Vintage TLC: Detangled

Standard

Buying vintage Barbie dolls is especially fun when I get the chance to fix up what would otherwise be a disaster of a doll. Recently, I got my hands on a Ponytail #6/7 with a number of problems. If something can go wrong with a doll, it’s happening to this poor girl! Matted hair, a split neck and hairline, hot pink dye stains, dirt, worn face makeup, etc. I’ve got my work cut out for me!

pontyail-6-face-neck-splitIt’s hard to know where to start with a doll in need of so much TLC! So, I decided to just start at the top and work my way down. Fixing the hair on this doll will at least make her displayable, (with the right outfit that covers her problem areas).

On the up side, this doll’s bangs are perfect. The curls are soft and styled correctly. The rest of her hair, however, is a total matted mess. To make things worse, someone along the way put baby powder in her hair which created a paste-like substance on her scalp. A kind word of advice: Don’t put baby powder in vintage hair to dry out the oily buildup that sometimes occurs. It doesn’t work!

pontyail-6-hair-right-side

The first goal is combing out this rat’s nest! Detangling comes down to just a few steps:

  1. Remove all rubber bands. Sometimes the rubber dries out and is stuck in the hair. Try to remove as many of the pieces as possible.
  2. Divide the hair into small sections and work one section at a time.
  3. Use a small plastic comb or Barbie brush to gently work through the tangles. Start at the bottom of the hair, not at the roots! Work your way up to the scalp.
  4. Don’t pull too hard. It might take longer to slowly pick through tangles, but it’s better than pulling out a clump of hair. Re-rooting is a much more difficult repair!

Once I got the tangles out, it was time for a shampoo. The baby powder “paste” had broken apart during the de-tangling process, but the residue was still clumping near the scalp and it left the hair looking very dull.

Vintage Barbie hair can be fragile and has been known to react to shampoos, conditioners, and soaps in various unpleasant ways (most notably hair color can change). For this doll, I used 7th Generation Free and Clear dish soap. A little bit goes a long way and its a gentle cleanser.

Then, let the hair air dry. DO NOT use a hairdryer. Barbie hair is essentially made of plastic, acrylic, or saran. It’ll frizz or melt under heat.

I ran a comb through her hair once more and ended up with what looked like a giant ball of frizz. No worries, though. I expected it. As a ponytail doll, she originally had set curls. They don’t just go away, so when they are combed out, they poof out.

20161203_102619

It’s not a good look! However, it is easy to fix. All she needs is a simple reset. Using a fine-toothed plastic comb, I smoothed out the hair from root to tip the best I could. Then, I put her ponytail back into place. I’m not going to lie – this part took forever! Through multiple trial and error attempts, I finally got the height and placement of the ponytail just right. I secured it in place using small, clear plastic rubber bands I found in the hair care aisle at Target.

With the ponytail in place, it was all about resetting the curls. I used a spray bottle to soak the ends with water and then I wrapped five separate curls around small pipe cleaners. I folded up the pipe cleaner ends and let the set air dry for a few days.

20161228_130442-1

The end result was far better than I expected. The frizz factor is non-existent and there’s even a bit of shine back in her hair. Once again, a little TLC goes a long way!

barbie-ponytail-6-hair-after

Work continues on this doll as I research techniques for repairing splits, removing dye stains, and touching up face paint (I’m still deciding if I want to do this).

For now, she’s looking good with the rest of my vintage girls!

20170126_164309-1-1

– – –

c.b.w. 2017

Vintage TLC: Sometimes You Get Lucky

Standard

It’s rare, but every once in a while there’s a motivated seller on eBay  that has exactly what you’re looking for at the right price. In my case, I found two motivated sellers that had the two halves to a complete outfit.

A classic vintage Barbie fashion known as Red Flare includes a red velvet, white satin-lined coat. I’ve been drooling over it for a while, but never thought I could afford one in good enough shape (velvet and satin are hard to restore!)

