year.
By 1957, Vogue had become the largest doll manufacturer in America. At the peak of their department-store distribution, Ginny dolls brought in more than five-million dollars a year.
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We have a very small team here at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, so we all have to do lots of different things. I do… [more]