Saturday, September 25, 2021

Belle 1

Sorry for the long delay in between posts, but there was a lot of back-to-school chaos around here recently, as I'm sure there was for many of you!  My son said to me the other day that he loves the fall and the beginning of a new school year because of all the possibilities that this time of year holds.  I feel exactly the same way.  Something about the cool air and new schedule makes anything feel possible.

I'm full of extra optimism today because the Belles are finally done!  Between the long stain removal process and lots of interruptions in my work schedule, it was starting to feel like it would never happen.  However, the princesses are now stain-free and ready for their royal debut.  

When I ran my poll last summer to see which My Twinn face fit which princess best, there was not a clear answer for which face should represent Belle.  Many of you thought Lenora would be a good fit, and many of you opted for Madison.  Madison ended up winning the role, mostly because more people thought Lenora would work better for Cinderella (who's up next, yay!!).

Here's the pale Madison who I chose to be the Disney version of Belle:

1997 My Twinn doll with pale vinyl and the Madison face.

I'd like to start with a very special thank-you to Hannah, who gave me a good price for this beautiful Madison.  As soon as I saw her, I knew she was destined to be Belle. :)

Belle came to me in decent shape.  She is a white-bodied doll from 1997, but her ankle joints are nice and sturdy and she balances well:

Good bones.
She has a few pulls on the front her fabric torso and lots of picks on her back, but she didn't come with any big stains or bad smells:

She had a small dark patch on the vinyl of her right arm, and this is what required several Remove-Zit treatments:

The stain faded nicely over several weeks.  Here's how the arm looks now:

Here she is from the back:

With a closer look at all of the snags:

She also had some scuffs and dirt on her legs:

Belle had a hole in the seam of one of her arms, and she also had a wobbly arm.  Because of these things, I decided to completely disassemble her body.  

With the foam removed, I could repair the seam in her arm really easily using my sewing machine.  I also used this chance to put some Fabric-Tac on the back side of her torso fabric in the areas with the biggest snags.  This will discourage the threads from unraveling further.  

You can't tell that there's any glue on the fabric from the front side.  Here's how a few of those areas look now:

Snags stopped in their tracks--I hope.
While Belle's body was disassembled, I gave all of the parts a thorough cleaning, including her foam stuffing.

Belle's head was is good shape when I got her, especially considering her age. She had ragged eyelashes, some areas of missing paint, and a few other small scuffs and marks:

Here she is without her faded wig:

Her lips were a very nice shape and color, but she had missing paint on her upper lip, and some yellow discoloration around her whole mouth:

I removed her ragged eyelashes:

I was excited that this doll already had brown eyes, like Disney's Belle, but I wasn't absolutely sure I wanted to keep them:

They're a bit faded, not pink or anything like that, but perhaps moving slowly in that direction:

The color is lighter on the bottom of the eye than it is on the top.
The sockets were also quite dirty and so--as I often do these days--I changed the eyes.  I had a nice pair of brown Hand Glass Craft eyes that I knew would be a good match for this princess.

With the old eyes out of the way, I could thoroughly clean the head and remove all of the factory paint:

Belle had a little scuff on the tip of her nose that needed some sanding, too:

Once her head was dry, I put in the new eyes, sprayed the vinyl with sealant, and then got started with the painting.

I looked at a lot of pictures of Disney's animated Belle, but she doesn't have anything truly distinct about her eyebrows.  I tried to create a bit of an arch on the outer half of each brow, but the shape ended up looking pretty straight overall:

Looks like another typical Emily brow.
Here she is with blushing and some full lips:

Belle has brown D400 eyes from Hand Glass Craft.  They were supposed to have low lenses, like all of the eyes I order from this company, but there was a mistake with the order and I got a pair with regular domed lenses.  

I honestly can't tell the difference once the eyes are in place!

My eyebrows often look really long in front-facing photos, so I decided to take a side-view picture of the brows so you can see that they don't actually extend too far past the edge of the eye socket:

Once the face was painted, I added another coat of sealant, which is my new habit.

The next day, Belle got dark brown eyelashes and a beautiful wig from Doll of a Kind:

I ordered this wig ages ago--back when Doll of a Kind was selling 13" wigs.  I was saving it for just the right doll, and I think Belle is a great fit!

It's a beautiful wig, but, like all of these curled wigs, the curls look perfect and glossy when the wig is fresh out of the bag...

...and then, inevitably, the curls start to lose their shape once the hair is manipulated:

The curls can be preserved better if you finger-comb them or use a brush on each ringlet separately.

Because Belle has a white torso, I had to be really careful about the design of her dress.  If any of the white fabric showed at the neckline, it would look really silly.  I can't think of a single princess who wears a white tee shirt underneath her gown.

Julie from Fairy Tale Blessings understood my problem very well, and designed this beautiful version of Belle's iconic yellow gown--complete with a high neckline and flattering sleeves:

The gown has some lovely details in the bodice:

And three tiers of sheer ruffles in the skirt:

The top layer ruffles tend to stick up, but they can be ironed down when they start to get out of hand.

I added a crinoline underneath the skirt to achieve even more volume.  In these pictures, Belle is not wearing tights or shoes (the tights had not arrived yet), but she will come with white tights and gold-colored slip-on shoes.

Now, let's talk about Belle's hair for a minute:

Her wig is braided at the sides (to create some volume around her face) and is pulled back into a big bun that sits high on her head.  

It's not a perfect replica of the animated Belle's hairstyle, but it was the best I could do with my limited skill set and a big, thick wig.

