Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Arranbee Nanette: My lucky find

Having an eye for orphans — and knowing where to look to find them — can really help you to find some good deals in vintage dolls.

For example, I used to search the hard plastic category on eBay pretty regularly. One day I found a 14-inch hard plastic doll in a dress I didn't know, with really wild blond hair and no shoes or socks. I was pretty sure she was an Arranbee (also written as R&B) Nanette or Nancy Lee, but I didn't know anything else about her. I bid on her — and won her for about $25.

As often happens with these kinds of dolls, once I have them in my hands I can see more clearly what needs to be done in order to restore them to their original beauty. This doll was indeed an Arranbee Nanette or Nancy Lee (can't tell which without the hang tag), and I had a feeling her clothing was original: a blue and white dress with a matching blue organdy apron, and white cotton panties fastened in back with a little safety pin.

Arranbee Nanette or Nancy Lee - early hard plastic strung doll

Amazingly, considering her obviously played-with condition, she didn't need to be restrung — but she and her clothing were both rather dirty. I cleaned her body with a good doll cleaner, and was delighted to discover beautiful pink blush on her cheeks and knees!

Nanette's beautiful face paint

Next, I soaked her dress and apron in cold water with a scoop of Biz in it (a detergent that will not remove the sizing, or factory stiffness, from vintage doll clothing), rinsed the clothing thoroughly, and arranged it on an upside-down bowl to try (so that the skirt would dry full).

To my surprise, when the dress and apron dried, I found both had retained the original sizing, making the organdy nice and crisp (instead of limp and fragile). I had recently bought another 14-inch hard plastic doll who was wearing a pair of navy blue oilcloth side-snap shoes that didn't belong to her, so I put them on Nanette with a pair of vintage rayon socks.

Her outfit now clean and complete, all I still needed to do was fix her rat's nest of a wig. I discovered a stitched center part that went all the way down the back of her head, indicating that she was supposed to have pigtail braids. I carefully detangled her hair as much as possible (being careful not to pull any of it out of the wig), and was able to work it into two braids. I did this without wetting the hair down or conditioning it, so while it is still a little tangled and frizzy, it still has some of the waves from the original factory set.

Nanette's restyled blond braids

I later was able to confirm that my Arranbee doll's outfit is original. She may be missing a straw hat, and I need to find vintage blue ribbons to tie on the end of her braids — but otherwise, she is a wonderful example of an early Arranbee hard plastic doll, and a remarkable deal for only $25!

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