Paper dolls are, in their own way, one of the original DIY, customizable toys. While I’m not saying that Kidrobot owes their soul to drawings of little girls being wrapped in little paper dresses, the principle is essentially the same as designer platform toys: take a standard form and redesign it in as many ways as you can without fundamentally changing the form.
Presidential paper dolls add a new level of fun and vintage-styled amusement to characters who are already ripe for parody. Dover Publications has published an entire collectible line of dress-up presidents for you to cut up, clothe, and fold back up again, ranging from the Founding Fathers to the presidents and hopefuls of today.
The range of historical information and imagery runs very deep for a book of paper dolls, all very meticulously illustrated from original source material and actual items worn by these men. And while most people wouldn’t want to play dress-up with an overweight Taft doll, I can absolutely see the appeal of getting every president in on this, in one way or another.
While most of these pages are serious, Dover isn’t afraid to poke fun at the presidents. Seen here is former president Ronald Reagan in a suit (center), in a movie costume (left), and with his
vice president monkey co-star in Bedtime for Bonzo (right). Other images include Reagan with various wives, and some “novelty” hats he’d received as gifts while in office.
Collections like those for Kennedy and Obama include each man’s family members, including their wives and children. Curiously, while most of the presidents and their families are pictured in their underwear (or whatever the equivalent was for the time period), the Obama family never appears in anything less than a full set of clothing. Not that anyone has a special desire to see the first family unclothed, but I wonder if there’s an unspoken rule about not undressing the sitting president.
My favorite article from the entire collection, however, is the 2012 Political Circus Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney Paper Dolls, which takes the candidates very lightly, dressing them up as samurai, robots, cowboys, sumo wrestlers, pirates, superheroes, wrestlers, and even as a couple of respectable guys at podiums. Just in case you’re too sensitive about your chosen candidate. (And if you’re into politicians battling it out, you should check out these Punching Politicians.)
Paper dolls are a serious art with a serious history, and serious collectors and creators have formed groups to continue the celebration of this art, like the OPDAG: the Original Paper Doll Artists Guild, as well as blogs with no other purpose than to discuss these dolls. Dover is doing a great job keeping this tradition alive in a modern and interesting fashion.