It’s Only A Paper Moon


I really want to tell the year 2020 what I think of it – but I can’t, ‘cause my mama raised me NOT use THAT kind of language! To say it’s been a doozy of a year is a gross understatement. I’m usually a “look-on-the-bright-side, counting-blessings, things-could-always-be-worse-happy-kind of gal”, but good grief, already! Really, I could use some good news (I have had lots of not-so-good news lately), but I digress.

I wanted to sit in the camper today to write, but currently, we’re in the middle of a big ol’ thunderstorm, wind ripping at the trees, thunder pounding, and rain pouring. A few weeks ago, after a storm, we were without power for a week. Funny, we can be as content as frogs on a lily pad, sitting in our camper, from 1966, without “modern” conveniences, but the minute the WI-FI goes out in the house, we’re annoyed. Truthfully, today’s kids don’t know life without WI-FI and all that comes with it. What did families and kids do back before WI-FI, TV, and electronics? A fun little recent find helped answer a little bit of that question!

One afternoon, in a dark corner of an obscure little antique shop “off the beaten path”, I spied a large, clear envelope packed as full as a can of sardines. Inside were vintage paper dolls! I figured it would be fun to look through or even maybe craft with. 


What a treasure! Later that evening, opening the packet, I discovered the paper dolls and their clothes are all from the 1940s – my favorite era! 


My mama and her twin were the cutest little girls! My beautiful, stylish grandmother always looked like a glamorous movie star to me, and when her twin girls were little, she sewed their clothes, and hers as well.


My mom still tells sweet stories of her childhood. One of her favorite memories is of playing for hours on end, on a friend’s covered porch, with paper dolls.

Mama and my Aunt, 1940s

When I was little, I played with paper dolls, too. I remember the “fancy” ones, like “Barbie” doll paper dolls, that were sold in hard rectangular boxes with plastic doll stands, but my favorite set was of “Mickey and Minnie Mouse”, complete with a 1920’s style car (I guess I always loved “vintage”).

To play with paper dolls, you have to take care. Someone obviously loved and cared for the ones I found. Well-played with, they are all in good shape. (Monetarily, the value in paper dolls only comes with uncut, unplayed-with pieces. There are just a few of those. The value here is the entertainment). 

This glamour-girl came with her own 2D, cardboard vanity.

This glamour-girl came with her own 2D, cardboard vanity.

A huge treasure trove of 40’s childhood, my fun-find of high-cool-factor ephemera offers a glimpse of life in the 40’s.

A precious toddler!

A precious toddler!

Made in all sizes, there are adorable baby dolls, cute teenager dolls and stunning Hollywood starlets. There’s even a special set of clothes and accessories – a complete wedding party! From glamourous gowns to snappy casual outfits, the 1940’s were certainly stylish.



One of my favorites, the “twin babies” , dated 1942, look to be a complete set, with all kinds of outfits and accessories.

One of my favorites, the “twin babies” , dated 1942, look to be a complete set, with all kinds of outfits and accessories.



Such detail!

Such detail!

For the babies, there are layettes, toys, and a “scale”- all made from paper and cardboard.



With the fashion dolls are hats, tennis racquets, handbags, glamorous coats and capes, and stunning dresses…some with “real” trimmings.


The dots on this beauty’s dress are real velvet flocking

The dots on this beauty’s dress are real velvet flocking

Ready to attend a Hollywood soiree...

Ready to attend a Hollywood soiree…

These teens are dressed for more casual affairs.

These teens are dressed for more casual affairs.

Oh, I love her prim and proper white gloves!

Oh, I love her prim and proper white gloves!

This one’s hair and makeup is so divine!

This one’s hair and makeup is so divine!

Time for “Candy Striping” Duties!

Time for “Candy Striping” Duties!

When I was little and my mama and I would sit at the kitchen table with my paper dolls, she would tell me how, as a child, she would sometimes make her own, and draw her own paper doll clothes. I remember her showing me how to make them. I was so impressed, because when I’d try, my paper doll clothes never quite fit my dolls. Someone who had these paper dolls was creative and immensely talented, too, as there are quite a few “homemade” outfits – drawn impeccably, a true example of forties elegance.

All of these pieces are meticulously homemade. Some are made from flocked material, or notebook paper for stripes, or tissue paper to resemble “chiffon”.

All of these pieces are meticulously homemade. Some are made from flocked material, or notebook paper for stripes, or tissue paper to resemble “chiffon”.

The first time we went through everything, we sat down after dinner and it was midnight before we’d seen it all- a very cool blast from the past. For the price of a large cup of coffee, we had an entire evening’s entertainment. It’s fun to imagine what they looked like new, or who might have had them. Can’t you just see an excited little girl carefully cutting out her dolls and clothes?

