Saturday, December 7, 2013

A-Dressing Alice.

Alice felt that if there was to be any conversation at all, she must manage it herself. So she began rather timidly: 'Am I addressing the White Queen?'
'Well, yes, if you call that a-dressing,' the Queen said. 'It isn't my notion of the thing, at all.'

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice  Found There  1871 Lewis Carroll

We all know Alice.
And we all know what she looks like. 

She looks like this.
Unless we're being pedantic.
Then, she looks like Alice Liddell
(pronounced like fiddle)

Alice Liddell

Alice was the inspiration
for the first Alice book.

But clearly, she wasn't the model
for Tenniel's drawing.

For that, there are two contenders.

Sweet little Mary Badcock, here.

Mary Hilton Badcock

And the delightfully sassy
Beatrice Henley.

(I really want to make a doll like this)

Beatrice Henley

We know what she looks like
in black and white.

Drink Me

But, we're wrong about how she looks in colour.

The first Alice in colour was 
The Nursery Alice 1890
and Tenniel gave her 
a yellow dress and a big blue sash.

The Nursery Alice

Alice and the Cheshire Cat
Black and White

Same image, coloured plate
The Nursery Alice

It wasn't until later
that the B&W drawings were coloured
and she wore her familiar blue cotton dress
  and white apron with red trim.

Alice and the Duchess

Why this erudite study of Tenniel's illustrations?

I was making an Alice doll,
and I wanted her to be a 
truthful representation of Carroll's vision.

As Carroll worked closely with Tenniel, 
even suggesting models,
we have to assume that the Alice in the book 
was close to what he saw.

So, I researched every drawing,
took notes on the details;

the bows, the tucks, the ankle-strap shoes
even the tiny collar and cameo.

I decided on an outfit that was
an amalgam of Alice images,

but not the yellow frock.

I wanted the iconic blue dress
as it appears in 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Cloches came back! Who saw that happening?

In Through the Looking- Glass
Alice has a huge bow on her dress,
caught up in the tie of her apron, 
presumable to keep it clean.

That looks a little too bunchy and awkward for a doll.

However, only in Through the Looking-Glass
does she sport those fashionable striped stockings,
and the alice-band in her hair.

The ruffled apron in the second book
seems to be the same one from the first book,
with added ruffles to make it bigger.

Very practical, the Victorian Nursery.
After all, that's what those fetching tucks
in her dress are for,
to let it out as she grows.

But the ruffles detract from the dress
and I don't want to cheat with some white lace.

I added up all the elements I liked,
 and ditched the plain white stockings
the tiny collar and the ruffles on the pinny.

This is what I was left with.

She has the blue tucked dress
with puffed sleeves that fit around her elbow joints.

Striped stockings, white frilly drawers,
hand-made black leather strapped shoes.
A white apron  made from a vintage handkerchief,
with red trim and pockets.

Hidden away, she has a silver key 
and a bottle of Drink Me.

She's all finished.


  1. it was as good as entering the world of fairy tales and finding a secret door in your favourite book...thanks for writing this

    1. Aww, what a lovely thing for you to write! I had a lot of fun researching this. The more I found, the more it became clear that there wasn't one definite outfit and I could pick which bits I liked best.

  2. When I was a kid, my version of Alice in Wonderland with Alice Liddell in the illustrations (complete with delightful black bobbed hair) was by far my favourite of all my illustrated copies, and I had quite a few!

    I think Alice Badcock looks very sulky, but it might just be the faded photos and crossed arms. I love the look of Beatrice, she has a wicked little glint in her eye!

    I would like to make the Arthur Rackham dress, the one with the pinky/ orangey flowers. I have a bedsheet with a similar look.

    1. Oh! Oh! Who illustrated a version with Alice Liddell? I have to know! I love the Rackham, too, and I have a doll in mind as soon as I find the right doll hair. I might have to print the fabric, though if I can't find anything close and to scale. I think poor Miss Badcock is terrified of the camera, and looking at Victorian cameras, I'm not surprised.

  3. I hope you don't mind me saying, but your Alice doll looks like a sociopath. I'd watch she doesn't poison you with a 'special' cup of tea one day. :) I loved learning all about 'Alice' and her many faces. X

    1. She does look a little thoughtful and withdrawn, I have to admit. What her thoughts are; awkward flamingoes, caterpillars with a hookah or homicidal rage, are up to the viewer. :)

  4. Like many others, I also have this fascination with Alice. My older brother gave me an early copy of Through The Looking Glass when I was going off to journalism school (although I changed my major.)
    I was going to say how Mary Badcock looks like a member of my family. If only I had access to photos of msyelf at that age!
    Then Shah's comment makde me laugh out loud.
    I think your Alice is beautiful and you pulled all the best bits for her costume. Perhaps her eyes are a bit sad.