Here's the hair from the back:

In preparation for this princess collection, I purchased several Monique wigs that were already styled into up-dos. These wigs are ok, but I always ended up disappointed by them.  The original style would look great in a catalogue picture, but then I'd receive the wigs, and a few of the styles would be already messy or falling apart.  That didn't fill me with confidence.  Furthermore, if I'd purposefully take the hairstyles down on these wigs, I'd be left with hair that was cut in several different lengths or--worse--have huge bald patches of wig cap that were meant to be covered with hair.  This type of wig was not designed to be played with, and where's the fun in that??

So, in short, I decided to use full, normal wigs for all of the princesses, and then do my best to create interesting hairstyles with those wigs.  Belle's hairstyle is held in place with elastic bands, bobby pins, and a big metal claw clip.  It is fully removable so you can create your own style if you want!

I decorated the hairstyle with this pretty gold My Twinn brand crown:

I love how this crown looks, but you'll notice that I forgot to put it on in many of the pictures!  Oops.

I decided to use this photo, with Belle and her crown, as the official portrait shot:

Here is the comparison GIF:

This was a really lovely doll to begin with, but everything about her feels more in focus to me now.

The ends of Belle's wig can get frizzy and unruly, but despite this doll was fun to photograph.  Even the color of her gown, which I think of as being unflattering, is so beautiful and bright! It puts me in a good mood to look at it.

I wish I'd had a red rose to use as a photo prop, but these yellow flowers were the best I could find:

Here are some more pictures of Belle from many different angles so you can get a good sense for her gown and hairstyle:

And here are a few more photos from after I remembered to put her crown back on!

As always, I wanted to take a few quick pictures outside, too.  I feel like the dolls brighten up considerably when they're photographed in normal light!

There's something there that wasn't there before.
Belle's complexion can look a bit washed out in this lighting (around 4:00pm in the shadows), but the natural light eliminates almost all of the yellow and red tones that my indoor photography set-up likes to add. 

In person, I thought she was luminous among the leaves!

This pale 1997 vinyl is so pretty.

For some reason it was really hard for me to get enthusiastic about making the Belle dolls.  I'm not sure why.  I love the Beauty and the Beast movie, and I love Belle as a character.  I think maybe I'm just getting a bit of princess fatigue overall.  But don't worry, I'll have no trouble rallying to make the Cinderellas!  I have been waiting a long time for their turn to come.

Despite my enthusiasm deficit at many points during this project, I actually had an amazing time over the last week watching the two Disney movies, trying out lots of fancy hairstyles, and getting a first glimpse at the Belles in their gowns.  They won me over in the end, and I'm excited that it's finally time to share them with you.  I know how precious the Belle character is to so many people, and I hope this version doesn't disappoint.

Here's a summary of all the work that was done on Belle:
-her body was disassembled and all of her vinyl parts were washed
-her foam core was cleaned in a washing machine and left to dry for several weeks
-her fabric torso was washed in a mild soap and bleach solution and left to dry for several days
-a stain on her wrist was treated three times with Remove-Zit
-a hole in her arm seam was repaired
-snagged areas on her torso were reinforced (from the back side) with Fabric-Tac glue
-the body was reassembled using hot glue and then the back seam was re-sewn
-the old wig, eyes, and eyelashes were removed from the head
-the head was washed and all factory paint was stripped
-a scuff on the nose was sanded down
-new premium D400 regular lens glass eyes from Hand Glass Craft were inserted
-the head was coated with Mr. Super Clear UV cut matte sealant and left to cure for 24 hours
-the head was painted with artist grade acrylics and then re-coated with sealant
-new eyelashes were glued using tacky glue
-a new custom wig from Doll of a Kid was glued with hot glue at the front and the back
-the hair was styled (by me) into something that vaguely resembles Belle's hair from the Disney movie
-Belle is wearing a custom-made gown from Fairy Tale Blessings.  The gown is paired with a crinoline, white tights, gold shoes, and a golden My Twinn crown
-Belle will come with a coordinating name bracelet that I have not made yet

Flaws: Belle has significant pilling and snagging on her cloth torso.  She also has a few areas of mildly darkened cloth on her body (near where the vinyl attaches) and some small scuffs or shiny spots on her vinyl limbs.  She was washed thoroughly, though, so she's as clean as she can be!

Oh, incidentally--I haven't listed Fairy Claire for sale yet, mostly because I like having her around.  I'll probably list her when the two Belles are ready for sale.  All three of them are going to need larger-than-normal boxes!

The historical Belle is all finished and photographed, so I should be able to share her with you before the week is over!  In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the beauty and possibility of fall.  I'll see you again soon!


  1. oooh she's lovely! You captured the essence of Disney Belle so well with her.

    1. Thank you so much, Esther! I owe it mostly to the gown! ;)

  2. The Madison mold is so intriging to me, she seems more mature than the others, serious, even haughty but also royal

    1. I totally agree with your assessment of this face mold, Luis! Very royal and mature. And I've thought of her expression as haughty myself on occasion. Belle's character isn't haughty, necessarily, but the "there must be more than this provincial life" aspect of her persona fits the Madison mold well. :)

  3. She looks terribly regal - I love the dress, the crown, AND the hairstyle you did. :)

  4. Belle looks fantastic! I love how you styled the hair. And the Madison mold is beautiful in pale vinyl.

    1. Thank you so much, Rebecca! I agree--the Denver pale vinyl is so luminescent sometimes. I love it!

  5. She cleaned up so nicely! She is beautiful!

    1. Thank you x10, Hannah! :D She's just lovely and I'm so happy to have had a chance to work with her.

  6. I was one of the ones in the Madison camp! It's my favorite MyTwinn mold.

    And goodness, when you took her outside-! She's gorgeous! Thank you for sharing, and don't feel pressured to sell off Claire before you're ready! <3. -Micah Tithe

    1. Thank you, Micah! I know, the outside pics are really so much better than the studio pics! I got lucky with the lighting that night, I think. She was simply glowing. ;)


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