Lilli, always the sexiest gal in town: an inspiration for "all them other broads", such as Miss Marlene, (Marlene Dietrich perhaps?) a previous incarnation of Miss Seventeen.
The Fab-Lu Ltd. not only copied the Barbie doll outfits. Among the wardrobe of Babs, her family, and one lonely male friend Bill, one finds copies of other well-known doll clothing of the period. There are copies of Cissy by Madame Alexander, Tammy by Ideal, Tressy by American Character, and even Mrs. Lisa Littlechap and her daughters Libby and Judy by Remco, who would, it is obvious, be very distainful to any Lilli doll or one of her many clones. Dr. John, Mrs. L’s husband with greying temples and frown lines however, may have “cultivated” a “relation” with her...or maybe even pick the hitch-hiking doll up on the highway home from work at his cardboard office.
While Babs was billed as a “Teenage Queen of Fashion", perhaps inspired by the Barbie “Fashion Queen” doll which was a novelty of the Barbie line, the 18-inch (and another 15-inch edition) "Bild" Lilli-mould doll called Miss Seventeen was a “Beauty Queen". Issued by Marx Toys in 1961 and made in Hong Kong like her predecessors, Miss Seventeen, was previously called Bonnie,(Barbie-sized) in the regular eleven and three-quarter inch version. This regular Lilli-sized doll by Marx Toys came with moulded-on heels and asterisk earrings in many cases. Bonnie’s wardrobe was identical to Miss Seventeen’s, the only difference being that the two different heights as mentioned earlier) and she was the hardest-looking doll of all.
The fact is simply that Hausser, in hopes to keep up with the demand of the public for the Lilli dolls turned to the famous toymaker in the USA (and Germany) Louis Marx himself (who was married to the General Marshall's daughter, the General famous for the "Marshall Plan"). Hausser, breaking a deal at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1961, sold him the rights to make Lilli in Hong Kong for the American and Asian markets. This resulted in an official Hong Kong-made (no longer Bild) Lilli doll, as we know her today, the ones by Marx Toys, (in four sizes and in three different hair colours, notably Bonnie, Miss Marlene and Miss Seventeen )...but Marx, thinking they were being very clever, eventually initiated a lawsuit with Mattel claiming they had the only "Official" license to the Lilli doll. Unfortunately, they eventually lost the case as Mattel had been selling Barbie already for three years with great success and had a shifty agreement with Hausser as well. AND, the market was already flooding with all the other Hong Kong companies copies.....so Mr. Marx and his famous company eventually dropped the suit and the dolls. Though, she reincarnated a year later as a Miss Marlene.
A better quality wardrobe
Back to Miss Seventeen. She came with a better quality wardrobe (of at least 12 outfits). You win some, you lose some in this life obviously. Her wardrobe was a winning aspect of the hard-hearted looking Lilli incarnation. Real fashion designers created the detailing and look of each outfit. The designers, founders of the well-known and highly significant American fashion design school called The Fashion Institute of Technology were Jay E. Watkins and Edward Roberts.
Miss Seventeen was of hard, rather brittle plastic and had black hair in an unusual hairstyle, two panels swept around to the back and in a ponytail or in a more standard ponytail with "Bild" Lilli’s ubiquitous spit curl. She was also available in blonde and occasionally a bright red which was seen on strippers in the late fifties. She came out of her startling black box, which matched the packaging of the Fashion Book separate outfits, and into the little girls' hands wearing a black one-piece swimsuit trimmed with a sort-of lace which was used on other outfits, a red cape lined in white satin, red heels, a gold crown, and proudly holding her beauty pageant trophy in gold-painted plastic. VERY Queen for a Day looking! She had a yellow ribbon-trimmed banner exclaiming she was a Miss Seventeen. The doll itself was unmarked although she did look as if she might have had a tattoo somewhere.
Miss Seventeen's wardrobe was very original. In fact, it started the break away from the “Queen of Outer Space” look of previous dolls of this ilk inspite of her many outfit's evoking "queens". They were masterly illustrated in the true fashion drawing - style of America’s post-war industry, by this time very strong and independent and certainly sophisticated. They were long, elegant, and very refined. Unfortunately the doll itself was not as subtle in appearance as the drawings - far from it.
The text was an exacting copy of the Vogue magazine style of writing, very Diana Vreeland indeed! A refreshing aspect of the 12 available outfits was the fact that they did not imitate Barbie doll clothing and, with the exception of one quintessential gold lamé sheath, were independent from imitations of other doll clothes. They had a decidedly American fashion slant with only nods to Paris and Europe. The clothes were also of a very high quality, parallel practically to Barbie's wardrobe. They also were equally priced or in some cases more expensive than Barbie clothes.
