How to repair porcelain doll hair

Written by caroline adams
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How to repair porcelain doll hair
Flowing curls are only one of the many hairstyles found on collectable porcelain dolls. (Porcelain doll image by ta_samaya from

The names "Bru, "Jumeau" and "Steiner" conjure up visions of beautiful collectable porcelain dolls with carefully coiffed hair and dressed in detailed gowns. We forget that these lovely dolls from the early 1800s were once the play dolls of a generation of little girls, often passed down to daughters and granddaughters. It is no wonder that many of these delicate dolls are now in need of new hair. Many had their lovely locks bobbed in the 1920s when the flapper look was in vogue. Others lost their wigs completely. Restoring the crowning beauty of a collectable porcelain doll can be as simple as finding an appropriate doll wig.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Doll wig
  • Pate (if needed)
  • Gentle soap
  • Soft cloths
  • Craft or white glue
  • Small paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Remove the old wig. Place measuring tape around the circumference of the head carefully, including the forehead and over the ears. Record the measurement. If there is an opening at the top of the head, measure the distance across the opening. Record the measurement.

  2. 2

    Order a replacement wig from a doll part supplier or a local doll hospital based on the wig material, style, colour and measurements. Consider human hair for a pricey antique porcelain doll. Human hair wigs look natural and are easy to style. Mohair is also a good choice for an antique doll, but it has a number of undesirable qualities (it cannot be washed and tends to mat). Karacul (or Caracul) is obtained from newborn lambs and is often used for baby dolls or boy dolls' hair. Order a dynel or nylon wig for an impressive yet less expensive wig. Both are made of plastic and resemble human hair. These wigs can be washed, combed and easily styled.

  3. 3

    Order a new pate if the porcelain doll has an opening at the top of the head. A pate is a skin-coloured disk made of heavily starched fabric, cardboard or cork. Its purpose is to cover the opening at the top of the doll's head, which was used to install the glass eyes and weights used to make the eyes open and close.

  1. 1

    Wash the porcelain doll's face with a gentle soap, water and soft cloth. Avoid getting water in the glass eyes. Dry the porcelain with another soft cloth.

  2. 2

    Dip a small paintbrush into glue. If there is an opening at the top of the porcelain doll's head, add a small strip of glue around the edge of the new pate. Place the pate carefully on top of the doll's head, and wipe off any excess glue or drips. Apply the new wig after the pate is dry.

  3. 3

    Glue the new doll wig in place or simply place the wig on the porcelain doll's head without gluing it. Serious collectors often leave the wigs loose on their dolls' heads so that any manufacturer markings (on the back of the neck) can be easily viewed.

  4. 4

    Place the doll on a padded surface. A large folded towel will protect any porcelain arms or legs from hitting a table top and breaking.

  5. 5

    Leave the hairnet in place while you are working with it. The hairnet will protect delicate curls from falling out and becoming loose and messy. Apply a thin coat of glue to the inside of the wig with a small paintbrush.

  6. 6

    Place the wig on the porcelain doll head, starting at the front and working toward the back of the head. Be careful not to get glue on the face or in the eyes. Allow the glue to set and thoroughly dry before removing the hairnet or attempting to touch up the wig.

  7. 7

    Remove the hairnet. If needed, touch up the wig by gently brushing over the curls, not through them. Commercial hairspray may be used to hold a hairstyle, even if the wig is not made of human hair.

Tips and warnings

  • If the porcelain doll still has a usable wig, consider carefully washing it with a gentle shampoo and conditioner and rolling it up in small curlers. Do not soak the wig, as this may loosen the glue. Styling lotion and hairspray will help keep the hair in place.
  • Do not use curling irons or heat on plastic wigs, as they will melt.
  • Do not use sugar water as a setting lotion, as it can attract ants and other bugs.

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