Friday, April 1, 2016

Spa Day

Since December, my girls have been super busy with holiday parties, red carpet events, couture and ready-to-wear catwalk shows. Always ready to strike a pose at any time of the day or night, they've lent their images to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They’ve worked hard and are tired. So this year, I decided to treat them to a little pampering, restoration & relaxation with our own… day at the spa!

Though I do not store my team under glass, my dolls require very little special care because they are constantly changing in and out of clothes for photo shoots and moving about the house. Even those not used on a regular basis have their clothes changed four times annually to correspond with the seasons. Still, most dolls are in front of the camera so their faces must be flawless and devoid of dust. A few have suffered stains as a result of their lust for black garments. And a few2 of my trusted Barbie Model Muses have started showing their age (gasp) by not being able to put that hand on the hip anymore.  And…I had a group of homeless dollies show up on my doorstep after spending a year in friend’s garage. They needed baths. Their hair needed tending to. A few had “skin issues.”

Before we get started, let's remove dolly's clothing and slip her into a robe. Click HERE for the tutorial on making a kimono style robe. I also use "finger" towels I found at the dollar store. They are smaller than the typical wash cloths, measuring roughly 9x9" (22x22cm).

Daily Maintenance
Rub-a-dub-dub, nine girls in a stainless steel tub...
Some collectors wipe their dolls with wet-wipes once a month. Since most of my dolls are handled and moved about rather often, I do not feel the need to do this. However I do  make a habit of keeping my ladies out of direct sunlight to keep them from fading or discoloring. I’ve also read that it is best to keep them away from fluorescent light which can turn dolls greenish in time. I once bought a second hand doll which smells of jasmin. And though it’s nice to smell her, I’m not at all tempted to share my love of perfume because the essential oils can stain vinyl dolls rather easily.

On the other hand, last year, a lot of homeless dollies found their way to my doorstep after spending a year in an abandoned garage. I washed them all down using a mild dishwashing detergent and warm water and washed their hair. A couple of them were suffering from sticky legs. After washing and drying them off, I rubbed the legs down with a little bit baby powder. This also helps when putting pants on them!

Dusty Details
Look carefully and you can see dust around the eyes.
Use soft makeup or artist brush to gently brush dust from the crevices.

Watch for dust that settles in tiny crevices around eyes, the nose and the corners of their mouths. This is very important before photographing them. It is most noticeable with medium to dark toned dolls. Hold a magnifying glass in one hand and use a soft paint brush the other to brush away the dust.
For more stubborn or encrusted dust or dirt, use a cotton swap moistened with water.
If the doll is particularly dusty or has dirt settled around her facial features, take a cotton swab, moisten with water and gently wipe.
More tips on cleaning and the care of dolls can be found at
Kaylee’s Korner (The Beauty Parlour)

Removing Stains
My girls love black, navy, red… the main culprits in staining vinyl dolls. And they sometimes pay for their pleasure. The chemicals in some fabrics tend interact with the materials used in doll making. Left on over an extended amount of time, these clothes can create unsightly “bruises” on dolly’s body. This includes not only some of the clothes you make for them but also,  the manufacturer's clothes that come with the doll. There are no set rules in terms of how long the doll can wear dark toned clothes before the stains set in, but in general, I try not to leave a dark or vivid colors on my dolls for more than a couple months at a time. The cheaper the fabric the more you should be vigilant and the more often you should change the garment. Other options: Wrap the doll’s body with plastic wrap to prevent the color from leaching into the vinyl, line the garment with a light tone fabric, make protective undergarments. OR….take your chances and remove the stain if need be.

It’s actually very simple. Any inexpensive anti-acne cream with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide will do. Wash the doll with a mild soap and water then apply generous amount to the stain and set the doll in the sun for about a week.  Check the progress from time to time, by wiping away. Then reapply more cream until the stain finally disappears. I’ve used this method on dolls of varying tones from fair to deep tan without any damage to the doll.
Green Ear
I have not experienced this problem first hand, though it has concerned me. (That's why you haven't seen much in the way of earrings on my dolls.) Green ear is a condition whereby metal (earrings for the most part) oxidizes and thus sets off a chemical reaction with the surrounding vinyl thus resulting in a green tone around the ear or face of the doll. For tips on dealing with this problem, consult the website Most other research I uncovered suggests the best way to avoid green ear is to keep your doll from getting it in the first place.
1. Remove metal jewelry during humid conditions
2. Remove all metal jewelry prior to storing your doll.
3. Coat ear posts or surfaces of metal jewelry in contact with the doll, with a good quality clear nail lacquer (not top coat). Allow to dry completely before putting it back on the doll. 
Eyelash Fix
Replace damaged lashes or simply give an older doll a new look with our eyelash tutorial you can find by clicking HERE.

