Megan Paulson Stitches Together Past and Present through Barbie Dolls

With ginger hair and a wrapped plaid kilt, the Ken Doll resembling the character Jamie Fraser on the hit Starz show “Outlander” sits in Adams Hall. Despite looking like a figure found in the 18th century, this doll was sewn and created entirely by Megan Paulson, Instructor in History. This doll, among others, is part of Paulson’s extensive collection of handmade Barbie costumes and furniture.

“The passion stems from the doing and getting engrossed in labor intensive projects. I get hyperfocused and do it for long periods of time, and I’ll stay up all night doing one. It’s the finished project, but I don’t need anyone to see them or appreciate them. I just like doing it and I think it looks really neat,” said Paulson.

Paulson began making her costumes and furniture last year when she bought a Barbie couch for her daughter and realized she could make one herself from a spaghetti box. Since then, Paulson has created objects from everyday materials.

“If you do something a lot, you kind of get better at it. I always liked making things. When I was ten or 11-years old, I was in 4H (Future Farmers of America), and we used to make tack for model horses. I used to hand sew saddles and bridles for 15-inch model horses. For a lot of time, my creativity went into my studies, so writing and researching history. I rediscovered how cathartic and relaxing crafting is,” said Paulson.

Channeling her role as a teacher on campus, Paulson makes a concerted effort to keep the designs she makes historically accurate through means of research. To develop the authenticity of her craft process, she watches videos on fashion during particular time periods.

“I exhaustively research either period costumes, so I have to figure out the names of things… I just finished a Caraco jacket, which is an eighteenth-century style jacket for men and women, usually women, and while I’m looking these things up, I don’t know initially what these things are called so I have to do a lot of digging and uncovering,” said Paulson.

The final product can usually be found as an image of a scene with a witty caption on Paulson’s Facebook page. These scenes are shots of her dolls recreating modern social commentary misunderstandings, such as a doll talking nonstop to her exhausted best friend. According to Paulson, students in Adams Hall, where she is a house counselor, help her in creating the captions to her photos.

Natalie Warren ’18, who lives in Adams Hall, said, “Knowing Ms. Paulson and the way her mind works, it’s such a perfect outlet for everything that she loves. It’s like breaking down the superficialness that is Barbie and turning it into something out of a history book. I think it’s the most unique, Ms. Paulson thing I’ve ever seen and I love it.”