By Chloe Sweet @chloesweet
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Videographer / director: Adams Wood
Producer: Chloe Sweet, James Thorne
Editor: James Thorne
Childhood sweethearts Madeline and Malachi Dressel, both aged 35, are obsessed with collecting all things vintage. Their home in South Carolina is filled with antique furniture, appliances and decorations. But the thing that stands out the most is their impressive collection of vintage dolls.
Since starting their unlikely hobby, they have acquired over 200 dolls, including 30 life-sized dolls. Some of their favourite dolls have individual names, such as “Polly-Marie” and “Sarah-Anne”.
The couple met when they were children - their parents were friends and their mothers even shared the same midwife. Their romantic relationship began five years ago and now they are happily married.
Madeline told Barcroft TV: “We're pretty much obsessed with anything vintage.
“The majority of our collection together, especially the large dolls, has been the last three years.
“About 2016 is when we stumbled upon the first big [doll] at the thrift store. And it really grew from there.”
Madeline has loved dolls for as long as she can remember, but Malachi only discovered his passion for collecting “plastic children" after moving in with Madeline. He describes his childhood as a "quintessential male upbringing in the US" and was always encouraged to play with something “manly". But today, his love of dolls is just a strong as his wife’s.
Malachi told Barcroft TV: “She has certain ones that are just hers and then I have ones that are mine.”
Since 2016, they have both grown their “family" of over 200 dolls and even take candid family photos together for their Instagram page (@all.my.plastic.children). Their account has nearly one thousand followers and is full of idyllic photos of their adorable "family".
Some examples of their photos include the dolls playing in the garden, baking or having tea parties together.
The account pokes fun at friends who post staged photos of their family and ask why the couple haven’t had any real children of their own.
But they say the dolls are not a replacement for children – they just love to play, restore and create scenes with dolls, claiming it gives them a creative outlet to have fun with. The couple are self-aware and have even made memes about their dolls.
Madeline said: "If we are going to be the creepy doll people, we are going to own it."
As well as collecting dolls, they regularly hunt in thrift stores for vintage children's clothing to dress the dolls in. Some of the dolls are over 50 years old, so they pamper them with “spa days” where they spend hours cleaning and restoring them.
Madeline and Malachi have a number of friends who are equally enthusiastic about doll collecting, however some people in their circle don’t understand the her and her husband’s hobby.
They convinced Malachi’s friend Michael to come to one of their dolls’ tea parties, in celebration of Madeline’s birthday. Michael is not a doll collector and had not been introduced to all of their “children”.
Talking about his best friend, Malachi said: "He's seen a few [of the dolls]… He has not seen the quantity, of which we have a mass at this point.”
Michael admitted he found the collection slightly creepy and overwhelming, however ultimately he thinks their hobby is “amazing".
Michael told Barcroft TV: “I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The fact that they are so candid and really don’t care what other people think. That’s one of the reasons why I love both of them. They are some of the weirdest, most upfront people.”
Madeline and Malachi aren’t embarrassed or ashamed of their collection. In fact, they love to show it off.
Madeline said: “I'm not shy about showing people the Instagram.
“When I get that dreaded question, “What do you do for fun?” - well, let me show you what I do for fun and we'll find out if we're going to be friends or not.”