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Ideas and Methods of Curling and Styling a Basic Mohair Doll Wig.

EDITED BY Janet Irvin and Eva Oscarsson

Styling doll wig
Long-Face Jumeau reproduction. This mohair wig and the wig extensions were set witt alternating large and small perm rods.

Source: Curl Talk 1997 • Jones Publishing, Inc., Pages 11-13


Styling a wig is as simple (or as compli­cated) as styling your own hair. Mohair has the same structure as human hair and responds excellently to all kinds of curling techniques. There are a few sim­ple dos and don Js, hints and ideas that have been worked out through the years. The best source for help with cut­ting and styling your wig is your hair­dresser. Chances are he or she would be delighted to advise you.

Cutting the Bangs

For cutting bangs on wigs that are not to be set in curlers, have ready

• 1 fine comb and 1 wide-toothed comb

• Spray bottle and water

• Small, very sharp scissors (Perhaps you can get a pair of hair dressing scissors from your hairdresser.)

• Basic, unstyled mohair wig

• Doll with foam pate or wig stand

• Glass-headed pins

• Pin curl clips

1. Place the well combed-out wig on the doll or wig stand.

2. Fasten the wig onto the doll, (or wig stand) checking very carefully that the wig is placed exactly as desired. If the wig is askew, you may end up with a crooked haircut! Pin the wig down onto the pate firmly, using at least four pins.

3. Pull back all hair except the first row and hold with clips.

4. Spray the first row thoroughly with water, and comb neatly.

5. Cut the hair as desired, keeping in mind that this will be the shortest row. Each subsequent row will be cut about 1/8" (3mm) longer than the row before. This prevents getting a thickly cut edge of the bang.

6. Pull down the next row of mohair. Wet-comb and cut about 1/8" -1/4" (3 -6mm) longer than the previous row.

7. Proceed like this until all rows have been cut. Wet and comb again. Neaten the bangs. Taper the sides a little.

Don't make the bangs too long - they should not cover those eyebrows. (If the eyebrows are not to your satisfaction, do them again!)

Don't be afraid to cut the hair. As with people, a good haircut does wonders for your doll.

8. Lightly spray with water, then comb the remaining wig. Cut off any frizzy and uneven ends; shape the base of the hair. Scrunch the hair with your hands to re-form the curls. Place a hair net over the wig to settle all the fluffy and stray hairs and let dry.

9. Carefully comb out with a wide-toothed comb, should it need extra combing.

NOTE: Never cut a wig and then decide to set it - always curl it first, then cut the hair.

Curlers Suitable for Mohair Wigs

Many hair curlers are suitable for mohair. Keep in mind that mohair sets very easily, so the finished curl will be similar in size to the curler used. Many doll makers like to use perm rods, main­ly medium size and large size for 10" to 16" (25 to 41cm) wigs, and small ones for the smaller wigs. Steer away from any curlers that have little spikes on them. They can tangle the hair badly and cause a fair bit of frustration.

Spiral curlers are the popular choice at the moment. They are particularly good for modem dolls and should be used mainly with long mohair.

Bendable curlers can sometimes be found in retail department stores. These are foam-covered wires, about 8" (20cm) long. You wind the hair around the rod and then bend it over to hold the hair in place. Try cutting these into three pieces and using them to achieve the woolly look.

What about using drinking straws on small wigs? If you can manage to keep straws in place they are fine. However, many people find the smallest perm rods to be easier, as they have the elas­tic and clip to hold the hair.

Hair clips are excellent when making lit­tle love curls or just curling the ends of the mohair. Some doll makers avoid using electric curling irons because the tongue, which holds the hair while it is wound around the iron, causes a small ridge mark on the finished curl.

Straightening Mohair

Very large curlers can be used to straight­en frizzy-looking mohair. After setting and combing, you will have to place a net over the hair to settle it down.

