I was in New York City for a couple of days recently, and had a tiny window of time between meetings. Naturally, I went to Barney's. Life at the beach can definitely bring on a case of retail deprivation. I skipped up the escalators and swung onto the fourth floor, and was stopped in my tracks by a stunning display of dolls.

They were created by a magician named Andrew Lang, and are called the Kouklitas. Koukla is the lovely Greek word for doll, and these fashion dolls are about 27 inches high, made of muslin, with hand-painted faces; they are, of course, wearing couture.

I can't exactly tell you why I found these dolls so charming, but I think it has something to do with my vivid memories of playing with dolls as a little girl. I called it "playing house" and it was far and away my favorite thing to do--well, that, and reading books. My idea of a perfect afternoon was one spent under a table, with a cloth hanging down to the floor around me, a book in my lap, and a doll nearby, quietly taking her nap or needing to be fed and changed. Every once in a while I let my sisters bring their dolls over for a visit too. My sons never played house, no matter how much I encouraged them.

I still love dolls. I haven't (yet?) become the kind of grown women who actually buys dolls, and dresses them, and props them up around her bedroom. However, a certain someone and I once adopted a stuffed animal, Ottmar, who had been abducted to a foreign country and, when we found him, was in need of a more nurturing home. Luckily, I got custody.

But these rag dolls are something else. They are made for grown girls. One doll costs as much as a Marc Jacobs dress (or maybe less, I've stopped looking at price tags due to the Money Diet.) But how amazing and wonderful that there are people in the world who can create such ethereal, loopy creatures.


Anonymous said...

I had a very dear friend who made dolls as an artist and before she passed away she gave me some and I bought some. My grandson age 6 actually loves to come in and change one doll's outfit. He loves the little hangers with the different clothes that hang in this amazing art piece. Your story brought my friend Eleanor back to me. They are amazing and such love goes into each one.

Karena said...

Dominique, these are fabulous, what a great find! The artistry is amazing!

I have a Giveaway from the French Basketeer I think you will love!

Art by Karena

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

You would have loved the dolls I was fortunate to see at the Golden Age of Couture show this summer. They were part of the Theatre de la Mode, which was created by couturiers in Paris during the latter years of WWII. Exquisite, tiny dolls dressed in achingly perfect, although diminutive, examples of couture and designed by Christian Bernard and Jean Cocteau, among others. I stood before their cases, totally captivated. Sadly, these were not dolls to play with, methinks.

Cass @ That Old House said...

I wonder if anyone plays with them. How sad, if not.

mary said...

They are amazing. I do think that there are stories behind these babes. I, too played with dolls under the dining room table which was especially tented for days on end to accommodate my fantasies. Thanks for reminding me.

coraline said...

these are cute! here are some less expensive ones from etsy. (this isn't me! i just found the coraline dolls for my kids.)

Mary Maki Rae said...

Hi Dominique -

How great that you see as many of us do - Dolls as an Art Form-!

I find the handmade and older ones that have been passed down through the generations - even more endearing.

Many books printed about Dolls - one of the most excellent - insightful - as well as entertaining - I have found is:
"THE DOLL" By Carl Fox
Harry N. Abrams Inc. N.Y. 1973.

Read your Book "Slow Love" when it first came out - Enjoyed it Emmensely-! - as well as all your others - and look forward to the next. (also your blog is so refreshing.)--Mary

Splendid Sass said...

I have always loved dolls. I had a doll similar to this that I sat on the floor propped on books under the library table.
My daughter is even more obsessed that I was, and each occasion she received a collectors doll.
Thanks for sharing this. It made my day!

Cristina said...

I'm the only one who finds them slightly creepy, I'm afraid.

Splendid Sass said...

Love your piece in Garden & Gun!

Dominique said...

ah ha! creepy! i can see that--they have an alien fashionista look to them! I just can't get over all their marvelous hair! and I haven't seen Garden&Gun yet, but have to say that profiling the amazing photographer Jack Spencer was one of my favorite assignments ever.....d

helen tilston said...

I loved my dolls as a child and I recall being saddened when older children laughed at me as I was still playing with a doll at age 12, I used knit outfits for her and loved putting her in new fashions. I totally relate to the dolls you saw in NYC. Sadly stuffed animals never held the same charm for me as my dolls did.
Thanks for this beautiful post
Helen Tilston

Anonymous said...

These "dolls" should in no way be called dolls. Children come to mind when we say dolls. These objects of art look like tortured models, very unhappy indeed! Not to mention the ungodly price...especially when children are starving and not being cared for right here in the good ole USA. In that vain Dominique, if you want to take on a cause to "save the children from the air ect", how about good medical care and food and housing and clothing for them...i know its not as glamorous sounding, but truly, lets be a little more down to earth and less above the fray