A simple game inspires wonderful memories of Chan Li Teng’s childhood days, which marked the beginnings of her journey to becoming a fashion designer and merchandiser.

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Part of Li Teng’s paper doll collection. Image credit: Chan Li Teng

Seeing my little girl playing with her favourite Barbie doll reminded me of a childhood game – paper dolls.

“Have you heard about a game called paper dolls?” I asked her.

“What are you talking about? Are you referring to the paper dolls used for funerals?” Without waiting for my answer, my little one continued to play with her Barbie dolls. I was amused by her reply.

Paper dolls were played among the children during my childhood days. It was especially popular with the girls. My neighbour, who simply loved this game, introduced it to me and gave me my first paper doll.

All dolled up! Image credit: Chan Li Teng

Under her influence, I began appreciating the art of designing and making paper clothes for the dolls. We would spend our free time looking through fashion magazines and exchanging ideas on creating new designs and beautiful paper clothes.

When I was a child, my mother worked as a dressmaker who sewed dance costumes. Watching her take the measurements of the dancers, cutting and finally transforming the fabric into beautiful costumes gave me inspiration in designing my paper clothes.

I created designs for wedding gowns, party dresses, sports wear and casual wear. Every day, I would spend time playing with my paper dolls, dressing them up in the beautiful clothes that I created. It was fun and  full of excitement.

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Paper Dolls being incorporated as part of a design of Valentine’s Day Card. Image credit : the_vampire_hanna

Naturally, I grew up with the aspiration to be a fashion designer. After I graduated with a Diploma in Fashion Design, I realised that apart from the love for fashion designing, I was also very keen to learn the entire process from the design stage, fabric selection, right to to final production and fitting out. In order to learn the full process, I became a fashion merchandiser in a garment factory where I further developed my experience.

Looking back, a very simple childhood game has given me wonderful memories of my childhood days and opened up a world of creativity to me.

Chan Li Teng’s story first appeared here on the Singapore Memory Project portal. Read more memories of your favourite childhood games here and here – and comment to let us know your own!

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