One morning in a cozy upstairs apartment in the Rue de Nesle, Paris, a Bleuette doll named Madeline was waiting for her young owner, Claire, to wake up.
Madeline had been dressed in her nightgown for several days, because Claire was too busy to play with her, but last evening Claire had said, “Madeline, tomorrow we will have a lovely morning together, and you will have a surprise!”
Claire was ten years old, and her little 27 centimeter doll with blue eyes and honey blonde bobbed hair was her favorite, though she had other dolls. Claire’s own mother still had the Bleuette of her childhood, also a doll with blue eyes and blonde hair. Beautifully dressed, she sat in the armoire vitrée, among the china, to be seen, but not touched.
Every Thursday a newsprint journal arrived for Claire and her maman to read together. It was called La Semaine de Suzette, Suzette’s Week, and was full of exciting stories, word games, pictures, letters, and often a sewing pattern for Claire’s little Bleuette doll.
Claire and her maman always read the stories together on Thursday evening, eagerly anticipating each installment of the serial. The patterns for Bleuette sometimes also came in installments, and to have all the pattern pieces and instructions could take two weeks, or three! One dreaded to see the words, “To be continued next week.”
On this particular morning Claire came in early to find her Bleuette, Madeline. “Bonjour, Maddy, let’s put on your breakfast cap and slippers, and have our petit déjeuner.” Claire had made the cap and slippers from patterns in her beloved journal, with her maman’s help, of course.
Madeline was given tea and croissants at her own table with her own blue willow china. Claire had hot chocolate in a big cup and croissants with apricot jam. Then after washing and dressing herself, Claire returned to Madeline with a sewing box. The wooden box was a gift from Claire’s grand mère, so that she could keep her sewing tools and notions all together in one place.
Claire opened her box, and right on top was something pink. “Here is your surprise, Mademoiselle,” Claire announced, and held up a new pink dress made of batiste with lace and bead trim. “Let’s see how it fits,” Claire said. She carefully removed the pretty nightgown and cap, and put Madeline’s feet into the opening of the dress. “We don’t want to muss your hair, Maddy.”
Then Claire noticed that Madeline was still wearing her wooly slippers and quickly found her shoes and socks, and a nice hair bow. She tied the dress’s pink ribbon sash and eyed her doll critically, adjusting the folds of the dress. “There! Don’t you look stylish? You have a very clever maman, Madeline,” said the self-satisfied little girl.
“Claire!” came a far-away call, “Time for chores!” Hurriedly, Claire gathered up her breakfast dishes and thumped down the stairs with them. Soon she returned with a duster. “You can help me, Maddy, but first we will cover up your new dress,” decided Claire. Madeline had a cover-up apron in blue toile de Vichy with crocheted trim made by Claire’s grand mere. Claire had a matching one for herself.
Soon the morning chores were done. Claire’s maman came up to inspect the rooms. “You have done well, petite,” she told Claire, who replied, “Madeline helped me,” and showed her the Bleuette wearing her apron. Maman smiled. “You both have done well. I have a little reward for two such excellent housekeepers,” she said. Taking a tissue-paper package from her apron pocket, Maman handed it to Claire. It was unwrapped in a matter of seconds, and Claire cried, “Oh, a little cape for Madeline! Très belle! Merci, Maman!” It was the very cape that Claire had admired in the latest issue of La Semaine de Suzette.
Claire was very happy to dress Madeline in her new cape. It was the latest style and had pretty buttons from Maman’s button box. “But Maman,” Claire objected, “her béret is not finished, I still need a little piece of ribbon. May I look in your sewing box?” “Of course, petite, see what you can find,” agreed Maman.
From her own sewing box, Clair took the little béret she had been making when the pattern appeared in La Semaine de Suzette three weeks earlier. It was made from a scrap of leftover wool felt. Claire took the hat along to Maman’s room where her sewing box sat on the bureau. In it, wound on a card, Claire found a length of gros grain ribbon.
“This will be just right for Maddy’s new béret,” thought Claire.
With little scissors, she carefully snipped the wool to make an opening to pass the ribbon through. “Look, Madeline,” Claire exclaimed, “here is your new béret!” She tried it on and admired the effect, turning it so the ribbon was on one side like the illustration in La Semaine de Suzette.
Maman smiled at her daughter’s millinery effort. “That looks nice, Claire,” she said. “Why don’t we take Madeline on an outing this morning, since she looks so well-dressed? Go and put on your own coat and hat,” she directed, “and meet me in the hall as quickly as you can.”
“Mais oui, Maman!” Claire agreed happily. In a few minutes Claire and her maman were walking down the street with Madeline riding along in Claire’s small shopping bag. Madeline had her shopping bag, too, made by Grand-mère’s steel crochet hook. Soon they were walking along the left bank of the river Seine, along a broad and busy street. Claire saw that it was Quai des Grands Augustins. Perhaps they were headed to the big department store, Samaritaine. But near the Ponf Neuf, Maman crossed the street and directed Claire to a tall building, number 55.
Inside, in an office, behind a desk sat an older lady with a kind smile. “Bon jour, Madame de Laroche,” said Maman. “Show Madame de Laroche your Madeline,” Maman said to Claire, with a gesture toward the lady. At once the lady rose and came around the desk to see Claire’s doll. “Ah, bonjour, Bleuette! What a pretty cape and hat you have!” she said. “I expect you would like to see our little shop,” and she motioned Claire to follow her.
They climbed a staircase to the next floor, and Madame opened a door. Inside was a room all arranged like a shop, with shelves, counters, and displays, all filled with things for Bleuette! There were Bleuettes, too, with red hair and dark hair. Claire held Madeline up to see all the exciting things on display.
As Maman and Madame de Laroche chatted, Claire looked wide-eyed at the Bleuettes and their goods: shoes, stockings, hats, bags, lingerie, dresses, nightgowns, coats, and even a school bag.
Claire noticed a béret Escholier, named after the famous author. It had a jaunty decoration and was made of black taffeta. “Oh,” thought Claire, “it is like Béret de taffetas, the one in Suzette’s Week! How lucky for me I can sew that same thing for Madeline. I will ask Maman for some black taffeta.”
Maman approached and whispered to Claire, “You may choose one item for Madeline, but it must cost 2,50 francs or less.” Claire saw that the béret Escholier cost that much, but no, that was not what she wanted for Madeline. Claire quickly chose the beautiful leather bottines with laces and a pom-pon on the top.
Madeline would like to wear these with her new cape and felt béret. Maman told Claire she had chosen well, and paid for the boots. Madame de Laroche wrapped the boots, and Claire put them in her shopping bag, tucking Madeline inside safely as well. “Merci, Madame! Au revoir! ” said Claire. Maman said, “Au revoir, Jacqueline, et merci!” “Au revoir,” said Madame de Laroche.
Back on the street again, Claire walked along in a happy dream, imagining all the lovely things she had seen and the new garments she might sew for her Bleuette. Smiling, Claire thought, “There is so much to look forward to, for Bleuette and me!”