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Object Dive—Paper Dolls and American Fashion: Art-Making Virtual Workshop

Used as a marketing tool in the 19th and 20th centuries, paper dolls helped to sell clothes and commodities, especially to the female buyer. They remained affordable and popular during and after World War II. Today, paper dolls provide a glimpse into past cultures, improve fine motor skills, and encourage creativity in story-telling and fantasy.

American fashion designer Claire McCardell created a paper doll book in 1956 featuring her designs. The book is currently on view in our newest exhibition, Claire/McCardell. McCardell designed using paper dolls as a child growing up in Maryland, cutting her mother’s fashion magazines into silhouettes. Take a closer look at McCardell’s paper doll fashions and create your own paper doll art form from home. 

Object Dives are designed to deepen your understanding of our exhibitions by focusing on an object or collection of material culture within an MCHC exhibition. Object Dives are a regular virtual program each season and designed for all ages including adults. Art-making materials may even be provided for free! 

Registration is required. After registering, an automated confirmation email will provide connection and material instructions.

Image: Paper Doll Book, c.1956. Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Claire McCardell Collection, MS3066


A book cover featuring a young Black woman, an illustration of a tree underlaid behind her


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