If you own a little "Puff-Iron," use it. This looks like an egg on a pole and is about the size of a duck's egg. It gets clamped to the table and is designed for ironing cuffs of sleeves, frills and other bard-to-get-at items. It is also very use­ful for straightening mohair. Rub the mohair over the heated egg-shaped piece in a see-sawing motion. It works well but is not fast. You can also iron mohair with a conventional iron, but the result doesn't look as good. The round­ed shape of the puff-iron gives the mohair a more natural look than the flat iron. Be careful, though, not to burn your fingers!

Angel-Hair Curls and Waves

Crimping irons work quite well on long mohair, especially if you can find one with interchangeable plates and a small crimp. An even better result can be achieved by braiding the wet mohair into several thin braids, letting these dry, and then undoing and combing the braids - instant angel hair. Of course, a lot of mohair has a natural angel hair curl already.

You can buy butterfly clips that are designed to sculpt waves into the hair. These are also quite successful on mohair. Wet the hair, apply a little set­ting lotion or mousse, comb well and place the clips into the hair. Let dry, then very carefully comb the waves.

Hints on Curling Mohair

If you want a sharp and defined curl that holds its shape, use a little setting lotion or mousse on the wet hair. Use your spray bottle to wet the hair with water. Fasten the wig securely with pins to the doll. Comb a small section of hair with a fine comb. Use an end paper to hold all the end hairs together and roll the hair around the chosen curler. It is important to position the curl carefully. Once it is set in a certain way, it can not be shifted. If you want a curl to hang down, as a sausage curl, position the curler in just such a way.

Important! Do not put too much hair on one curler. It is hard to dry and will be shapeless.

In a symmetrical style, place a curler on one side, then repeat on the other side. It is easier to keep the style symmetrical, if you work on both sides simultaneously. For the wild and woolly look, try using the cut-up, bendable curlers mentioned previously, and cover the entire wig with loads of curlers, using setting lotion and end papers. Let dry thor­oughly. Carefully undo the curlers.

Don't comb, but use your finger to divide each hair curl into three or four

sections. Use a small amount of hair­spray to hold the hairdo in place. Now cut and shape the hairdo as needed.

Should you still need to cut the bangs, proceed in the already described

method but do not wet the hair. Just comb each row, then cut.

If you have made a wig with extensions, curl them before they are stitched to the

wig. Place the curls as you stitch the extensions - in a spiral fashion. Stitch the extensions to the wig after you have dried the hair and removed the curlers.

Separate the curls with your fingers for a lovely, curly look. You need, of course, to curl the wig as well.

You can achieve n very interesting and natural look by using a fat and a thin curler alternately. Use a large and a medium sized perm rod for large wigs, and a small and a medium sized rod for medium to small wigs.

French braiding is also lovely on dolls. This takes a little practice (probably your teenaged daughter can show you, or borrow someone else's teenaged daughter).

You can braid from the back forward, or from the front to the back. You can also make two braids, one on each side of a parting, or you can braid a wreath encir­cling the entire head.

Drying Mohair

Now, to dry the hair. You can let it dry naturally or you can use a hairdryer. You can even place it in an oven on a very, very low setting.

Or you may even use the microwave oven. (Do doll people ever actually use their ovens and stoves to cook on? You mean to say that is what they were really designed for? Amazing!)

Check carefully that you did not leave any pins inside the wig or you will smell an awful burnt-hair odor and find charred bits of hair and fabric on the wig. Make sure you have used no metal curlers or clips. You can not use the bendable curlers - they have metal wire inside them.

Place wig on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on medium for one minute. Let the wig cool down completely. Microwave for another minute on medi­um. Let cool again. Check the hair and repeat. Depending on size and wetness of the hair, it will take three to five min­utes. Be careful! Always cool down the wig and check it and the curls. Do not rush it or you will burn the hair. The entire process takes barely thirty min­utes. That is not much.

The steam that is generated through the heating process really sets the curl exceptionally well. This method of set­ting a wig is one of the best.

Finishing Touches

Use extra fine hair needles to hold curls and hair in place. Cut off the ends with wire cutters, bend one end of the hair needle back, and it will never fall out again.

Flowers and ribbons are lovely to use for giving the wig its final touch. If the doll is to wear a hat, design the wig with this fact in mind. You would, for exam­ple, not make a pulled back style, as it would be squashed by the hat.

