vintage inspiration: 40s paper dolls

Allow me to share one of perhaps my best thrift finds ever: a 1942 booklet of Hedy Lamarr paper dolls! I ran across this gem recently, and was floored that it was even in the thrift store (how many people donate these rather than throw them away, sadly?)–and better yet it was discount day! I love vintage paper dolls from the 1940s, and have a tiny collection going. There is something so darling about all their little technicolor, idealized paper fashions! I thought I’d share some snapshots of the inside pages because there is lots of beautiful, early 1940s eye candy! (Be sure to click for larger versions.)

Yummy fashions, no? I think I am particular in love with the casual outfits–and the colors! I’ll take one of each in my closet, please (though maybe after I get through this pregnancy… lol.)!

My thoughts and prayers go out to those who are in the coastal areas of New England, battling the after-effects of the hurricane! It skirted by us as it went up the coast, with comparatively little disruption, but still dumped a load of rain (the roads flooded here, as they always do!) on us along with strong winds. Seeing the pictures and video coming out of the New England area is heart breaking, and my hope is that everyone stay safe and authorities continue to work to get aid and clean up to the affected areas soon. Stay safe, everyone!

November 2, 2012 · 35 lovely thoughts
posted in vintage inspiration · tags: ,

Kailey November 2, 2012 at 08:07

I ADORE paper dolls, and only have been able to find vintage reproductions (I still love them but it isn’t *quite* the same), so I can understand your excitement! Wonderful find :D <3


MB@YarnUiPhoneApp2.6 November 2, 2012 at 08:10

That’s so amazing that you found this in a thrift store of all places. How much did you pay may I ask? I’ll still have this idea to string up reproduction paper dolls in my sewing room one day soon.


Cara-Leigh November 2, 2012 at 08:12

What a lovely find! The clothing is so beautiful, I love paper dolls.


Tasha November 2, 2012 at 08:19

Oooh, those are amazing, and WHAT a thrift find! I don’t think I’ve ever come close to finding anything so fabulous. I want an excuse to wear the festive outfit in the lower right corner of the last one! Although I wouldn’t say no to the bias print plaid with the cute shaped waistband, either! lol


Nora November 2, 2012 at 08:30

OMG that’s so amazing! I LOVE Hedy Lamarr – she’s just one of the best classic beauty! Those dresses are fabulous – I’m so jealous! So so jealous!


Sarah November 2, 2012 at 09:01

wow! what an amazing find! paper olls can be fun ;)


Jessica November 2, 2012 at 09:33

That is, without a doubt, one of the best thrift store vintage finds I’ve ever seen anyone unearth. Paper dolls, as you pointed out, are so often tossed away or simply begin to fall apart over time, but these beauties have held up very well. I love all the fashions, but am especially inspired by the luncheon and afternoon wear styles.

Happiest start of November, dear Casey,
♥ Jessica


Marmielu November 2, 2012 at 09:52

Wow, lady, you really scored on this one! I can’t even imagine what this would go for in an antique shop. From your pictures, it looks in really good shape. All of the outfits are so great, I couldn’t pick a favorite.
I was reading in The Post and WSJ this morning about the devastation from that hurricane in NYC and NJ, especially on people in housing projects. It’s so terrible. I think Craft Hope is working on some sort of project/help.


Bunny Moreno November 2, 2012 at 10:43

I am just swooning right now!! Wow-love it! I used to have paper dolls in the early 80′s-I loved this. This is an awesome find! Thank you for sharing with us! xox


Brigid November 2, 2012 at 12:15

Lovely colors! All the outfits are so very cool and bright!

The Middle Sister and Singer


maddie November 2, 2012 at 12:31

Oddly, I like these! I think it’s because it’s an ‘adult’ way to still play with dolls. The outfits are also inspirational.

I live in Philly and I thank you for your kind words about the storm. I didn’t suffer nearly as much damage as New Jersey and NYC and my heart goes out to them!


Pilar Giménez Almalé November 2, 2012 at 13:47
Charlotte Boyer November 2, 2012 at 14:55

Oh Casey! These are simply lovely! <3 It's fun to collect vintage paper dolls when you're older and don't really play with dolls, just for the "couture" inspiration. :) I mean, there almost like your dress designs already drawn out for you!!
Love it!



Katrina @ Edelweiss Patterns November 2, 2012 at 16:28

Oh, how gorgeous! I can’t believe they are in such excellent condition, and if I found something like this I might be tempted to frame the drawings!


Renee November 2, 2012 at 18:05

Beautiful find. I love paper dolls. Played with them a lot when I was a kid.


Hannah November 2, 2012 at 18:22

Oh my what an amazing find, I adore Hedy! xxx


Nancy November 2, 2012 at 18:41

Paper dolls were a favorite of mine, wish i had kept them. My favs were Cyd Cherise in her leopard swim suit, Rosemary Clooney with her White Christmas wardrobe, and Lucille Ball. I collected them in the early ’50′s, they looked like the Hedy book. Even the parts you cut off were beautiful. You have a rare find, surprised some little girl hasn’t cut them in all these years. I was annoyed with the extra fold-down tabs and only used the ones at the shoulder. Really. I was a serious paper doll collector.


