Cecile Chevalier2

Cecile Chavalier circa 1962

Born in 1941 in upstate New York, Cecile “Ceci” Chevalier came from a very well to do family. She attended the finest in private girls schools, took both piano and violin and was on the fast track to “high society” and the very best life had to offer.

However, Ceci had a wild streak within her - something longing to break free of the norm and the prim and proper boundaries that had been set by her parents from day one.

In 1958 at the age of 17, Ceci snuck out of her Niskayuna home and set off with small group fellow students to a wooded area nearby. She drove the group out to the spot in her father’s 1955 Holiday Coup and they proceeded to drink heavily and socialize until shortly before sunrise the following day.

Blocks from home, the drunk Ceci lost control of the vehicle and collided with a tree. While no one was seriously injured, the mere fact that a mixed group of teens were out drinking and possibly more in the woods at night in a stolen vehicle made things ripe for scandal. Ceci was held accountable because she was driving and the majority of the anger about the event rained down on her and her family.

The next two years saw severe ups and downs for Ceci and her family. She was Summa Cum Laude at her school in 1959, but shunned by some of her fellow students thanks to pressure applied by their parents. She was accepted into Cornell University and later that year her father died from a massive heart attack. Devastated, Ceci walled herself up in her mind and became very cold. Her mother pressured her to continue on to Cornell under threat of being shut out of the family’s substantial fortune.

Ceci went on to Cornell, dropping both the nickname Ceci and all intentions of trying to hard to keep her high school level of grades. A year after starting, Cecile dropped out of Cornell and moved in with a young beauty school student named Dinah DuPont that she met through a boy she was dating at the time. Cecile started at DuPont’s school later that year.

The two women were said to be as close as sisters. They began to spend more time together than apart and were viewed as somewhat strange within their apartment complex. Their sense of style and flair for the unique set them apart from other students and they excelled, catching the eye of a local salon owner. He spirited the two ladies away right out of school and put them to work in a new salon he was opening downtown.

The better things got for Cecile, the more she craved the unusual and strange. DuPont fueled these desires, telling her that she could do whatever she felt like.

That’s when Cecile started collecting dolls. What started as a cute and idle hobby blossomed into an eclectic collection of both old and new dolls and figures.

DuPont and Chevalier became a sought after commodity. Their attention to detail and longing to stay ahead of the curve put them in the upper echelon of fashion and beauty. But, the pressures of their fame started to wear on Chevalier and old demons started to raise their ugly heads.

Cecile started to drink more heavily and became obsessed with her dolls. Dinah would often hear Cecile speaking to the dolls behind closed doors – carrying on full and somewhat frightening conversations with them.

Cecile Chevalier

Cecile in 1965 with her collection of rare dolls in Maundbury.

When the call came from Jacqueline Stoddard to come to a place called Maundbury to feature in her salon there, DuPont saw it as a blessing. The idea of her dear friend being lost in a downward spiral scared her and she was more than willing to leave the New York for a smaller, more intimate setting.

The move to Jacqueline Stoddard’s Cosmopolitan Beauty Salon was easeful and sudden. DuPont and Chevalier flourished in Maundbury.