Well, hopefully these pointers will give you some ideas, and inspire you to real­ly finish your wig creatively. Just use your imagination. Check hair styles in the books and magazines at a local styling salon to get inspiration.

None of the listed above ideas were checked by Doll Kingdom. We are not responsible for any of the described processes. Please use your own judgement before trying any recommendation.

Although the composition toddler dolls are far outnumbered by the little girl models made of composition, many fine designs for dolls with toddler bodies were made during the approx­imately 40 years of composition doll production.

BY DIAN ZILLNER. Photographs by Suzanne Silverthorn

Effanbee Walk Talk Sleep
Composition Effanbee Walk Talk Sleep Grumpy Doll with painted features and molded hair.

Source: November 1990 • Doll Reader , Pages 70-74


Bubbles Effanbee Doll Co.
13in (33cm) Bubbles made by the Effanbee Doll Co. beginning in 1926 in the toddler model. The doll has a composition shoulder head, full composition arms and legs and a cloth body. She has molded hair, an open mouth with teeth and tin sleep eyes. She is marked: "EFFANBEE//BUBBLES//COPYR. 1924//MADE JN U.S.A." She has been re-dressed.

Some of the earliest of these toddler dolls were made by the Effanbee Doll Co. during the 1920s. After Effanbee's successful marketing of the composi­tion Bubbles baby doll in 1924 and 1925, a new design of this doll was produced in 1926, perhaps to take advantage of the company's new slogan advertising dolls that "Walk -Talk -Sleep." The "new" Bubbles had toddler legs instead of the traditional curved baby legs so that she could also fit the "Walk" of the company's logo. Bubbles had a compo­sition shoulder head, full arms and legs and a cloth body. The hair was molded and she had sleep eyes. The company also used the same body construction on its Grumpy doll which had originally been placed on the market in 1912. The Grumpy doll was made in both black and white models. Grumpy had a frowning face, painted features and molded hair.

Effanbee Dolls Walk Talk Sleep Composition Black Doll
12in (31cm) black Baby Grumpy doll made by the Effanbee Doll Co. The doll has a composition shoulder head and full composition arms and legs, a cloth body, painted features and molded hair. She is marked in an oval on the back of her shoulder: "Effanbee//Dolls//Walk Talk Sleep."

Effanbee continued its interest in the toddler doll into the 1930s when the doll called Sugar Baby was developed. This doll was all composition with sleep eyes and came either wearing a wig or with molded hair. It was 16in (41cm) tall to 18in (46cm) tall.

The last great composition toddler made by the Effanbee Doll Co. was marketed in 1946 when the manufacture of composition dolls was nearing an end. The new doll was called the Candy Kid. The all composition dolls were dressed as either boys or girls and one popular model wore boxing gloves and shorts. The 1946 Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog featured a 13in (33cm) tall doll with wardrobe in a traveling case that sold for $16.50. The doll had molded hair and sleep eyes.

Although the Alexander Doll Co. did not make as many great toddler dolls as other companies, it did have one line of toddlers that outsold any other dolls of this type.



Composition Effanbee Candy Kid Doll
13in (33cm) Candy Kid made by Effanbee Doll Co. in 1946. This toddler doll is all composition, jointed at the shoulders and hips and has molded hair and sleep eyes. The doll is marked on the back of the head and on its body: "EFFANBEE."

The dolls were modeled after the famous Dionne Quintuplets who had been born in Canada in 1934. From 1935 until 1939, these toddler dolls were manufactured in various sizes from 8in (20cm) to 16in (41cm) wearing many different outfits. The dolls were made of all composition and most of them wore wigs although some did have molded hair. The smaller dolls had painted eyes while the bigger dolls had sleep eyes. The dolls remained on the market until the Quints began to grow up and lost some of their public appeal.

Dionne Quintuplet toddler, Alexander Doll Co.
14in (36cm) Dionne Quintuplet toddler made by the Alexander Doll Co. during the mid 1930s. The all composition doll is jointed at the shoulders and hips, has sleep eyes and a mohair wig. She is marked "Alexander" on both her head and her back. She has been re-dressed.

