David Escobedo Combines a Fantasy Backstory With Classic Designs

David Escobedo, of D.A.E. Originals.

The blockbuster success of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie proves that the film-going public can’t get enough of cin­ematic backdrops and shapely plastic protagonists. It’s not a surprise to collectors who have known for decades that their dolls are every inch the stars and that their costumes and accessories would be right at home on a film set.

Doll aficionados have always recognized that the dressing and re-dressing of their vinyl playthings is akin to a Hollywood wardrobe manager organizing screen tests and deciding if the leading ladies and men are ready for their close-ups. Doll art­ist David Escobedo is particularly aware of the connections be­tween vintage movie glamour, the power of a compelling fan­tasy backstory, and the allure of dolls as human surrogates and stand-ins.

“Yes, I do turn to the Old Hollywood designers, as well as famous clothing designers that even Hollywood turned to in order to render movie magic,” Escobedo said. “I like my dolls to portray an aura of high class. Like most collectors, I like my dolls to represent the life I feel is an ideal of a bygone time. I don’t focus on the social issues of those years — prejudice, ageism, classism, or the patriarchy. I want just the beautiful clothes that were made in this era.”

Escobedo, the creative force behind D.A.E. Originals, is immersed in the make-believe world of opulence, luxury, and stunning sophistication. His company’s tagline fittingly declares, “Extravagance in Doll Design,” and the Arizona businessman follows that proclamation every time he sits down to dream up another costuming ensemble or doll set.

“My dolls represent costumes that I know I could never wear or could never afford — true haute couture. Heaven knows how much I spend in clothing my dolls as opposed to what I spend on my own clothes,” Esc­obedo said.

Circa 1966, Bewitching Hostess is limited to 12 pieces. The ensemble, modeled by Vivian, is an offering from the Celebrations collection. The outfit features a silver palazzo jumpsuit. It is complemented by a green chiffon sash and a full-circle green chiffon caftan. The “hostess with the mostest” also comes with martini glasses and a silver serving tray, crystal jewelry, and stunning silver shoes.
Limited to 12, the Champagne Cocktail outfit is a nod to 1954 sophistication. It is part of the Celebrations collection. Modeled by Vivian, the dress is made from satin and overlaid with vintage black lace. The ensemble has many accessories, including crystal jewelry, gloves, a hat, a clutch bag, and pumps.
Dig That Sound! is Monty’s way of showcasing his incredible hi-fi record player. Part of the Celebrations collection, it proves that even the everyday moments are worth celebrating. Limited to 10, the relaxing outfit (circa 1959) consists of a martini glass, along with green herringbone trousers, a white turtleneck, a vintage cardigan sweater, socks, and tan casual shoes. The ensemble even boasts a functioning turntable that plays three changeable records!
There have been many bridal offerings from D.A.E. Originals. In the above photo of a past nuptial design, Monty is clad in his Cashmere Tuxedo and is enthralled by Vivian in her Blushing Bride costume.

During his childhood, Escobedo was fascinated by dolls, and he gleefully played with them and, more importantly, sewed for them. Acknowledged as a “child prodigy” when it came to de­signing and making clothes for his own dolls, Escobedo was soon fulfilling orders from his friends’ parents who wanted him to custom-make outfits for their children’s Barbies and Sasha dolls. He said, “D.A.E. started as a company with my mother’s help when I was 10 years old. It is the initials for David Aaron Esc­obedo, and my mother helped me to come up with this name.” Escobedo’s commitment to bringing dolls to life via their fashion choices and overall styling has not faded since his youthful, play­ful days. It has only intensified over the ensuing decades.

One of the reasons why the dolls he makes seem so vibrant and alive is that they are created to resemble department-store fashion mannequins that spring to life when the doors close for the night. This belief that dolls have a secret after-hours exis­tence is nothing new for the artist. “As a kid, I grew up with dolls as playthings and also created them in cloth or in porce­lain. I always felt that my dolls came to life when I was asleep at night,” he said. It is not surprising, then, to learn that the 1987 romance-comedy Mannequin is one of his favorite films, and the Twilight Zone episode “The After Hours” figures as his pri­mary influence. Both of these stories center around nighttime at a store, and not every department is silent.

