Soon after, the teenage look branched into another direction, more glamorous and Hollywoodian, where teenage girls dreamed of wearing tight dresses, backless gowns, short skirts, and even shorter shortpants with calypso blouses. Perhaps inspired by Paris and New York fashion, there existed very sexy versions of what well-dressed mundaine women were wearing at the time. Frederick’s of Hollywood, the famous undergarment maker of the 40s (based in Los Angeles) had a big influence on this type of fashion, and by mail order, brought fantasy to every women daring enough to pad their bodies and wear gold lamé capri pants, “push-up” bras, and “cha cha” heels. Teenage girls, more often than not, in reality wore safer, tamer, and more conventional garments which were inspired by the more sober clothes coming out of the fashion capitals, which at the time were Paris, Rome (La Dolce Vita par excellence!), and eventually New York. Some teenage girls did actually wear such startlingly sexual clothes, however, and it was considered risqué but socially acceptable nonetheless.
“Hard” glamour was so commercial by the end of the ‘50s that children could not wait to be teenagers (who themselves fantasized about being adults!) to such a point that fake acetate chinchilla stoles, tight gowns, and the most popular item, high heels in lucite with glitter embedded in them, were made into over a million editions. They were called a “dress up shoe” by Consolidated Productions, Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for their 1958 collection of pretend glamour clothes for children. There were also plastic "Wighats" for little girls which, through injection molding, brought cocktail lounge hairdos into the nursery. More often than not, young girls dreamed of being an alluring movie star/goddess, and dolls reflected the sharper, sexier trends coming out of Paris as viewed by Hollywood by way of clever toymakers. Since clothing manufacturers also found this glamour fantasy commercially viable to turn into an adult reality, it makes perfect sense that dolls would follow along.
Frederick’s of Hollywood, as well as thousands of other manufacturers of “glamour” clothes, would be seen on racier “gals” and in faster lanes of womanhood of the era. If because of age or education and upbringing so-called “respectable” little girls could not actually slip into such clothes named for cocktail parties and other romantic events in a woman’s life - like cruises on yachts, international shopping sprees, and festive coming out parties - their dolls could. They had all the racy double-meanings with themes reminiscent of pin-up calendars and boyfriend hunting plots in comic books by Marvel Comics.
The absurdity of this new hybrid sex kitten/adventuress/innocent girl found everywhere in mass-culture was never better portrayed than when Zsa Zsa Gabor hissed her immortal camp line, “I hate dat Qveen” (I hate that Queen), her body stuffed into a skintight backless, strapless draped red and gold lamé sheath dress in the previously mentioned Queen of Outer Space. Set on Venus (“the planet of love”), glamorous space vixens had ample opportunity (as well as curves) to wear strapless gowns, décolleté space dresses, backless halters, “capri” pants, and seamed nylons with sidesplit sheaths-- all accessorized with rhinestone paste jewels and laser guns. This film is certainly a bastion of this type of look and it was undoubtably hailed as a canon of the taste prevailing at this time. It is for this reason that I often refer to dolls representing this style as coming from the “Queen of Outer Space” school.
Lilli, Queen of "Queen of Outer Space"-dom
Perhaps the Queen of “Queen of Outer Space”-dom was a doll that commenced back in 1952 in cartoon form. Characaturist Rheinhard
Beüthien, filling in during an emergency at the German daily newspaper Bild-Zeitung, invented the beguiling “Lilli” for the June 24, 1952 edition. Curvaceous and coquettish, the teenage ‘naif’ would string one liners and as Americans say, “double entendres” as if they were pearls. One of the apogees of camp, her nearly cinematic affectations epitomized what would be the Brigitte Bardot era’s idea of “sex appeal." Lilli became so popular after having made just one appearance, that she was kept in the newspaper until she became a household figure (excuse the pun).
