Aside World Magazine
Winter 2021 Issue
Side Saddle Dolls and Dioramas
Article by: Marybeth Walker
I have loved dolls for as long as I can remember. As a child I
played with them, dressed and undressed them, bathed them,
took them for walks around the block in my baby doll carriage
and slept with them. Every time my mother took me shopping I
begged and pleaded for yet one more Barbie doll.
It has been kiddingly said in the doll collecting world that when
you are a child, you play with dolls. When you become an adult
and continue to play with dolls, you become a "collector".
As with so many other hobbies, E-Bay has changed the face of trade and it has put collecting a variety of dolls within reach of anyone. My own collection includes many Barbies, both inexpensive and costly such as Porcelain ones. I also own Masterpiece dolls which are life size and realistic looking toddler and baby dolls. A very welcome discovery for me were Fashion Royalty dolls made by a company called Integrity. These dolls are similar in size to twelve inch Barbie dolls with the added improvements of bendable shoulder, ankle and wrist joints plus lovely model-like faces. Many have applied eye lashes and frosted hair. They are perfect for a Barbie lover like myself who always wished for a doll with a more sophisticated and glamorous look.
Additionally I found a sixteen inch doll manufactured by the Robert Tonner Company. They are also fashion dolls with attractive faces which are larger and more easily handled and dressed.
One day while shopping for dolls on E-bay, I came across a Barbie doll sized horse.
Great! Now I could collect Barbies AND horses.
So I set about perusing E-Bay for Mattel made toy horses. I found all sorts of
accessories as well including plastic stables with barn supplies such as little fake
apples and hay, grooming items, rakes and wheel barrows. Then, low and behold,
of all things I came across a Barbie sized side saddle!! Light bulb moment. Why
not create side saddle Barbies?
I began searching for side saddle outfits and when I had purchased all the
equestrian manufactured Barbie and horse sets I could find, I decided to create
my own riding outfits. What fun! I found Victorian style Barbie cloths, including
some that were handmade, which conformed nicely to side saddle habits.
Sometimes I would be able to put riding outfits together pairing jackets and skirts
I discovered a wonderful website for doll hats created by a lady named Peggy Feltrope. She makes all kinds of hats for 10, 12 and 16 inch size dolls. I had a blast buying tiny teardrop shaped hats in all different colors and degrees of decoration.
As my collection grew I decided that as nice as the Barbie horses were with their long manes and Arab type faces, I desired some horses in poses with more movement. Another light bulb moment. Breyer horses! So onto their website I clicked where I found high stepping saddlebreds and disciplined looking dressage horses. To my surprise and delight I even found horses cast in jumping positions supported by clear plastic pedestals! The largest size Breyer horses are more in proportion to twelve inch dolls.
Then I thought, why not design a diorama where one of my lovely dolls jumps a fence? And since she is literally in no danger of a mishap she can go over in a dashing black plastic top hat.
Over the years I have purchased a number of Barbie doll side saddles from E-Bay. After some trial and error I found that articulated Barbie/fashion dolls are the best suited as their legs and hip joints are flexible enough to sit securely in the plastic side saddle for displays.
Side saddle Barbies are a perfect gift for young daughters, granddaughters or nieces to be introduced to side saddle riding.
As my doll collection has grown over the years I have had to periodically return some to them to E-Bay to find a new home. I try to store my dolls in light and temperature controlled rooms but space in any dwelling is limited. Often I buy undressed dolls and make outfits for them and add jewelry and resell them making a profit with which to shop for more.
Who knows? Perhaps one day I shall test my creativity even more and set up a side saddle doll website of my own.
Above Photo: Example of dolls in Marybeth's collection
Left Photo: Close up of articulated legs
Close up shot of Fashion Royalty doll
Examples of Fashion Royalty Doll Dressed
Examples of Peggy Feltrope Doll Hats
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