The fascinating Mily Doll - A foreword and text by BillyBoy*
I started collecting Mily in the mid 1970s and by the early 1980s, when she still could be found in some stores in France which is no longer the case for many years. My interest in collecting and studying the history of fashion dolls, notably the Barbie doll, naturally led me to meet the fascinating Mily. I certainly was the first person ever to take this historic French fashion doll seriously and write about her. This article was published in English language by DOLLS magazine in April, 1991 and it was the very first ever article on Mily by Gégé. Since then, notably after the year 2003, a few other articles appeared,notably in the magazine for toy collectors called La Vie du Jouet in France, using this article as the basis of these recent articles and also, since that time, Mily started being taken a bit more seriously as a collectible fashion doll, who up to that point was simply ignored and treated as a cheap Barbie doll clone. This article was up-dated in regards to the collectibility of Mily in the year 2004. It is published again in the new site of the Fondation Tanagra with new photographs and documents for all these who have an interest in fashion dolls, fashion and sociology.
Graphism and editing: Lala J.P Lestrade
Catalogue "Toys and Gifts" from the Galeries Lafayette department stores in Paris, 1965.
A dream kitchen, perfect for Mily.
What is Rhodoïd?
Created by the French industrial firm Rhône-Poulenc around 1971, the Rhodoïd is atrade name used for a cellulose acetate based plastic, transparent and nonflammable. Its name is a contraction of Rhône-Poulenc and celluloïd.
The Rhodoïd is used to make all kinds of objects which demand a transparent material and which also is not easy to burn, for security reasons. Many dolls for example were made in this material. ("Rhodoïd", Wikipedia)
The lovely Mily, very chic in the morning, as in Mily's catalogue
and here in the Mdvanii Boutique, Paris, 1989, photographed by BillyBoy*.
Mily, "the marvelous Ambassadrice of French charm and distinction"
“Chic...Grace...Elegance” were the words used by the French doll company Gégé to introduce their Mily doll in France in the early 1960s. Mily, an eleven and a half inch high fashion doll (known in French as a poupée mannequin), was a leader on the french doll scene from her debut in 1964-65 until just after 1972 when Mattel, France was formed and Barbie doll became too formidible a competitor.
Gégé, a French company founded in 1933, was so named for the two first initials of the founder, Germain Giroud. The first offices and factory were in Moingt near Montbrison in the Loire Valley.
Germain Giroud moved to Moingt in order to establish a home furnishings and upholstery fabric business. This new business, named GéGé, decided to use the end cuttings and scraps of left over fabrics to make doll’s clothes, as by 1933 in France the Great Depression had finally become a European disaster and every means possible to make and sell things was used, nothing was left to waste, fabrics and scraps of wood, which were turned into toys. Two years later, their first all-clothe dolls were designed and made by the firm. These doll’s were sold on the fairgrounds of circuses and carnivals called “fêtes foraines” in French language.
Despite the war of 1939-45, the workshops in Moingt did not cease to grow and they added to their line of doll’s clothes and playthings the now well-known dolls of the 1920s and 30s called “boudoir dolls” or better known in French language as “poupées de salon”. They were so successful they opened a saleroom and a shop which eventually lead to the creation of their factory.
In the beginning of the 1940s, Giroud launched a line of dolls with heads and members which were moulded (hands and legs at first, then eventually whole dolls). Then, around 1946, they did some marvelous dolls with “rayonne” hair...”rayonne” being what was then called artifical silk, better known as rayon. Bleuette doll also had such hair especially during this immediate post-war period.
The Age of Plastic
In the 1950s, it was the Gégé factory which innovated and initiated the extensive use of plastic notably for toy cars, some who are noted as having been very elaborately designed and executed in the post-war “dream material”. There were also doll-sized and child-sized “dinette” sets, table settings of tea and coffee pots, and all the accessories that a little hostess could dream for. Also made in plastic were “canots” - little toy boats and canoes. These particularly popular toys by Gégé were proudly owned by little French boys (and sometimes girls!) and were seen in the Tuileries gardens throughout that era in the splendid 18th-century fountains. Playing amongst these plastic lake-going vehicles were (and still are) huge carp and “goldfish” (the goldfish were tput in fashion by famous mistress of king Louis XV, Mme de Pompadour, who was the first person to have them imported to Europe from the Orient).
They used Rhodoid, an early plastic invented to replace the flammable celluloid, and they used later polychloride vinyl for many of their toys and dolls. They were engaged in 1958 by the famous Editions Gautier-Langereau, known for their books, notably their enormously popular Bécassine series designed by Pinchon, and of course, their famous SFBJ Bleuette doll, to create the briefly-lived Rhodoid “Bleuette 58” using the size 8A Corinne doll moulds....Corinne being popular for a few years starting in the mid-1950s.
Gégé also made elaborate science and chemistry kits for young teens, wooden box games and construction kits, and eventually, by the 1960s electric trains. In 1965, they won the “Oscar of Toys” (l’oscar du jouet”) for their mechanical thumb-sucking vinyl baby doll named "Poucet".
Mily and Barbie advertised in the same Paris department store's catalogue. 1965.
In the tone!
The factory functioned until 1979 when they sadly, went bankrupt. Today, very few facts are known about Mily. I started research on Mily and on this feature back in 1975, only two years after her demise and when all the toys stores still had her on their shelves. Contacting the defunkt Gégé however helped me alot as having the opportunity to acquire material directly from their remaining stock and asking alot of questions, I was able to piece the puzzle of Mily together eventually. I’m mainly interested in what the doll represents historically and the tremendous humour in that she imitated (as did many other fashion dolls of other countries), the particular way of thinking in France of the time...and also the incredible French fashion sense and innovations....even Barbie doll was influenced by French fashions as I have often pointed out and which has been mimicked by other doll collectors in much later written articles.
"Barbie, Her life and Times" by BillyBoy* was the first sociological book written on the Barbie doll, showing notably the influence of French High Fashion in her early wardrobe, even if the doll's clothes were mass-produced.
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