Freundlich Novelty Corp. Baby Sandy doll
19in (48cm) Baby Sandy doll made by the Freundlich Novelty Corp. from 1939 to 1942. The doll was made to honor tiny movie star Sandra Henvville. The all composition doll is jointed at the shoulders and hips and has molded hair, sleep eyes and an open mouth with teeth. She is marked "Baby Sandy" on her head. She has been re-dressed in factory made toddler clothing from the 1940s era.

Another famous toddler was also used as a prototype for a doll maker. The Freundlich Novelty Corp. designed a Baby Sandy doll named after the tiny movie star Sandra Henville who had become popular so quickly from her short-lived movie career.

These toddler dolls were marketed from 1939 until Sandy's movie career was over in 1942. There were several different model made of the dolls in sizes from 8in (20cm) to 16in (41cm) tall. The smaller doll's eye were painted while the larger editions had sleep eyes. The dolls were all composi­tion with molded hair and originally came with a pin showing a picture of Baby Sandy.

One of the most famous doll de­signs made in composition also hap­pens to be in the shape of a toddler doll. Although the variety of Rose O'Neill Kewpie dolls can provide a collection all by themselves, the composition Kewpie is designed with a short stocky body which places this doll in the tod­dler category.

Kewpie doll designed by Rose O'Neill
13in (33cm) all composition Kewpie doll designed by Rose O'Neill. This doll was made by the Cameo Doll Co. in the 1940s. She is jointed at her shoulders and hips and has molded hair and painted features. Her dress may be original.

She was made by the Cameo Doll Company for many years in both a black and a white model. Both the 1945 and the 1947 Sears, Roebuck and Co. Christmas catalogs list the dolls in the 13in (33cm) size priced from $1.65 to $2.57. The dolls are jointed at the shoulders and hips, have molded hair and painted features. The same company also made another f toddler when Rose O'Neill's Scooamoust/es was produced from composition in sizes from 8in (20cm) to 16in (41cm) tall. The last great Rose O'Neill Cameo composition toddler was made in 1946 when the Giggles doll was produced. The doll is all composition with painted eyes and molded hair with a bun in the back. Both the Scootles and the Giggles composition dolls fetch top dollar in today's doll market when they are in original condition.

Composition toddler Horsman Jo Jo doll
13in (33cm) Jo Jo made by the E. I. Horsman Co. in 1937. She is all composition with a mohair wig and sleep eyes. She is jointed at the shoulders and hips and wears her original cotton print dress and one-piece underwear. She is marked "Horsman Jo Jo" on the back of her neck.

The E. I. Horsman Co. probably produced more different designs of tod­dler dolls than any other company. Many of these dolls were unmarked but a few still survive in their original boxes. The Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog for 1945 listed a 16in (41cm) tall Horsman toddler doll with sleep eyes and painted hair priced at $5.50. The doll is similar to all of the unmarked toddler dolls that were ad­vertised in the toy catalogs throughout the 1940s.

A Horsman toddler with a better design was marketed in 1937. The doll was called Jo Jo and was 13in (33cm) tall and came with a wig or with molded hair. The dolls were dressed either as boys or girls and some had tin sleep eyes.

Dream Baby, Arranbee Doll Co
11in (28cm) Dream Baby made by Arranbee Doll Co. The all composition toddler has molded hair, painted eyes and open mouth. He is marked "Dream Baby" on both his head and his body. He is a product of the 1940s and has been re-dressed.

Several other doll companies made toddler dolls over the years including the Arranbee Doll Co. Although the trade name, Dream Baby, is usually associated with baby dolls, the com­pany did manufacture a toddler doll with the Dream Baby mark on its back. The doll is all composition with molded hair and painted eyes. As a doll design it is not of great merit as is the design which produced the toddler doll made by the American Character Doll Co. called Puggy. This 12in (31cm) tall doll was first manufactured in 1928 and is made of all composition. He has molded hair, painted eyes and is marked "A Petite Doll." He has an unusual quizzical pouty expression and is one of the most expensive of the tod­dler dolls when found in excellent con­dition.

