I used to love paper dolls! When I was a young girl in the late 50’s and early 60’s, I would dream about becoming a model when I grew up and living a life that was something like the Archie Comics character, Katy Keene. Her creator, cartoonist Bill Woggons, had designed Katy after the WWII pin up girls. She always had just the right outfit for just the right occasion. Readers could actually design outfits for Katy that Woggons would then recreate for the strip giving them credit for the design. It was a great way for a girl to spin fantasies. It was in good taste and Katy was always doing her best to break into Hollywood. I must have traced my paper doll Katy hundreds of time, designing my own line of clothes just for her. It was harmless and imaginative and a fun way to share time with my sisters.
Perhaps few of us remember Katy Keene. It turns out that Bill Woggons was a Christian and created some other products for that market for kids before he died in 2003, all in all a good legacy. Paper dolls probably aren’t as fascinating to young girls today as they were to me. After all, virtual dolls exist online and you can design wardrobes to your heart’s content if you just log on to the right spot. Every tool any artist could want exists in some form online. The actual cutting out of a paper doll, designing around her form just right so that you could make an outfit, imagining the story of why she needed the very outfit you were creating and coloring it all yourself, isn’t required.
I guess I’m not going to argue that one system is more imaginative than the other, or that somehow something nostalgic holds more weight than something easily erased on the screen. However, I do want to remember with you what it was like to share quiet times, designing, playing a game, thinking out a story idea or a song with your siblings, really stepping into some cooperative thinking and sharing, giving each other ideas, that’s what I got from Katy Keene. When Donna was working with Veronica or Sharon was coloring a new outfit for Lucky Red, I was with them, my two favorite people in the world, my sisters, sharing the fun of creating something new. Katy Keene was like us, a dreamer, a possibility thinker waiting for an exciting future.
Though Katy has vanished from my life, the joy of creating, of writing a new story, or coming up with a new concept for a card line or a book line or a piece of artwork is just as thrilling as ever. Looking back, I think this humble root was part of what inspired my hopes for the creative work I choose to do today. It’s a nice thought, a moment to help me reflect on all that’s happened since those simple beginnings.
The stories still need to be developed, the stiletto dreams are as much of a draw as ever. My role models are a little different now, my designs for my life created in a different way, but the hope and the fascination with all that is still possible remains. Perhaps it’s the humble beginnings that help us connect the dots to becoming more than we might have been. Thanks to Bill Woggons and Katy Keene for firing the flames of a little girl’s imagination. I hope to send in a new design soon.