Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

TOTALLY off topic, if there is only ONE topic to be discussed.



I was digging around looking for vintage Christmas Cards, and came across these. I just HAD to do a post in honour of Betsy McCall. Anyone else remember her? I used to love these when I was a kid. I wonder how much they contributed to what I do now? I used to spend hours with paper dolls, cutting out ones my mother bought for me or creating my own. Felt like I never quite new what to do with them once I got everything cut out, but I will never forget that excitement I felt at that page of clothes waiting for the first cut of my scissors.


37 thoughts on “TOTALLY off topic, if there is only ONE topic to be discussed.

  1. martasullivan2014

    My mother told me that they were in the McCall;s magazine, when she was a girl. She was born in 1904 so her girlhood was a bit different than mine. However, I grew up with paper dolls and kept them in those thin boxes that nylon hose used to come in. I did play with mine. They all disappeared in one move.

    1. MimiK

      I remember Betsy McCall very well! It was exciting to get a new set of clothes. I liked dressing my dolls so well, I started sewing cloths for my Barbie with my older brother, of all people (before I was allowed to use the sewing machine on my own). Good memories. Very appropriate at the Holidays!

  2. hotscot

    My mother couldn’t afford the magazine subscription, but I loved these McCall paper dolls & used to covet them at a friend’s house. I’m pretty sure they inspired me to sew.

  3. FOTH

    Not only do I remember Betsy McCall but I have a collection of them including the 2nd one I got 52 years ago (I played with my first Betsy until I wore her out, so my folks gave me another one when I was 6 for Christmas). I think part of my love for her was that she reminded me so much of my mother (curly dark hair, pretty round face, soft smile). But I also love the clothes and the details. Also have a collection of Madame Alexander dolls for the same reason – fine detail work, beautiful faces and clothes. The first sewing I did (age 4) was making clothes for my dolls. Now at 58, I make costumes for dance studios, church pageants, and local theatre groups.

    1. marthatrulock

      Me too FOTH. I have three vintage 14″ Betsy McCall Dolls and a few original outfits. And, a newer 8″ one. Loved my first 14″ Betsy that I got one Christmas. I used to sew for her too. I also loved the Betsy Paper Dolls and like Terry was kind of at a loss after all the cutting out was done.
      Martha x

  4. roxlet

    I don’t know if I specifically remember playing with these, but do you remember Katy Keene comic books? She was a fashion plate. My mother had a degree in fashion design from Pratt, and she worked for Nettie Rosenstein. We grew up with Vogue and every kind of fashion magazine.

  5. marthatrulock

    Not off topic at all. Very appropriate to the holidays.
    Thanks for the share and the rememory.
    I like you loved both my Betsy McCall doll and the paper dolls.
    Martha Trulock

  6. peggyvanslp

    Terry, These are so fun to look at again. She is certainly styling with the MaryJane shoes and slim pants. I loved the outfits, but those tabs were so hard to keep her clothes on! It was difficult to have her talk to her friends and plot how to have fun when I was madly manipulating my fingers to keep her dress from falling off. Thanks for the nostalgic look back.

  7. dancerdf

    I remember these well! I used to dream about having clothes like her. Once I learned to sew, I made many McCalls patterns and sewed almost my whole high school wardrobe.

  8. Urbanheart

    Yes, Terry, I also loved Betsy McCall! And other paper dolls. Also enjoyed drawing some new outfits for Betsy and other paper dolls. They kept me busy for hours. Thank you for the happy reminder.
    And congratulations to Ronald Moore and everyone who works on the team that makes Outlander so amazing and deserving of many awards! Your work is very much appreciated. I love learning about it here!

  9. lmarkum

    My sister and I loved paper dolls, and then we graduated to making clothes for our Barbie dolls. We both sewed our clothes in Junior High and High school, and I made clothes for my daughters when they were young. One of them is very skilled at sewing and needle arts now. Thanks for posting!

  10. janschurr

    LOVED Betsy McCall! Used to make my own clothes for her, just like my Mom handmade the clothes for my Barbie doll (remember when you bought ONE doll and then the outfits for her?!). Thanks for the memory!

  11. DebWileDib

    This made my day, Terry! I had forgotten about the wonder and joy of paper dolls. And yes, I do remember Betsy McCall! And adding tabs to help the clothes stay on 🙂

  12. Katiscotch22

    Oh Lordy, I remember these. Spent hours cutting them out and attempting to make the clothes stay on. No Scotch tape in the UK back in the 50’s so once the ‘tabs” got too well used nothing but glue made the clothes stay on – Oh happy memories 😀

  13. Ailith the Kind

    I never had the paper dolls though I loved paper dolls. My favorite set was ballerinas in various dance poses wearing the longer filmy skirts. I played with them until they fell to pieces.

    I did have 2 Betsy McCall dolls. My sister didn’t play with hers, so I grabbed it! Making dresses for them was my first sewing project. Needless to say, they didn’t turn out too well. I was only 5 or so!

