“What happens at Doll Club…

… stays at Doll Club.”

This is my husband’s favorite mantra the one Sunday a month I pack up a few of my dollies and drive an hour to meet my fellow doll collectors at Lakeland in central Florida. There are about a dozen of us, and we’ve been meeting for about six years, after I gathered the initial group in my home shortly after moving to the state. Through the years, some members have come and gone, although a hard-core group of committed doll enthusiasts loyally attend each meeting.

January 2015 meeting of the Central FL Doll Club

My Lakeland friends and I got to know one another mostly online through an active doll board called Prego. When I moved to Florida eight years ago, I found myself missing my old group—the Capital Doll Club in Washington, DC. I had also been recruited to that group via Prego. I advertised a doll to sell, and when I got the buyer’s address, I saw that she lived just down the street from me. She invited me to her club’s meeting, and I was delighted to be able to meet other collectors in person rather than online. As a charter UFDC group, the Capital Doll Club was well-organized, holding meetings throughout the year, creating prizes for charity auctions, and sharing and teaching their various doll-related artistic skills.

Thanksgiving 2014 themed meeting
Thanksgiving 2014 themed meeting

Having to leave my DC dolly friends when my husband and I relocated to Florida left me feeling isolated in my quirky hobby that no one except a small niche of collectors understands. After searching for and not finding a fashion doll club in my area, I began recruiting from Prego. The number of people who responded showed me there was an unmet need there. So, as my husband ran out the door, my soon-to-be new dolly friends arrived, and we agreed that this was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Valentine’s Day display

After struggling to find a place to meet regularly, one of our members offered the use of the club house in her retirement community. Each month, we decide on a theme, bring in dolls illustrating that theme, and hold an informal competition. Occasionally one of our members will give a little presentation to share his/her artistic skills with us. I’ve attended several doll shows and conventions with my Florida dolly friends, and some relationships have turned into good friendships beyond our shared love of dolls.

Our group ranges vastly in age, from preteens to sixty-somethings. The kids are usually the daughters or granddaughters of members, and they usually bring their Barbie or Monster High dolls. Some of our teenagers bring their BJDs. Our members are gifted seamstresses, photographers, crafters, and re-rooters. Some—like me—excel primarily at hoarding.

Younger members of the Central FL Doll Club
The junior members of the Central FL Doll Club

While I highly recommend seeking out a doll club in your local area, I recognize that it’s often easier said than done. There aren’t very many of us out there, and finding enough people to organize into a group—especially if you live outside of a major metropolitan area—can be difficult, if not impossible. While starting your own club is always an option—and I highly recommend it if you find enough interested people in your area—online forums can be the next best thing. I myself have been a member of the fashion doll board Prego for more than a decade, and there are many other similar doll forums out there.

Club members frequently bring in dolls to sell
Club members frequently bring in dolls to sell

I find that the bond I share with my doll friends is very unlike the ones I share with other friends. Doll collecting appeals to a very small group of artsy, quirky people. Many have perfected—even originated—obscure expressions of art, including repainting doll faces, creating miniature scale furniture, constructing exquisite dioramas, hair styling fashion dolls, creating small-scale couture, and other artistic expressions. And, more than any other group I’ve come into contact with in my forty-something years, it takes one to know one. A fellow collector and I may have absolutely nothing more in common than our love of dolls, but, as long as that exists, we will get along just fine. I count among my doll friends people who share pretty much the polar opposite of my religious, political, and social preferences. But in Doll Club, none of that shit matters. (Hell, maybe the secret to World Peace lies in doll collecting …)

Some of out members are skilled photographers
Some of our members are skilled photographers

So I will end this post with encouragement to all those collectors without a club of their own to seek out other local collectors and create your own club. If that’s not possible, become an active member of an online community. You will meet like-minded people from all over the world and expand your horizons in a warm—if occasionally dysfunctional—community of doll enthusiasts.

And if you happen to live in central Florida or within driving distance of Lakeland, shoot me a message. We’d love to invite you into our local dolly cult.

Our dolls love to dress up
Our dolls love to dress up