Cindy Sherman ‘Doll Clothes’

Doll Clothes



I find Cindy Sherman’s 1975 short film, Doll Clothes, quite amusing and entertaining, a departure from many of her grotesque and exaggerated images. Here in this imaginative approach, the doll comes to life and dresses herself rather than being dressed by the child/owner of the doll. The film starts with a child’s book (made by Sherman). The doll wakes up when the book is opened and she walks to the other side of the book in attempt to find a suitable outfit to wear.

This project has been reviewed by some as a feminine stance: “As the doll finds a dress and goes to the mirror to look at herself, a hand picks her up, strips her of the dress, and places her back to her original position….. The hand can be seen as a way to tell women that feminism comes from a place much bigger than one person and involves all women.” [1]
Another source states it is concerned with voyeurism: What Sherman is cleverly doing in this short film is illustrating the idea that we are said to encounter when we go to the cinema. This idea is the idea that we are watching, or “gazing” at something that we shouldn’t be gazing at. The viewer is put into a male gaze. The doll in the scene doesn’t know that we are watching her, but the camera fixates on her. It gets even worse at the end as a spectator in the room undresses her again after she had reached her goal. [2]

I feel the video suggests that we all start from a clean slate, but are cautioned that we may be influenced or conditioned by society and social media. That the clothes we wear may be status symbols for some – posing for society, while for others they may display a personality, make a statement or stem from nature/nurture. It tells me, quite simply, that one should be free to dress however one wishes, where ever and whoever they are. When discussing Doll Clothes in 2006, Sherman explained, ‘When I was a young teenager, I made little drawings of all my clothes and each Sunday night I would figure out my school outfits for the week’. The human hands that appear in the film, the artist suggests, ‘are like the parent telling the child that she is misbehaving and has to stay in the book’.[3]

With regard to the constructed image, much of Sherman’s photography appears to intentionally deceive, disguise or mask true identity. While most of the other photographers I’ve looked at in this module (Crewdson, Wall and Di Corcia) have a tendency towards a more cinematic approach to their tableaux. In Untitled Film Stills Sherman’s photographs recreate actual scenes from movies, In these performances Sherman uses wigs, make-up, expressions and costumes for her characters. Maybe she is not representing anyone in particular, but rather female stereotypes? In all her work she is both the observer and the observed which does raise the question who is being represented, by whom and for whom?

2. Schor, G. (2012) Cindy Sherman: The Early Works 1975–1977: Catalogue Raisonné. Hatje Cantz. Vienna.
3. Sherman, C. Why am I in these photos? Available from: [accessed 18th December 2016]

Cotton, C. (2009). the photograph as contemporary art. Thames and Hudson Ltd. UK.
Sherman, C.  Untitled Film Stills. Available at: [accessed 4th January 2017]