Fixing “Bent out of shape” limbs
1. I still love (and use) my Barbie Model Muse girls. They are easy to work with and take one perfect pose! But over time, a few began suffering from “can’t put my hand on my hips” syndrome which is precisely what Carla suffers from.
2.  Pour boiling water into a shallow bowl, then dunk the doll's arm into the water for a couple minutes.
3. Carefully bend the hand and arm back in place. To get it to fit where it should be, I pulled her arm towards the back and twisted a bit.
5. Hold the hand where it should be for a few minutes.  You can also tie the hand in place on the body. Now--Carla can strike that pose with her hand on her hip!

This also works for dolls with legs that are bent or ankles that have warped. Again, dip the ankle in boiling water, bend back in place and hold for a few minutes.

Weak In the Knees
She's not jumping. She's weak in the knees!
She's been standing in high heels F-O-R-E-V-E-R and now dolly just can't seem to stand up anymore. Fix those joints and get dollyoff her knees with a quick fix using Crazy Glue or clear nail polish. The tutorial is on the Integrity Toys YouTube channel which you can access by clicking  HERE.
Before (older FR body); After (FR2 body)

Humans get breast augmentations and liposuction. Dolls get updated bodies with longer legs and more natural waists. Increasingly, more of us are facing growing demands by our divas for better bodies. I admit, this makes me VERY nervous. Barbie's head is very flexible, but when it comes to my FR ladies, this is a special challenge because they are made from harder vinyl and their heads don't come off easily.
Roxanne’s dolls explains the hot water alternative to removing the doll head:
Integrity Toys’ line of Fashion Royalty dolls have harder vinyl which poses a different challenge. You can find IT's official YouTube tutorial for rebodying their dolls:

Hair Repair
For the most part, I do not need to do much to my dolls' hair beyond the occasional brushing, restyling into an updo or adding in a hairpiece. A simple brushing with a wide tooth dolly brush or simply shaking the head is sufficient. For dolls whose style is gelled in place, I use a soft artist's brush to dust. But anyone with older "girls" or those of you who scour thrift shops digging for treasure, the time will come when you will HAVE to deal with frizz! Just remember, whether you want it straight or curly, hot water is your friend! 
I was given a gift of an old Barbie  who, unfortunately, was suffering from a bad perm. At first, I was tempted to shave it all off and replace with a wig. I knew boiling water was good for setting curls or Afro styles, but I didn't realize it works in the reverse as well. After consulting many online videos, my doll Cheryl decided to take the plunge.
1. Wash the doll's hair with a mild dishwashing liquid or mild shampoo.
2. Don't scrub, but rather press and squeeze the suds throughout the hair.
3. Rinse well with lukewarm water.

4. Towel dry the hair then work in a small amount of hair conditioner. I understand that fabric softener works well, too!
5. Comb the conditioner through the doll's hair with a wide tooth comb. Hold onto the doll's hair and, beginning at the end, work your way up as you comb. Try not to yank out the dolls hair.
6. Have two small bowls of water ready: one boiling, the other cold. Dip the doll's head in the hot water for a couple minutes, then immediately dunk her hair in cold water. This helps to set the style (which in this case, is straight).
7. I wanted the hair to lie close to the head from a side part, then brushed it (while wet) using a soft toothbrush.
8. I tied a strip of cotton fabric around her head to train the hair to remain close to the head.
9. Then let air dry. Do NOT use a hair dryer as you could melt the hair!
When completely dry, her hair looks like new and smells wonderful!

Dolly wanting an extreme hair makeover? Give her a new haircut!  See "Making Kids Toys" for a straightforward tutorial on cutting doll hair into a short, chic, bob.