Unmarked composition toddler doll
16in (41cm) unmarked all composition toddler doll jointed at the shoulders and hips. This boy doll has molded hair and painted eyes. He wears his original cotton suit and bonnet and dates from the mid 1940s.

Although there are lots of composi­tion toddler dolls still available to to­day's collectors, many of them are of the non-descript unmarked variety that were shown in the toy sections of the Christmas catalogs all through the 1940s.

Illustration on the right shows a large 16in (41cm) tall all original composition boy with painted eyes and molded hair. He may be the same doll shown in the Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog for 1945 priced at $2.10.

Unmarked all composition toddler doll
16in (41cm) unmarked all composition toddler doll jointed at the shoulders and hips. She is all original and dates from the 1940s. Her dress and bonnet are of light blue dotted Swiss with pink trim.

The toddler doll shown in Illustra­tion on the left is a much nicer example but she is also unmarked. The doll has a wig, sleep eyes and wears her original clothing. Collectors should not pass up these dolls when they are all original because these inexpensive dolls made it possible for many little girls to own dolls who would never have had that opportunity if the doll market had only consisted of the more expensive Alex­ander and Effanbee models.

The more desirable composition toddler dolls continue to rise in price with the toddlers from the major doll companies bringing $200 and up when dressed in original clothing. Because fewer toddler dolls were made, it seems likely that this trend will continue. It is not hard for a modern doll collector to become interested in toddler dolls after seeing a Candy Kid, Scootles or Dionne Quint doll in original condition. Maybe that is what has happened at doll shows and auctions and that explains why the prices continue to soar.

Admirers of the Gene Marshall Collection transcend age, gender and ethnicity. It is not simply that these dolls are lovely, or that their costuming is unparalleled in the world of fashion dolls. Rather, it is the intangible that we find alluring-for to purchase one of these icons of 1940s nostalgia is to purchase a round-trip fantasy ticket to Tinsel Town at a time when Hollywood glamour reigned supreme.

This article is 18 years old and the Gene dolls are highly collectible and very popular even today. We found in the article interesting and relevant info that we would like to share with you.


Gene Marshall doll
The Starlight Canteen Duo. Each doll limited to 2,500 worldwide. It's celebrity night at the canteen. Gene dances with the boys, Madra pours the coffee, Trent hosts the show in military regalia, then the three of them do a skit for the guys and gals.

Source: December 2002 • Doll World , Pages 28-33


Go ahead. Pick a costume, any costume. Read the story card attached. Instantly you are transported to the back lot of Monolithic Pictures, a fictional studio where a fictional cast of stars can be found anytime, filming its latest fictional drama for the silver screen.

Ah, there is Gene Marshall, the stunningly beautiful Hollywood starlet, with a heart to match. Everyone loves Gene. Well, everyone but Madra Lord. She's the sophisticated, glam­orous one over there. Madra has paid her dues and climbed over a lot of people to get where she is. She's not about to be upstaged by a newcomer like Gene. Oh, here comes Trent Osborn. He's devilishly handsome, don't you think? There are always rumors floating around Hollywood about him and some pretty, new face. Mmmm! There is Violet Waters, the newest star on the set. Not only is she lovely, but what a voice! Shhhh. The director has arrived. They're getting ready to shoot a scene.

"Quiet on the set," calls a voice. "Scene lV, take #1. Lights ... camera ... action!"

Gene Marshall doll
Winter's Romance. Edition limited to 2,500 worldwide. Gene is thrilled to light the big city's holiday tree, relishing the brisk East Coast weather.

Are you beginning to get the picture? Not only does the Gene Collection dazzle the eye with costumes reminiscent ·of a post­World-War-II Hollywood extravaganza, it imbues each doll with a distinct character and personality, and invites us to get to know them personally. It invites us to a private, front-row viewing of the Golden Age of Hollywood. So, if you missed it the first time around, now is your chance to share the dream.