    Thanks so much for sharing the pages. They’re a great look back at our childhood. 🙂

  14. mimi53

    I loved those paper dolls! My sisters and I played with those and with the sets from the 5&10 store. Our mother was an artist who created clothing ads for a department store chains. She drew figures for us to color, and we spent hours and hours creating wardrobes for them. Thank you for making me remember!

  15. Purl99

    I don’t remember Betsy but I do remember paper dolls with great fondness. I would spend hours and hours cutting out all the clothes and dressing each doll. As an only child it was endless entertainment.
    Great post!!!

  16. sheltielass

    Terry thanks for the trip down memory lane. I was always happy when my mother told me she had more Betsy McCall paper towels. I would sit down with them and cut them meticulously. I had shoeboxes that were wrapped in pretty wrapping paper and they were for the type of clothes, accessories and dolls. I would use the album covers that had 2or more records so I could construct a home for Betsy. Sadly they were lost in a fire when we stored a lot of things as our house was being re-painted. I would trace out other clothes from magazines to brown butcher paper and design my own clothing. I am loving this trip to my past and the many happy memories.

  17. manikki

    Yes, I remember them as a child. My mother would give them to me each month from her McCalls magazine. I used to try to make my own too, by cutting out people from the Sears catalog, and the clothes and try to dress them. I had a Betsy McCall doll in 1962, and still have her, as well as the reproduction one. I remember the Color Forms dolls too, with the stick on clothes. Good memories this Christmas.

  18. woolfarmgal

    I had never heard of Betsy Mall paperdolls…but I did play with paperdolls. When visiting my Grandmother in Pittsburgh, to keep me entertained, she gave me Twiggy paperdolls. I loved all the MOD late 60’s clothes. I thought Twiggy was so glamorous. Thanks for sharing …very fun.

  19. maggie

    Betsy McCall truly a favorite, I had a lot of paper dolls and two of the “dolls” who had articulated legs. So nice to be able to sit them in a chair. Definitely dolls and their wardrobe were what spurred me on to costuming. A very fertile imagination, movies like Captain Blood and dolls kept me enthralled for hours. There was one dress that I altered for Betsy from another larger doll so that she could play the Olivia de Haviland roll from Captain Blood. I loved her over all my others. When I was about 7 or 8 and sick with some respiratory complaint, high fevers, croup, my mother made a new piece of wardrobe for Betsy every night and in the morning I would wake up and there she was with the new dress and once a red velvet evening cape with hood and tassel. Thank you Terry for this and creating new obsessions for Season2.

  20. sanshaw2

    What a fun post! I’m glad you shared your discovery, Terry. I remember Betsy McCall, of course, too. My mom didn’t have that magazine subscription so I was slightly envious of my best friend who had then to cut out each month. We shared everything, though, including our many trips to Woolworth’s and Grants, on Saturdays to buy a new set of paper dolls. I still have a Buster Brown shoe box full of the much-loved Lennon Sisters, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charise, etc. All of the movie stars of the mid-fifties. We, also, anticipated receiving the new seasonal Sears catalog so that we could finally cut out more outfits for our paper dolls. Thanks for the memories. 🙂

  21. katejlongo

    I was thrilled to see these. Brought back so many memories. My Mother would sparingly give me a new page and watch while I cut. Occasionally, she would have to fix where I had cut a tab off. I remember a real doll too but I believe she went the way of my much loved Suacy Walker doll. Oh to have the simplicity of cut outs and real dolls.
    Thanks Terry for bringing back some great memories.

  22. LisaW

    Oh! I do remember these!! I even loved their underwear! I could sit for hours changing the outfits and dreaming of being one of them, and having the beautiful clothes.

  23. NGabe

    Oh how I loved paper dolls! I didn’t play with these because my mother did not get this magazine, but I remember others (Lennon Sisters, Carol Heiss (figure skater). I also remember making clothing for them and putting tabs on as well!! Thanks for the happy memories!

  24. Oh, Yes, I remember these and other paper dolls growing up. I’m sure that’s why I have such fine motor skills to this day….cutting out those details and the tabs! Oh, the tabs…..does anyone remember the dolls that you rubbed a stick over the surface of the doll so the dresses would stay on? I can’t remember the name, but they were probably developed because so many people complained about the paper tabs!!!! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  25. hockeyirene

    Ah, yes, Terry – cutting out the dolls and clothes so carefully, lengthening the tabs, making clothes for the babies in the Sears-/Roebuck catalogue, then wondering what the heck to do with them! Loved the fussy-cutting, though! Thanks for the memories!

  26. lesliesusanne

    My mother used to carefully tear out the Betsy McCall pages for me and I would sit with my scissors and cut out her and her clothes, (yes, with the tabs), while my mother read the magazine. My mother was a fabulous seamstress. She made a lot of our clothes, as well as her own. Thank you for the reminder!

    1. lesliesusanne

      I would read the story to her and play with the dolls to illustrate the story. It was so much fun! I had all the stories and dolls and clothes in a special box as a child. Wish I’d kept it…

Leave a Reply