51f1d764d1a866826ae2936ec8c3b19a

While perusing vintage Barbie fashion on eBay, I came across a listing for Red Flare. Not only was the coat in near perfect condition, but the set was complete with the hat, purse, gloves, and even the shoes!

Aside from the completeness of the ensemble, the price caught my eye – only $17.99. I pounced. While it’s more than I usually spend on vintage Barbie clothes, it was too good a deal to pass up. Everything is in absolute perfect condition and required zero restoration. Sometimes luck is on your side as a vintage collector!

Still, Red Flare is simply a well-accessorized coat. Barbie needs a dress to go with that coat!  The fashion, Silken Flame is often paired with Red Flare as it is a white satin and red velvet cocktail dress.

286e46be1acead61463ab267b7b7aefd.jpg

A few days of searching lead to an amazing deal. It turns out a seller decided to have a clearance sale and they marked the dress down to $6.76. It was a little wrinkled and missing a snap, but no stains, (that’s huge for satin), and no red fading into the white satin (also huge as that’s not really fixable). No accessories were included, but that didn’t matter to me because I already had shoes and a purse!

The satin skirt has obviously been smashed in storage for a long time – the most notable fold across the entire skirt proved to be stubborn.

20160725_103354-1

Regardless, the satin was stain free which meant all I really needed to do was give it a good ironing. I used a combination of steam ironing and spraying the wrinkled areas with water. The combination of heat, steam, and a soaked surface  pressed those wrinkles right out!

20160726_115632-1

My Barbie is looking pretty good for a night on the town in her new coat and cocktail dress!

evening-flame-fashion

 

Who says vintage collecting has to be difficult or labor intensive? Sometimes the stars align and your doll ends up in a stunning ensemble thanks to a little patience and a lot of luck!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Garden Party

Standard

Vintage Barbie restoration doesn’t always involves a long process. One of my first vintage fashion purchases was Garden Party (#931, 1962-63), minus the accessories. The dress alone, in good condition, can run anywhere from $15-30, which is again a bit out of this collector’s price range.

788895219bd1f61490fe2342dda2c1b7

Instead, I found a Garden Party dress that was in pretty good shape aside from a few stains, some wrinkles, and one loose stitch. I figured if I could get those stains out, it would be a total bargain at only $8.

The Before Look:

The front and back of the dress suffered from typical yellow age stains. The entire dress was covered, but it’s more noticeable on the lace layers in the skirt and along the bodice dart seams.

s-l1600

Seller’s Photo (caller5547)

Aside from the stains, the dress looks like it’s been crammed in a box for years. The wrinkles change the entire shape of the dress (it’s supposed to poof out in a super cute way!).

I was lucky to find a TLC dress with the pink bow still in place. Most played-with Garden Party dresses are missing this little detail. However, the bow on my dress is dangling by a single stitch.

The Fix List:

The Stains:

The stains may have covered the entire dress, but they weren’t severe. I went with my go-to process of soaking the dress in a mixture of 3 cups water, 1 tbs baking soda, and 1 tbs peroxide. After  a single soak of 2 hours, I set the dress in direct sunlight to dry. That was all it took! The stains were completely gone, leaving the dress a bright white and brilliant pink.

The Bow:

The pink bow was hanging on by one thread of the original stitch. I simply added a couple reinforced stitches through the center fold of the bow (to hide the stitches) to secure it back into place. Done!

The Wrinkles:

A steam iron on the cotton setting quickly fixed the wrinkles crimping the skirt and bodice. Ironing Barbie clothes can be tricky. The tip of the iron is your best friend. The skirt usually fits around the narrow end of the ironing board – all you have to do is carefully work your way around one section at a time. The bodice is best approached from the top of the neckline – point the tip of the iron towards the waist hemline and iron one small section at a time.

The After Look:

Aside from the ease of restoration, I bought this dress specifically for my vintage Midge doll. I though she’d look adorable in it and she does! Once again, a little TLC can turn a down and out vintage dress into something beautiful.

