Pose Dolls Capture Showa Era’s Timeless Elegance

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Pose dolls dressed in the fashionable clothes of the time, all well-posed

Dolls, accessories, pouches and other small items, mass-produced and consumed during Japan’s rapid economic growth in the pursuit of affluence during the 1950s and 1970s, retain a timeless charm. These items seem to convey the longing and excitement that many girls of the time held in their hearts.

The dolls’ long, slender legs stretch out from their minidresses. They have accessories such as white gloves and handbags on their arms. They have a demure look, giving a slight smile. Known as “pose dolls,” these vintage dolls were all the rage during the Showa 30s to 40s (from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s). They are often either blonde or brunette and their sparkling eyes are carefully painted.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
French-style dolls wearing gorgeous dresses

Ayumi Uyama, 54, a collector of goods produced during the Showa era and known for having one of Japan’s largest collections of pose dolls and French-style dolls, said, “They were made based on fashion magazines of the time and are overflowing with Japanese people’s yearning for foreign cultures.”

According to Uyama, they were often given as housewarming gifts or for childbirth celebration. They were often displayed in drawing rooms and on pianos as symbols of high status.

French-style dolls dressed in gorgeous ball gowns became immensely popular in the mid-1960s and onwards. The heads of these vintage dolls are often tilted slightly, with a coy smile. Even the posing of their fingertips exudes elegance.

“In those days, few Japanese people had been to places like the Palace of Versailles [in France]. I think these dolls represent the image of France that many longed for,” Uyama said.

She noted that aristocratic tastes were incorporated into Japanese lifestyles around the time when the dolls came into vogue, leading to the popularity of homes with white, decorative furniture and floral motifs.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Various items featuring cute colors, patterns and motifs

Uyama has a vast collection of charming items which were everywhere during the Showa era. A box-shaped bag, favored by little girls for outings, included a mirror and was reminiscent of cosmetic bags used by their mothers at the time. Her collection also features brightly colored combs, hair clips and beaded necklaces. These items, treasured by children of that era, would have them bouncing with joy.

“[These items] help us appreciate the timeless appeal of the designs. At the same time, they evoke memories. If you visit an antique market, you might find something that rekindles half-forgotten memories,” Uyama said.

Bringing back memories

Uyama’s collection includes everyday items, such as lunch boxes and pencil cases.

“Just by asking about the illustrations printed on lunch boxes from their childhood, you can identify the generation of the person you’re talking to,” Uyama said. “It’s fun to reminisce about them.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bento boxes and chopstick cases in Uyama’s collection

Uyama is currently collaborating with a company for a project to create capsule toys that contain miniatures of everyday items from the Showa era. “I want to share the charm of vintage goods by reviving things that have faded from our memories,” she said.

Ayumi Uyama

Born in 1969, she has published many books on dolls and everyday items from the Showa 30s to 50s (mid-1950s to mid-1970s). She is also engaged in producing retro goods while working as a doll artist.