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Handmade Identities

Girls, Dolls and DIY

April Renée Mandrona

This article examines the connection between two discrete areas of inquiry—the study of dolls as it relates to the identity of young girls, and the contemporary DIY (do-it-yourself) craft movement. I identify how the activity of DIY doll-making might be useful for thinking about what it means to be a girl in relation to its offering a departure from the hyper-commercialized, ready-made dolls of the twenty-first century. The commercial doll has existed alongside its counterpart, the homemade doll, since the beginning of industrialization. In different ways both forms of the doll have played a significant role in the lives of young girls and they continue to shape both collective and individual identities associated with what we think of as being a girl. Tracing the act of doll-making and the residual influence of craft movements in my own childhood, I explore this notion of dynamic identity formation: I examine doll-making as a medium for artistic creation and narrative development with the potential to transform girlhood identities.