How did you get interested in sewing? Especially for dolls?
I guess I come from a long line of sewers – my grandmother worked in a garment factory before she married, and my mother and all her sisters sewed. And not just clothes, they made drapes, tablecloths, even upholstery! My mother taught me to sew when I was pretty young – I don’t remember ever not knowing how, by the time I was in junior high home ec I was already making my own things. Later on, after college, I learned tailoring and was making my own suits.
My mother passed on to me her ability to make doll clothes. She made a lot of Barbie things for me – I don’t think she actually enjoyed it, in fact I remember her complaining about how hard it was to make little sleeves, but the point was that you didn’t have to spend a lot of what at the time was a fair amount of money for a toy just to have something, and you could also have things that were different from what everyone else’s Barbie had.
What about Diana made you a fan?
Not sure I can pinpoint actual things, it’s just that I always seemed to understand her, if that’s not being presumptuous. So much of her life experiences – insecurity, unreturned love, lack of appreciation for a job well done, search for a meaningful role, etc – just resonated. And the fact that she never caved in but had the strength to keep her own sense of self and eventually try to carve out a new life for herself was, and is, very inspiring.
What drove you to create the reproduction clothing for the Princess Diana dolls / and now the Duchess Catherine dolls?
Necessity! Ever since my Barbie days I’ve been fascinated by dolls that have wardrobes, and when I found that the Franklin Mint was making not only ‘grown-up’ ones but ones based on actual people and outfits I remembered and respected, I was hooked again.
Just around the time it became apparent that the Franklin Mint was only going to do a certain number of individual outfits, I somehow came across the Princess Diana Doll Club on the old e-groups site (which then merged into Yahoo groups), and found there were not only others like me who were fascinated with the wardrobe but also several talented people who were making their own – the first ones I remember seeing were Tommie Peacock’s Moshino hounds tooth check suit, Linda Schuck’s wonderful pink and purple Ascot ‘halo hat’ suit, and Judie in Boston started knitting some reproduction sweaters. I wanted the famous ‘sheep’ sweater from her, and realized I needed bottoms for it – so I played around and made a pair of jeans
Not long after that, though, I lost my job, and it became apparent really quickly that if I wanted more outfits, I’d have to try making them. Since the jeans turned out well, I tried a ball gown, the one-shouldered aqua one with the big bow on the shoulder, and that was successful. I found that not only could I make things for myself, but I was able to swap with others, and eventually things branched out from there!
I am aware that at one point in time there was a gal who made fabric to match many of Princess Diana’s actual dresses but to the scale of the dolls….. how do you find the fabrics you need for these reproduction outfits you make â€“ no need to give away any secrets â€“ just a general reply. What & how do you search for the fabrics?
Yes, we all miss Sylvia Braden and her wonderful specially printed fabrics. Finding materials – not just fabrics but also ‘findings’ like ‘buttons’ and other trims – is the hardest part. Some of that is because home sewing has declined so much that finding apparel fabrics of any kind is a chore. Most local stores here just carry loads and loads of fleece, then some quilt cottons – and little else. And what they do have is usually cheap and low quality. To find really good apparel fabrics I often have to search and search online.
And just keep your eyes open. Sometimes you can come across a ready-to-wear item – shirt, dress, whatever – that’s in the right material or print. I’ve had people send me flannel shirts and children’s play clothes that ended up being perfect for a Diana outfit.
What keeps you creating the outfits for these dolls?
A lot of it is the connection it gives with other people who share the love of dolls and the person the doll represents. I’ve met so many wonderful people through doing this who are – and, sadly, were, a few of them have passed away – really good friends. I also enjoy the research into the outfits, and being inspired by seeing what others are making. And there is ultimately the plain satisfaction of creating something!
What would be the ultimate Diana doll outfit for you to create? Or if you have already created it, what outfit was it?
My ultimate Diana outfit would be the ‘Nigeria’ Dress, Lot 69 in the Christie’s sale (picture is noted below – Christie’s Catalog picture and Diana wearing the gown). I love the style and the floatiness of the fabric, but because of the print of the material and the couture-type details involved, it’s probably the one thing I don’t reasonably expect to make. The outfit I’ve done and am proudest of is probably the grey Catherine Walker Tailcoat outfit that Diana wore to her brother’s wedding – not only did I find all the perfect materials, from the grey silk dupioni material to natural shell buttons in the right sizes, but it was at the time the most difficult pattern I had to draft, and it came out perfectly.
Jane’s Contact Information:
Website for FM Diana & Kate dolls: http://www.ncweb.com/users/jem630/main.html
Jane’s website pages show a history of the occasion the outfit was worn for – and pics of the outfit being worn by Diana / Kate and the doll in the reproduction outfit. She takes commission work also – if you want your doll to have a certain Diana or Kate outfit, Jane can do that.
Jane’s E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. I personally have purchased a couple Jane’s reproduction outfits — the white & black gown with the bow, and the safari outfit. Both on display in my Princess Diana & Kate doll curio cabinet.