Friday, December 21, 2012

The Skinny: I'm Sorry, But Have We Met?

Does she look familiar? She should. Meet Bild Lilli, the doll who inspired the creator of Barbie.
Lilli Bild 1955-1960's
And meet Barbie, the doll who killed Bild Lilli. (Scandal!)
Lilli began life as a German comic strip character, and was certainly not intended for children's entertainment. She was a cartoon pinup, a sexy secretary who knew exactly what she wanted and how to manipulate men to get it (and okay, she might have been a hooker, according to some sources). Her weekly adventures became so popular that she was soon put into doll form and marketed to adults (particularly males, as gag gifts). She was commonly sold in tobacco shops.
vintage Lilli strips

The Bild Lilli doll has side glancing eyes (ever so coy!), perfect lips, and a cute little curl in the center of her forehead. She was made with a variety of outfits for any occasion, but since the doll was not intended for children, the outfits were not always sold separately. Her hair was attached to a removable scalp held in place by a metal screw (see? definitely not a toy). She was usually blonde, but brunettes were also available. Lilli even came with a miniature copy of the Hamburg newspaper than ran her comic strip.

Eventually, the demand from mothers prompted the company to switch gears, and Lilli became a popular toy for girls. She had a house with furniture (sold separately, of course)! They even made a movie. And then, Ruth Handler, president of Mattel, went to Europe. She bought three dolls, gave one to her daughter Barbara, and kept the other two for product development. She tweaked the design, created a killer marketing campaign, and Barbie was born.
Ruth Handler was no dummy. Under her guidance, Mattel bought all of the rights to the Bild Lilli character (on the cheap, as rumor has it), and consequently, Lilli died in 1964. Mattel continued Handler's brilliant marketing strategy, and Barbie went on to become the gal we still love today. Lilli, on the other hand, was a fallen woman, reduced to walking the streets...--okay, not really. Her molds were sold to various foreign toy companies, and used to make knock-off Barbies. What a way to go....

But still, a real, original Bild Lilli doll, especially one with the clear cylinder package and correct stand, is just as collectible as the first Barbie (and probably much harder to find). Even one without the package sold on eBay for $1400 in 2008.

*information obtained from:;

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the Radar -- Divine Deco

Carey Mulligan in Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann's reboot of "The Great Gatsby" was set to release this holiday season, getting all the designers in a tizzy to show their very Art Deco best.  Alas, the film's release has been moved to the summer of 2013, but the gorgeous clothes and accessories are everywhere now!

In case you don't know, Art Deco is a design style that started in France in the roaring 1920s, and maintained its popularity through the 1940s.  It's known for its symmetry and rectilinear shapes. We have great "The Skinny" posts about International Art Deco from August of this year: and .

For today's blog, our round-up of favorites from top designers...

Lanvin, Spring/Summer 2013

Jenny Packham bridal gown, 2013

ASOS evening bag

Alexander McQueen, Spring/Resort 2013
Christian Louboutin

Monday, December 17, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Wrap It Up!

I was fortunate enough to have plenty of grandparents to spend my childhood with. Of course, I had my father's parents, and a great grandmother on that side. On my mother's side, I had grandparents, 3 great-grandparents, and one great-great grandmother. This meant plenty of love, and pre-dinner cookies, and secret quarters slipped to me when no one was looking. It also meant vastly different variations on Christmas.

We always had a green artificial tree at home, covered with homemade ornaments, new and vintage ornaments, multicolored lights, and tinsel garland. My dad's parents did a 1950's tree with angel hair tinsel and colored balls. Another house always had a real tree with delicate German ornaments and birds. And then we have my great grandmother Irene's house, where the tree was not quite as full, or as tall, but covered trunk to tip with ornaments painted by my mother and uncle when they were children. There was tradition and ritual to the decoration of each of these trees, but a lot of years, Irene's tree was dressed by just the two of us. We would dig out the ornaments, wrap garland around the porch rails, hang the mistletoe, and then select from decades of stored Christmas cards that she had received (she never threw a card away, a habit that I still struggle to break free of) to prop around the house. Then came my favorite part--the paper.

Both available on

As any well-trained pack rat knows, you should never waste something that you know you're going to need again next year, especially holiday items. This extends to wrapping paper. The old paper, that came folded in a neat plastic package, is much easier to store than a roll. It is also cuter than a lot of modern paper. And, if you're careful when you unwrap your gifts, you can re-fold it to use again. Our presents were always wrapped in paper from the 1950s and 1960s. We were all aware of the importance of saving the paper, so at Irene's house, there was no rip-and-tear enthusiasm. You start at the end flaps, carefully separate the tape along the main seam, and then trim the sticky bits off with scissors. Bows go into a paper grocery bag; the paper gets flattened and put into a stack.

Yes, the paper got incrementally smaller over the years, but it also meant that I got to have presents wrapped in my favorite papers every year. I also got to be the one to re-fold and store the paper after Christmas was over (one of life's little joys...). The bottom two drawers of one of the dressers in the house were devoted entirely to the storage of vintage paper. Sometimes, when I should have been napping, I would get on my knees and carefully ease the drawers open to look at the paper.

Occasionally, we would find a pack at the Salvation Army, or a dime store that is still operational in a nearby town, and it would get added to the stash for next time. I still look for it, even though it is getting harder to find the cute patterns. And, I'm not sure that I could bring myself to use it on an actual present. But it has made me a wrapping paper snob. The annual choice of paper is just as important as choosing the ornaments for the tree, or the presents themselves. I'm still drawn to vintage-inspired patterns. And I still use it to the last scrap (seriously, I save 4-inch pieces of paper that I really like, because you never know when you'll need to wrap something small...). This is a problem, because I want (need) to buy new paper every year, but I feel like I shouldn't if I still have paper left over from last year (and of course I do). Luckily, I have lots of presents in need of a good wrapping....