Friday, May 15, 2015

A Dolly World Visit With Kathy van Beuningen, Doll Costume Designer and Doll Collector

Today I am sharing with you about one of the most amazing Fandom Cross Overs I have ever seen. Kathy van Beuningen has creates some of the most fantastic costumes for her dolls and shares her love with others by showcasing her creations this month at the Joliet Museum in Joliet IL.
Kathy kindly shares with us her photos and here creations a long with answers to questions I sent her.
Kathy tell my readers about why you do what you do and how you do it? "I make my Star Wars doll costumes out of whatever I can find that will create the desired effect and be as accurate to each character as possible. I use fabric and leather scraps from other completed projects and fashion other parts out of things that would otherwise be thrown away.  The dolls’ costumes are mostly made out of recycled materials.  I research the costumes in books and on the Internet.  I start by designing and creating the patterns I would need for the various components of each costume, working in layers. I draft the pieces to make the parts for the little costumes out of used paper."
"I enjoy finding creative solutions to the projects I intend to build.  I have found many, otherwise disposable, items useful for building the doll costumes such as: scraps of wood, plastic, discarded pieces of packaging from candy, food and household products, aluminum cans, buttons, plastic bottles, caps and lids, wire coat hangers, shoe forms, broken jewelry & toys, used-up office supplies, empty pens, toothpicks, thumb tacks, beads, marbles, empty thread spools and pretty much anything that would otherwise be thrown away.   I also find useful pieces of junk outdoors on the streets and sidewalks and in the alleys."
"I usually prefer to use 18” ‘American Girl’ type dolls for my doll costumes. I have found many of the dolls that I use to build these costumes at local resale stores.  Now they have a second-life as characters from the Star Wars universe and other genres.  I do occasionally purchase other necessary things such as glue, paint, modeling clay, doll stands and sometimes shoes.  For the most part, I try to recreate, re-use and re-purpose as much as I am able.  I discovered that building the Star Wars costumes for the 18” scale dolls is a great way to research costumes that I would like to build in the future or celebrate favorite Star Wars characters."
"The faces of several of these dolls (Darth Maul, Queen Amidalas, Lando Calrissian doll) are hand-painted by my husband, Vince Newkirk."

Tell us which is the hardest costume you have made.
  "The hardest costume???? Hmmmmmm.  Most of them do offer me some sort of a challenge that can sometimes take me years to resolve......but the costumes that did take the longest to build are the Queen Amidala costumes."

Tell us how you got started...
" I am a Chicago artist and I am a member of both the 501st & Rebel Legion fan costuming groups since 2000. I started building these doll costumes in 2002. I currently have over 2 dozen different costumes/characters that span the saga and I am working on & planning to build more. Each doll takes, on average, a several months to complete. I try to make each one as detailed as I am able and try to re-create these to be as accurate as I am able by making every piece of each doll costume like a full-sized version of the costume whenever possible."

"I have been exhibiting them at public libraries, museums and conventions where they have been extremely popular.
I currently have built 30 different Star Wars costume replicas for my dolls, as well as a group of "Harry Potter" and "Wizard of Oz" doll costumes and I am working on others.
I have displayed my dolls at conventions in Los Angeles, California (2007) and in Tokyo, Japan (2008), as well as at some local conventions over the years. They did attract attention, especially from the younger generation. Their scale, familiar format, subject matter and friendly nature makes them accessible and appealing to children of all ages."

"Several years ago, the Director of Youth Services at the Joliet Public Library had made a request concerning a stronger female presence from our costuming group for their library's annual "Star Wars Day" to attract the interest of and appeal to little girls who visit the library. When I read about this, I immediately thought of the dolls I had built at that time (about eight) and offered them for display at the event. Most girls are familiar with the historic-themed American Girl dolls and all of the related story books. I reasoned that seeing the familiar dolls in Star Wars outfits may inspire many little girls to become interested in reading more about these characters. I built two new dolls for this event, because I wanted them to reflect the multi-cultural diversity of the community and in our Star Wars community."

