By Cassandra George Sturges
Every doll maker has a magical moment when she knows that her doll has come to life. I always feel like my cloth dolls are born once I attach their earrings to their ears. I think the reason my dolls feel like they have come to life for me is that unlike the doll’s ears--earrings are not a necessity—to the doll’s physical structure. Earrings are accessories that speak to the doll’s style and personality. She doesn’t need them she wants them.
As a doll maker, I love big ears that are prominent on my dolls faces because if I am going to go through the trouble to make them, I want to see them. I want them to be dominant and prominent so that people know that the doll’s ear size is not a mistake.
Toy companies that manufacture dolls, go out of their way to make small features on the doll’s head, with the exception of the doll’s eyes. In fact, they exaggerate the size of the doll’s eyes in proportion to the rest of her face. The plastic fashion doll’s eyes are the biggest feature on her face because they hypnotize the little girl into believing all of the sweet little lies the world wants her to believe about womanhood, femininity, and beauty.
This standard of unobtainable beauty that is perpetuated by plastic doll makers contributes to the beauty industries 445 billion dollar industry. When a little girl is given a doll, she has not yet developed a self-identity imbued with her own dreams, values, and sense of beauty. The doll plays with the little girl inside of her imagination where she is most vulnerable, susceptible, and impressionable of who she is supposed be; how she is supposed to act; and how she is supposed to see the world through the doll’s eyes.
One day the little girl looks at herself in the mirror and asks her doll, “ Do you think I am beautiful like you?” The fashion doll gives the little a girl a blank stare that reaches to the core of her being and says, “Of course not. Your lips are not like mine. Your nose is too big. Your eyes are too small. You are too fat. Your hair is not shiny. You are too short. And one day you are going to want to get plastic surgery to increase the size of your breasts.”
The little girl spends the majority of her youth trying to live up to her doll’s ideal of beauty—never feeling quite good enough…beautiful enough…or even alive enough…just like her doll.
To be alive to me means to be beautifully imperfect, like nature. Freckles, wrinkles, cellulite, potbellies, and gaps in our teeth are the characteristics that make us uniquely human. I think the reason, I love making cloth dolls, in the second half-a-century of my life, is because I spent the first have of my live, trying to fit into society’s expectations and standards of beauty—and now I want to experience what it is like to feel perfectly flawed and, imperfectly beautiful with big ears and all.