Twelve glamorous outfits:
It is not known whether or not there existed more ensembles for the doll but it is known that she was popular as late as 1964. The outfits were of extremely good quality and, being for 15 or 18 inch dolls, obliged customers to buy the dolls if they liked the fabulous wardrobe.
The clothes fit neither Barbie nor Babs. Bonnie’s clothes did however, fit any bimbo who came along.
The saga of Miss Marlene
Miss Marlene had a whole series of incarnations, pre- and post- lawsuit:
First there was the Japan-made high quality solid vinyl version of her which came out about 1960, which, as Mr. Marx was very confident he'd legally and officially bought the license for the Bild Lilli doll, was an identical copy of Bild Lilli. Perfectly-scaled, hand-painted black and white eyes, she came in a Post-War looking cardboard box with small drawings on its sides of very Occupied West Germany looking fashions of short, vaguely frumpy print dresses with belts. The doll wore identical copies of the Drei-M fashions of Bild Lilli and these came with a silver Barbie-era snap instead of the Prym snap. The quality of fabrics was identical and she had a very wide selection of clothes. Each one alluring and well-fitted to the doll. The quality of these 7.5 inchers is amazing and very sensual to handle, stamped in the back with a Marx Toys seal impressed into her torso. Her stand was a rectangular base of black plastic with a flocked metal cantilevered fork, just like the 60s Barbie stand.
Then, this very same doll, all sexy 7.5 inches, came out in a brittle plastic which doll collector's know so well and marked with stickers and on the body "Hong Kong". She came in various boxes and gift sets and had the same Drei-M designed clothes though made with flimsier, much cheaper fabrics. She came in various cardboard boxes and also in plastic bags which hung from cardboard tops.
This mini Miss Marlene had her own family and then a family tree of copies.
There was Myra, by Marx, who came in a gift set with a buffet instead of a vanity like the later made Miss Marlene with Karma Sutra posing abilities. She had a peignoir and a negligée and a cheesy grease monkey boyfriend in a frame on her vanity.
Cragstan did an almost identical copy of the Japan-made Miss Marlene called Missy and also Cindy (same doll and clothes, different name and colours of packaging). Missy was brittle plastic and dressed just like the rest of the gang. I guess whom ever decided the name was a fan of the Shirley Booth television character called Hazel. Missy was the demure interior decorator housewife of Mr. Baxter, the show's husband-antagonist. Missy came in an open front casket, I mean, box. There was also Cragstan's Liza doll for example. She was the "Before" face of anyone in the Lilli matrix, with a homely, Laverne and Shirley like mug and high heels moulded on with a similar body to Japan-made Miss Marlene. She came dressed in the usual barfly strapless gold sheath.
Her box claimed "The Cragstan Fashion Salon Presents Liza, the Beautiful Doll Model, Liza, In Her Newest Original Styles". On the back of the box the separate outfits available were simply stated:
Liza's Other Fashions: No. 6171 Dress Outfit, No. 6172 Evening Outfit. No. 6173 Nylon Pyjama Set, No. 6174 Hostess Set, No. 6175 Bridal Outfit, No. 6176 Lingerie Set, No. 6177 Coat And Hat Set, No. 6178 Robe Set
Her "Bridal Set" was a Lane Bryant type of dress, with all the chic of a Long Island teens Bats Mitvah, though who'd marry such a floozical tart is beyond me. She actually had a ton of other outfits which one finds boxed but not in a catalogue or advertisements, like all these dolls of this era and even had a blue collar boyfriend, sometimes found as Bob. Bob clearly was some bimbo named Caroline's boyfriend according to his box, where he is known to have outfits that made him look like Art Carney from the Honeymooner's at times (complete with teeny straw hat with tie silk trim) and Bob Barker's smarmy Truth or Consquences white tuxedo from Korvette's. He clearly was screwin' around Caroline, hustling Liza about town in his Chevy, taking her for pizza and banging her in the back seat of said Chevy. The majority of his clothes evoked bowling and drinking Schlitz beer and coincidently he was made to look like a 1960 flocked hair Ken, rather beguiling in a rough trade sort of way. He too was 7.5 inches tall.
Other horse face Lilli wannabes include Linda Products of Germany's Linda. Standard slut body, great clothes, too bad about the Martha Ray face.
Then the 7.5 inches of these dolls grew to Barbie-size, I guess you just added water and let her, like Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, bake somewhere. These dolls, like the smaller ones were in plastic baggies with cardboard hang tops and had the same wardrobe. It stated boldly, "I am Miss Marlene" as if she was sure somebody cared. The outfits on the back of the tag were clearly illustrations of Barbie outfits including her iconic swimsuit and her giddy girly-world sorority dresses and picnic jeans à la quintessential teenager of the era. Somewhere in this hot mess of mother monster Bild Lilli's family tree, Bonnie came out and then, of course, Miss Seventeen in her three sizes was born to Mr. Marx's family of Barbie invaders.
