9

It’s FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Several weeks ago, I talked about fashion plates (read here) and how they were used to spread the latest trends in the time before you could flip through Vogue, or browse your favorite fashion blogger’s Instagram. But what happened before then? Fashion plates didn’t become popular until the end of the 18th Century, yet fashions would spread across countries long before then. How? Enter the pandora.

Put simply, a pandora was a doll, typically around 15-17 inches tall, dressed in the latest fashions. Nearly a foot and a half in height sounds large for a doll, but they were meant to be large enough not only to be prominently displayed, but also to accommodate every detail of the fashion they miniaturized; from the lining to the pleats, buttons, and trim. Also known as Queen Anne dolls (due to the Queen’s love of them) these dolls needed to be small enough to be practical in price, but more importantly, they needed to be portable.

Pandoras were created in Paris, which as I have mentioned before, was the undisputed fashion capitol of the western world throughout history. There is some debate as to when pandoras were created. They were popularized in the 17th Century, but there is evidence they may have been used as early as the 14th Century. They were created by the top Parisian dressmakers and shipped to both elite members of society and dressmakers across Europe and beyond.

The dolls themselves were most commonly made out of wood, but some early models were made out of wax, while later version were sometimes plaster. In the 18th Century, they commonly had carefully crafted porcelain faces. The dolls also had hair (typically made of wool) styled in the lasted fashion. They came complete with all the appropriate underpinnings, even little shoes. They were the complete look. The pandora was so in demand that it ultimately became the most desired and elite French export. It even rose above all political strife. When France and England were at war at the beginning of the 18th Century, all immigration and importation between the two countries was halted, with the exception of pandoras. The dolls were granted immunity, and escorted into England with full military guard.

Pandoras reached their peak during the Rococo Age, when opulence was most desired. However, they fell out of use at the beginning of the 19th century with the rise of fashion plates. Additionally, the style at that time was neoclassical fashion. The simplistic looks were easily conveyed in fashion plates, rendering the dolls unnecessary. Even as fashion grew more elaborate again, pandoras were not revived, as various developments in technology meant they continued to be unnecessary. However, over a century later, pandoras made an unexpected comeback.

During World War II, the Paris fashion industry was nearly completely destroyed due to German occupation (as I mentioned in my post about fashion shows, here) They needed a way to revive Parisian couture, though they had almost no resources to work with. The solution was the pandora. All of Paris’ top couturiers created their latest design in miniature, accessories and all. The doll’s bodies were made of wire, to make it clear that they were not toys. However, their faces were shaped by top artists, with expertly crafted hair. They were placed in complete scenes and put on display for the public. It was a massive success, dubbed Théâtre de la Mode, and effectively revived Paris’ claim as fashion capital of the world. The Théâtre went on tour, and while they were a novelty for a while, pandoras eventually faded into obscurity once again. However, the cultural impact is far reaching, and pandoras are often credited as being the precursor to modern fashion dolls, like Barbie!

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

Dear pandora ads

When i’m listening to my favorite music on max volume and your chipper ass comes yellin’ in my ear talking about why i should buy something because it’s great, i make a mental note to never buy a product from your company. Ever.

Thanks.