G Is for Gail Martin – Toni Doll Dressmaker

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, applied her creative skills to make dresses for my sister’s Toni doll. This was many years ago when we faced a bleak Christmas. All the gifts that year were homemade. Homemade with love.

She used remnants left from sewing clothes for her six children and from making curtains for the drafty Kansas farmhouse we lived in.

toni doll in green dress
This is my sister’s Toni doll with a dress made by our mother. The hat came from Colonial Williamsburg years later. (photo by Karen Kolavalli)
If you’re old enough, you might remember the Toni doll made by Ideal in the 1950s. The one shown here is my sister’s Toni doll. She named her Belinda.
The Toni doll promoted Toni hair products and the doll had hair that could be styled. Some were ruined when their young owners gave the doll a haircut. Belinda never suffered that indignity and still has her original hair.

Over the years, she did lose part of her eyelashes from one eye and most of the pink in her cheeks was scrubbed away over the years. Somehow she broke the tip off of one finger. Perhaps we dropped her on the sidewalk in a moment of carelessness.

My mother made some old-fashioned dresses for Belinda that have sort of a literary flair. The green dress above makes me think of Jane Austen’s Regency fashions. There’s a blue plaid one that makes me think of Dr. Zhivago and another that reminds me of Scarlett O’Hara’s green dress in Gone with the Wind.

The red dress shown below gets displayed every December as Belinda dresses for the holidays.


Below is Belinda in the blue dress my mother made for her. I think it gives her a Lara from Dr. Zhivago look. Mom didn’t have any patterns to make the dresses, she just measured and cut and sewed to magically produce a doll dress. It was a secret, so she had to work at odd times on the clothes to have the wardrobe done by Christmas.
Toni doll in blue plaid dress
Toni doll (Belinda) in her blue plaid dress made by Mom.

That was the Christmas that we were all making presents for each other. Can you imagine helping six children make gifts for each other? Where did she find the time to fashion all these outfits for Belinda?

I liked this blue dress a lot, but she also had a Cinderella-style dress of off-white brocade trimmed with lace. That was made with the remnants from our living room curtains.

Belinda the Toni doll
Toni doll under the Christmas tree in her new dress made by Gail Lee Martin.

Here’s Toni in Her Dress Made by My Mother

Sorry, Sis, for showing you in your hair curlers. There’s the Toni doll under the Christmas tree. She’s wearing the ivory satin dress with lace overskirt that Mom made for her. It’s a beautiful outfit that Marie Antoinette would have been proud of.

Did you have a Toni doll? What doll was your favorite?

(This post was cross-posted from my mother’s memory blog: Discovering Mom)