Garden Party Midge

 

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Suburban Shopper

Standard

8d857822cbed851a0f1189ae12cc5911One of the more popular and sought after vintage Barbie Fashions is Suburban Shopper (#969, 1959-1964). The dress alone in good condition can run about $25 and up. Add in the accessories (phone, hat, shopping basket, necklace and shoes) and the price jumps to $50 or even $100. For a budget conscious collector such as myself, these prices are far beyond what I will spend!

So off I went in search of a TLC Suburban Shopper. It was clear from the start, that I’d have to let go of the accessories – they are hard to find and often expensive.

Instead, I focused on finding a TLC dress. Seeing as this is a popular fashion that was in production for five years, finding it isn’t too difficult. However, it can be pricey because there is a strong demand for this particular fashion. I ended up finding one in pretty rough shape for the bargain price of $5. Let the TLC games, begin!

The front of the dress was covered in brown age stains and a couple of unidentified dark spots on the white stripes (of course!).

Suburban Shopper Front_Before

To make matters worse, the stitches of a bad previous repair job can be seen along the bodice dart seams and the skirt/bodice seam.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_Before

The back of the dress is just as bad as the front. Dark stains (likely rust) hover around the zipper.

Suburban Shopper Back_Before

It only gets worse on the inside of the dress. One of the straps has fallen victim to a bad repair job. A wad of stitches going every which way actually shortens the strap to an ill-fitting length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_Before

The bodice/skirt seam was also “repaired” with another wad of stitching. The stitching is so bulky, the waist doesn’t fit on the doll – one side shifts up at an angle.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_Before

It’s as bad as it looks! However, some needle and thread, along with a good washing turned this disaster of a dress into something really special.

The Brown Age Stains

Luckily, the brown stains covering most of the dress came out with just a basic treatment. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and peroxide for two hours. Then, I laid it out to dry in direct sunlight. I repeated this process three times and the stains completely disappeared. All that was left behind were the darker spots.

The Dark Spots

It’s usually not recommend to use bleach on vintage fabrics, but the dark spots were pretty stubborn. Seeing as they were on the white stripes, (and I’d only be out $5 if this didn’t work!), I decided to chance a bleach treatment. I dabbed each spot with a Q-tip lightly loaded with diluted bleach.

I repeated the process until the spots started to lighten, all the while careful not to bleed the bleach onto the blue stripes. After the last dabbing, I gave it a good rinse and dried the dress in direct sunlight.  By some miracle, the spots were completely gone!

Bodice Dart “Repair”

To fix the previous poor repair, I carefully removed the stitches with a seam ripper. I found a small hole in the bodice dart and also realized one bodice dart was shorter than the other. Both problems were solved with a simple straight stitch along the dart seam, plus a few extra stitches to even out the length difference.

Strap “Repair”

Ripping out the previous repair stitches was quite the chore. Removing a “pile” of stitches poses the risk of accidentally tearing the fabric – especially on more fragile vintage fabric. I took my time and removed one layer of stitches at a time.

Once the stitches were gone, I could actually see the original sew line of factory stitches! That made my job a lot easier. I simply lined up the the sew line to the bodice seam allowance and stitched the strap back into place.

There were some strange stitches running down the zipper flap, but I decided to leave them in as they aren’t effecting the look of the dress or the fit. They’ll just be part of this dress’s story!

Bodice/Skirt Seam “Repair”

Oh, this was a mess. The wad of stitching took more than an hour to pick out. I had to be even more careful about not tearing the fabric because of the added bonus of gathers. Gathered fabric often has a separate line of stitches aside from the seam. If this was the case, I wanted to be sure to preserve as much of the original stitches as possible.

Underneath the wad, I found a mostly intact original seam. There was just a small hole that required only a few stitches to fix. I am baffled as to why it was previously repaired with a mountain of thread!

The end result was far more than I expected for my $5 purchase. It’s amazing what a few basic sewing skills and good washing can do!

Here’s the front of the dress after repairs and a visit with a steam iron. The stains are gone and all seams are fully restored.

Suburban Shopper Front_After

The bodice looks a lot better with properly repaired darts.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_After

The back of the dress also looks pretty good!