These three D.A.E. Original versions of Vivian feature an array of hair colors: raven, platinum, and redhead. The beauties are clad in formfitting undergarments. Created in 2021, this collection of dolls called Dressing for Dinner featured the foundation lingerie along with a matching chiffon caftan/dressing gown and jewelry, stockings, and shoes.
Created in 2022 for the Metro Dolls luncheon, in an edition of 15, the 16-inch Vivian doll is clad in a reproduction of an outfit worn by Jane Russell in the musical-comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The dark-haired temptress is posed here with Monty, who is wearing the Tennis, Anyone? exclusive.

Escobedo’s fictional department store, Diamonds, is an homage to the palace-like stores that well-to-do patrons would frequent in pre-World War II America and beyond (before the advent of websites and internet purchasing). It is a testament to the large, cavernous stores that customers always migrated to when they wanted to buy a cocktail dress for a significant soirée or a gown for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Ladies and gentlemen headed to these “cathedrals of commerce,” and they bought clothing that transported them to other worlds and other opportunities. “My fictional Diamonds store is where my miniquins live. It’s where they see and feel what the shoppers experience, and it’s where they act out those emotions at night.” For Escobedo, it is a merging of magic, historically accurate wardrobes, and wish fulfillment.

Circa 1959, Snapshot! is limited to 10. The Celebrations collection outfit is what Monty decided to wear when he photographed the big college football game. It was a Saturday afternoon and he needed to look and feel his best. The ensemble features midnight blue pants, a collarless plaid wool jacket, navy blue socks, penny loafers, a straw hat, and a black plastic camera.
Limited to 12, Curtain Call is the height of sophistication for 1965. Viola wears the gorgeous two-piece suit made of pink-and-gold brocade. The fitted jacket and sleeveless dress are beaded, featuring pink-and- gold crystals. Part of the Celebrations collection, the outfit also includes pink pumps, a beaded evening cap, an evening bag, short gloves, and crystal jewelry.
Part of the past Romance Reborn collection, the Equestrian outfit was designed to spotlight Vivian’s athleticism, style, and wealth. It keys in to the aspirational and socially upscale world that many of the D.A.E. costumes reflect.

“The department store is a way to make fabulous fashions from those eras and the great designers who were both French and Americans. I am a true Dior fan! As the Depression rolled along, the 1930s had movie-time chic; the 1940s had the war and the New Look; the 1950s was American know-how, sports­wear, and prosperity. The 1960s was great fashion with a lot of social and economic changes. Through it all, we humans have thrived, and my dolls will do the same!” Escobedo said.

Currently, the three main miniquins are Vivian and Viola (16 inches) and Monty (17 inches). Vivian and Monty, who ap­pear with different hair colors at different times, are fated to be sweethearts. They have learned how to love by witnessing the hopeful clients who come to Diamonds for their dream-come-true wedding attire and other milestone ensembles. They have learned about empathy and heartbreak when customers come to the store with sorrow on their minds and tragedy in their souls. It is a very dramatic and engaging origin story, which Esc­obedo and his former life partner, Brian, conjured up. It was fleshed out by their friend Kathleen Rowell. Viola is a sophisti­cated African American miniquin with the aura of Lena Horne or Dorothy Dandridge.

These three miniquins are the vehicles whereby Escobedo can drape his imagination and his ambitions. “They are blank canvases that I can wrap my dreams around, reinterpret from season to season, and keep in perfect condition. I’ll always reno­vate and reinvent when necessary,” he said. To this end, he is currently working on smaller, 12-inch versions of the dolls.

For 2024 and 2025, Escobedo plans to revisit his couture roots and design mini garments and accessories that hail from the 1930s to the early 1970s. He said, “I will re-introduce my Metamorphosis line of dolls and clothes. This new line debuted 20 years ago but never went into production. We’re looking into re-launching this modern and futuristic line with the original dolls, as well as new characters. I can’t wait to show everybody what I’ve been working on.”

D.A.E. Originals


For 2024, the Celebrations collection unveils brand-new wedding finery. Circa 1966 in its tailoring and mood, it spotlights Monty’s Summer Wedding look, Vivian’s Bridal Beauty gown, and Viola’s Maid of Honor attire. It is evocative of a glamorous era from more than 50 years ago.