Eventually after a number of false starts, (and perhaps “falsies”) a prototype for a three dimensional version, a doll of Lilli would be created by Max Weissbrodt, creator of the Elastolin fashion figures produced by G. and M. Hausser in Neustedt bei Coburg. Elastolin is a trademark used by the German company O&M Hausser (O&M Haußer). Shortly would emerge an elongated and stacked Lilli. Cooperation between Weissbrodt and the firm Griener and Hausser GmbH produced the heavy, matt finshed painted plastic doll. Under the management of Rolf Hausser, the son-in-law of Mrs. E. Martha Maar, Lilli was put together and dressed by Drei-M-Puppenfabrik Maar KG in Monchsroden bei Coburg. Rolf Hausser showed and then gave me Spanish dolls of the 30s/40s era which he said was the basis of the first models of Bild Lilli. These were Spanish fashion dolls sold usually as souvenirs but also sometimes collected as ornamental dolls for older children as a special display doll to collect and put in their bedrooms.
The packaging, an ovoid tube of clear plastic on a stand marked “Lilli” with the graphic Bauhaus-style “Bild” logo prominently displayed was designed by Mrs. Maar. These stands when exported to the USA were identical but without the BILD logo. There are no marks on the doll body or head. On August 12, 1955, Lilli 7 1/2 and 11 3/4 inches tall, dressed almost exactly like the sizzling young movie star, Brigitte Bardot, debuted and was exported all over the world. Her extensive wardrobe, although initially ignored by the often macho men who bought her to put on the rear-view mirrors of their cars as gags, was the quintessential sex kitten wardrobe. As one German gentleman, who was a young adult at the time with his own car said:
“She was an irresistable gag...imagine, a doll with big tits, and long legs! Nothing like her existed before, and she was such a clever joke. We’d have such laughs over this gadget, especially on Saturday nights when we’d all drive around cruising for girls and having beers at local pubs”.
Absolutely everything for the first series of dressed dolls was skintight - knit jersey, slacks, capris, sheaths, and strapless swimsuits were even further figure-enhanced by big cincher belts, darted waists, and ribknit waistbands. She wore, on rigid, straight-as-an-arrow legs, dangerous high shiny 1940s-ish stiletto pumps in a sadistic shade of glossy black. Her arches were put to the ultimate test with these shoes and to further the fashion vicitmization, the spike-toed heels were moulded on and stayed on even when Lilli was undressed!
It is no wonder Lilli doll was conceived at the beginning with the intention of its makers as more of a fetishist item for men than a children’s plaything. Her shoes had holes in the bottom and her legs were hollow to allow the doll to be placed on her stand made of cream plastic with a metal rod in which to insert into the leg. The first Barbie doll is famous for this device (conceived to support the doll) as well.
A Pin-up Wardrobe
Her skin was hard, shiny painted plastic and very pale (perhaps from being too often in nightclubs and, like vampires, not receiving enough exposure to the sun). The teenage-style Aryan-perfect ponytail was the only concession to her supposed age group, and even this hair style came tied in a bow made of thin shiny cord which looked as if it could transform into a whip or tie ankles together (or tie another doll’s arms behind its back).
Lilli’s wardrobe further accentuated her “Betty Page” (famous pin-up and bondage queen of the ‘50s) aura. Her outfits, besides being tight as cited earlier, they were low-cut, very short, revealing, and unlined. One overly enthusiastic German collector implied that her abnormally short skirts pre-dated and fore-saw the miniskirt of the mid-sixties....which is not at all the reality. These short dresses were typically forties pin-up clothes inspired by genuine Betty Page-ish fetish clothes seen in underground fetish magazines of the era. There was the leading smut mag BIZARRE and the by-then famous Vargas and his Vargas Girls and also the bawdy “stag” films such as Irving Klaw’s TEASE-A-RAMA, STRIP-A-RAMA and the hilarious VARIETEASE featuring, as usual, the omnipresent burlesque queen herself Betty Page. Also featured was the nearly surreal and certainly very bust-y red-headed Tempest Storm, and the demi-mondaine blonde Lilli St. Cyr (who had the absurd pretentions of being an “artiste” and sponsored a line of brassieres, commonly better known as “bras”, of the era), as well as a number of other strippers of underground fame of the epoch, including a skinny wispy blonde transvestite who had suspiciously imitative make-up to Bild Lilli doll. One wonders if the German Bild Lilli doll was infact named for Lilli Marlene, muse to German soldiers or the internationally famous stripper Lilli St. Cyr...a question to ponder!
