What was it like to be part of the team who helped develop Felicity? A 26-year veteran of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation opens up about her experience and meeting the founder of the Pleasant Company.
When we put the call out for people of the Foundation to bring their Felicity dolls for a group photo at the Courthouse, little did we know we’d receive an email from someone who had a hand in developing her. And when I say developing her, I mean developing her.
Sandy Bradshaw started her career at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation 26 years ago as an interpreter. After a few years, she got a job as a project manager at the Costume Design Center. One day, a woman walked into the office looking for someone who knew about 18th-century clothing and could draw. A trained artist, Sandy was the only one in the office at the time who had experience with both.
The woman, Pleasant Rowland, founder of the Pleasant Company and American Girl dolls, mentioned she wanted to develop an 18th-century doll in her Historical Characters line. Thus began the doll that would become our beloved Felicity and Sandy joined the team.
Because of Sandy’s experience as an interpreter, she took Pleasant Rowland and her editor, Valerie Tripp, around the Foundation, showing them sites and objects. They even gave her another American Girl doll, Samantha, to study. She designed clothing and accessories and small prototypes were made of shoes, stockings, caps, and Felicity’s iconic red riding cloak.
Sandy said she drew blue four times before finally getting that rich, royal blue for the ball gown Felicity wore to the Governor’s Palace. Plenty of blood, sweat, and tears went into that ball gown!
The team worked to redesign the doll’s body and head to make them more appropriate for the 18th century. The stays wouldn’t fit quite right with the original dolls and her smiled had to be dialed down just a touch. Sandy said a lot of work went into making sure the doll was as authentic to the time period as possible.
Felicity was based on one of the Powell daughters here in Williamsburg. Did you know Felicity’s working name was Lucy? Sandy told me with every sketch she did, the doll was known as Lucy and it wasn’t until much later that her name was changed to Felicity, something they felt was more suitable for the doll.
Sandy received a letter thanking her for her work on Felicity as well as one of the original dolls! When she was working on Felicity (or Lucy), she had no idea how big it would become. She told me it was a lot of fun sending in sketches for approval and going through the process.
“I still get a thrill when I see little girls—or big girls—wearing Felicity clothes that I had a hand in designing, making, guiding,” she said.
I know as someone who got to dress up as Felicity just recently and as someone who has loved her Felicity doll since she was a little girl, I thank Sandy and the entire team for their hard work in helping develop her.
We are the Felicity Generation.