Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Doll Clothes From India

People wonder what I do all day. One project I have taken up is making traditional Indian doll clothes for American Girl dolls to raise money for Love and Grace Children's Home in Coimbatore, India. This children's home is run by the daughter of our driver. It provides a loving safe environment for 105 children who otherwise would be in the streets. We wrote about it in our blog "Love and Grace Mission".
Since these dolls are owned by many American families, and I have many patterns to draw from, I inquired whether there was interest in it among members of the Overseas Women's Club, to which I belong. As a foreigner, there are rules against raising money for religious organizations from Indian nationals, so it was a safe way to help these Indian children at the home. My Indian friend, Dhana, joined me soon after I began. Recently we have also donated some of the money raised to a local animal welfare organization that we both support. (I wrote about that in "A Pet Owner's Trip to Hell and Back!") Whatever the case, 100% of the price goes to charity.
Above are pictures of the two of us, with Dhana's first outfit, and a picture of our first satisfied customer, with the first outfit I made.

Each outfit is unique, made in traditional fabrics with gold borders or brocades. We work with the general requested colors to make a one-of-a-kind special outfit. Since we cover all the costs of the materials ourselves, with the help of some donations from friends, the fun is in making each one a new creation, and in helping a good cause.
We try to make them "awesome"--We keep working until we put them on and have to say, "Aaaaawww". The silks and other fabrics we use are a challenge to work with, and pattern making is so slow, that many time's I've found myself muttering that I must be crazy to put so many hours into an outfit, and will never do it again, only to put it on and exclaim, "Aaww, it's so cute! O.K. I guess I have to make some more!"
We started by making traditional Indian girl's clothing, a gagara-choli set (skirt and blouse). Over time the outfits have expanded so that we were making matching purses, necklaces, bracelets, ankle bracelets with "bells", flowers for their hair, and sometimes dupatas (shawls).

Besides the original gagara cholis, we have also made salvar suits--kurta (tunic), salvar (pants) and dupata, as well as an Indian baby dress and bonnet, and a sari (although saris are really only worn by adults.)

American Girl dolls are made to represent different time periods, locations, and ethnicity from American history, and come with books that tell stories of the girls' lives that are positive role models for girls in the age range of 7 to 11. They are very popular in America because they give pre-adolescent girls a way to learn about the past and universal childhood experiences, and to identify with a doll of their age group, instead of jumping immediately to the adult world of Barbies.

Since some little girls want historically accurate clothing for their doll, I have also made period clothing with original accents. So far I have never made the same type of outfit twice. So I have gone from costuming actors and actresses to costuming little 18 inch girls! Dhana has become the specialist in the Indian styles, but I want to make more of them so I can continue to do this after returning to the U.S. We are also looking into selling them online.

I bought myself a Josefina doll when I came here, because she looked the most like a little Indian girl. Just recently the company has come out with an Indian friend, Sonali, for their "Doll of the Year", Chrissie. I think she will only be available for this year, but I hope they extend it, or offer her with her own set of stories, as there are certainly a lot of Indian immigrants in America.

I am also considering making clothing for other well known dolls, such as Just Pretend, Magic Attic, Carpatina, and the like--also 18 inch dolls, but with a slimmer body type. These are out of production, but still can be purchased on ebay. Some have darker skin tones, especially Magic Attic's "Rose".

Until we find a way to offer the clothes online, anyone interested in obtaining some doll clothes to support a good cause, feel free to contact me here.


Gill said...

Those are excellent Donna, well done! I really admire your patience... keep up the good work.

Rachna said...

Great clothes, Donna. Really wonderful and traditional. You are doing such amazing work.

Karen said...

Hi Donna!! I just love these pictures of the beautiful outfits you have made. I am most certain that Molly needs one too!! It can be added to her collection of dresses made from love. Great post and glad to see the results of your time and efforts to improve lives in India. Much love, Karen

Deepa said...

Hi Donna!

I would love to purchase one of these outfits as well as a matching one for my daughter!

Please let me know if this is possible

Dubem said...


Beautiful collection of doll clothes. It is very traditional designs of doll. Thanks for sharing these unique collection of doll clothes.

18 Doll Clothes

PhatMa said...

Hello. Are you still making these Indian doll outfits? Where can I purchase them?