Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Elegant Elsie

I'm always on the lookout for a new source of wigs, since fun hair is a great way to add diversity to the dolls I restore.  A few months ago, I was admiring the 11" American Girl wigs at ZaZou Custom Dolls and decided to ask if they could make some 13" wigs for My Twinns.  To my delight, ZaZou's owner, Danielle, was happy to special order this size of wig for me!  She took a ton of time and effort to make sure the fit was exactly right, too.  I ordered five different styles of wig and they arrived just a few weeks ago.

Because Danielle had to order each wig in batches of 10, and because I only needed a few of each style, there are still some 13" wigs for sale over at ZaZou if you're interested!  The wigs are beautiful, and I highly recommend the shop.  One note: the 13" Merina wig is not as red as it looks in the photo.  It's the same color as the 11" Bohemian Gingersnap wig.

As you can imagine, I was eager to work on a few dolls who could model these new wigs!  One of the girls is a very special doll who needs a lot of work, so I wanted to select a second doll who could be completed fairly quickly.  This is where my elegant Elsie--who looks like she barely needs any work at all--came into the picture:

1997 My Twinn doll with the Kelsey face.
I named this doll Elsie for a simple and uncreative reason: it rhymes with Kelsey.  

This is the first doll that I ever bought with the Kelsey face (Orla was the second, even though I restored her first).  Kelsey is considered a rare face, but I've seen quite a few of them on eBay over the past year.

Before I owned one of these dolls, I wasn't sure how much I liked this particular face.  The mold has unusual eyes, with thick sockets and a deep scoop in the shape of the lower lids.  However, when I saw this particular Kelsey online, I thought she was beautiful.

In fact, it wasn't clear to me from the auction photos that she needed any changes whatsoever.  I love her bright red lips, short dark hair, and expressive eyebrows.  She's very elegant!

Her body was in pretty good shape, too:

It's a nice, clean 1997 body with regular, tight ankle joints (no elastic).

There was some damage around her neck seam:

And she has a small number of picks in her cloth torso, mostly on her back and over her right shoulder:

Elsie also has a squeaky armature, but it's not so bad that I felt the need to take her body apart to fix it.  It's mostly her neck joint that squeaks when it's moved in certain directions.

But look at this gorgeous face!

I'll go ahead and throw a spoiler at you: I didn't make this doll look better.  She was really lovely when she came to me, and she's still lovely, but now she looks completely different.  It's a little sad, in a way.

If I loved her so much, you might ask, why in the world did I change her?  I'll explain.

The problem with Elsie was that her elegant face paint was from a previous makeover.  That's not a problem in and of itself of course, but the materials used to do the face were not things that I thought would last.

Let's take a closer look:

I love the bright red of her lips, but I can see the factory paint showing on the top lip, and there's a bit of red that has smudged under the bottom lip:

Elsie's rosy cheeks also looked like they might have been painted on with human makeup:

I took Elsie to my work table for closer inspection.  

The first thing I did was remove her old wig.  The wig had a lot of dried, yellow glue stuck to it, and it also had a newer, super-sticky, globby glue that had been holding the wig in place more recently.  I saved the wig, but it's going to take some effort to get it cleaned up--and of course Elsie was destined to wear a ZaZou wig!

Here's Elsie's bare head:

I was able to get a slightly better shot of her lip paint:

In this picture it's easier to get a glimpse of the factory paint peeking through at the top, and the smudges along the bottom lip.

Elsie's arched eyebrows were drawn on with what looks like watercolor pencil.  I used to prefer this kind of pencil myself, but I discovered that the color rubs off way too easily--even after it's had time to set.

Sure enough, these eyebrows rubbed off with just my dry finger.

Elsie's eyes were also disappointing up close.  They're blueish purple, which isn't my favorite color, but they're also fading in a strange way that's making them lose definition in the irises:

It looks like that photo is out of focus (and it might be, a little) but it's like the eyes are out of focus in real life.  They're hazy.

Elsie also had some white eyeshadow drawn in over her eyes:

The nice thing for me was that removing Elsie's old makeup was very easy.  Emotionally difficult, perhaps, but physically very easy.

Here she is with a blank face...and a bit of a blank stare:

I was all excited to try out some new glass eyes on this doll.  The ones I'd picked are Lauscha eyes from Germany in a color called "topaz."  The color is more like dark brown with a hint of green, if you ask me, but the eyes are pretty.