Simultaneously, whilst these dolls existed, a new Miss Marlene came out. Mr. Marx, who was now engaged in his own initiated and long drawn out lawsuit with Mattel and most likely thinking it'd be less like Barbie, made this new incarnation of Miss Marlene. She was made like TV personality, the exercise performer in her doll incarnation Debbie Drake, Palitoy's Action Girl, and the famous Dollikin by Uneeda Doll Company and even the Carol Channing Hello Dolly doll, that's to say, fully poseable with articulated brittle plastic and with a rooted vinyl head. The hairstyle was the Bubble-cut and came in a variety of shades as raven black, auburn, rusty blonde and harlot-coloured bleached blonde. Dollikin was advertised as "Fabulous, Educational Dollikin - The Original Doll Mannikin - A Miracle of Flexibility" and was jointed at the neck, wrists, elbows, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, and ankles. Thus Miss Marlene became a full slap-around-able , which is circa 1964.
Speaking of bubble-cut hairdos, the brittle plastic Hong Kongers of the same era came in Black and Hawaiian versions with mohair hairdos in the bubble-cut idiom, also in the various colour's but including a brassy bright red. Like, again, Tempest Storm, the stripper of Tease-a-rama. These dolls are often found with either their regional-looking clothes, like Hula skirts and lei (or is it lay?) and even very "I love you long time"-looking Chinese Qipao dresses. I suspect these were made as souvenir dolls, like the World's Fair of 1964 Marie Antoinette. Some came dressed in Air Hostess outfits which probably were give-away toys for girls on then rather expensive transatlantic flights. Some also wore the Continental Trailways bus line uniform in bright red. Buses, now that's more like it for these broads. Amongst the many names of this confusing gaggle of harpy-ish Gypsy Rose Lee's are Suzy and also Cindy, (also by Cragstan) this time with the bubble-cut and no longer that inappropriate ponytail, since these gals look like that they too are in their forties!
About "I love you long time"-ness: The Qipao is an elegant and distinctive dress that was first designed during the Qing dynasty in China, around the 17th-century. Now a close-fitting dress with a high neck and short sleeves, the Qipao dress is worn by women all over the world, but was originally created just for royalty, though even queens wear them now. During the time it was first worn, the Qipao dress was actually loose-fitting and the garment would reach down to the insteps. Hot? Not! The first Qipao dresses were embroidered and often made from silk. By the 1920s in China, the Qipao had gained popularity with the common population, and many women favoured it. This is because men weren't get enough ... and women weren't getting paid enough. Over the next 30-40 years, the Qipao became shorter and more form-fitting and somewhat sluttier. The long-standing tradition that began in China now say slut in any language in any bar in the world and transcend their unique aspect of works of fashionable art into quickie sex with an Oriental spin. Many Western women have come to love the look of the Dragonlady-like Qipao and enjoy wearing them. Stitched with timeless Chinese motifs, like the plum (blossoms) and man-eating fire-breathing dragons, (both symbols for women's breasts and personalities) these drag queeny-looking dresses are made in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Ideal for use at a men's lodge event, stag parties (either hooking or serving dip) or just a spending a night on the street corner, they are found exported to all over the world.
Other Miss Marlene outfits, all with the Marx labels in them, have an interesting history too. Miss Marlene had for example a red velvet outfit comprised of a sheath and bolero jacket, the dress was trimmed in gold braid as a belt and had a flourish of beads here and there, a matching pillbox hat and red Barbie-copy Spring-o-lator heels. The outfit has the label. However there are exactly the same ensembles found packaged for other dolls in yellow for Tina Cassini doll which was a Tammy-inspired doll made in 1963 by Ross Products, and notably in pink (called #9 Riviera from 1966 for the German Lilli-inspired doll called Petra made by Airfix and Plasty). These have the "British Crown Colony of Hong Kong" woven label, the Tina Cassini one having Oleg Cassini's name added to it. SO clearly the factory making these added the appropriate companies labels to the identical outfits.*
*(See my reference article on this doll clothing manufacturing phenomena on www.oursindymuseum.com)
In France, a doll called Sylvie, made by Etablissements Joja in Macao who appellation was honouring the popular pop singer Sylvie Vartan, was sold. She was yet another Lilli version. Her box illustration is very French tart and air-brushed like the famous “pin-ups” which, as we all know, is an invention of the French. In France, the “world’s oldest profession” is legal but with “conditions” - that is, they pay alot of taxes!
In England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland Miss Sweetheart was sold in the 7.5 inch version with the darker skin like the Spanish Muñecas FEJ Lilli.