R&R (Rest and Relaxation)
Many collectors only display part of their collection (due to space restrictions) while others have an entire doll room outfitted with glass display cases and controlled humidity and light sensors. My dolls “live” with me and are scattered throughout the house. However, from time to time, I like to “put my dolls to sleep” (though not really required). This habit of mine comes from working in an art & design school where we would allow rooms and equipment to "rest" twice yearly. We seemed to have fewer problems as a result. Just before going away on a long trip, I put my most precious dolls back in their boxes and store them in a cool, dark place. When storing dolls, it is best to remove their clothes first. Unless you have “acid free” cardboard boxes, experts advise against storing dolls where they are in direct contact with wood or cardboard boxes (including the original packing materials) because they can either discolor the doll or speed up discoloration of the vinyl. Hermetically sealed plastic boxes with airtight lids can promote mold should any moisture work its way inside. If you do use plastic, it is recommended to puncture holes for ventilation. The temperature of the storage should be around 65-70 degrees (Fahrenheit) 18-21 C. In short, your doll will do well with the same temperature you enjoy.
You should use acid free tissue paper or unbleached cotton to wrap around your dolls when storing. Trouble is, it isn't always easy to find the right tissue paper. So, I have begun a project to make cotton pouches for them instead. For the 11.5 to 12.5 doll, each pouch consists of a 30x6" (81x15cm) rectangle cut from of an old cotton sheet. The strip is folded in thirds leaving a flap to fold over the doll. Stitch both sides. Turn, press and, fold over the edges if you so desire.
Fold the flap over the doll and tie with another scrap tied around the doll's waist. Now, all I have to do is to slip the doll back in the original packaging or any other box. Think of it as storing the doll with the same care as you would a nice pair of shoes!
The pouch provides a nice barrier between the doll and whatever she's stored in, be it the original box or another container!

Okay girls...wake day is over. Time to get back to work!!!
Oh no!!!!

Follow us on Twitter: @FashDollStylist
Like us on Facebook:
We're also on Pinterest:
Come join us on Instagram and show off your stuff:


  1. You REALLY treat your ladies like Divas! Thanks for the tips. I can be a bit rough with my ladies. My dolls thank you!

    1. ladies add a lot to the look of my blog and my collection now has a certain value. So I figured I'd better take REAL good care of them!! (Big kisses to your dolls!)

  2. Waw ! Merci pour tous ces merveilleux conseils. J'aime vraiment. Merci pour tout ce partage.

    1. Merci, Shasarignis. Il faut qu'on s'occupe bien de nos petites cheries!! J'avais envie de faire ce poste depuis un moment pour apprendre moi-meme, comment bien conserver mes poupees. Je suis contente de partager tous ces informations.

    2. J'enverrai bien mes Barbie faire un petit tour chez toi pour se faire dorloter.

  3. April, what a fantastic and thorough post! I love it. And I love the dolls in their robes. <3

    1. Thank you Sarah. I thought many doll collectors might already know any of these tips which are all over the internet. So I needed to put a personal spin on it by showing some of the issues my own dolls had. Thank you for the idea of including the tutorial for the bathrobe. The issue of proper storage came up in a doll forum which prompted me to think about how I could store my own dolls in a better way. In short, this was a much needed pause in the life of my fashion dolls!

  4. Great post, April. Very informative. I really like your pouch storage idea and may borrow it. I store my ladies in 14 x 4 x 4 1/2 cardboard collapsible boxes. They stack and store very nicely and can hold 2-3 dolls each, but are not acid-free. Did you use unbleached muslin for these?

    1. Thank you, Chris. The ideas are here for anyone to borrow! I was thinking of doing a cardboard storage box lined with muslin based on the idea of my Christmas ornament box. But then I decided to hold off and do a future post just on storage (dolls, clothes, accessories). For this post, I used an old, cotton muslin sheet that had been washed a gazillion times which also is okay for the doll. By I have lots of dolls and will probably go buy unbleached muslin to make pouches for them. What also works are those shoe pouches that hook onto a door or hang in a closet, though you would still need to cover each doll.

    2. I tried the shoe holder on the inside of a closet door and even though I made them 'seat belt' of sorts, they would still fall forward and tumble out when I opened the door. The boxes I got a perfect.....I write on the top and end what doll (including stock # and year) is inside. I have an old 2 drawer lateral file cabinet that holds them perfect. Those that don't fit in there go on the closet shelf. I have lots of unbleached muslin left over from my old quilt shop so now I have a good use for it since I don't quilt anymore! Thanks again for the great idea....

    3. Chris, thank you for the head's up about the shoe holder. In pictures everything looks so perfect. I think labeling is also important. When I started planning my box, I discovered there were a number of issues I hadn't resolved and labeling is one of them. I have doll clothes stored in tissue paper in boxes "black dresses" "summer outfits" but not specifically labeled. As a result, I can't find a thing!!!