This brand of glass eye tends to be a little big for My Twinn dolls, but I thought that perhaps the size would suit Elsie's unusual eye socket shape.


The crosseyed alien look is not what I was going for.

Fortunately, the eyes have a concave area in the back so I was able to pry them out.

For my next attempt, I tried some blue Eyeco acrylic eyes (I thought I'd taken pictures of these, but I guess not...).  They were SO hard to get in place.  It was a battle with casualties.  I still have bruised fingers, and the inner corner of Elsie's left eye stretched and tore a bit, which you can see in some of the pictures.  This defect won't get any worse over time, since there's no pressure on Elsie's eye anymore and the vinyl is like a rock, but it's still noticeable if you look close enough. 

I'm officially adding the Kelsey mold to the list of faces (Emma, Rosemary) that either shouldn't have their eyes swapped, or shouldn't be given acrylic eyes.

Remembering how nicely the Eyeco silicone eyes worked for Orla, I decided to use a pair of those on Elsie.  This is the Ultra A071 color, which is pretty intense:

The eyes have beautiful detail, though!

I have two comments about the picture, above: the outer corner of Elsie's right eye is not cracked.  That's the way the eyelid is molded.  Also, the bottom of the right iris looks like it has a little line running along it.  This is also not a defect, it's the edge of where the silicone transitions from opaque to clear over the iris.  I'm not sure why it's so visible with this eye.

Here's the other eye:  

I'll admit to feeling some pretty significant relief at being able to get a pair of eyes--any pair of eyes-- into Elsie's head.  If I can't replace the eyes, the project comes to a screeching halt.

Next I painted the lips and blush.  

I wanted to use a darker, redder color than what I normally choose (in deference to Elsie's old lips), but after several attempts, the best I could get was this vibrant coral color:

We were chatting in the comments section about trying to make bolder, darker eyebrows, so I tried my hand at making Elsie's brows a bit thicker than I normally would:

This just made me think of Ross from Friends, with his constantly raised eyebrows.  I didn't think it was the best look for Elsie.

So, I sketched in a few different shapes with my own watercolor pencils, just to see what might work:

I settled on some lower-set, slightly arched brows, and then painted over them with reddish brown acrylic.  I also added a light sprinkling of freckles:

I felt like Elsie was fighting me at every stage of the makeover process.  The eye replacement was hard, and then I probably spent 12 straight hours painting and re-painting her face.  But then, magically, the freckles went on in about two minutes with no trouble!  It's so funny how these things go.

Finally, I gave Elsie some new auburn eyelashes:

You can see what I mean now--she looks nothing like her old self.

With the face finally sorted out, I repaired the back of the cloth torso:

And had to re-stitch the back seam to keep it from unraveling:

I also spot-cleaned a few areas of dirt and old makeup on Elsie's back.  These were pretty minor.

Then, the only thing left to do was to choose a ZaZou wig and find Elsie some clothes!  

I'd actually intended to use a dark red Rowan wig on Elsie, but her eyebrows ended up matching the lighter red Poppy wig almost perfectly.  As for clothes, since Elsie didn't have a custom-made outfit waiting for her, I had to scrounge around in my drawer of My Twinn clothing to see what might look good.

I've always liked redheads wearing purple, so I started with this butterfly dress:

This is one of my favorite My Twinn dresses.  It's so pretty, and it has buttons in back instead of velcro, which is always a huge plus.

I washed this dress twice, and it's in nice shape overall, but it still has some light areas of wear/bleaching on each sleeve:

Let's just cover those areas with some gorgeous, flame red hair!

I adore this wig.  To me, it's the perfect mix of red colors:

It's thick and long and chaotic with curl.

Pulling the hair away from Elsie's face really allows the curls to run wild:

I thought that since Elsie had clips in her hair for her "before" picture, I'd do the "after" picture while I still had the clips in place!

The clips show off the colors in this wig to their best advantage, too:

This might be my new favorite wig of all time.  The color is simply perfection.  The hair is a little hard to manage, since it's so long and has all of those corkscrew curls, but I've found that patient finger-combing is the best way to keep the curls in line.

I have this pretty rhinestone butterfly hairlip from Doll of a Kind, and I thought it might be a fun accent for Elsie's hair--especially with the butterfly dress:

But it's certainly more fun to play with the hair when there are no clips constraining it!

I like this dress on Elsie, but with her extremely bright hair and eyes, I thought she might prefer something a bit more subdued.  So let's say goodbye to this dress for now.