Others who bought moulds of the original German Lilli include, in Australia, Haro-Mate Ltd, (who licensed the Miss Seventeen from Marx Toys) marked “Hong Kong” with the registration number “British Patent No. 804566 and U.S. Patent No. 2925684”. Shak Ind.,Inc. also marketed a Lilli called “Babbie”....for Pete’s sake! An incarnation of Lilli/Barbie/Babs and goodness knows which other Lilli clone. Her clothes were too appalling to even mention here.
In Spain and Spanish speaking countries, Muñecas FEJ made impressive quality Lilli dolls. Muñecas FEJ (Guillen y Vicedo) copied the moulds of Bild Lilli and made a very similar doll, but with darker skin, white earrings and articulated waist. However, Spanish society was extremely conservative then and was not ready for such "sexy" dolls. Mothers were not buying them for their daughters and the manufacturer had to retire them from the market completely. They were just like the Bild Lilli dolls by Rolf Hausser but not only were they much darker in skin tone but they had a brilliant finish to them, making them look oiled almost and the swivel waist was a lot like the 1940s dolls Rolf Hausser gave me which he said were the inspiration for the modeling of the original matrix Bild Lilli. Some of these dolls had jaundice yellow mascara around the eye, both bottom and top. Her eyeshadow also could be any colour under the sun, including green, turquoise and red. Gina by Allison Company also emulated this later on, though she was made in Hong Kong much later on. Muñecas FEJ Lilli dolls had also odd hairdos of huge beehives of white blonde, or brilliant lipstick red hair.
Her clothes were very well made, often the Drei-M designs but also many Spanish traditional outfits and Spanish-themed outfits such as toreador and Flamenco dancer and they had covered pop snaps by Scovill a bit like Pedigree Sindy doll and 70s Petra doll clothes.
Also in Spain Muñecas Famosa did the ballet star Pavlova which was a near Lilli in all ways except her feet were à point ballet shoes and her face more realistic in form and make-up. Her arms had a graceful ballet pose to them with lovely hand gestural.
Her clothes were essentially looking like costumes of the various ballets the defunct star wore on the stage.
The 24 inch Sonia doll by Ottolini was a similar doll to Pavlova in that she had a basically Lilli-like body with the slim torso and moulded-on pumps but her face was more ovoid and realistic instead of the harlot-y look of the rest of these dolls. She had more oval sleep eyes (with eye lashes made from nylon bristle) instead of the sinister Oriental spy look of the classic Lilli. The back of the neck was marked "Ottolini C & D - MOD. D.E.P. - Made In Italy" - (Mod. Dep. is the abbreviation of "modèle dépose", which is french for registered patent model) and despite her patent ownership by the Ottolini firm, there exists a Kay Sam copy made in 1961 of her. She is marked 4375 K 1961 Kay Sam. Sonia's arms and hands (as well as the copy) were like Pavlova too, though a bit less dance stance but more fashion pose. I think this type of hand gestural was later the inspiration of the Superstar Barbie doll by Mattel of 1976, though they carried it to a vulgar show-off-y hand on hip, hand on head starlet's pose. Sonia though, because Ottolini was thrifty, can be found without the Lilli-like legs, shorter arms and all sorts of variations, a gesture to use spare parts economically, made down to the very last arm! This is true for many European toy makers in fact, there was never any waste.
She wore tasteful, extremely well-made clothes (with immaculate linings, trims, real button holes etc.) in comparison to the Lilli ilk. Pastel or delicate print shirtwaist dresses often with tasteful accessories like handbags, jewelry and hats or slacks outfits with exquisitely rendered reefer jackets for example. She had a small gilt metal brooch on her lapel with her name and she was made from the lovely air brush painted rhodoid which many Italian companies are known for and as one knows in particular, many of the better quality Italian fashion dolls of the 50s and 60s were made from. The air brushed features soften these dolls faces which makes them that more appealing in contrast to the appeal of the blank, flat highly graphic faces of the Bild Lilli copies.
The Ellen doll by Ottolini however was closer to the Bild Lilli matrix. She is usually unmarked. She was 15 inches tall like the smaller-sized Miss Seventeen and had a nearly exactly the same body with shoeless feet. She had a softer face which in fact looked like a 1963 Barbie, with blue eyes and soft make-up blushing unlike the Miss Seventeen who was starkly blank in skin tonality without cheek blushing or a more human-toned skin colour. She had moulded on asterisk earrings, exactly like Bild Lilli. She had rooted dark auburn or black hair. Her clingy outfits suggest she had some of the Drei-M designs and some, seemed very much mid-60s Mod. The box suggested somewhat awkwardly the illustration style of the original Schwabinchen cartoon by Reinhard Beüthien mixed a bit with the Barbie doll aesthetic of drawings.