It takes a lot of creative, dedicated people to produce Hollywood magic. Interviews with some members of the "Gene team" reveal this is true, even when the fantasy is mini

in scale, and made of vinyl.


Mel Odom is the talented artist who literally dreamed "Gene Marshall, Girl Star" into existence. I caught up with him at Blue Star Studio Inc., his New-York­ based company where he graciously answered some pointed questions.

Q. Mel Odom was already an important illustra­tive artist in his own right. Why risk it all for dolls?

A. I had been illustrating for 15 years and was get­ting a little bored. There would be passion involved with the creative process. I felt I could no longer bring that excite­ment to my work. It was time to incorporate other things I loved.

Q. Did you worry that the art world would cease to take you seriously as an artist?

A. No. Illustrating has always been considered an illegitimate child of art. I was used to that. In doing Gene, I had to incorporate my knowledge of art, fashion, movies, storytelling and photogra­phy. Gene is the hardest thing I have ever done.

At forty-something, I have become the poster boy for other artists and illustrators wanting to embark on a second-generation career.

Q. Why Gene, and the 1940s and 1950s?

A. I had been thinking about Gene for a Jong time. The1940s was a period of time in Hollywood unequaled for glamour and romance. It was a great influence on fashion and helped shape American history. I felt no one could do it better than I. If you know you can do something better than anyone else, you should do it.

Q. Can you describe the Gene Collection concept in one sentence?

Gene Marshall doll
Fascination. Edition limited to 2,002 world­wide. Violet poses for the cover of her first stereophonic album and finds a fasci­nating prop at the photo shoot to add to the mystery.

A. Gene is all about optimism. She reflects the best side

of Hollywood with none of the less glamorous aspects. She is an optimistic history of ourselves.

Q. What feelings do you want to evoke from people see­ing your creations?

A. Loosen up! Play! Gene is a toy for adults. When work is getting tiresome, I take a few minutes off. Often I pick up some toy and begin to play with it. I start to relax. That frees my mind and allows the creative juices to start flowing again.

Q. What sets the Gene characters apart from other fash­ion dolls?

A. Just that. They are characters. Each has its own dis­tinct personality. When designing for Madra, for example, we discuss whether Madra, with her personality, would wear that particular costume or color. Sometimes we love a cos­tume, but decide it really is something Gene would wear. The stories and dress have to be true to the character in order to create personalities.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating each year's new collection?

A. Going to the Picture

Library and checking out photographs from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, looking for ideas for costumes. Then I like to go to the fabric shops. Most of the good fabric shops in New York are all in the same district, so you can just go from shop to shop, almost like bar hopping. It's really fun to go with some­one who shares my enthusi­asm for beautiful fabrics and design. Sometimes a piece of cloth is the beginning idea for a costume.

Q. Who sifts through all the ideas to determine the few chosen for each year's collection?

A. The Gene Team-a very talented group of people who

work with the collection, and ultimately decide which products are the most viable.

Q. What do you envision for Gene in the future?

A. Gene's story in animation. Her story really is a fairy tale, and like other enduring fairy tales, it contains life lessons and characters we can all identify with. That's already in the works. It's what I had as an ultimate goal from the very beginning. As a child, I lived Disney and still watch a lot of cartoons.

Gene Marshall doll
Torch Song. Edition limited to 3,000 worldwide. Violet is fea­tured in a television spectacular in a scene set in a 1920s speak­easy, and is a hit in homes from coast-to-coast.

Q. Who do the characters, Gene, Madra, Trent and Violet, represent to you?

A. They are sort of composites of early movie stars. Gene is

meant to represent an entire generation of movie stars. She has Loretta Young's eyebrows, Lisbeth Scott's hairline, the shape of Ann Southem's face, Lana Turner's lips and Gene Tierney's eyes.

Madra is who you would get if you put Betty Davis and Joan Crawford in a blender, along with just a smidgen of Lucille Ball, and puree. She is demanding, forceful and a little insecure, so she always needs to be the center of attention. There is also a humor­ous edge to her and a flair for the dramatic. These traits come out in some of her flamboyant costumes.