    1. Thank you! Mary Badcock (I hope she married well, and changed that name!) is a little sweetie, isn't she? As for Alice's face, I try to give my dolls an expression that can be read in a variety of ways, so that people have to decide for themselves what the doll is thinking. I think that's part of the magic :)

  5. She is precious! You did a lot of research for this doll! Wow! You are good!!

    1. Aww, thank you, MLC! I tried to find one definitive outfit, instead, I was able to pick and chose the bits I liked.

  6. She is so, so beautiful. I am in awe of your talents!

    I love that you researched Tenniel's original illustrations first, but I'm so glad you went with the blue dress as it's most definitely more suited to the familiar Alice we know and love.

    The silver key and bottle add the perfect finishing touch.

    A Beatrice Henley doll would look superb!

    Going to take a peek at your Etsy shop :)

    1. Thank you so much! I have to admit, I didn't know all the options until I went poking about. I've always assumed Alice's dress ins a dream dress, and not what she's actually wearing while she sleeps. It changes when she becomes Queen, into a much fancier ruffled gown (Rats, should have added that to the blog post !) There will be a yellow Alice, at some point, as I love the theme. But Beatrice Henley deserves a doll first, I think! Thanks for looking in the shop. I need to get some more Alices in there.

  7. Wonderful work as always! I love "Alice", it was one of my favorite childhood books, that I reread over and over. I think this little girl looks in character. Who says that Alice was always happy? To me, she seemed rather stressed in the books.

    1. I think you're right about Alice in the books. She has an adventure, but most of it is perplexing and confusing for her. I like dolls who have an enigmatic face, then people can attach their own interpretation to her expression. Glad you like her, Luba!

  8. You did a wonderful job. Such detail and so much of research has paid off. Well done

    1. Thank you, Shashi! I had such fun doing the research, I thought I'd post it all up in the same place and hope it helps someone else.

  9. Wow, you really out did yourself of this!

  10. Wow! Wow! Wow! First of all, this is all fascinating Alice history which I had never heard before. Thank you for that. And your version of Alice is absolutely incredible! OMG! I love the way you have captured her very essence and the clothing you selected. Marvelous work sweetie. Mina

    1. Oh! Thank you, Mina! The further into the rabbit hole I went, the more I found that there wasn't a single canon version of Alice's clothes. So I picked the bits I liked. I'm glad you like her, too!

  11. Always thought it was so interesting that the blonde and blue-dressed Alice we are all so familiar with is not what Mr. Carroll originally saw Alice to be! I have to say the Alice that always sticks in my mind is the blonde and pale blue dress Disney version, as that was the earliest version I saw. Your version is absolutely gorgeous!

    1. Thank you so much, Jennifer! I was tempted to put up the Disney version, but I think they're a bit forthright about their copyright! I'm glad you like my take on Alice.

  12. Clapping wildly ~ as always I found your post fascinating and your dolls amazing !
    I very much enjoyed seeing the little girls that were an inspiration for Alice each one having a very distinct personality feel from their photos . I loved hearing all the factual info too , some of which I remember , some I just learned from this post !

    1. Thank you! I realised I had a blog post on my hands when I couldn't find all the information in the same place. There's just little bits, here and there. So, I'm hoping this post will add to the confusion. :)

  13. Oh my and a magical wow to you, my enchanted friend. Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar has just read this to me. I looked at the photos and your fabulous Alice doll.

    I thought I knew quite a lot about Lewis Carroll and your meticulous info has told Penny and myself, even more. Must leave now. Like the White Rabbit, "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" Back through the looking glass to my blog :)

    Penny's alleged human,


    1. Dear Gary, please thank Penny for reading this to you; it's an honour to be read aloud by the such a modest Internet superstar. The 'net is a big, thick, fecund sauce of information, but after digging around for these bits I thought it was about time they were served in the same dish. I hope you enjoyed.and thank you.

  14. She is truly wonderful! I love that you took so much time and effort with studying her for accuracy.Love that adorable apron and her tiny treasures, but her face is amazing!

    1. Thank you, Patti! I'm glad you like her. I want to make more Alices, and there's so much variation in the drawings that I could each one different and it would still be authentic.

  15. Hola amiga,
    felices fiestas y que
    el nuevo año te traiga muchas bendiciones.

  16. She's lovely Miss B!
    and very authentic.
    A+ on the attention to detail!

    1. Thank you, Ron! She's been a sweetheart to make, once I knew what she should be wearing.

  17. Love her expression.
    The shape of her forehead and her lips.
    And, she needs to be glad that she's little... or I would steal her tights!

    1. Thank you! As for her expression, I've found people read the most extraordinary things into it; unhappy childhood, distant daydreamer, plotting sociopath. As I wanted her face to be a little enigmatic, I'm thrilled by the results!

      Those striped stockings are to die for, aren't they? Maybe you'll have stockings in your stocking on Christmas morning?

  18. She's amazing:) I think your rendition of her outfit works perfectly.

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann! I;m hoping to try other interpretations, soon.


Thank you all for the wonderful and supportive things you say! I'm thrilled to read them and I reply to each one.