Another Smocked AG Doll Dress


This dress was made many years ago, before embroidery machines, before grandchildren and before I had any idea that grandparenthood would be such a busy time.  Again and again I am grateful for all my class samples, like this dress,  which seem to have been lying in wait to be worn or played with by a grandchild.

When Mildred Turner and I were doing our Sewing for Dolls schools around the country, we designed unique, personalized wardrobes for porcelain dolls, made by my mother and included in the class kits.  Each school had a different doll–the same body but different face and hair, like American Girl or Cabbage Patch dolls, so all the clothes and patterns were interchangeable.

Each doll was like a participant in the Witness Protection Program.  She was given an identity and fictional life, even an adoption certificate,  then outfitted to fit the character she became.


In Maggie Valley, North Carolina, there was Millie Lavonia (little Mildred Lavonia Medford Turner), a child who loved to sew.  Daisy Renee was another little mountain girl who wore her Meadow Dress to romp through the countryside.  And there were others.

In Atlanta, the doll was named Melanie.  This Southern Belle claimed to be the great granddaughter of Goody-Two-Shoes Melanie from Gone with the Wind.  And, of course, she had a debutante ball gown and a plantation play dress.

It was so much fun hearing the details and particulars of the doll’s life generated by the adoptive, sewing “mothers.”  As I recall, it was reported that one Melanie had run off with a wild biker gang, breaking her family’s hearts.  But like the Prodigal Son, she returned home to her Mama. her Daddy, and her Christian, Southern Belle roots.  With no tattoos!  So she will still get Grandmother’s pearls after all.

Each day during lunch, I read selected passages from The Southern Belle Primer  and we all had a good laugh as we learned, or were reminded, of the finer points of proper Belle-dom.

I especially remember the admonition that there is absolutely NO PROPER way to serve deviled eggs but on a deviled egg plate and that every proper Belle must own AT LEAST one.  Indeed.



This little beauty came home with me from that last estate sale. With places for just 8 deviled eggs, it is the smallest one I have ever seen. Maybe it was a Weight Watcher aid for portion control–just one deviled egg for each of 8 luncheon guests.


A week after the school was over, Mildred and I were walking the streets of downtown Waynesville and saw a pretty glass egg plate in a general store window.  So we bought up the store’s entire inventory and sent one to each student.  Later, at home, I shopped around and found two for my daughter Rebecca’s hope chest—one for everyday and one for company.  Since then, I often include a deviled egg plate with a bridal shower gift.




I can’t recall in which school this smocked dress was featured.   Each wardrobe had at least one bishop, for a dress and/or nightgown.  Then there were the “unmentionables”  (underwear) and usually a party dress.   Fortunately, all the bishop style dresses we made for the standard 20″ doll school doll body also fit the American Girl dolls.  So when my granddaughter Laurel got her first AG doll two years ago, she walked right into an extensive, ready-made wardrobe of smocked and heirloom garments.  I’d love to have told her that I made these things just for her, but it just isn’t true.

Cotton batiste, lace tape and Swiss edging are the components of the dress.  It is smocked and embellished with pinstitched shrimp colored lace tape but it is the embroidery which I think is the most interesting detail.   Created with only a machine feather stitch and a modified bar tack,  it is a far cry from what today’s embroidery machines can do.  And yet it is effective.




Drafting the bishop pattern for a doll is a fairly easy proecess.  If there is any interest, I will do a tutorial in a future post.  Meanwhile, there are many. many commercial patterns available for dolls of every size.  Why not make a little girl happy and use up some of your scraps?  Making doll clothes is such fun.




Please share any doll dressing pictures or tips you might have.  We’d all love to read about them.


14 responses to “Another Smocked AG Doll Dress

  1. What a beautiful doll bishop !!! And Addie’s nightgown is beyond gorgeous. Your classes must have been filled with brilliant ideas and fun times. Thanks for the peek into your doll closet. Susan VH

  2. Beautiful dress! Laurel is indeed lucky to have such a sewing Nana.

  3. Love the doll bishop. LOVE that gorgeous deviled egg plate! (Mine is a simple glass one, and it has a chip.) Could you please explain why the smocking doesn’t go all the way up to the binding on your bishop?

  4. Janice, I believe I have 4 of your mother’s miniature porcelain dolls. I am ashamed to say that only one is dressed. The other three are still chilly waiting for clothes. I took the class from Lezette Thomason years ago and bought the dolls then. I love them. They still have their little hang tags.

  5. Well, Jo, I will keep you in mind the next time I find a pretty deviled egg plate. As for the smocking not going up to the neck—this was a teaching sample. One bishop technique that I have practiced faithfully for many years is to leave the top row unsmocked until after construction. Then those stitches, usually a cable or outline stitch, can be worked snug up to the neck binding. In class, I would work a few stitches to show how nice that looked, sometimes smocking two pleats with one outline stitch because the pleats are packed on the binding so tightly. But then I would remove those stitches so it could be demonstrated for the next class. But I never got around to finishing up the last row of smocking and Laurel didn’t seem to care. I probably should have finished it for this post so as not to draw the attention of Hawkeye Jo! You flatter me with your careful examination of the pictures and projects.

  6. Martha, I’m so glad you have some of those sweet little dolls. My mother had a grand time making each one of them. I have a pattern for an heirloom sewn bishop for the tiny Bye-lo and another for this doll, whose name I can’t recall. Let me know if you would like a copy. Meanwhile, don’t feel guilty or ashamed of those nekid babies! IMHO, nyone who has a grandbaby to sew for should put the dolls aside until the grandchild is old enough to play with them. Sewing for a real, live grandbaby doll is so much more satisfying than clothing a cold, hard porcelain doll.

  7. Love your little doll dress. Would love to have you do a Tutorial on making bishop dresses for dolls……also include bonnets. I’ve done both but my skills are not always what I wish they were. I just found another Great baby doll on a Flea market for 50 cents so I need to get the poor thing into some clothes!

  8. Janice, Loved this tutorial and wished that I could have been in some of those doll classes! What fun! I read Martha’s post and didn’t realize that it was your Mother that made the miniature porcelain dolls! I have some! I also bought mine from Lezette at the MP school market night. I have one clothed with a crochet dress that I purchased at a doll show, and ashamed to admit the others are in the curio as naked as can be. One day… they will be properly dressed –on my list of things to make.

  9. It’s so nice to know where some of my mother’s little baby dolls are! I have many, many dolls that she made and yet when I saw 2 for sale on eBay, I had to buy them! It just seemed like selling babies. How crazy am I?

  10. Shirley, I will do a doll bishop tutorial soon and include bonnets because you requested it. With all your experience, I doubt I have much to offer you. But perhaps a few tips I have picked up will be new. Should I hurry up so you can get another naked doll orphan dressed?

  11. Janice, I just love this doll dress. You mentioned you will do a doll bishop tutorial. hint. hint.
    I’m hoping to make one for Christmas for my G-niece.

    Warm regards, Rosemary

  12. I’m glad you like this little dress, Rosemary. I’m up to my eyeballs now making baby clothes for my granddaughter who is due to arrive at Christmas, but as soon as I am freed up, I will do the tutorial. Bishops are as easy and forgiving of size variations as children, so it is a great style for dolls.

  13. Hummm – if you ever get a hankering to do that bishop tutorial, I know someone who would be oh so interested…. 😉 You had me at that part about “easy and forgiving”!

  14. Cheryle, that tutorial is on my to-do list, but the list is about as long as my grandchildrens’ Christmas lists. I will let you know when I get to it. Drafting a bishop is a very satisfying and easy process. Shouldn’t take to long. Neither should cleaning my sewing room but……..

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