Estelle Ansley Worrell Collection

Identifier: MSS.0808

  • Staff Only

Scope & Contents Note

This .21 linear foot collection contains twenty-two folders with original ink and pencil illustrations. The contents consist of 198 ink costume drawings (three of which are second versions), twenty-four pages of patterns and handwritten text, seven pages of pencil drawings, and two book jackets, all from her book Early American Costume. The scope is limited to the preparation and publication of this book. Many of her images are signed and dated 1974 and the book was released in 1975.

The folders one through nineteen are labeled with the folder’s heading, a parenthetical number (corresponding with the figure number from Early American Costume), date of the fashion, and a short descriptor of the image (taken from Worrell’s explanation of the images in her book). Folder twenty contains drawings and writing on constructing the costumes. It is labeled with the folder’s heading, a parenthetical number if available (indicating the page number from Early American Costume), the composition (whether drawing or manuscript), and description. The contents of folder twenty-one is labeled by the page’s available information, including the folder heading, book page number, date of fashion and identifying description. Most of Worrell’s ink drawings are signed with her initials in ink or pencil, although some are signed in pencil with her full name and date.


  • 1970s

Language of Materials


Biographical Sketch

Estelle Ansley Worrell was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and grew up in Mount Pleasant and Nashville, Tennessee. In 1951, she graduated from George Peabody College with a degree in Art Education and later studied at the Kansas City Art Institute. Her career as a book author and illustrator, costume designer, puppetry expert, and educator have has earned her national accreditation and international acclaim. Overall, she has published ten books, all of which she illustrated herself, and served as a national authority on period dress, costume design, puppetry, teddy bears, doll-making, historical biographies, and miniatures.

Worrell began her career as an author with how-to books on creating miniature costumes and furniture. Her initial success came from The Dollhouse Book. The volume set a record at the Van Nostrand Reinhold publishing company by selling out in only three weeks. It prompted a national book tour and an appearance on NBC’s Today Show. The show received a record mail response that was held for many years following. Worrell followed with a companion book, The Doll Book. Worrell’s Be a Puppeteer! Was included in the Child Study Association of America’s “Children’s Books of the Year,” and won international acclaim by the Canadian Puppetry Association. One of Worrell’s puppetry supporters include Big Bird, who reviewed her book on Sesame Street. Moreover, Jim Henson (The Muppets) and Carol Spinney (“Big Bird”) attended one of Worrell’s beginning puppetry classes while on a business trip to Nashville. Worrell’s volume, Early American Costume, was endorsed and recommended by the Early American Society, and some of her illustrations were included in the American Bi-Centennial celebration in Reader’s Digest. Worrell’s second Today Show appearance was an interview with Barbara Walters, and came after the release of her fourth book, Americana in Miniature. This title was selected by the English Speaking Union of the United States to be an “Ambassador book” and teaching tool for educating children in foreign countries about American culture. Worrell expanded her expertise to teddy bears with the book, Classic Teddy Bear Designs. This title was acclaimed the best-selling how-to teddy bear book in the United States by the Teddy Bear and Friends magazine.

Her other titles include Dolls, Puppedolls, Teddy Bears, Make Your Own Miniature Rooms, and Children’s Costume in America. Her work as an educator spanned from the Art Institute to part-time teaching at the University of Tennessee, Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Columbia Community College, and Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Historic Preservation. She is currently at work on two books, one about vintage hats and the other dollhouses. She survived her husband of sixty-two years, who passed in 2012, and has four children and five grandchildren.


.21 Linear Feet (1 Half Hollinger)

Physical Location

Special Collections & Archives

Provenance Statement

The collection was donated to the Vanderbilt Special Collections Library in 2012 by the illustrator’s daughter, Elizabeth Worrell Braswell.

Finding Aid for the Estelle Ansley Worrell Collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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