Friday, September 19, 2014


Recently, although I’ve been in denial, I realized I have an addiction. Not only am I embarrassed to admit it, it’s costing me a lot of money. But the time has come, I’ve decided, to try to be strong, go through withdrawal and kick the habit.

I’m talking about playing with paper dolls.

I guess I’ve always been addicted to them. When I was a kid, I’d draw paper dolls on scraps of cardboard, then spend hours designing paper fashions for them. After that, I’d spend another hour or two cutting them out.  And whenever I managed to get extra money for my birthday or Christmas, I’d head straight to the nearest store that sold paper dolls and stock up on the professionally made ones.

When I became an adult, however, I switched over to Barbie coloring books, mainly because I was too lazy to cut out paper-doll clothes.

But about four months ago, as I was browsing in one of the Job Lot stores, I happened to see something called the Fashion Angels stylist kit that caught my eye. My heart actually began to race as I examined it more closely. It contained 20 paper “models” and 700 peel-and-stick fashions and accessories to stick on them. It featured everything from swimsuits, jeans, gowns and coats to earrings, purses and hats. And the best part was there was no cutting involved – just peeling and sticking. I practically left skid marks rushing up to the register to purchase the kit, which was $10.

When I got home and looked over the paper dolls and their fashions, I felt overwhelmed. There were too many choices. The first model, a blonde in only a bra and panties, stood there staring at me with her paper face, waiting for me to dress her. But I couldn’t make a decision. Did I want her to wear a skirt? Boots?  Fishnet stockings? Hoop earrings or dangling ones?  I was a wreck.

And once I did decide, there was no turning back. Unlike the paper dolls I’d had as a kid, these clothes couldn’t be used over again. Once I stuck the peel-and-stick fashions on the models, they couldn’t be unpeeled. They were there for life.

I soon learned that accuracy was a necessity. When I tried to put leggings on the first paper doll, my aim was a little off, so one side of her bare leg and hip were sticking out. I tried to peel off the leggings to reposition them, but tore the entire leg off the model. I was so upset, you’d think I’d just amputated a real leg. After all, I’d wasted a precious paper doll. I had only 19 left.

I got so involved in dressing the little paper models, I ended up finishing the entire kit in one sitting.  Even worse, I had at least 10 fashions and 15 pieces of jewelry left over. What kind of sadist, I wondered, would make a kit with enough clothing to dress 30 paper dolls, but give you only 20?  So the next day I headed back to Job Lot to buy more kits.

They were sold out.

Desperate, I headed over to Toys R Us.  There, I felt the full impact of my addiction. Not only did they have the Fashion Angels kit, they also had a Project Runway kit and a Barbie kit. I could feel adrenaline pumping through my veins as I stood there gazing glassy-eyed them, trying to decide which one to buy. I ended up buying all three – for a total of  $44.

Then I spent the next week peeling and sticking fashions for hours. And to my utter delight, one of the kits had a mistake in it. It contained 30 paper dolls instead of only 20!  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

My world became a sea of paper clothing – tiny plaid mini-skirts, knee-high boots with silver buckles; halter tops, jeans with holes in the knees, denim jackets, slinky evening gowns. I did so much peeling and sticking, I wore down my fingernails to nubs.     

And when those kits were finished, I returned to Toys R Us and bought more…and then more after that.

Every time I bought a new batch, the clerk would say, “Would you like a gift receipt for these?” probably because she thought I was buying them for my non-existent grandchild.

Embarrassed, I’d always smile and say something like, “Yes, you know how fussy nine-year-olds can be nowadays!”

I hate to say it, but as long as Toys R Us kept restocking the fashion kits, I kept buying them, until I had amassed about 20 of each. After a while, however, seeing the same old fashions over and over again began to get boring, so I had to get creative. If there was a jumpsuit, I’d cut it in half and use the top for a blouse and the bottom for pants on another outfit. I did the same with dresses, and mixed and matched the pieces. I even cut up the little bracelets and turned them into earrings, and hacked the heels off high heels and transformed them into flats.

Finally, I received my debit-card statement from the bank and saw all of the purchases I’d made at Toys R Us.  I hadn’t realized, not until I saw the list (which was about the length of a roll of toilet paper), just how obsessed I’d become with peeling and sticking fashions.  I knew I had to quit cold turkey, before I ended up having to beg for food on street corners.

Everything went fine until a few days ago when I was in Job Lot in Concord. There, in the toy department, were three sets of the Fashion Angels staring at me, calling to me. And they cost $3 less each than at Toys R Us.

I bought all three, then asked the clerk if there were any more out back.

I’m thinking I probably should go online and look for a support group for paper-doll addicts…or the only clothes I’ll be able to afford for myself will be made out of paper.



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