Name: Boudoir Souvenir Doll Miss Haiti
Made by and When: Unknown, ca 1940s
Material: Heavy celluloid head and breast plate; straw-stuffed body, arms, and legs with a mature bosom
Height: 30 inches
Hair/Eyes/Mouth: Sculpted black hair/painted black irises with a brown dot that highlights each pupil/closed red lips
Clothes: Sewn-on island-style, full-length yellow/gold/green/orange-print dress has lace-trimmed bell sleeves and a red sash that reads “Miss H…” It is possible that the sash originally read “Miss Haiti”; the other letters were scratched off at some point. The skirt opens in the front to expose a portion of the off-white muslin two-tiered half skirt underneath. Red fabric serves as boots. The hair is covered with a tignon* (a combination head scarf and straw hat).
Other: This stately-looking doll was possibly sold as a souvenir doll to a tourist of a Caribbean island during the 1940s before making its way to America where it remains.
*“A tignon (tiyon) is a headdress used to conceal hair. It was adorned by free and slave Creole women of African ancestry in Louisiana in 1786 [worn as a result of the sumptuary law], which was enacted under Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró. The regulation was meant as a means to regulate the style of dress and appearance for people of color. Black women’s features often attracted male white, French, and Spanish suitors and their beauty was a perceived threat to white women. The tignon law was a tactic used to combat the men pursuing and engaging in affairs with Creole women. Simply put, black women competed too openly with white women by dressing elegantly and possessing note-worth beauty.
“Nonetheless, black women did not despair. Instead, they abided by the rule and turned it into fashion. The women used unique colors, jewels, ribbons, and wrapping styles which accentuated their gorgeousness even more. Out of this bore the various head ties seen today on women of color using unique materials, patterns, and flair.
“Tignons have been worn by women in the Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Dominica which included hidden messages. They used Madras – a popular fabric amongst slaves and free women to achieve their head ties.” (Wikipedia)
Read more about this sumptuary law here.
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