by Sally DeSmet Trueblood

by Sally DeSmet Trueblood

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Identification of Original Wigs of the 1950s - Original or Replaced?


Important to the aesthetic appeal and value of a doll is the wig. Hair was crucial to dolls as children loved to comb them and style them.

There were various materials used in the 1950s which are outlined as follows:



Nylon: Nylon was a licensed product used exclusively for the Ideal TONI doll. Developed by Dupont, it was a revolutionary product and Ideal paid royalties for the exclusive right to sell Toni with the "nylon" wig. The nylon Toni wig will have an over-stitched seam down the center. Some wigs were made with the "horizontal" overstitch, often with bangs. Nylon is a wonderful material, and is much smoother than the more commonly used "saran" on dolls from the fifties -- including Ideal's Sara Ann. The wigs were offered in various shades of brown, jet black, platinum, blonde, tosca, auburn, and red. The rarest colors are black, and carrot-red. Nylon is very durable, and could withstand lots and lots of washes, and brushing. It cannot handle quite as much heat as saran, but generally nylon is fabulous and was a huge advance in wig-making.

Saran: Saran is a common material used in wigs from the 1950s. It is more coarse than nylon, but can be brushed and curled. It has a tendency to "frizz" which is very common with this type of wig. Saran was used on Ideal Sara Ann, Arranbee dolls, American Character dolls and so on. It is the most common wig of the 1950s. It can withstand intense heat, is strong, but has a tendency to frizz.

Mohair: Mohair is an animal product, and was used on dolls of the 1950s, especially "transitional" dolls of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Mohair is a pretty, soft hair but tends to not withstand combing as it has a tendency to fall out. If you brush a mohair wig, you will find clumps of hair in your comb or brush. The very early Nanettes, Sweet Sue, hard plastics, and Pre-Toni all have mohair wigs. It was manufacturered in a variety of colors.

Floss- Floss wigs were used on some of the hard plastic dolls, especially Nanette. It will be in a set design, and is brutal to comb. If you find a fifties doll with a floss wig in perfect condition, you will find a doll that has probably not been played with. Floss wigs were generally "updos" and were used with dolls dressed in ballgowns, but can be seen in braids also. The Effanbee Honey "Majorette" has a floss wig also. Madame Alexander used floss for some of her fancy dolls also. The floss wigs are generally blonde.

Dynel: Dynel is an animal product and looks like mohair but is not as dense. It is awful to comb and will not hold a curl. It was generally used on "budget" dolls such as Royal Company, Marilu, Unmarked dolls, Imperial, Eegee, and some Made in USA dolls. Effanbee also used dynel wigs on some of their "Honey" dolls. Check out the Honey Tintair, it is pretty but when combed tends to look rather unkept. Artisan's Raving Beauty also utilized the dynel wig, but was also offered in saran. The wigs came in various shades of brown and blonde, and are soft to the touch. The budget dynel wigs typically will have a seam in the back of the head near the bottom. The dynel wigs tend to not be as "thick" as mohair and the other materials. It is common to find a played-with doll with "bald spots" in the back because there was never a lot of hair there to begin with. It is a difficult wig material because it does not comb nor does it curl. It has no shine, so tends to have a dull appearance.

If you have a doubt whether a wig is original to the doll, take a look first at the general appearance of the wig. Newer wigs tend to be thicker and "shiny." The only truly shiny 1950s wig would be the nylon wig. Saran is fairly easy to spot because of the coarseness of the product. Think of nylon but with more "frizz" and that is saran. Saran was used on most of the 1950s dolls such as Saucy Walker, Sweet Sue, Arranbee, Sara Ann, Nanette, and so on.

Another way to ascertain if the wig is original to the doll is the center seam. Does it have an overlap seam which is typical for the fifties? If you are still in doubt, try to look at the wig cap. The wig cap of the 1950s will look older and the cap will be look much more "meshy" than the newer wigs. If you are still in doubt, ask a reputable doll expert or dealer. Re-wigged dolls will devalue the doll, and if you are concerned about your investment - try these tips and when in doubt.......ask!

Good luck and Happy Dolling!

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