Diorama Fun with Horsman’s Urban Chic Boutique

JAMIEshow Havana Nights

I have a confession to make, I am a compulsive hoarder…of 1:4 scale doll props, that is.

Finding things in Barbie size even on a tiny island in the Pacific is easy. Just walk into any Walmart, Target or other store where Barbie is sold for instant access to everything from furniture play sets, pets, structures and automobiles all at your immediate disposal and at very reasonable cost. Even with stores dedicated to toys becoming much less common these days, Barbie-size collectors can always count on “big box” Toys R Us to satisfy their prop fix. Similarly, dollhouse items, though less commonly found locally, are easily sourced on the ‘net and can be shipped at relatively very low cost.

Props for 1:4 scale fashion dolls, on the other hand, are much more difficult to source. Robert Tonner, one of the most influential founding fathers of fashion dolls in this scale, has a company whose motto is “Believe in the Power of Play.” Lately I have to wonder what he means by this. True that the Tonner Doll Company has offered up a few cool props over the years. My personal favorites have been Tyler’s Drafting Table and StoolBordeaux ChaiseRolling Garment Rack and Baby Grand Piano. When TDC does do accessories, they do them very well. In fact, I’m considering having Tyler’s Baby Grand Piano buried with me when the time comes. Unfortunately, the ratio between TDC production of accessories to production of dolls has historically been woefully disproportionate. Most of the best Tonner props for 1:4 dolls were all released back in Tyler’s heyday and are long gone. For the past 10 years, Tonner’s offerings in the props department has become increasingly sparse.

Other companies have made efforts to provide our 16″ gals with beautiful items. Most notably Bespaq, a company well-known for their classic dollhouse furnishings. They started doing scaled-up versions of their beautiful furniture for Gene way back when she was an Ashton Drake product, which should have given them a good, early start in the large fashion doll furniture market. However, where these items were initially sold, I do not know. I never knew they existed until after Bespaq stopped making them. At the height of my Tyler obsession, I caught a glimpse of a Bespaq bijoux tea table displayed with Madra in a magazine, very likely an FDQ. In retrospect, the table is fairly simple, but at the time it was the most intricate piece of furniture I had ever seen in this scale and it rocked my world! The magazine did not give very many clues about the piece, but after a few years of steely determination, I was able to hunt down and purchase my first piece of Bespaq in early 2009 from eBay seller Lisa Neault: a beautiful mahogany Louis XV arm chair with intricately carved legs accented with gold and embroidered upholstery.

Since then, I have amassed a lovely collection of Bespaq pieces, thanks mostly to a very select few eBay vendors–two, to be exact. The aforementioned Lisa, who also had a brick and mortar store called “Pumpkin Hill Designs” (at some point renamed “King William Miniatures”), and Jim Coates. Once upon a time, both vendors had new old stock Bespaq for sale which sold out long ago. Then, a few years back, Jim successfully solicited Bespaq to start making items in this scale again and I was able to pick up a few of those pieces before they were gone.

I recently had new-found dolly friend, Karin, over to see my collection. She is one of those rare 1:4 fashion doll collectors, like me, whose affinity for collecting accessories is nearly as strong as collecting the dolls themselves. She oohed and aahed over my Bespaq pieces and was disappointed when I told her that, at least at the moment, such furniture was difficult to find. About a year ago she herself had purchased a similarly fancy chair from relative newcomer “Regent Miniatures” via eBay. She had wanted to purchase another to make a matching set, but the chair sold out before she was able to, and Regent has not restocked chairs in this scale since. In the meantime, Regent and Jim Coates have both continued to offer magnificent pieces for Barbie-sized dolls. Karin and I lamented and speculated about this neglect of the 16″ dolls for a good while, but the only reasonable explanation for the phenomenon that we could come up with is that, even despite the recent surge in popularity of 16″ fashion BJDs like the Sybarites, Kingdom, and Numina dolls, the market for dolls in 1:4 scale is still comparatively small to the market for those in the more impressively-established Barbie scale.

