I'm gonna buy a Paper Doll that I can call my own
A doll that other fellows cannot steal
And then the flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes
Will have to flirt with dollies that are real
Johnny S. Black, 1915, as recorded by the Mills Brothers in 1942.
This 7.5 inch tall bathing beauty is made entirely out of crepe paper on wire armature. I know nothing about her other than she is definitely old, weird, and wonderful. Her blue Gibson girl type bathing suit is amazingly detailed, complete with nautical collar, short puffed sleeves, knee-length skirt over longer bloomers, all edged with thin strips of white trim. Brown crepe paper curls peek out from the front of her blue mob cap adorned with a red bow, and in the back, tucked under her cap, is a chignon of twisted paper. Her face has a molded nose and each finger is separately wired. She poses provocatively on a wooden dome base. With coquettish side-glancing eyes, she appears to be looking down the beach for some of those flirty, flirty guys with their flirty, flirty eyes to come and steal her.
Her age is a bit of a mystery. Dennison Manufacturing Company, a paper supply and manufacturing company, in the 1890s began to offer sets of paper dolls with either ready-made dresses of colorful crepe paper or with sheets of crepe paper a child could use to create her own dolly fashions. Throughout the 1900s, Dennison helpfully offered booklets showing how its crepe paper products could be used to create festive decorations and costumes for any occasion. It even offered instructions for making crepe paper dolls on armature bodies of wire or pipe cleaners, and, although these creations are charming, they are far less complex in construction than this tissue tootsie. Below is a cover of a 1929 Dennison instruction booklet for making novelty dolls, showing the simpler doll design.
The height of Dennison's DIY popularity appears to be in the 1920s through the 1940s. During this same period, wire armature crepe paper dolls with painted crepe paper faces or heads of wax, composition, or bisque were popular as holiday or wedding decorations and center-pieces; some are clearly homemade, but others were produced commercially in Germany, the United States, and Japan. This crepe paper bathing belle, with all her delicate details, could have been a commercial product, but may also be the creation of an extremely skill home hobbyist, and she most likely dates from this period.