SL artisan creates detailed historical dresses for new Barbies
In her spare time as a young child, Darlene Evans loved to play with Barbie dolls, engaging in a activity that captivated millions of young girls around the country who wanted to dress Barbie up in the latest styles of clothes and fashions for a night on the town.
Evans has taken that love of Barbies one step further as an adult, as she has crafted elaborate period dresses for more than 40 Barbies over the past three years.
Women such as Scarlett O'Hara, Betsy Ross, beaming brides ready to walk down the aisle at their wedding and high-class 18th Century ladies wearing expensive Victorian-themed gowns all come to life thanks to the handiwork of the 68-year-old retired tailor, who now spends a portion of her spare time sewing an array of eye-catching decorative velvet and satin fabrics to put on each of the dolls.
Evans, who has lived in Storm Lake with husband Bob since 1966, has been sewing since she was 11 years old, and said she wanted to combine her love of Barbies with her skills in sewing to create a hobby that could be enjoyed by both her and others around the area.
"I've always liked Barbies, and I thought this would be a good hobby to start up," Evans, who also performed alterations for customers of the former Graen's clothing store, said. "I thought that it would be something that would be nice to do for kids who want to play with them too."
Preparations for each of the dresses of the dolls begin long before any sewing takes place, as Evans looks through different fabrics and patterns for ones matching those seen in different past movies and magazines. After collecting each of the fabrics, she then chooses which styles to use and what era of doll she would like to sew a dress for, a process that leads to her creating each of the different period costumes on a dependable sewing machine located in the corner of the Evans' apartment in Lake View Manor.
The designer said she has a blast being able to pick and choose what costumes to make, and said there have been a number of patterns that she has yet to try to make for the dolls.
"I have a lot of fun with it," Evans said. "I really enjoy coming up with the ideas for each of the different costumes, and I still have a lot of ideas that I haven't been able to try yet, so it's nice to know that there are still a lot of ideas left to work on."
In addition to the dresses, many of the dolls also wear different hats, ranging from lacy Victorian apparel to bonnets for Southern belles. Evans said the different hats are just as much fun to create as the gowns and dresses themselves, and said she enjoys the challenge of being able to make the items.
"With the hats I really have a ball," Evans said. "I try to not make the same hat twice."
The eras of the different designs range from the early 1800s to the 1950s, and Evans said she wanted to concentrate on making the older style of dresses because that was an unfilled niche which she thought was interesting.
"I've just always thought the older-style of dresses were interesting, and that's why I decided to make the period dresses for them," Evans said. "I wanted to concentrate on them because it was something different."
Evans said the time spent making each individual costume varies depending upon how elaborate the dress is, but said she can create a finished product in about four to five hours.
She also said the number of hours spent making the different period costumes is worth it when she presents one of them to an eager child ready to play with the new dolls, which have their dresses velcroed on in order to allow the children to take them on and off.
"I would say my favorite part about doing this is seeing the look on the kids' faces when they see the dolls," Evans said. "Their eyes get really wide and they seem really happy when they get them, so that's pretty rewarding for me."
Evans said she would continue to create additional dresses for the dolls in the future, enabling her to enjoy a hobby that lets her become a kid all over again.
"It's been a good hobby," Evans said. "It keeps me sewing and I get to play with Barbies, so it's really a great combination for a hobby."
The majority of Evans' dolls are in the $20 range, which includes the doll, dress and display stand. For more information, contact Evans at 732-5848.