Which might actually serve me just as well. Despite the aforementioned challenges, I have still managed to accumulate an impressively large collection of items in this obscure scale over the years. In addition to furniture, I also have a vast array of vases, mirrors and picture frames, dishes and tea sets, micro glass figurines, and the like. In fact, my ability to efficiently zero in on items so subconsciously leads me to believe that a portion of my brain, (probably the part responsible for memory) has been sacrificially converted to the express purpose of scanning for and pinpointing appropriate minis at every waking moment. I regularly check out places like Ross Dress for Less, Ben Franklin Crafts, the Dollar Store (when I’m on the continent), and even Goodwill. In short, I will buy just about anything that appears to be the correct size. I will admit that I enjoy the challenge of finding things in 1:4 scale, but more importantly, the limitations provide some much-needed means of control over the rate of acquisition!

For ages I have wanted to create a display that showcases all of the wonderful items I have gathered over the years. The time I spent with Karin looking over some of my most prized pieces, particularly one of my ornate vintage tea sets, inspired me to finally put together the antique store I have had in mind to do. I commenced by constructing the store’s facade using two of Horsman’s Urban Chic Boutique store fronts. Upon removing the door panel from one set, I then attached the remaining bay window-like panel to the second set. This gave the store front a more substantial and realistic appearance.

JAMIEshow Natalie I toyed with the idea of making the store 3-1/2 feet deep, but then remembered how difficult it had been to decorate and shoot photos in my similarly-sized Parisian apartment diorama, so decided that since I managed to make the store wider, I could afford to keep the depth a bit shallow. I was very pleased with the resulting diorama–the shallow store allowed for a maximum amount of inventory to be seen from the outside. Also, in the end, keeping the store smaller proved to be a good call because even with its relatively small square footage, the store still took an inordinate amount of time to fill with inventory. The completed diorama contained over 300 hand-picked items that had to be precisely and  painstakingly positioned within the display, and then dismantled and put away after the photo shoot.

To give the store a more realistic feel, I named it “Chic Antique” (a nod to Horsman’s original name) and created a logo which I used to make a hanging sign as well as additional signs to cover the original “Urban Chic Boutique” written on the door. I also used the logo to make mini shopping bags. Click here for an instructional sheet and printable “Chic Antique” shopping bag to make for your own fashion doll!

On their days off from modeling for JAMIEshow, best friends Natalie and Sasha like to go shopping for antiques. On their most recent antiquing trip in the city, they were headed home after a long day when they stumbled across a new store called “Chic Antique.”

Horsman Urban Chic Boutique Horsman Urban Chic Boutique Horsman Urban Vita Chic Boutique JAMIEshow Natalie JAMIEshow Natalie JAMIEshow Havana Nights Sasha  JAMIEshow Natalie Chairs for fashion dolls Havana Nights Sasha Horsman Urban Chic Boutique Tyler Wentworth Dress Form JAMIEshow Havana Nights Sasha and Natalie Tonner Gone with the Wind Melanie Furniture for 1/4 scale dolls DSC_0712 Props for BJD  JAMIEshow Havana Nights Sasha Bespaq display case JAMIEshow Natalie JAMIEshow Natalie and the Horsman Store Display Counter Props for fashion dolls Props for 1:4 scale dolls DSC_0845 JAMIEshow Sasha and Bespaq Cabinet Furniture for fashion dolls JAMIEshow Havana Nights Sasha JAMIEshow Natalie Horsman Urban Chic Boutique Urban Chic Boutique Vita Urban Chic Boutique Vita Large Chic Antique Bag

Do you enjoy collecting props for 1:4 scale fashion dolls? If so, what are some of your favorite finds?

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2 Comments

  1. LeeAnn wrote:

    I cannot get over all the detail in the Chic Boutique! It looks like a real shop!! You really have to study each photo to see all the details! FABULOUS as always Vicky! You truly do amazing dioramas!

  2. boxpleat wrote:

    Always a delight. I wish I have your skill (and determination) to manage my photos better. You are amazing. I especially liked the ones where she is leaning in to look at things….they perfectly evoke what it feels like to shop like that. Brava. k.