There are all sizes; I love that there is a photo of the real babies the “sisters” are supposed to look like.

There are all sizes; I love that there is a photo of the real babies the “sisters” are supposed to look like.

Going through them again here was fun. I plan on sharing some, and also would like to display at least some of them (there are over 1000 pieces)! I have seen some framed, but I am thinking something more “out of the box”, just not sure yet.

My daughter did not have any paper dolls, and I can’t really imagine kids today would be too interested, do you? What a simpler time generations before lived in.

Did you love paper dolls as a child? What were your favorites? I’d love to hear from you – tell me your ideas for displaying them, or just say “hi” in the comments!


Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs (still masked, virtual and six feet+ away),


  1. Beverly Battaglia says:

    I love this blog. I was a baby during the war but mid to late forties loved plaing with my paperdolls! My next door friend and I would play for hours with our paperdolls underneath
    her mom’s grand piano. I had Piper Laurie, Betty Grable, June Allyson among movie stars. I planned to grow up and be a dress designer. Love, Mother

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Thanks, Mama. I remember all my paper dolls too- Mickey and Minnie, “Dusty” like the Kenner doll, Gingham girls…and I loved trying to make my own like you did. Good memories. The closest thing Audrey had were little wooden flat dolls. I think paper dolls should make a comeback! Love you, Nicole

  2. Becky Basham says:

    My mother always bought McCall’s magazines and she would carefully tear out the page of Betsy McCall paper dolls for me to cut out and play with for hours. What a wonderful memory. Thanks for taking me back to a simpler time and a great remembering.

  3. Julie says:

    I enjoyed this SO much…as a little girl, I loved playing with paper dolls almost, as much as playing with my Barbie dolls. SO FUN…It was imaginative and creative and a good way of expressing each, of our “little girl’s” style/taste. We’d name our paper dolls too.
    Later they would have a magnetic type doll with clothes. The paper with the little tabs were great…
    Thank you for providing this “happy” peek, back in time when things were more simple…

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Julie, I forgot about that…I would also name my paper dolls. I also remember as a wee girl sitting in church with them. They were able to be a quiet thing to hold during service and they were portable. I am glad you liked the post. You would have loved the shop I found them in! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Marlene Capelle says:

    Just for the few minutes it took to read this and look at the pictures it wasn’t 2020 anymore. Thank you. My favorite era too is 1940s. The fashions were spectacular. I like to dress like that and walk downtown and act like a movie star.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Marlene, are we twins that were seperated at birth? I love 40s fashion, and do dress like that from time to time! I am so glad my blog gave you a bit of “escape” from 2020. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Yes! I had paper dolls galore! Shirley Temple, was my favorite with all of her frilly dresses and cute country overalls. There was also a set based on the old Revlon Dolls of that time, all fashion dolls and clothes. I also used to make my own clothes to put on them. It was hours and hours of fun using my imagination, a talent that I fear our youngsters today lack.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Barbara, I love this comment! Some of the paper dolls I had as a child in the 70s were also based on dolls – the Kenner doll “Dusty” was one I remember. I love the dolls of the 50s. I have a “Toni” doll like my mom had as a child, and I have seen the Revlon dolls you mentioned. They were beautiful – I bet their paper dolls were gorgeous! Thanks for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  6. Lori Fresina says:


  7. Ellen Ottoson says:

    What a fantastic find you have there and of an earlier time period too! My first time playing with paper dolls were during the 50’s and the Betsy McCall dolls. I couldn’t wait till the next magazine came along for my mother. You brought back the memory of being a “Candy Striper” volunteer at a hospital and I did grow up to become a nurse. Thanks for this walk down memory lane. Ellen

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Ellen, thank you! It was a fun find, for sure. I can’t believe how old they are and how well-taken care of they are, despite the evidence that they were played with. Someone cherished them. I can just imagine your excitement when the mail came and there was a magazine in it, knowing you would have something special from it. (How I feel NOW when my MaryJanesFarm issue comes in the mailbox, or “Farmgirl Mail”). Isn’t the Candy Striper uniform the best? Reminded me of the beloved lady who lived across the street from me growing up. She was a “Candy Striper”, too. Thank you for sharing with me, and hats off to you being a nurse. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  8. Bonnie says:

    As a little girl, during war we couldn’t afford to buy paper dolls. My sisters and I would use the Sears and Monigoery Ward catalogs. Cut out the “ people” we liked and find others and cut the clothes off them to fit “ our” people

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Bonnie, LOVE it! I love how creative kids could be…something I think is not happening as much anymore, sadly. Those catalogs were awesome. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