Trent is a combination of Errol Flynn and Cary Grant, with a touch of Ronald Coleman. I wanted him to look like a man who was outspoken enough to have gotten his face slapped once or twice. He had to be a little bit of a rogue to be able to hold his own with Gene and Madra, both very strong characters.

Violet Waters is a smooth blend of Lena Hom and Dorothy Dandridge-beautiful and sultry, with a voice to match. Their music, like Ella Fitzgerald's, was a gift to the world.

Q. ls it true you used your own feet as models for Trent's?

A. (Laughter.) Yes.

Q. You have been described as charismatic, shy, flamboyant, fun-loving, driven, exacting, empathetic, boyish and sexy. How would you describe yourself?

A. Focused. Self-disciplined. The person I am now, artistical­ly, and the things I enjoy peaked at about age 8. I loved illustrat­ing, fashion and cartoons, which I thought of as drawings coming to life. I loved them then, and I still do.

Q. What would you like people to know about you that they may not already know?

A. I have great friends, a lot of them from my school days and he Baptist church I went to. My mother says I'm very lucky to have such good friends. My friends say I am the luckiest person they know. I have to agree with them.


Jim Howard is one of the fashion designers on the Gene Team. He started as a fashion

illustrator for such well-known names as Neiman Marcus and Saks. He is a self-confessed movie buff, and sews the prototypes for most of his own designs.

Gene Marshall doll
Moulin Noire. Edition limited to 2,002 worldwide. Madra is the toast of Paris in a special nightclub appearance-and when she takes an admirer under her wing, she proves that no translator is needed when it comes to the language of love.

Q. How did you come to work with the Gene Team?

A. I first met Mel at a party given by a mutual friend, but lost track of him when I moved. While visiting a museum, I saw these gorgeous dolls. I thought they were vintage. As it turned out, they were Gene dolls done by Mel, and he was due in Albuquerque soon for a signing. I went, and stood in line with everyone else. Needless to say, Mel was surprised to see me.

I started doing one-of-a-kind, re-dressed Genes on my own. Eventually, I was asked to do some for the Gene collection.

Q. Which is your favorite costume, and what was your inspiration?

A. I really enjoyed doing Starlight Canteen. I can still recall the

Hollywood Canteen from old movies. I also remember my sister hosting the State Door Canteen in Houston when I was young.

Q. What do you do when you aren't working?

A. I've always had a passion for antique dolls, so I have been doing reproduction antique dolls and costumes. I completed an entire wardrobe for a 27-inch Gaultier, including wigs, hats and shoes, for the United Federation of Doll Clubs competition.

I am also hosting the 2002 Gene Convention in Albuquerque in October.

Q. Do you do anything just for fun?

A. Dolls are just plain fun. I am amazed that I am having this much fun with a second career at my age.

Q. Since you broached the subject, just between the two of us, what age are you?

A. 71.


Boram Kim is Product Development Manager for the Gene col­lection. When I first spoke with Kim, she was researching Marine officers' dress uniforms. It seemed the original Major's uniform worn by Trent Osborn in Starlight Canteen was not quite con-ect. After much futile hunting, it was decided, for the sake of authenticity and production schedules, to demote Trent to Captain, an easier uniform to reproduce. Kim and I had a great time fantasizing scenarios to explain his fall from grace, finally deciding he probably was caught casting a flirtatious glance at the Colonel's daughter.

Gene Marshall doll
To Have and To Hold. Edition limited to 3,750 worldwide. It may only be a movie, but Gene's parents get misty-eyed when they see her walking down the aisle in this fabulous 1940s wedding gown.

Q. Bo ram, I'm told you are the "needles and pins" of the Gene team because you "hold together all the different aspects of a new project." Would you agree?

A. Well, I wear a lot of hats. Primarily, I act as go-between for the different entities involved: Ashton Drake Galleries, Gallery Marketing Group, the factory and members of the Gene team. But as you know, I never know what the day is going to bring.

Q. I'm told you have to make the hard decisions. The rest of the team can let their imaginations run wild, but you must decide if the project is viable. Is that true?