Suburban Shopper Back_After

My repair on the strap is hard to see, just as a repair should be! No more wadded stitching and the strap is now at its correct length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_After

My repair on the waist seam blends right into the original seam. Without that wad of stitches, the waist once again fits the doll.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_After

Perhaps one day I’ll piece together the accessories for my Suburban Shopper fashion, but until then I’ll just enjoy how pretty my Bubblecut Barbie looks in her restored dress.

Suburban Shopper Dress

More Vintage TLC projects are in the works. I recently got my hands on an Enchanted Evening gown (#983, 1960-63) and Movie Date (#933, 1962-63). Stay tuned for more vintage fun!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Cotton Casual Dress

Standard

Collecting vintage Barbie dolls and fashions can get very expensive, but it’s not impossible for collectors on a budget to join in the fun. All it takes is a little patience and willingness to do some restoration work on vintage items that have seen better days.

Over the summer, I picked up a few vintage Barbie dresses that were in pretty bad shape. We’re talking bad stains, tears, holes, and previous repairs that did not go well. In short, they were disasters that desperately needed some TLC. Luckily, I have plenty of TLC to give.

One of the dresses I bought is Cotton Casual #912, (1959-1962).

85fa01a2e5b2ce871c341d812241cacf

This is a fairly common vintage Barbie dress, but it can still go for $25-35 if it’s in mint or near mint condition. That’s a little over my price limit, so I found one in TLC condition for $9.

Cotton Casual Front_Before

The front is in pretty sorry shape. The ribbons are frayed and no longer tied into bows and there’s a massive stain covering most of the skirt.

Then, there’s a hole in the bodice seam.

Cotton Casual Bodice Hole

The back of the dress sees a continuation of the same dark stain that plagues the front.

Cotton Casual Back_Before

On the plus side, the snaps are original and still secure, all hems have original stitching with no fraying, the gathered waist seam is intact, and the original Mattel tag is in place.

I know it looks bad, but a few little repairs transformed this dress from a stained mess to something bright and beautiful.

The Stain

This was the scariest part of the whole restoration process. The stain was dark and bled all the way through the fabric (it even went through the doubled up hem). At minimum the dress is 54 years old, so who knows what that stain is or how it got there.

I decided to try a basic stain removing sequence for vintage fabric. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for two hours. Then, I set it out in direct sunlight until it dried,  (sunlight and hydrogen peroxide are gentle bleaching agents). I repeated this sequence four times and managed to get the stain to lighten several shades. Still, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I soaked it one more time in Vintage Textile Soak for four hours. Then, I laid it out to dry inside (the package instructions warn not to put items in direct sunlight after using the product). This did the trick! The stain is nearly gone and only visible if you know where to look for it.

The Bodice Seam

The hole in the bodice seam was tricky in that it reached all the way down to the gathered waist seam. Repairing it with a running stitch would mean ripping out all the original stitching along the waist seam. Instead, I decided a simple whip stitch on the bodice seam inside of the dress would fix the hole just as well.

The Ribbons

In it’s original form, the ribbons on the bodice were tied into bows. Unfortunately, the ribbons on my dress have frayed to a length much too short to retie. To fix this, I had two choices: 1. Replace the ribbons with new ones 2. Attempt to sew the ribbons to look like bows.

I ended up going with Option 2, because I believe in keeping as much as the original dress in place as possible. I shaped each ribbon into a bow and sewed the center with a reinforced stitch. It took a few tries, but the result turned out better than expected.

After some patience, creative solutions, and a steam iron, my $9 Cotton Casual looks amazing…

Here’s, the front of the dress with restored bows and a repaired bodice seam. However, the biggest difference is the absence of that bad stain.

Cotton Casual Front After

The back of the dress looks just as good. The stain is mostly gone!

Cotton Casual Back After

Who knew a little TLC could go so far … My Bubblecut Barbie is looking pretty good in her Cotton Casual dress.

Cotton Casual Doll After

This is just the beginning! The restoration process is ongoing with several other TLC vintage fashions. Stay tuned!

– – –

c.b.w. 2016