This is Serena.

She belonged to my mother’s great aunt (Aunt Kate) who was given the doll by her father when coming back from Paris in the 1870’s.  He was an antique dealer in Bond Street, London.

When my mother visited her great aunt, her greatest treat was to undress and redress Serena who lived wrapped up in a silk scarf in an antique serpentine fronted chest of drawers.


Serena is a bit of an enigma.  We have no idea who she really is.  Just by looking at her today, whilst trying to compare  her to other 19th century (reinforced?) wax dolls, she is different – more adult looking.

Serena has “sleeping eyes” and a voice box (squeak!) which all still work.  Her body is made out of linen stuffed with wood wool.  She has a wax head and arms, composition legs with boots painted on.  Sadly, one hand is missing but covered up with the end of a kid glove little finger by Aunt Kate.  The other arm is original and with its yellow painted glove.

Her clothes are beautiful and mostly of the fashion of the 1870’s in Europe.  She is very a well dressed lady in a shot silk taffeta skirt and fitted matching jacket.

Underneath there are three petticoats – one black and pink with velvet trim and then a cream flannel one with pintucks. Under a corset, Serena has another finer cotton lawne chemise trimmed with lace.  And lastly there is underwear made by a friend in the 1960’s of my mother’s, who was so shocked to see Serena sans knickers!


Lastly, the hat is made of brown straw, originally trimmed with pink roses and blue ribbon.  Serena’s hair may be mohair and has a netted snood at the back.  She also has pierced ears and a pearl necklace.

So, who is the inscrutable Serena?  She is 18″ tall and made so she can sit perfectly.

Any ideas?

6 thoughts on “Serena

  1. Cathleen Baldwin

    Try the Antiques Roadshow, they respond to questions. She looks amazing, especially given her age.

  2. Cathy

    I wonder if she is a mannequin doll, possibly French? Fashion houses used to make miniature versions of their dresses to promote their exclusive couture, and given her probable age this would fit with her elaborately detailed outfit, beautifully made, and the sophistication of her face, hair and jewellery. Bet these dolls were much less sweary than Naomi Campbell and not so high maintenance!

    Eat your heart out Anna Wintour.

  3. Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth

    Yes, I think she’s a fashion mannequin rather than a doll for playing with. Clothes made to the highest fashion, and as you say, an adult shape and especially face. I’d email a photo (or a link to this post) to the AR.

    Also, if you’re wearing that many skirts plus a corset, it’s completely impossible to hold your skirts out of the way and pull your drawers down to pee! When the first drawers came in, they were open crotch and only joined at the waist, which solved that problem. Drawers and underpants as we know them didn’t come in til the 20C, when women’s fashions were more amenable.


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