Before I was old enough to go to school, I remember my Mum making me paper doll cut-outs to play with. Her little drawings were formulaic and I remember how she would start with 3 incomplete heart shapes which would eventually turn into a hairline, bathing suit top line and then a bathing suit bottom line (where the legs joined the torso). The paper doll had points for hands and feet and the legs were joined. But I was fascinated by how the end product was always a paper doll that she would cut out and then put under semi-transparent writing paper in order to trace different outfits over the figure, which could then be cut out. I loved these cut-outs and she only stopped making them for me when I was about 7 -- she told me I could draw better than her and could now make my own. Perhaps my Mum was just too busy (I am from a family of 10 kids, and I have 2 younger siblings) but I was quite confident also that I could make my own paper dolls.
I most certainly did make my own over the years, but I also enjoyed ready made cut outs. Recently I was telling someone about my Ginny Tiu cut outs which I remember as my first store bought cut outs. I loved Ginny Tiu, a child piano prodigy from Hong Kong who made regular appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s.
One of my sisters and I made cut outs out of just about anything. We always looked forward to when the catalogues (for major dept stores in Toronto -- Eaton's and Simpson's) went out of date because then my Mum gave them to us to do with as we would. We would spend ages in our room cutting up the catalogues -- not only did we have a great population variety, but we could build flat dream houses. [With store bought paper dolls we always removed any tabs as we played with cut outs horizontally not vertically -- i.e., flat on the floor.]
I remember one time my sister and I cut up another sister's Rupert books. We actually didn't think she would mind, as we only cut out the characters that appeared in the page corners where you turned the page, Even though all the print for the stories was completely intact, we were still in big trouble...
So a few months ago I re-discovered what I now refer to as the "Grey Box". I was looking for some papers and opened a file box to be surprised that it was full of sketches, drawings and doodles which had somehow escaped the numerous purges and house moves I have made over the past almost 35 years. I was especially surprised to find two sets of cut outs that I made when I was around 17, occupying myself while I was sick in bed.
This young girl must have been my alter-ego as all the clothes are copies of the clothes I owned, except the green table-cloth dress which is based on a party dress belonging to one of my sisters. I say "alter-ego" because I considered the pose elegant while I thought I was clumsy and the figure is a blonde while I had dark brown curly hair...
These "medieval" cut outs were made around the same time. I think I was sick for a week (don't remember what was wrong with me!). I gave everyone names from Arthurian legend so Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall was the red haired man in green and blue, while the young fellow in the brown laced "leather" with puffy yellow sleeves and grey-green cape I named as Ambrosius (for Merlin's father according to writer Mary Stewart anyway!). I don't think I was naming people accurately for the legends, just the general character and names that I liked. I know at least several were just my imagination.
A few years ago there was a big Bowie "fashion" exhibition in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Although I didn't get there myself, my cousin in London did, and knowing how I was both a Bowie and a cut out fan sent me this memento.