  5. Your dolls had great SPA. :D They are happy with you I think :)

    1. Oh yes, my dolls had a great day at the spa...especially the older ones who were feeling neglected.

  6. Great tips, thank you. I didn't know about discolouring from the cardboard box they come in.

    1. Thank you, Jane. Yes, I read this on several sites specializing in doll maintenance and repair. Apparently, keeping dolls "mint in box" is not the greatest idea in that it can result in discoloration of the doll due to non acid free cardboard, staining that comes from the clothes, green ear from the metallic jewelry and even those little rubber bands that melt in the hair over time.

  7. Great post. Full of wonderful ideas. Thanks for all the extra links, too. Love that top photo. My Dasia doll is more porous than any of my other dolls, so she is a victim of dark clothes staining. Good to know I have to leave the stain remover on for a longer time period. I was expecting immediate removal when I tried something a couple weeks ago.

    1. Thank you, Vanessa. The first doll to suffer from black stain was one of my treasured Barbie Model Muses for whom I had made a fur coat lined in black polyester. When I removed the coat 3 months later, I was horrified. Ditto for a few other dolls including my Halle Berry Barbie and a FR Kyori Sato. So I was relieved to find that this remedy really works. You simply need patience. Keep the product on and the doll in the sun for whatever it takes. Eventually the doll comes out looking good as new!

  8. Dużo wspaniałych porad, jak sprawić, żeby lalki były czyste, pachnące i piękne! Dziękuję bardzo za cenne wskazówki a zdjęcie lalek, z maseczkami na twarzach, jest doskonałe :)))
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote: A lot of great tips , how to make dolls were clean , fragrant and beautiful! Thank you very much for your valuable tips and photos of dolls , from facials on their faces , it is excellent :)) )
      Best wishes!

      Thank you, Olla. I think, just like with humans, from time to time, dolls need a little help to keep them looking beautiful. Some of the photos were pure fun! I'm happy you enjoyed this post.

  9. Hello from Spain: your tips are fabulous. I love watching as you take care of your dolls. You do a great job. Fabulous photos in the spa .. We keep in touch

    1. Thank you, Marta. You also, take very good care of your dolls. Glad you enjoyed this post. See you soon.

  10. Hi, thank you for all the tips!!! <3 <3

    1. Hi Uszula. You are more than welcome. Big hugs.

  11. Hi April. I store my dolls nude in their boxes and in plastic drawers. I did not know about the damage it could cause. Love the protective 'shroud' idea! I'm going to make them for my dolls. Thank you for this fantastic blog! (I finally figured out how to comment)

    1. Hi Wandy, glad to meet up with you here and happy you figured out how to leave a comment. Well..I prefer to think of my little pouches as "cocoons" instead of "shrouds" (dolly's only sleeping, she's still with me--LOL!!!!)

  12. I prefer fabric conditioner because it doesn't contain oils which can damage the dolls. It has anti-static effect too!

  13. Thank you, BlackKitty, that's nice to know. Since I was working with a doll whose hair I thought was a lost cause, I worked with what I had. But I'll keep the fabric conditioner in mind for use with a more pricey doll.

  14. Oops! Yes, protective cocoon is much better! I've already made three. Thanks again for the great idea. x o

  15. Finally stopped to read! Great blog. Good tips! I am faced with all of these issues except mostly with different dolls! I switched heads on two Ellowynes (Hiya Dolly March), partly because of staining. Now I will tackle that too. And just washed bodies and hair on my kids' childhood dolls, ready for repacking, selling, or playing in Dolltown. I'd like to ink to this post and write about care again soon! I'm off to vote for your site! Thank you!

    1. So happy you stopped by, Jano. Yes indeed...we have many of the same issues no matter what we collect. I was devastated the first time I discovered staining on my precious Barbie MM. But before I had the notion of body swapping, I discovered how to remove the stains. Now that I know the acne cream works, my dolls can wear their favorite black fashions without a care in the world. Glad this post was of some help!

  16. Just wondering why clear nail polish is best instead of clear top coat? I thought the top coat acts as a sealant for nails so it seems like it would work for sealing the metal earring posts to protect dolls from green ear. Great piece btw. Love the tips & photos!


We love hearing from you. Your comment will be published shortly.