You know where most of my time, energy and money goes regarding my dolls? This goes for 1:6 action figs, BJDs and my digital models. It goes to CLOTHES. I spend the most money not on the basic figures themselves or sets or accessories, but outfits. And I spend time not on scripting, lighting, posing, shooting or editing, but dressing and undressing.
I have a barrelful of deeply emotional and aesthetic reasons for enjoying dolls, but I would like to add a simple, not-so-profound one to the list. Dressing up and down is FUN. Dressing one’s own human self up and down is often limited by available funds or available sizes, while dressing small replicas of people up and down tends to be cheaper and less hampered by sizing problems. Besides being less expensive and also easier than dressing oneself up and down, dressing dolls up and down also offers the pleasures of an open-ended puzzle in which one keeps rearranging elements to achieve some desired solution or look.
Furthermore, dressing dolls up and down provides a challenge — to successfully dress/undress the doll — than can be as simple or as complex as one wishes. For example, one can have a general goal [i.e., winter clothes suitable for a background character] or a more elusive, yet specific goal [i.e., something for a male character that highlights gender ambiguity and play without crossing into the stereotypical territory of transvestite or drag queen, while containing high levels of pink and orange, as well as high heels and something form-fitting]. [The last is usually my general set of provisions when choosing clothes for Will.] Because the level of sophistication is determined entirely by the doll owner’s level of interest, doll dressing/undressing can, in many cases, be both a challenge with a series of obstacles and a deeply satisfying endeavor.
Dressing dolls up and down seems to be such an integral part of the way that doll owners use their dolls that I sometimes think that people get dolls solely to take their clothes off and put them back on. Clothing removal and addition is a major way that people play with their dolls. It’s a version of the child’s game of “dress up,” which entails formulating strange outfits from the leftovers of hand-me-downs and old costumes. By this analogy, doll dressing/undressing furthers no greater goal [i.e., the dolls aren’t necessarily dressing up to go somewhere] and has no deeper meaning. It’s simply an end in and of itself.
P.S. Purveyors of paper dolls understand the sheer joy that comes from dressing/undressing dolls, and they exploit this to its logical extremity. Paper dolls remove the extraneous details from a doll — articulation, eyes, hair, even its very three-dimensionality — in favor of a mere base upon which different outfits can be applied.