    • Della says:

      Yes!!!! This is what my sister and I did..and go to the furniture section and cut out couches for them to sit on…

  9. Denise says:

    Oh my goodness, what a neat find!! I haven’t seen any that cool. I played with paper dolls and mine are from the 60’s and early 70’s. I have some that were given to me from cousins. I have all of mine in a shoe box. I did throw out the ones I had cut out of catalogs. I posted all of them on facebook last year when I found them in my closet. I haven’t done anything with them but I like your ideas. that was a very fond part of my childhood. I can’t imagine that now kids will only think of what type of phone, ipad or laptop they had as a child. I’m thankful for the memories I had from my childhood, paperdolls, barbies and dolls with all their clothes! Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed your post!

  10. Amy Holmes says:

    I so enjoyed this post! I’ve Loved paperdolls as far back as I can remember. When my neighbor and I were growing up we would cut them from old Sears catalogs. We’d cut the ladies and their husbands from the men’s section and children from the baby and children sections. Even household items from the pages with those items on them. I still enjoy making paper/art dolls.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Amy, you just jogged my memory – I could read through those Sears catalogs as a kid forever! I think my mom let me cut them up, too, but I can’t remember what I did, if used them like paperdolls. What a great imagination you had! I also remember picking out what I hoped Santa would bring for Christmas in the catalogs! I love that you still create them. Thanks for sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  11. Barb Shanks says:

    I was in the hospital alot as a child and had many paper dolls. Oh how I wish I still had them your find is so beautiful. I don’t have any ideas on how to display them, other than maybe start with children going on up to adulthood, like the story of our lives. Your story has me crying and longing for the simpler, kinder times of my childhood, growing up in late 50’s and 60’s. Thank you so very much for this wonderful trip down memory lane

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Barb, I love this comment. Thank you. I like the idea of a display of child to adult – my wheels are turning! Thanks for sharing with me today. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  12. MS Barb says:

    Wow! NICE find! I played w/ paper dolls a few times; my preference was to be outside playing! I like to look at vintage sewing patterns!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi MS Barb, thank you! I was so shocked when I asked the price and it was for so little. I figured it would be fun to just look through – and it is! I can sit forever going through them. I was a big outdoor play kiddo, as a child, too, but when it got too hot or rained, I played with my dollhouse, dolls or paper dolls. I love vintage patterns, too. So much fun to look at! Thank you for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  13. Gail Larson says:

    Wow, I hadnt thought about paper dolls in eons! Thank you for sharing.
    Yes I had paper dolls. Loved them. Collected them, imagined they were my friends. We had to use our imaginations back then.
    I think someone tried to re-intoduce them in the last couple of years. I saw a box in the store…more like card board than paper.
    Thanks for the memories!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Gail, I felt the same way when I saw the big bag in the store, though my mama still mentions them sometimes when we talk. I remember seeing some reintroduced, as well, about twenty years ago, but they weren’t meant to play with. They were more like “books” to collect. I didn’t ever get into those. I wish I had MY paper dolls from when I was kid! Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  14. Heidi says:

    What a great post! Love paper dolls so much. Thank you!

  15. Debbie says:

    Oh man! This brings back all kinds of memories! I LOVED my paper dolls. They would have been from the 50’s-early sixties. Favorites were the Lennon Sisters and the Betsy McCall that cam I McCalls magazine every month. My paper dolls mostly came in cardboard folders that had slits to keep them tidy. My stack of paper doll folders were over 3 feet high in the bottom of my closet. I still have quite a few Betsy McCall dolls. Later, Mary Engelbreit had a paper doll every month in her magazine. I kept them and am now cutting them out for my granddaughters to play with.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Debbie, How much fun will it be to play with your granddaughters and paper dolls? I remember also having paper dolls in the newspaper that we would cut out and play with. You would glue the doll to cardboard, and then her clothes were in the paper each week. I don’t have any of mine anymore, but these are sure fun to look at. Thanks for reading and commenting, Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  16. Victoria Hall says:

    This is great! Just great!! I loved to play with my paper dolls. The ones I remember the most was a set of four blonde sisters…and yes I would love to have them again. I just marvel at how elegantly ladies dressed in the past. Just returned home from a trip and noticed how shabby people looked at the airport. Shoot! We used to dress up to just pick up a relative from the airport. Football games…they dressed up! My favorite era is the 20’s and 30’s, but my oh my did you hit the jackpot!!!!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Victoria, Thank you so much! I was brought up by a mom who still dresses up for church and travel, and I am often dressed up too, though I wish times were like they were “back in the day”. I get tired of seeing sloppy everywhere. The last time I was at an airport it looked like some travelers just rolled out of bed, lol! I like to feel a bit more “polished”, even if I am outside with my chickens! Can you imagine wearing some of the outfits like those paper dolls? How fun! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  17. Another Nicole (Nicki) says:

    OH, this was wonderful to read and look at! Do you remember Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazine? I saved all the “Anne Estelle” paper doll pages that came with each issue. (I’m hoping they’re still in my attic; my granddaughter might love them!)