"The star of every bar"
Nonetheless, these short dresses had a point to make. The whole joke was that these garments were exactly like school girl-ish fashionable clothes but VERY VERY short to show garter belts and stockings and to deliberately seem naughty. Anyhow, Lilli’s first clothes were perverse and intentionally so. The dancing dress (for those nightly appearances in Hamburg bars) had a corsage hastily pinned to the bosom. The dirndl outfit, in typically Bavarian print on print, was low cut and rather perverse-looking on the doll (“You vant zum cream pie?”). It was the German version of Irving Klaw/Betty Page’s wicked and funny version of a “French” maid, who teetered around with strapless black satin short, short, short skirted dresses, fluffy apron and chunky ultra-stilletto pumps with black nylon hosiery....with garters flagrantly exposed.
There were a number of extremely short dance and skating skirts revealing her unusually high-cut shorts. The cuffed shorts and capris came with short-sleeved blouses that tied à la Caribbean calypso limbo dancer, the sleaziest dance of the times...rivaled perhaps only with stripping on black and white film to bump and grind music. Sheath gowns, (à la Tempest Storm) well, they were cut down to there and up to there (and remained unlined and strapless). She was a tough cookie, Lilli was, and I would not want to be the doll that “messed” with her.
Lilli was sold wearing many different outfits at the beginning which were virtually on the border of risqué tipping a bit into all-out sleaze. The catalogue, still geared to young German males, claimed she had outfits to be “the star of every bar”...an unquestionable allusion to prostitution but eventually, when she was marketed as a plaything for little girls, Lilli acquired slightly more covered up ballgowns, not very revealing ski outfits, semi-fitted and somehow stodgy stewardess and nurse costumes(well, that had fetish appeal, of course) and a lot of fitted, mondaine ensembles, high necked blouses, white fake fur wraps, fake ocelot coats (very Liz Taylor in the sixties film classic “Butterfield Eight”, a heart-wrenching tale about a mis-understood and of course, doomed fashion model/whore) and classically Bizarre magazine-ish fetishist-style satin-lined black velvet suits.
O Lilli, Lilli, naughty girl!
She had many separately packaged outfits and accessories, such as an umbrella (available separately) one supposed to walk back and forth on the quai in the rain, a tennis racket, (she wore stilletto pumps even on the tennis courts) and the ultimate archetypically pet, a black, white or grey poodle (by Steiff usually although mint-in tube ones have been seen which are not by Steiff...it is also interesting to know Barbie had a very similar grey poodle eventually for her “Dogs n’ Duds” set). The canine companion, for lonely night came on a leash which they took pains to illustrate in one of her catalogues. “Das Ich Bow wow wow” said the dog to the trick, at least it opens a conversation and isn’t as tacky as “You got a light?” or “Do you have the time? - Cuz, I got the place!”
Lilli lent her name to several luxury products like cheap scent, cheap wine and cheap stripper-like rhinestone jewelry. There were Lilli postcards, (to mount on boards at police stations perhaps) actual photos of the then current dolls, and even a 50-page cartoon book of Beüthien’s funnies using Lilli, in actual doll form, not a drawing (wearing a popular shorts and poplin swing coat outfit called “Popelinjacket kurz mit shorts”). The cover read “Lilli, ein Bilderbuch fur SIE und IHN." Inside she romped through double-entendre (sic) adventures and wore outfits which were made available for her. The first page of the booklet had a lengthy, naughty poem about the feline Fraulein:
Cold are you, calculating, egotistic, playful, frivolous, coquette.
To dream with, you are much too realistic,
Yet still I find you nice, oh, Lilli.
You change your boyfriends almost on a daily basis,
Those who don’t give you presents have no chance.
You tantalize and hurt men beyond their endurance,
But at least you do it with that certain ”elegance” !
You have a sweet nose, sweet legs...
And well you know the value of sex appeal.
No one, Lilli, can match your flirtations,
And more than one man had too many expectations.
O Lilli, Lilli, naughty girl.
You snake! When you appeared myself I did forsake!
I know you well and since a long time too,
And still so glad I am to see you every day.