Alli November 2, 2012 at 19:09

OMG! What a find Casey! I love her… gorgeous. You lucky girl! :)


Tammi Johnson November 2, 2012 at 19:11

I love paper dolls. I foolishly sold the only two uncut sets I had. I have a lot of vintage ones but they are all cut and I have a good deal of repros and some from modern artists too. I love Marilyn Henry’s paper dolls. And I love Queen Holden’s work too.


Kim November 2, 2012 at 20:34

What a lucky find! “Hedy” was my grandma’s nickname when she was a teenager in the 1940s… the boys thought that she looked like Hedy Lamarr.


Amy D November 3, 2012 at 04:11

I just wanted to say how tickled I was to read this post! I work in elder care, and I recently took care of a lady who did make-up for Hedy Lamar. She would talk about it every day and she had some wonderful stories. Sadly, she passed away a few months ago.

What a lovely find!


{ jessica } November 3, 2012 at 07:20

Casey, what a lovely find! Would you consider scanning or photographing them into a .pdf file to share? I would absolutely love to share these with my little girl friends <3


Angi November 3, 2012 at 07:55

These are wonderful! It’s such a treat to see the colors that clothes would have been, and such vibrant colors too! What a great collector’s item! And what great historical reference! Thank you for sharing!


Joen November 3, 2012 at 08:10

Lucky you to have found such a gem! I loved paper dolls growning up, thanks for sharing such a great treasure. I am in NJ and “Sandy” certainly did hit us hard, I am lucky to have had no damage but people lost there homes and loved ones keep them in your prayers.


Kristy L. November 3, 2012 at 09:49

How lucky for you!!! I’ve never seen paper dolls in any thrift shop I’ve been in, only antique stores. What fun!!
I have a quite a collection of paper dolls and I copied your idea by clipping the dolls and their clothes on some lace and hung it above my ironing board.


Isis November 5, 2012 at 10:28

My mother has a wonderful collection from th late 40′s, early 50′s paperdolls. Well loved, but in good condition. I really need to borrow them and scan!


Taylor November 6, 2012 at 20:51

This post made me gasp because I had some of these paper dolls!
The green dress with a cape and the gold and red dress on the first set, and the yellow skirt ensemble and the purple dress on the last set bring back childhood memories. I have no idea where my parents got them but Hedy Lamar was a household name because of these paper dolls. Hedy’s head came off and was taped back, and the clothes had certainly seen better days, but they were some of my favorite toys.
I can’t express how strange this is to me… for someone to be excited about the vintage-ness of something I grew up with!


Kathy November 8, 2012 at 16:20

I remember playing with paper dolls, folding back the little tabs to hold the clothes on….but never with something like this find of yours! And did you know that Hedy Lamarr was not only beautiful but she was an inventor as well?! Something to do with the technology we use today for cell phones and GPS. There’s a book on my reading list that I have yet to get to called Hedy’s Folly by Richard Rhodes. Smart lady!


wardrobexperience November 10, 2012 at 18:25

this book is so fabulous … very inspiring.


tammyCA November 19, 2012 at 12:15

Also love paper dolls…I have a small collection of the reproductions and I think I might have the repro Hedy one like yours. I love the little girl ones, too…all the ’40s pinafores, smocked dresses, playsuits…so cute.


tammyCA November 19, 2012 at 12:30

lol…just checked..I don’t have Hedy…I have Ann Sheridan, Barbara Stanwyk, and June Allyson.


Barbara November 19, 2012 at 15:51

Pretty sure I’d commit a crime for these. Incredible find.


Vintage Paper November 19, 2012 at 23:30

I really like this type of interesting articles. keep it up.Thanks for sharing your website.Really i like your website…


Anna July 10, 2013 at 15:02

Casey, I loved paper dolls and now at the grand old age of 56 I still can’t help thumbing through cutting out books in news agents when I see one. It takes me back to a bedroom floor littered with little bits of paper and beautiful 1950′s dressing doll books (wish I had kept them). Keep up the good work your site is fab


Sylvia Rogers Barnes October 11, 2013 at 13:51

Hello, I just discovered your site looking for a doll shop in Minneapolis called Mrs. B’s Dolls. I was just curious to see if anyone carried a line of the old 40′s type paper dolls that I grew up with. I especially wanted to see once again the stunning gowns of Vivian Leigh from “Gone With the Wind” and of course, who was not entranced with the pretty dresses of little Shirley Temple cut-out dolls,especially the little polka-dot number she wore in one of her movies. I was born in 1930 (age 83),so I grew up with the pop-art popular in the pre and post war period of the 40′s. Being artistically gifted as a child, I would emulate the commercial cut-out dolls with my own drawings and creations and sell them to my 6th grade school-mates for a dime! (10c) I became a portrait artist as an adult but will never forget the world of make-believe these treasures inspired. Thank you for sharing your find.
My sister actually had a Hedy Lamar set like yours. Sylvia Rogers Barnes from Sacramento, Ca.


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