September 10, 2018

Stylish: Jeanie and Barbie

My mother-in-law Jeanie knew how to dress well and properly.  All the time.  All occasions. 

This photo was taken in 1961.  She is standing with my husband, at 13 years old, on the day of his Bar Mitzvah.  There are two more photos of Jeanie's style at the end of this post.  (Oooops, the white smear is a glare on the photo, not a smear on Larry's suit.) 

Jeanie also loved handwork, including crocheting and knitting.

She put these two loves together and designed and crocheted dresses and gowns for Barbie dolls.

She had made a set of dressed dolls early on, pre-Barbie, for her daughter, my sister-in-law.  Then when my daughter was born in 1990, Jeanie revived the idea, and styled and dressed a dozen dolls for her.  These dresses are crocheted right onto the dolls.  They are mostly for display, not for dress-up and play.

She used a fine cotton crochet thread and seed beads, which are crocheted into the dresses, and other trims.

Most have a netting petticoat, except the very earliest ones whose petticoats are also crocheted.  I love the color combination below, the deep rose petticoat peeking through the turquoise dress.  I also like the rhinestone trim, with one side of the skirt gathered up.


Each doll has matching undies and also a matching purse containing a dime - since a lady should never go out without a dime for a phone call, just in case.  The stole is a scrap of real fur from the collar of a worn out, old coat.

Here is Barbie's famous Marilyn Monroe impersonation....

This purse is particularly clever - the daisy trim turned out to be exactly the right size for the dime.

Here is the rest of the dozen dolls.  I especially love the wide variety of hats and headpieces that Jeanie created.

She was great at making flounces and ruffles!


This is her harem-style outfit.  

Here, she used a metallic thread to liven things up.


Here's one that's different from the fitted bodice / full skirt, 1950s sort of silhouette that Jeanie apparently loved very much. 

And here's a modern, with-it Barbie.

As Jeanie's skills developed, my husband suggested that she start using actual Barbies instead of knock-offs.  Boy, was he right!  They look sooooo much better, and these dresses are certainly worth having prettier and better made dolls to show them off.

Most amazingly, she took these dolls to her weekly hair appointments and had their hair actually styled there!  This one became my daughter's 13th doll.

And she started making fully beaded gowns.  For quite a while, Jeanie and my father-in-law Morry spent every fifth wedding anniversary in Hawaii.  I think both of these are Jeanie's homage the graceful vacations they so enjoyed.   


Jeanie made this extra fancy doll for Morry. The cape is spectacular, isn't it?


And finally, here is Jeanie again, wearing her own lovely gowns - in 1969 in orange and in 1971 in yellow and white.  She was famous among her friends and family for having a style all her own, and you can see why!


  1. Jeanie was a star! And her creations are exquisite! Thanks so much for sharing these with us!

    1. She was indeed a star. She also did lots of knitting, bunka embroidery, and made more than a few cutwork tablecloths. Check out Varied Textiles - Cutwork to see posts about the tablecloth she started and my daughter and I are finishing.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful doll dresses!! They are just superb! I really enjoyed the full skirts full of beads. Such intricate stitches! She must have been a wonderful woman to know.

    1. Hi, Ruth -
      Sorry for the delay, but I just discovered your lovely comment. Apparently, I'm no longer getting the email notices of comments coming in...

      My mother-in-law also knitted and embroidered. She made many Italian cut-work tablecloths and gifted them to family and friends. She also was a marvelous hostess and loved making fancy parties. :-)