Smocked Dresses for Dollies!

The last week before Christmas found me fixing up the dollies and dressing them for the 3 little girls.  It would be a special gift.  Their Auntie Lo had a huge collection of Gotz dolls (all are around 18″) that she played with as a little girl and that I saved.  So I selected 3 of them that I thought were just perfect.  However, after many years of being packed away, they needed some serious “work” done on their hair.  It was a mess!


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I consulted several different websites and tutorials on how to detangle and fix their hair.  I thought I’d share the process in case there are dolls in your home in need of some TLC.  The detangling is done by first soaking the hair in a bowl of laundry softener.  Since the hair is synthetic, not human, softener works better than shampoo.   After getting the hair saturated, you massage it into the hair, then rinse out thoroughly.  This leaves the hair with a powerful smell of the softener, so make sure that you choose a fragrance you like!  LOL!  After the rinse, the hair can be brushed out, starting at the ends and working up towards the roots.  It takes a bit of time, but it does work.   Then leave it to dry.

After doing the first doll, I got smarter and wrapped the doll bodies in saran wrap to keep the body dry.  I also found that it helped to stand the dolls up in a large bowl or plastic pitcher to dry.

This method worked well, but if I do it again, I think that I will dilute the softener with 2 parts water to 1 part softener.  I think that this would be plenty of softener to do the job and would tone down the perfume smell.

Once it was dry, the hair ended up smooth, but very straight (sorry for the blurry pic).  


Next, I spritzed the hair lightly with water, rolled it in some sponge rollers and left it for a couple hours to dry.  This left the hair with nice waves.  I’m sure that you could leave it for a day and the curls would be tighter.


Each of the dolls got a pretty, smocked bishop dress.  While cleaning my sewing room, I discovered several ready-to-smock bishop dresses that had been aging for 15+ years as well as shoes, cowboy boots (who knew that these would be worn with dresses!) and hats.  😱  Please tell me that I’m not the only one that has UFO’s that are this old!!!  I was delighted to find these and made quick work of smocking them and putting buttons/snaps on the back.




These 3 dollies are ready to go home on Christmas day with 3 happy little girls!  I hope that they will be excited to see these dollies in their special dresses and new shoes!


All of these dresses were made from fabrics that I had used for our youngest daughter’s smocked clothing – what a sweet memory!

I thought I’d share my tip for getting the lace collar to stand out nicely from the dress.  It always bothers me when you pleat the lace with the bishop dress and then the 2 pieces want to “stick” together so tightly.  I think you know what I mean.  To get the lace to stand out from the fabric it is pleated with, you need to smock a row on the dress fabric so that the lace won’t sink into the pleats.

smocking under lace

Pull up the lace and smock on the dress fabric following the same path as the last row of smocking.  Smock as closely as possible to the lace.  The end result is a lace overlay that stands away from the dress, which I think looks much prettier.  😀


I’ve enjoyed squeezing in these last 3 smocking projects just before Christmas!

I hope that you and your family have a blessed Christmas rejoicing in the birth of our Savior!


14 thoughts on “Smocked Dresses for Dollies!

  1. Carol

    Absolutely beautiful dolls! Love the dresses, they look like real “girls”. Nothing gets my attention faster than beautiful dolls especially baby dolls. You have inspired me to fix all the “unwanted” dolls I have gathered. I cannot stand to see them go in the trash. Your little girls are so lucky to get these beautiful dolls. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sallie Nold

    Love this article! But I was just at the American Girl Doll Store getting a doll’s hair fixed. I asked the lady what she sprayed on the dolls hair to get the tangles out. She replied water. I was in disbelief. She says the worst hair to repair are those that put other products in the dolls hair. I found this very interesting but I watched her perform a miracle on our doll’s hair and I now believe!! Sallie Nold

  3. Karen

    Thank you for this delightful post and helpful hints. I must admit that I still love dolls and love to smock for them. I am always on the lookout for my next new dolly smocking victim! American Girl Company has a new line called Wellie Wishers…..hoping to find one under the Christmas tree.

  4. Karen

    You always inspire me!!! What cute dresses and dolls. Now I’ll be waiting for your photo’s from Christmas morning.

  5. Cheryl Clapp

    They came out wonderfully! I have a very large doll collection and have never tried fabric softener. I have hair products for synthetic wigs but may try your method. The dresses came out very sweet and thanks for the tip on the under collar smocking!

  6. Angela Patton

    I have made a few dresses for my granddaughter ‘s American Girl doll and would like to try smocking a yoke dress. Can you please advise me on number of rows and how to choose the amount of fabric?
    Thanks for any help

    1. Kathy Post author

      I have always used the Children’s Corner book with the doll patterns that match the CC dresses for little girls. They give fabric requirements and the pattern in the book. You won’t be disappointed. I used the bishop dress pattern for the dolls from this book as well. Be sure and pleat half spaces for the smocking so that the size will be appropriate for dolls. 🙂 They don’t require much fabric – I would guess maybe around 1/2 yd.

  7. Ginger

    Kathy, the little girls will love these on Christmas. They are beautiful. Merry Christmas. We need to have lunch sometime next year.

  8. Rett

    What a sweet idea, Kathy! The dollies look sooo much nicer after having their hair done & getting DARLING new dresses! Your grands must have loved seeing them on Christmas.

    I, too, have tried to rescue NON American Girl doll’s hair & it is very different from what AG uses to make their dolls out of. AG dolls have much silkier/softer hair so I can see how plain water would work on them. Like you, I used fabric softener too & it worked well on the Target dolls.

    Your dresses are precious & thanks for the tips on getting the lace overlay to stand away from the dress.


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