Pint-Sized Pompadours: 18th Century BJD Fashions by Pat Winship

Fashion that Fits in the Palm of Your Hand

I love dolls, especially fashion dolls. I love costuming them and posing them for pictures just as much as I like costuming and posing for pictures myself! Dolls are one of the most ancient toys and have been made in just about every material possible. In the 18th century, fashion dolls were usually made of wood covered in gesso (a thick, white paint) and were used less like little girl’s playthings and more like mini mannequins that showed off the latest fashions, called “pandoras.”

Fashion Doll, circa 1755-60

If a child did own a doll, they often didn’t play with them as roughly as I played with my Barbies as a child (no impromptu haircuts or being left strewn naked across the living room floor). Dolls were expensive and their clothes were a perfect miniature copies of current fashions, often down to the stockings and stays: truly little works of art!

Doll’s Shoes, circa 1690-1700
Notice the thin, white band of leather near the sole. During the late 17th and early 18th century, this was a mark of high quality and good taste.

Doll’s Stays, circa 1690-1700
These two pieces are from a single doll, Lady Clapham, made in the late 17th to early 18th century. She comes with an entire outfit from foundation garments to hair accessories. Her male counterpart, Lord Clapham, also comes with an entire wardrobe from nightgown to tricorn hat! They are perfect miniature representations of fashions at the time and are stunningly complete.

Today, fashion dolls have evolved. Pandora dolls still exist in the form of BJD (ball jointed dolls) such as Volks, Luts, or Obitsu. These large, finely crafted dolls are mostly targeted towards adult collectors who dress them up in wonderfully detailed outfits ranging from everyday band t-shirts to fantastical Steampunk Lolita fairy wings. Since they are fully customizable, a BJD can take on any personality or era. One of my new favorite BJD costume designers is Pat Winship. I found her through Etsy and I am amazed at how she has re-created 18th century fashions in perfect miniature!


“Flowers and Sun” 1770s Ensemble by Pat Winship

Just like their 18th century ancestors, Pat’s BJD outfits are based on historical patterns and methods, plus, each outfit is complete down to the stays and jewellery!


Hat, walking stick, shoes, collar, earrings, bumroll, chemise, and stays from Pat Winship’s “Flowers and Sun” outfit


Detail of the Hat from “Flowers and Sun”
I really want to make a full-sized version of it!

I worked as a miniaturist for 13 years and I know that making all those tiny details is a challenge! I am especially impressed with how perfectly scaled all of the prints, trims, and accessories are. Here are some more of her clever creations:


“Belle la Rose” Mid-18th Century Ensemble by Pat Winship


A peek at the “Belle la Rose” outfit’s Watteau Pleats!


“Robe a la Polonaise” 1770s Ensemble by Pat Winship

Another delightful hat!


Pearl choker, earrings, shoes, hat, chemise, and stays from “Robe a la Polonaise”

Miniaturized 18th Century Shoes by Pat Winship on DeviantArt

Isn’t it all gorgeous?! I am so jealous.

I have been wanted to create a historical fashion doll for a while now. I think it would be a good combination of all my favorite hobbies, plus I have an embarrassingly nude Tonner Sydney floating around in my “Unfinished Business Box” somewhere. Much like my human-sized dress form Simplicity, however, Sydney’s bust is a little geometrically challenging to work around, at least in any way that would look remotely period correct…

Be sure to check out Pat’s Etsy Shop, CompassMariner1, or her DeviantArt page!

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Death Head Buttons: Pirates, Posion, and Gentlemen

Deadly Buttons?! Well, not really…

One of the most prominent accessories in 18th century fashion was the death head button. Sounds exceptionally morbid and creepy, doesn’t it? The buttons themselves, however, are pretty, well, pretty!

Detail of Red Wool Coat with Death Head Buttons, circa 1780-1789

Italian Stomacher with Death Head Buttons, circa 1760-1780

Death head buttons are actually just wooden buttons wrapped with colorful thread in a cross or X design. They don’t really seem all that deadly, especially in adorable bubble-gum pink. So how did they get their name?

The skull and crossbones is now synonymous with pirates and poison, but in the 18th century and before, it was used as a memento mori, a reminder that life is short and should be lived as well as possible. The term “death head” comes from the German word Totenkopf, which literally translates to “dead man’s head.” While it was used by pirates, the Jolly Roger was also a popular motif for gravestones and mourning jewelry like Stuart Crystals.

Stuart Crystal Ring with Skull and Crossbones Motif, circa 1728

So…why death’s head buttons? It’s simple, actually. The crisscross design used to weave the button looks like the crossed bones under the skull.

Death head buttons can be made in a variety of color patterns and style, from plain single-crosses in a single color to star patterns in multiple colors. They were especially popular for men’s coats, but ladies’ riding habits (often inspired by military uniforms) commonly had death head buttons on the sleeves, bodice, and/or stomacher.

Lady’s Riding Coat with Death Head Buttoned Sleeves, circa 1750-1759

Want to make your own? Check out these helpful resources:

Wood Button Forms from Wooded Hamlet Designs

Death Head Buttons, Their Use and Construction” by By Norman H. Fuss

Death Head Button: First Attempt” at A Fashionable Frolic