Miss Francie Bennet - Part 1, The doll and the dress

Some projects take a little longer than others. In this case, little means more than five years. That's how long Francie had to wait for her beaded outfit.
I think it was worth the wait. My first try at looming her a particular style of outfit went completely wrong, but now I knew how to use different techniques to give her her (or rather my ;-)) dream outfit.

Let's talk about Francie first, however, because this one is special.
"Colored Francie" (#1100) came in two issues in 1967 and 1968. She had a twist waist, bendable knees, and rooted eyelashes. The difference between the two issues were the hair and eyes. The first one had red hair and reddish-brown eyes, the second one had dark brown hair and eyes and a darker skin tone.
There was just one problem. "Black Francie" as she is known among collectors may have had the skin, but she didn't have the features of a true African American doll because the mold of the Caucasian doll had been used. The doll didn't sell well and so wasn't produced in large numbers. Probably African American children just couldn't identify with her which is understandable. It's why Christie is often regarded as the first real African American doll.
That makes her one of the most sought after Francie dolls (after the Japanese specials).

My girl (Francie is supposed to be a teenager) is the first issue. She has a few problems - so do I and after all she's just two years younger than me! She has some nicks on her foot, some light scratches here and there, and not only has she lost some of her hair over the years, but some of it looks like it has become burnt and has shriveled up and some of it is kind of orangey.

I was not brave enough to risk the hair she does have, so she didn't get a new hairstyle. I didn't touch her bangs and for the ponytail didn't dare playing with beads, but used just a bit of string because even light combing cost her more hair. Re-rooting was not an option, though, I would only have done that if she had been mostly bald, also I had planned a hat for her.
It's not as if the outfit is historically correct 100 %, anyway. There are things that are hard to recreate in beads, but I have done my best.

Now why do I call her Francie Bennet?
I'm a fan of Georgette Heyer's books, especially the ones set in the Regency period (1811 - 1820), and I love Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". From the start I wanted this special doll to wear something special although I knew it would be a bit of a challenge. Her name is of course inspired by Miss Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist of "Pride and Prejudice".

Today I'll show you her dress.
My original choice of color had been pink and grey. Although I'm not necessarily a big fan of pink, pink and grey has been a favorite color combination of mine ever since I had to crochet my very first chain stitch string bag in elementary school.
Like I said, I had already tried a loomed version with Delicas, but although I had measured more than once, it just didn't work out. I took the parts of the loom and left them in a drawer to die. Yes, I was mad. Eventually I gave myself a good kick, cut the parts up and used the beads in both my Flapper Dawn's and 80s Barbie's outfits.
For the next attempt, I chose seed beads instead of Delicas because they look nicer in Herringbone. Don't look for the grey beads, in the end I decided the contrast was too much and I'd rather play with colors in the accessories (as a matter of fact, however, the grey beads are hidden under the dress in some kind of underpants, shhh).

Miss Bennet's dress is made from pink lined crystal beads. I love them, in the light the crystal parts sparkle so beautifully! Unfortunately I didn't quite manage to catch that in pictures.
For a very subtle contrast I chose sparkly rose colored 15/0 seed beads for the ruffles around the neckline, the lace at the bottom of the dress and the ribbon that is sitting right under the bust and ends in a bow at the back which is hidden by the shawl, though, which you will see tomorrow.
I couldn't believe how long it took me to make the dress, but Mattel dolls do have long legs and here it seemed even longer because of the high waistline!

A real problem were the shoes.
Had Francie stayed inside, she would have worn shoes with a very pointy tip, a side seam, a rounded kitten heel ... all things that I couldn't recreate in beads or things that wouldn't stay on Francie's feet, and of course there were still her foot problems.
So I settled for some boots instead, in honor of the scene in the famous 1995 mini series "Pride and Prejudice" in which Lizzy Bennet is walking across the fields through the mud to visit her sick sister in Netherfield Park.
I was even a little tempted to add brown beads for mud to the seam of Francie's dress *lol*
Of course these boots are by no means perfect, but they were the best I could do, and believe me, I tried. I think I made at least six shoe versions once again and there was
massive cursing. I tried 15/0 beads to make the "leather" look thinner, I tried slippers that went high up to hide the feet, to no avail.
If Francie wants to wear brown basketball boots, so be it. I wear comfy shoes myself. Maybe I'll have an amazing idea one day, but actually you can hardly see them under the dress, anyway. For this picture I pulled the dress up.

Okay then, that's it for today.
Tomorrow I'd like to show you the accessories I made - besides the pompadour that already sneaked in with the second picture.
I hope to see you then!

Francie is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc. I am not affiliated with Mattel in any way.


  1. Your talent knows no bounds! Gorgeous work!

  2. I really enjoy reading about your thought processes while figuring out how to make the dress and the shoes (which are perfect IMO). She is going to be spectacular!

    1. Thank you so much!
      Working it out is half of the fun in these projects.