5 Different Doll Types

Dear Readers

I present to you the five ‘doll’ types that I have been considering modelling my own doll-like nature upon. There several types out there but I have narrowed it down to these. I proceeded to do some research on each and have written up my findings in brief.

The five are:

  • Mannequins
  • Bisque dolls
  • Ragdolls
  • Ball-jointed dolls; and
  • Marionettes

Each of these has their own unique story of how they came into common use. From a dress maker’s form to a theatre performance, dolls can be very fascinating. A far cry from the simple, mass produced child’s toy we commonly think of today.


Well, I thought it only right that a mannequin should be the first item on the list. Seeing as it was initially an encounter in a mall with a mannequin that first sparked these thoughts. But I have written in detail about this encounter in my previous journal entry, so I do not believe I need to rewrite all those details.

It seems that the word mannequin has its origins in the Flemish language from the word manneken, which means “little man, figurine”. The word mannequin in French had acquired the meaning “an artist’s jointed model”. Later it in the United Kingdom it began referring fashion models themselves.

There are may different kinds of mannequins. Those used to teach first aid and other medical procedures, artist’s mannequins which assist with pose sketches and mannequins used in military and test functions. Mannequins used to display clothing are the kind I am interested in. It is the most common kind of mannequin.

Shop display mannequins had their origins in the dress maker’s form. A dress maker’s form or dress form is used to assist during the creation of clothing. Gradually they found their way into the stores themselves as a way to demonstrate fashions for customers.

In the mid mid-19th century the first mannequins were made of wire and then papier-mâché.  Later they were made of wax to produce a more lifelike appearance. In the 1920s, wax was supplanted by a more durable composite made with plaster.

Today mannequins are made with materials such as fibreglass and plastic. The classic female mannequin has a smaller to average breast size and is petite in build. However mannequins which vary from this are now more commonly available.

A German Bisque Kestner doll, photographed by Gail Frederick
German Doll by Gail Frederick is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Bisque doll

Bisque dolls or as I know them, porcelain dolls are one of my selections as they were and still are one of the more famous doll types out there. In my mind, I often associate porcelain dolls with the Victorian era which is a culture that has always fascinated me greatly.

My small amount of reading on bisque dolls has shown me that their history is quite complex. Initially, bisque dolls were made for children of well-off families and often where they were dressed in the fashion of the times. They had their peak of popularity between 1860 and 1900 with French and German dolls. Today these dolls are often desired by collectors and can be quite valuable. Bisque dolls that are manufactured in the present are chiefly for collection purposes only.

Bisque is unglazed porcelain with a matt finish. The bisque is usually tinted or painted to give it a realistic skin colour. I would love to have such a clear perfect skin free of blemishes. Most bisque dolls have a head of bisque porcelain and a body made of another material. The body is made of cloth of leather, or a jointed body made of wood, papier-mâché or mixture of materials. Because of bisque’s fragility, doll bodies are rarely made entire of this material, if they are, they are called all-bisque dolls. Bisque dolls usually have eyes made of glass and can vary in size from life-size to half an inch.

Raggedy Ann photographed by Bernard Spragg. NZ
Raggedy Ann by Bernard Spragg. NZ is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)


Ragdolls are a common children’s toy, even I had a few. They are in my selection as I associate them with happy childhood memories of make-believe tea parties, dress up and company when there were no other children to socialise with and the grown-ups were too busy with grown-up things.

Surprisingly rag dolls are one of the most ancient children’s toys in existence; the British Museum has a Roman rag doll, found in a child’s grave dating from the 1st-5th century BCE. Traditionally rag dolls are cloth dolls that are home made from material and stuffed with spare scraps of material. This process makes each one rather unique. Currently, many rag dolls are commercially produced to simulate the features of the original home-made dolls. This included specifications such as simple features, soft cloth bodies, and patchwork clothing.

Ragdolls are often the stars of children’s story books and even appear on TV and in movies. I think it is the time that I too star in my own story and share it with the world. They also appear to be universally well liked and popular, which is a characteristic that I would love to have as well.

Fireflies and Hearts photographed by Emily on Flickr
Fireflies and Hearts by Emily is licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ball-jointed doll

A ball-jointed doll by definition is any doll that is articulated with ball and socket joints. However, I will be using this term in the more contemporary way, to refer to modern Asian ball-jointed dolls. The dolls often posses a fairy tale level of beauty and mystique.

Ball-jointed dolls are often referred to with the acronyms BJD or ABJD and I have found that they are also called Asian fashion dolls. Fashion dolls are dolls primarily designed to be dressed to reflect fashion trends. The most famous and well-known fashion doll of modern times is Mattel’s Barbie, but fashion dolls have been around for hundreds of years. Bisque dolls were a type of fashion doll as well.

The dolls are cast from a hard, dense, plastic called polyurethane synthetic resin. The parts of the doll are strung together with a thick elastic and the limbs can be posed. The BJD style has been described as both realistic and influenced by anime, but there is no hard and fast rule. They commonly range in size from about 60 centimetres (24 in) for the larger dolls, 40 cm (15.5 in) for the mini dolls, and all the way down to 10 cm (4 in) or so for the tiniest of the tiny BJDs.

Customization of a ball-jointed doll is usually easy to achieve with painting, the ability to change the eyes and various wigs available for use. The variety of available clothing styles and accessories is vast.

To appear as beautiful and stylish as if you have just stepped out of the pages of a fairy tale or even a fashion magazine would be a wonderful ideal for me. Far better than being the bland ordinary woman who fades into the background and becomes invisible.

Marionettes in museum at Festung Hohensalzburg photographed by NH53 on Flickr
Marionettes in museum at Festung Hohensalzburg by NH53 is licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


A marionette is a puppet controlled from above, using wires or strings. I have selected a marionette as one of the potential options due to the performance aspect. I have always been enamoured by theatre, especially opera and ballet. To find that marionettes had operas and even theatres specifically created from them were a very pleasant surprise.

Puppets have been around since ancient times. Evidence suggests that they were used in Egypt as early as 2000 BC. Written records of the use of puppets dating from the 5th century BC also tell us of the use of puppetry in Ancient Greece. Puppets have been entertaining people for a very long time.

Sometimes people refer to marionettes as “puppets”, but the term “marionettes” is more precise. It distinguishes them from other forms of puppetry, such as a finger, glove, rod and shadow puppetry. There are different types of marionettes and different control bars. Each type, of course, varies in its level of difficulty to control. The most common material used to create a marionette is wood.

The thought of myself being able to perform using the skill of the person pulling the strings is very appealing. I believe it would remove a large amount of the pressure of performing. Of course, attached to strings or wires, the possibility of stage fright and backing out then becomes impossible. And besides, which girl has not envisioned herself as a graceful ballerina at least once?

  1. Mannequin -Wikipedia 
  2. Bisque doll – Wikipedia 
  3. Rag doll – Wikipedia 
  4. Ball-jointed doll – Wikipedia
  5. Marionette – Wikipedia

2 thoughts on “5 Different Doll Types”

  1. Each post becomes more amazing! Keep up the good work, we are with you every step of this amazing journey. Never give up!

    1. Thank you, Athena, your comment is very encouraging! I hope to keep writing here for as long as I am able to.

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