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Nicki! I do remember those…you should see if your granddaughter would play with them. How wonderful you have them! What a memory you would create for her. Thank you for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  18. amanda aldridge-schamp says:

    I remember paper dolls, it was the faux Barbie ones. I would love to play with them and create scenes. I recently ran across a machine embroidery digital download of a “paper doll” and clothes. Ok fine a few months ago I did an exhausted google search for embroidered paper dolls and I have stitched them out on organza, cut it out and attached ribbons to tie the different clothes on the dolls, so much fun. I found one where the doll had the vintage 40’s appearance because that is absolutely my era too. Thanks for a great article!!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Amanda, Oh your “paper doll sewing” sounds so amazing! You know what would be cute, too? How about making some into “garland”? A paper doll garland…I am thinking maybe I should do that with some of my paper dolls, too…wheels are turning, lol! Thank you for reading and sharing! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  19. Mary Ellen Eckels says:

    Oh Nicole, what a lovely and welcome blog piece! I think one of the most comforting things today is cherishing and learning about past times. I, too, loved playing with paper dolls. I remember each month in the McCall’s magazine there were always a page or two dedicated to Betsy McCall. You could cut out the paper doll and some clothing. I think there was also a little story that went with it and the paper clothing was related to the story. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s sitting room (she subscribed to the magazine) and once she was done reading it (and yes I nagged her “Are you done yet, Nana?”) she’d help me cut out Betsy and her clothing. I loved all my paper dolls. And also loved a later invention – colorforms – where the clothing would stick to the doll form ‘magically’ without paper tabs to hold them on the shoulders and waist. Thank you for the smiles and memories you brought to us with your post. Truly a blessing today 🙂

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi MaryEllen, thank you so much! I remember Colorforms, too! I had quite a few – Raggedy Ann was a favorite. What a lovely memory you shared with us about your grandmother and Betsy McCall. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  20. Betsy says:

    I was born in 91 and we had stacks of dolls cut from clothing catalogs from my mom agnes grandma. There were ones we cut out and also whole stacks from our older sisters, we had names for everyone and different families that we played with together and certain things and situations that we played with different ones. Lol fun to think about now. I think they all probably got tossed in our “cleaning out unnecessary junk” teens. Grandma had some sets that had changes of clothes and everything that we loved playing with as well

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Betsy, true, we do tend not to think ahead in our teens! Sigh…I wish I had more from my childhood. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories today, and for stopping by the blog and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  21. Marlene Burns says:

    I really enjoyed your blog this time. and obviously it brought back memories to a lot of farmgirls. How fun to actually find some paper dolls in a store. I imagine it was something donated by a younger generation from someone’s estate. One of my requests
    always for birthday or Christmas was paper dolls. I remember Betsy McCall ones also.
    It is a fun memory of many hours spent playing and creating stories in our imaginations for the dolls. Thank you for sharing.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marlene! So good to hear from you, my farmgirl friend! I need to email you directly…I can not find your address.

      Anyway, I was so surprised, too, to find paper dolls like that, “in the wild”, in a store. The same shop once had Life Magazines for only $1 each. I bought a few from the 40s and 50s, and a couple from 1966 to go in the camper at rallies. It really is a tucked-away little place, and you never know what you might find. This is probably the best I ever found there.

      I bet you are correct – it was donated by someone younger who found it. Sad, but I love them. I am glad you enjoyed the blog! Big Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  22. Judy says:

    Hi Nicole, What a wonderful collection you found. It really took me back to the early to mid 60’s when I was 8 to 12 years old. I had a young Shirley Temple and a teen Shirley Temple. I do remember Betsy McCall too. I got brave and cut women out of the Sears catalog and pasted them to cardboard and made my own stands. Then I’d look for clothes in all kinds of magazines and the newspaper sales ads. I even tried to cut out shoes. That proved to be a challenge. So small… trying to keep them on those tiny feet. hahaha What imaginations we had back then. So much fun.
    Thanks again for the trip down Memory Lane!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Judy, Thank you so much for this comment! I am so glad I brought you down Memory Lane! I wish now I would have tried introducing my daughter to paper dolls when she was little. They really taught us alot, when you think of it: being careful and taking care of something, cutting out tiny things, being creative…what toys do that now, at least in such a simple way? I was a fan of Shirley Temple when I was little, because my mama and I would watch her movies together. I think she was a very elegant lady, as well. Thanks again for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  23. Deb Esposito says:

