Dolls and Doll-related Items for Sale

Monday, August 5, 2013

Franklin Mint's Josephine the Original Gibson Girl, Orient Express Version

Oddly enough, taking the pictures so I could talk about this doll with you really brought out a lot of her flaws, and yet she still remains one of the favorites in my collection. I think it is because she is a doll who represents one of my favorite times in history, at least as far as fashion goes, and I love the Gibson Girl's style and self-assurance. She also took part in physical activities such as bicycling and golfing, so she was not merely an ornament.

1901 Gibson Girls at the beach

One of the best things about this doll right off the bat is her face. She has the classical elegance of the Gibson Girl, and Franklin Mint was able to resist slapping a lot of make-up on her. Frankly, I find this a flaw in too many "historical dolls," and even in movies based on historical events. The brown color used to define her upper lid could almost pass for an actual shadow under her brows. The only stand-out is that lip liner was not in use back then.

Maybe she's born with it

The dress itself comes off fairly authentic. It's made of materials that are artificial, but feel silky and hang and gather well enough to look good in this size. The lace is also attractive, especially the collar. The train is very nicely tucked in back to achieve the correct drape, and there is a small line of embroidery down the skirt and around the train.

The back of the bodice and the skirt close with hooks, and eyes made of color-coordinated thread, which is a nice touch. The bodice is lined in white, and it feels like cotton. The skirt is not lined at all, but fortunately that is not an issue as far as being able to see through the skirt (or not, in this case.)

The necklace she is wearing in some of the pictures did not come with this doll. It is by the Franklin Mint, but came with one of their Princess Diana dolls. I'm planning to do a post on Franklin Mint doll jewelry, which generally is well-made and attractive, and the jewelry based on real pieces can be very accurately represented. The necklace that came with this Josephine, however, is an exception.

As you can see, the chain does not always lie nicely flat, and I find it hard to hang it neatly around my doll's neck without there being some twist in it. Since the doll's earrings are simple pearl studs, the Diana necklace, that is mostly pearls, almost looks better with this.

Two other good things about this doll are her stand, and her gloves. Her stand actually lets her stand upright, without constantly wanting to tip over, which seems to be a rarity with many doll stands. The base on this is lightly weighted, and the extra piece partway down to provide more support for the legs might be part of what makes this stand work, as well. Also, the bottom of her shoes do reach the stand, and help provide friction to keep her upright. Her name is on the base of the stand.

The gloves, to my eye, manage to avoid the oven-mitt look that so many doll gloves end up having. Underneath, her hand is nicely shaped and has neutral colored nails.

The slight curve to her arms and hands are nice because this doll does not have any movement except in her shoulders and hips, and her head in moving side to side, and a little up and down. Therefore she at least ends up not having that traditional hands-to-sides pose that some Barbie dolls have. Although having the ability to bend her legs out is kind of silly, as they splay out as she sits down. She can't pose nicely on the beach as the Gibson Girls above can do. She asked me to spare her her dignity by not sharing how she *does* pose with you.

Two accessories that fall short are her shoes, and her only undergarment, a pair of drawers. The shoes are a fault of many of the Franklin Mint's vinyl dolls, if not all. They are simply molded plastic, and one of the shoes developed a slight crack at the top when I worked it off to show you her foot. She doesn't even have stockings.

The drawers are boring, again made of an artificial material, but not as nice as the dress material. There is no ornamentation, and it does not even have a waistband. It closes with a snap in back. I think they are only there so she does not have absolutely nothing on beneath the skirt.

Her wig looks nice even in back, with the pompadour and little curls and ringlets. I never noticed until I looked at this picture that the ringlets can appear as though they are false hair just clamped on, so I'll just say that it looks better in real life.

Lastly, although the dress does not show it completely, Josephine's body does have the S-bend curve that was the height of fashion in the early 1900s and achieved by a specially designed corset. Her dress form, sold separately, will model for you.

Although I like the accuracy, it has made it harder for me when I tried designing patterns to make her clothes. I haven't completely given up, though.
Lastly, she came with a very small purse, in the same fabric as her gown. It does not hang very well off of Josephine's arm, so I don't even bother displaying it. I think it's stuck in a drawer in Josephine's trunk.

All my Josephines (I have three) have this mark on the side giving her name and also her number out of the total run.

There was more than one Josephine the Original Gibson Girl doll produced, however, plus extra outfits, a lovely trunk and her dress form. The idea behind the Josephine doll is that she is doing the Grand Tour of Europe, as many well-to-do young American ladies did when they were old enough to enter society. This Josephine is called the Orient Express. I don't know if I have her original paper work (I bought her on the secondary market.) If I do, it's packed away in her box, so I don't know why Josephine is wearing an evening gown with a long train, on the Orient Express. These dolls were coming out around fifteen years ago, and there is not much about them online. Here is a page showing the other Josephine dolls and her outfits that the Franklin Mint produced. As you can see, they all have the same hairstyle except for one, and they are not inexpensive, which is why I got most the majority of my Josephine/Lily items on the secondary market for less money. Lily was another Franklin Mint Gibson Girl doll with the same vinyl body, but a different face sculpt and hair style. There were only two dressed editions of her; I have the bride doll, and she will be featured here some day.
Although this doll is vinyl, she is very much a product of the Franklin Mint in that she is made to be displayed, not played with (even by an adult.) When Mr. BTEG bought me my first Josephine directly from the Franklin Mint, I received a phone call from the marketing department, asking me what else I would look for in dolls. I surprised the woman on the other end of the phone when I told her wanted vinyl dolls, to play with, not porcelain ones to stick on a shelf. Franklin Mint later came out with a vinyl body that has bendy arm and knee joints, but this was one of its first forays into vinyl (and I'm not sure how well the bendy joints hold up over time, as they are hidden under the "skin.") Of course, when I got my first Josephine, Gene was still a new phenomenon in the doll world, and I'm not even sure Tyler had appeared yet, so the idea of vinyl play dolls for adults beyond Mattel's Barbie was still relatively new.

Considering what you can get for similar money in today's market by way of vinyl dolls, I think the Gibson Girl is overpriced. Her outerwear is generally nice, but her accessories are hit and miss, except for those plastic shoes, which are always meh. This dress is not as detailed as some of the other ones in her series. She also has highly limited poseability, and therefore limited "play" value. There must be admirers out there, however, since until recently she could still fetch close to her original price on eBay. Her appeal to me is the time period she represents, where dolls dressed from this era, that go with my other 16" dolls, are few and far between.


  1. I just stumbled upon your blog and noticed this one in particular about the Franklin Mint Josephine vinyl doll line... I have two outfits from the line (I, too, love period clothing) and I use them on my Tonner dolls. The Tonner Deja Vu body fits into the Josephine and Titanic outfits like a glove! If you get one of the bald Deja Vu dolls you can find period wigs to go with the outfits. I've only ever bought a couple Franklin Mint vinyl dolls and quickly resold them for the very reasons you point out... they aren't play friendly! And, their hair, while it is often styled very well is hard and of poor quality... buying wigs has elevated my doll play to a new level...

    I know this blog is several years old and you may have made this discovery as well... what can I say... an opportunity to talk dolls always wins! Enjoying your blog!

    1. Unfortunately, I don't really like the Deja Vu sculpt! The open mouth just doesn't do it for me. But thank you for the information, because I might buy a pattern made for Deja Vu dolls and see if it fits my Josephine. there hasn't been much talk about those FM dolls for a long time, which is hardly surprising. Stop by again!

  2. Thanks for the detailed review. I am looking to purchase my first GG, and wondered why the vinyl versions are so expensive and if they are worth it. Seems like they all have the same face.