The second dress I tried on her is a very simple black velour a-line dress from the My Twinn company:

Black clothing makes me nervous on vinyl dolls, but I don't know if this particular dress has a reputation for causing stains.  I've kept one of my own dolls in a dress like this for quite a while.  Nevertheless, I always soak dark My Twinn clothing in hot water for a few hours before I wash it, to try and remove some of the excess color.

This dress highlights Elsie's hair and eyes in a cool way!  I think it's probably the more flattering of the two dresses--at least for photography:

It shows off the true color of the wig really well, too:

Here are a few more picture of Elsie wearing black:

I thought it would be fun to do another comparison GIF with this dress, so I pulled Elsie's hair back again...

And here you go!

This wig is so thick and full, I thought I would try styling it in a single ponytail at the back of the head:

That looks cute, but it looks even better when the ponytail is loosened a bit and pulled around to one side!

Elsie is elegant once again.

I took a lot of pictures of Elsie.  This was a little bit because of the wardrobe change, but also because Danielle from ZaZou wanted a few shots to show off the new wigs.  

So, at the risk of making this post uncomfortably long, I'll share just a few more of my favorite shots with you:

It's always a little disheartening to work on a doll who isn't in desperate need of a makeover.  I feel a sense of loss for the personality that's being erased.  However, in Elsie's case, I suppose her old face was going to rub off sooner rather than later, and now she has a vibrant new look to launch her into the next chapter of her existence!

Here's a summary of the work that was done on Elsie:
-her vinyl was cleaned with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
-her old face paint was wiped away and her old eyes were removed
-she was given new Eyeco Ultra A071 silicone eyes
-her face was repainted, including lips, blush, eyebrows, and light freckles
-she was given new eyelashes
-her neck seam was repaired and her back seam was re-sewn
-some makeup stains and dirt on her cloth body were spot cleaned with diluted bleach
-she was given a new bright red special-order wig from ZaZou Custom Dolls
-she was given a new wardrobe of two used My Twinn dresses (black and purple), used My Twinn black patent leather shoes, and new white tights

Elsie's biggest flaws are that she has a defect at the corner of her left eye (from the eye replacement process), her armature is squeaky, and she has some small scuffs and marks on her vinyl parts from being 22 years old.  Her clothing is used, with some signs of wear, but is freshly cleaned with scent-free detergent.

I'm so happy to have these new ZaZou wigs in my repertoire.  The next wig I'm going to share here is truly unique, and will go on a doll who--unlike Elsie--was in absolutely desperate need of a makeover!  I hope to finish that girl by the end of this week.

In the meantime, thank you for reading about the makeover adventures of fiery-haired Elsie!  Elsie has sold.  Thank you!


  1. Saw the photo on Zazou's instagram and KNEW it had to be yours! What a beautiful doll! -Micah

    1. Thank you so much, Micah! I'll have to go check out which photo she picked! :)

  2. She looks younger with the makeover. Glam though her original was, it was a bit mature for what is supposed to be a child doll I feel. I think the more youthful look works better for her and she looks pretty happy with the end result too.

    1. Well, that's a great perspective! I definitely see what you mean. It makes me feel better about changing her, too. Thank you!

  3. Here is a great clothing care tip from Rebecca who was having trouble commenting and messaged me through Etsy:

    "...a trick I've done for color-fastness in fabric is to soak it in a vinegar/water solution and then soak/rinse in plain water to see if it still bleeds (and then soak in a new vinegar/water solution if necessary) until satisfied. I had a deep blue satin fabric that actually stained my ironing board before I did this! I was worried then about it staining dolls and the white fabric it was going to be touching, and so did the vinegar soak. Hope it helps :)"

    Thank you so much, Rebecca!!

  4. Thank you so much, Linda! Isn't the wig beautiful? I am so pleased with it. I've been questing for the perfect custom red wig for what feels like forever! Now I have two that I really like: this one and the red Timarie wig that Poppy is wearing. Life is good! :D

  5. I did like the looks of the original Elsie. Even her eyes were were dramatic. The new Kelsey is a refreshing transformation though. I think it would be fun to see all the My Twin makeovers you have done in their own album. Thanks for sharing your artistry.

  6. I'm the anon who asked about bolder eyebrows, and I think her eyebrows look great! The first pass did too, although I can see what you mean about Ross lol. Her new eyes look gorgeous, and I love the dress you chose! Great work :)


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