    Jealous!!! I loved my paper dolls. I would cut out the Betsy McCall dolls. I also had Barbie and Tammy paper dolls. But my very favorite, which I still have, are Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Deb, Thank you! It was a fun find! I can’t tell you how excited I was to find them! How lucky you are to still have some of your paper dolls, and Jackie Kennedy ones, to boot! She was the most stylish person I can think of, except for maybe, just maybe Princess Diana. Love them both. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  24. Valerie Jensen says:

    I loved paper dolls!! If I am remembering correctly McCalls magazine had a series of monthly paper dolls featuring Betsy McCall in the mid 1950s.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Valerie, You are correct, and it seems she was a huge hit among readers here, too! I would love to come across a Betsy McCall paper doll. I think I may have heard of her, but not actually ever have seen one! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  25. Marilyn says:

    What a joyful blog. Thank you for sharing your find. I love paper dolls. I have a collection,mostly bought years ago. When I was a child my twin sister[Marion] and I would cut out pictures of children[mostly child models]. We would play school with the paper dolls. We would line them up in rows in a pretend school desks.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      HI Marilyn, I wonder if your twin sister also commented here? I remember playing school as a child, too. I would cut out little assignments, and use my dolls and stuffed animals as students. I would use shoe boxes for desks and make a whole classroom! I could play school for hours! Thank you for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  26. Marion says:

    What a treasure you have found and bought. Paper dolls are so much fun. The collection I have includes two different Shirley Temple paper dolls. I did cut my paper dolls up. After all what fun is a paper doll if you can not dress the doll up in all the pretty clothes that come with the doll. I have many storybook paper dolls.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Marion, I wholeheartedly agree! You are absolutely correct about that. I have so enjoyed trying on the different clothes on the dolls, just like a kid would have back in the day. How do you display your paper dolls, or store them? Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  27. Joan says:

    This post brought back a lot of memories for me. I always enjoyed playing with paper dolls. I had a lot of the movie stars,Betty Grable and her two daughters are one example. My cousin and I would cut out our own drawings and color the dolls. We would play for hours.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Joan, thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Betty Grable was beautiful- a true icon of a glamourous era. Thanks for reading and commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  28. Anita says:

    Playing with paper dolls as a child was one of my favorite pastimes. Those definitely were simpler times. I, too, can’t imagine kids of today loving them as we did. Thank you for sparking this wonderful memory!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Anita, thank you for commenting, I am glad you liked the post. My daughter who is eighteennow did not have any paper dolls, though she had real dolls. However, her favorite toys were stuffed animals – but they had “virtual” animals online to go with the tangible stuffed animals. I wasn’t really happy about that as a mom, and I remember she cried and cried when we couldn’t log on to see her animal, because the servers were down. I think kids really should get off their devices more than they do; makes me sound old, but it is sad how they don’t have the simple playtimes we all did. Anyway, thank you for commenting! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  29. Lauri Beth Neumann-Grable says:

    What a lovely post. My first memory of paper dolls was the year I was 6. I was on strict bed rest for a year due to rheumatic fever This was 1955 protocol. One of my favorite past times was to cut out and play with my “friends” One of my favorites was a Golden Book about a wedding. And yes, I loved Betsy McCall. Thank you for triggering a happy memory.


    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Lauri, thank you for reading and sharing! I, too, spent a lot of time very ill as a child, and I had two life-threatening allergies (one to fireants), and paper dolls were something I could play with even when I was sick. I also remember playing with them during long sermons at church, lol! I am so glad you enjoyed the post. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  30. Marion McCann says:

    This is one of my favorite posts and brings back so many good memories. I do have all of Mary Englebreit’s magazines with her paper dolls but I don’t have any from my childhood.
    You have a wonderful find there. This particular post made me happy and I go back to read it again frequently. Thank you for all you share with us.

  31. Prudence Diem says:

    Wonderful post bringing back forgotten memories. You juiced a dormant yen to create. Thank you for the time you took with this. The pictures are fantastic, and I remember these colors I was surrounded with in 1956. I wonder what makes them so rich.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Prudence, thank you for such a nice comment! I am so glad you enjoyed the post and found inspiration to create! It was a bit time-consuming to get the pics for this “just right” – thank you for noticing! I too, wonder what the difference in color is from things back then? Different pigments and ink, I suppose? Thanks again for reading and commenting. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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