October 3, 2010

Clara Walk's Fashionable Barbie Boutique...

Every little girl who lived on Cherry Lane in the seventies knew about Clara Walk’s fashionable, affordable Barbie boutique.

I met Clara not long after moving onto the street. She was the matriarch of the weekly coffee klatch, having teen aged children and beyond. I learned a lot from Clara. And, not just about children either, though she clearly had a soft spot for little ones and a great flair for doll fashion.

My first taste of Clara’s Barbie fashion designs came when I accompanied a friend to Clara’s. Her daughter’s new Barbie needed a wardrobe.

The array of outfits that Clara offered for Barbie was astounding. She not only sewed the tiny garments she created on the sewing machine, but she hand stitched embellishments such as flowers, pearls, buttons, and fancy pockets. She crocheted and knitted suits, coats, hats, caps, and scarves. Barbie could be outfitted for everything from tennis lessons to ball room dancing to playing in the snow in a matter of minutes, all right in Clara’s living room. (Barbies on Cherry Lane needed a lot of winter clothes as they lived near the snow belt in Ohio).

Barbie could even go to work in the board room with her two piece black suit in a soft wool, paired with her smart white silk blouse, her red knit cashmere scarf and beret. Clara would add a black shoulder bag and black pumps, for a mere fifty cents more, to finish the outfit. Her pieces sold for a dollar or two, well below store prices and far outlasted their store counterparts. What she earned could never have covered her expenses or her time. Yet, she loved designing and making the tiny garments for dolls of the neighborhood children. And, eventually for her own little grand daughter, now grown and with a little Barbie doll girl of her own!

The neighborhood girls were welcomed at Clara’s door to peruse her Barbie collection any time.

I watched Clara treat the girls with patience and kindness as they labored over their decisions and each item of clothing, weighing each against the money in their pockets. She never rushed them. She respected their choices, and only made suggestions when they were pairing stripes with plaids.
Whether it was a fancy evening dress with a glittery wrap, or a cotton tunic, or a corduroy vest, each piece of clothing was lovingly tucked inside a clear plastic bag to ensure it went into Barbie’s wardrobe just as it came off the rack in Clara’s work shop.

I don’t know the story behind why Clara created a boutique of clothes for Barbie but I do know she made many little girls very happy, including my three.
She worked toward customer satisfaction, which she always got in the way of a big smile when the child walked out her door.

Clara is gone now as is the Barbie boutique. But I am confident if I searched through some drawers or an old box of doll clothes I’d come up with a piece or two from Clara’s collection. The clothes, like the wisdom Clara imparted, made our lives richer.

It really is the littlest things that count.

8 comments:

  1. I loved Barbies growing up! I never had one! When I was in college, I finally bought one because I did not want to die without owning a single one!

    I would have loved Clara, had I met her!!

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  2. This brought a tear to my eye! My grandmother and great-aunt outfitted my Barbies with stunning homemade outfits, including hand-knit sweaters and skirts and purses and a whole bridal ensemble...somewhere along the way, during one of our marital moves my Barbies and their 'trousseau' got left behind....I still mourn the loss!
    Thank you for a beautiful post!

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  3. Lluvia, I'm so happy you got a Barbie in college. Eventually your little one will love all those dolls to dress up.

    And thanks Pam for being able to connect to this story about Clara. She was something.
    Blessings.

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  4. What a wonderful story. Clara was a wise teacher, wasn't she? As a Barbie loving girl, I would have been completely smitten with her and the clothes she created.

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  5. I couldn't even imagine making those clothes for Barbie. That would have been challenging, and my eyes would have gone wonky. Clara must have been a wonderful and patient woman. :)

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  6. Barb, that was a wonderful essay! I don't remember Clara....did she still live there when I did? What house was she in? Not having girls, I wasn't into Barbie...more G.I. Joe and Star Wars in my house! Wonder what happened to some of the other neighbors on Cherry Lane? We drove through there last June, and the street looked so totally different. The people in our house changed it so much we hardly recognized it! Hope all is well with you and yours!

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  7. Loved this story mom... We have so many wonderful memories of Cherry Lane!!

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  8. Clara must have been very talented. I can't imagine making clothing so small. I had one Barbie as a child, she had that beautiful blond pony tail. I washed it and it turned to what resembled straw!

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