In 1971 and 1972, I received Corinne dolls for Christmas. They were featured in the Sears Wishbook: “The 15″ Italian beauty with luxurious hair you can style almost any way you can imagine.” Who could resist? This larger doll with her lush hair and her fashion pose was different from Barbie. Corinne was easier to sew for, so Barbie was cast aside and Corinne became my fashion victim. I eventually gave all my dolls away except for the Corinne girls–there was just something special about them.
A few years ago, I got the girls out and cleaned them up. There were many mends on the clothes and I had to laugh at my crude repairs– I can only imagine what the outfits I made from scratch must have looked like! While sprucing them up, I got inspired to learn more about these dolls who came onto the doll scene so strong, but seemed to disappear completely.
Who Was Italo Cremona?
Italo Cremona was born in 1891. He worked for a celluloid manufacturer and learned about business and plastics, then started his own company in 1922 in Gazzada, Italy. He gave the company his own name and his family lived in rooms above the factory. His sons Bruno and Fernando were born there and they would succeed their father managing the company. Italo and his sons were innovative and progressive managers and would steer the company through a turbulent 20th century.
The company’s first products were typical celluloid combs, glasses and toiletries. They innovated new plastics and were the first to use injection molding in special presses they designed and built for making sunglasses. Italo Cremona stuggled, but survived World War II and the death of Mr. Cremona in 1946. The sons left school to manage the business and with the help of the Marshall Plan in 1947, the company retooled.
The young Cremona brothers were soon managing a company of over 600 employees. Their most successful product was sunglasses but they wanted another product that wasn’t as seasonal. They began manufacturing dolls and toys in the 1950s and found immediate success. They patented a system of interlocking building blocks called Plastic City and they were extremely popular. They looked a lot like Legos:
By the late 1960s, Italo Cremona employed more than 1000 people and they made millions of dolls, sunglasses, and building block sets.
There was a devastating fire in 1974. When rebuilding, they focused on high technology and efficiency which greatly reduced the work force. As toy manufacturing moved to China, the company focused on designer and performance eyewear. An important partnership with Gianni Versace was abandoned when the designer was murdered and that enterprise was sold to the eyeglass company, Luxottica. Italo Cremona now designs jewelry and fashion accessories but employs less than 100 people.
There is more information about Italo Cremona on MuseoWeb Dell’Economia Varesina. http://www.museoweb.it
Among those millions of dolls were my two Corinne dolls.
Later, you could buy a very similar doll in simpler packaging and her clothes were usually less detailed. I think that doll was sold as “Vanessa.” There was also a later version with a jointed waist so she was more poseable. Italo Cremona made their most popular dolls in a dark skinned version also — the dark Corinne is especially lovely. This is a picture of a friend’s doll wearing an original Corinne fashion:
Outfits were available separately. This is a really cute outfit that is still in the box. This also belongs to Joan. Check out the fabulous illustrations of quintessential 70s fashions:
My dolls have lost their sun glasses–I’m sure I broke or lost them immediately. The doll in yellow is wearing a replaced jacket. Her original imitation leather jacket disintegrated and turned into a gooey mess. I got some thin and supple yellow suede and reproduced her jacket. It isn’t exactly like the original but pretty close. If you would like to make a similar jacket for your doll, the pattern is below.
You can download this pattern on Flickr (click on photo to go to Flickr).
Basic Assembly Instructions for Jacket
I used lightweight suede, but pleather or ultrasuede should work well also. If you use a woven fabric you’ll need to change the pattern to add shoulder seams. If you are using leather, you can use a leather glue to baste and also for the sleeve hems. When pinning leather, try to only pin in the seam allowances because pinholes in leather may remain visible — suede is more forgiving.
Cut 2 sleeve pieces and 1 of each of the other pieces out of leather. Cut the same pieces out of lining. I used a 4 way stretch netting for the lining but you could use something else as long as it is thin. Choose something that won’t stain the doll.
Sew the sleeves to the jacket body. Make small gathers in the top of the sleeve. Press the seam toward the sleeve with a warm (not hot) iron. Do the same on the lining.
Press a 1/4″ hem in the sleeves but don’t stitch. Cut 1/4″ off of the sleeve lining hem.
Trim 1/4″ off of the outside edge of the collar lining. Place the collar lining on the leather — wrong sides together. Press the outside edge of the collar under 1/4″ and top-stitch in place. Find the center of the collar and the center of the jacket back. Pin the collar to the jacket with right sides up, and stitch in place. The collar should end about 1/2″ from the center front.
With right sides together, stitch the side seams and sleeve seams in one continuous seam–keep the sleeve hem unfolded. Press seams open. Use a dowel inside the sleeve to press those seams open. Do the same with the lining. Turn the jacket right side out.
Trim 1/4″ off of the front opening edges of the lining. Pin the lining to the neck and collar — right sides together. Stitch the lining to the jacket around the neck. Snip the seams, turn and press.
Put the lining inside the sleeves and match up the seams. Use leather glue or fabric glue to glue the sleeve hem. Be sure to get the lining inside the glued hem.
Fold the leather over 1/4″ along the front opening. Keep the folded points at the neck opening tidy. Make sure you catch the lining. Baste with glue then top stitch up the front and stay stitch around the neck in one continuous seam.
Pin the band to the bottom of the jacket right sides together. Place it so that the pointed end lines up nicely with the front of the jacket — remember the edges of the band will be turned under 1/4″ and stitched. You can baste with glue. Also pin the band lining to the inside of the jacket and stitch all the layers together around the bottom. Fold the band and lining down and press.
Trim 1/4″ off of the other sides of the band lining. Fold the leather over the lining 1/4″. Baste with glue then top stitch all around the band. If the straight end of the band is too long, just cut it off.
Overlap the jacket front and sew decorative buttons to the front. I used the buttons from the original jacket. Sew snaps to the inside.
And, now she’s all set for another 40 years!