A. Nothing is really a one-person decision. I think of myself as a negotiator.

Q. What is the most unusual problem you have encountered?

A. (Laughing) I think I'll plead the fifth on that one.


Gene Marshall doll
Top of the Morning. Edition limited to 3,750 worldwide. Trent looks dapper as the groom-a role he's played many times!

As head writer for the Gene Team, Kirk Swank spins the inven­tive web of dialogue that allows the Gene characters to speak to us. A theater major in college, he has performed in a number of theater productions, including Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man, and Major Stanley in the Pirates of Penzance.

Q. Kirk, what part of working with the Gene Team do you least enjoy?

A. Deadlines, but they are also some of the most exciting

times. There's nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing.

Q. Which comes first, the stories or the costumes?

A. Usually the costume or character comes first, but some­times we work backwards.

Q. Where do you get your best ideas?

A. In the shower, when it's least convenient.

Q. The name Kirk Swank could easily be a Gene character. With your theatrical background, if you were to place yourself in a Gene scene, what part would you play?

A. I would be the kind of goofy

second lead. I'm always joking around, and I don't have that really handsome movie-star look.

Gene Marshall doll
Playing the Field. Edition limited to 2,002 worldwide. Trent shows up in England for the 1953 Coronation Cup polo match, dressed and ready to step in for the American team.

Q. Which is your favorite project?

A. We staged a radio show with the collectors at convention, along the lines of the shows done by Bob Hope for the armed services troops, where he jokes around with different movie stars. We called it The Les Moore Show. We wrote scripts for each char­acter then got volunteers from the audience to come up and play their paits in front of a microphone. They really did a great job. The collectors ai·e wonderful.

Q. Your favorite source for infor­mation?

A. The Chicago Public Library. It has a great system that can be tapped into by computer. We call the library the tallest building in Chicago because it has the most stories. (Sounds of both of us groaning.)

Q. Tell us a secret that most people don't know about the Gene collection.

A. I'm not sure I should tell this, but I'm one of the characters in the Gene story, even though you don't see me. I'm Buddy Lewis, the songwriter. I wrote the sheet music included with Violet Waters, Swing Time Serenade.


No behind-the-scenes story would be complete without a few words from Joan Greene. Joan has recently changed positions to pursue other endeavors, such as her newest book, In Search of the Teddy, but for eight years she was the acknowledged "heart " of the Gene Team.

Q. Joan, when did you start work­ing with the Gene project?

A. At its inception in 1994. We began with some of Mel's sketches, and ideas of who he wanted Gene to be, and took them to reality.

Gene Marshall doll
Dark Desire. Edition limited to 3,000 worldwide. Madra chats with a fan about a courtroom scene in The Lady or the Spider, in which she's on trial for the mysterious murder of her second husband-or was it her third?

Q. How did you go about that?

A. The dolls and costumes were to be produced in Asia. The company was accustomed to making simple things like molded plastic water pis­tols. They had never done anything of the quality we wanted. I had to teach them virtually everything, from rib­bon embroidery to chain stitches for real hooks and eyes (no metal or hook-and-loop tape) and French seams for stockings. I had to teach them some of the lost arts.

Q. What was there about Gene that sparked your enthusiasm and loyalty for the project?

A. The story, "small-time girl makes good." It is very similar to my own. I could relate to it, and I wanted her to succeed.

Q. Of which project are you most proud?

A. The Young Designer of America Program. One of our win­ners now has designs exhibited in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Another received an art design schol­arship. And one of our winners, who is legally deaf, now has a design being worn in a Broadway play.

We changed people's lives.

Q. Biggest flop?

A. Misjudging the difference between what collectors tell you they want, and what they really want. They say they want costumes of everyday clothes like they wore, but what they buy are the fancy ball gowns.

Q. Who dubbed it the Gene Team?

A. Ashton Drake in 1996.

Q. What would you like to leave as your legacy to the Gene Team?

A. That I helped make the Gene Marshall Collection a brand. I helped get it off the ground. Mel brought us a dream ... I helped breath life into it.

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