 "My dolls were such a hit at the library event in 2012, that they were requested as a promotional display the following year at the Joliet Area History Museum. I built several more dolls to add to my collection. Then they were on display at the Joliet Area History Museum in May and June of 2013.
When I learned that the Skokie Public Library had requested our Star Wars costuming group's presence at their "Star Wars Extravaganza" event in 2013, I contacted the library with the offer to display my dolls there. The dolls were so popular, that they were on display there from late October through early December 2013.
24 of my dolls were on exhibit again last year at the Joliet Public Library in May and June. They were the featured display in July and August 2014 at the Lincolnwood Public Library in conjunction with their "Star Wars Reads" day after I contacted the Lincolnwood Public Library District and offered the exhibit for display."

"28 of my Star Wars dolls, as well as related books from my collection, were on exhibit at the Skokie Public Library again in September and October 2014 in conjunction with their "Star Wars Extravaganza II" event that occurred in October 2014."

"In November 2014, my dolls were on display at the Vernon Area Public Library District and the Niles Public Library in conjunction with their "Mini Comic Con" event that took place on November 8th (VAPLD) and Niles Public Library's "Fandom Fest" event occurring on November 23rd after both libraries reached out to our group about making an appearance for their event"

"Both libraries were very excited about my new "Harry Potter/Hogwarts" theme dolls as well as the Star Wars dolls, since their events encompassed all genres of fandom and the Harry Potter book series is very popular with all ages.  I had originally set up 18 of my dolls, 14 Star Wars characters and 4 "Hogwarts / Harry Potter" student dolls at the Vernon Area Public Library District in Lincolnshire, IL on October 30th to help them generate interest in their "Mini Comic Con" event that took place on November 8th. This was the first time that I had ever exhibited the Hogwarts dolls in public.  Several days later, I went back to the Vernon Library to change the doll display to show the other dolls in the cases and remove some of the dolls so I could make a display at the Niles Public Library. Since the Vernon Area Library made such a generous effort to get those display cases for my dolls, I wanted them to get as much use out of them as possible. Several of my dolls were also guests at the Springfield Doll booth at the Chicago International Toy and Game Fair in November 2014."

"In April 2015, five of my Star Wars dolls were on display at Star Wars Celebration VII in Anaheim, Califorina.  They were 'on loan' to the Rancho Obi-Wan Museum exhibit at the convention.  J.J. Abrams (director) and Kathleen Kennedy (President of LucasFilmLtd) loved them when they toured the exhibit.  I am sure that many of the 60,000+ attendees at the convention were able to see them as well."

"Currently, I do not have any other exhibition dates / locations planned.  However, if the opportunity arises, I will definitely display them again! I am hoping to display the group later this year in Milwaukee, WI at Discovery World for their Star Wars event in October 2015."

What made you start creating Starwars Costumes for Dolls?

"My daughter received her American Girl doll (Kirsten) for her birthday in 2002.  I had been building child-sized re-creations of different Queen Amidala & Padme costumes for her to wear for many different conventions and events since 1999.  After she had recived her doll, she wanted to bring it along to a convetion we were attending.  I told her that she couldn't be toting along a doll dressed in a late 1800's Scandinavian pioneer girl outfit to a SciFi convention, but maybe I could put together a more appropriate outfit for her doll to wear.  Then I made her doll a Princess Leia outfit for the convention.  The folllowing year I created a new Padme costume for my daughter and decided that she could show her 'daughter' Leia.  However, since Leia does have a twin brother, Luke, I decided that I would need to get another doll and build a Luke Skywalker outfit too, so that the presentation would make sence;  my daughter as the 'mother' and the dolls as the twins."
"after that, I started building a few more doll-sized Star Wars costumes for various reasons & because they are fun to build."

What is your favorite costumes to make currently?
 " I would have to say the Queen Amidala costumes, but those also take the longest to build, several months or more for each one."
If you would like to contact Kathy van Beuningen she has asked that I share her Facebook page information, to contact her directly please click here.
The details are just so amazing don't you think?
 So what is Kathy working on now I asked....

"Wizard of Oz dolls.  I am still working on that group.....I want to find a different doll for Glynda & eventually build the other main characters as well."

I want to thank Kathy for sharing her story and her amazing work with us all today! If you are lucky enough to live in the Illinois area please visit her dolls at the
Now it is your turn to share, I invite you to share your story, your passion, your collection and more by emailing me at
As with all my posts I would love to hear from you so please leave me a comment here or email me at


  1. We LOVE Kathy's dolls! Thank you for featuring them here!

  2. I LOVE Star Wars and I LOVE 18inch dolls. I think Kathy's work is amazing! Thank you for sharing, Karen!