Monday, October 18, 2010

Where Was This When I Was Young? American Girl Edition...

My mother was very indulgent with me when I was a kid. When I wanted an American Girl doll, I got one. Hell, when I wanted three (because my first one needed friends!), I got them. She drew the line at buying me all four at the time, though, because she pointed out that Molly was really just Samantha with glasses. So instead she just bought me the glasses accessory and a few of Molly's outfits and told me to switch off.

In fact, she bought me a whole trunk full of clothes for the dolls. See, back when I was a kid, the only dolls American Girl sold were the period piece ones. They were chances to learn about times in history while playing dress-up or house or some other version of pretend.

I had a pretty big imagination. I had no problem making up stories as to why a 1940s school uniform could be worn at the same time as an 1886 Christmas dress (vintage?). But the one thing I couldn't figure out was how to make the clothes look more modern! And all I wanted was for the Samantha doll to look like me. It already kind of did with it's brown hair, bangs, and brown eyes. So I set out to make it leggings and long tee-shirts by cutting its thermal tights and period dresses.

It was not a good look.
In case you're wondering, this is what I'd look like
in today's version of American Girl. Yes, those are
pajamas...or as I call them: a writer's office attire.
Also, on her feet? CUPAKE SLIPPERS!

When I was a kid, all three of my American Girl dolls, therefore, ended up looking like they went to a school that required uniforms. Albeit, really odd choices of uniforms. It appears I was not alone in thinking this way, though I'm pretty sure I'm the only one whose mother tolerated arts and crafts time with twenty dollar miniature frocks! I just wasn't talented enough to try making my own clothes for them completely from scratch. The one time I tried with an old tee-shirt, it looked more like a water-absorbent poncho.

These days, though, you'd be hard pressed to find those period dresses on the website or in between the covers of the American Girl catalog (a mailing list I am apparently still on!). Every few months they "retire" another teaching doll to the archives, but really that just means they remove their weak sellers from the inventory. Instead, they focus on all of the modern girls and her outfits and accessories.

Today I received the latest catalog in the mail, and I spent almost a half an hour pouring over the pretty birthstone earrings, the awesome spa kit which includes plastic bubbles for the doll's bathtub, the cuddly pet friends, sweet treats, and the personal laptop. And those were just the extras! The outfits all could be ripped from the racks of Limited Too (is that even still around?) in their pink, purple, baby blue color palate. There is literally almost something for every girl: from the sporty to the festive to the every day (or night). You can make a doll that looks like you and then create the perfect best friend, too. And I must admit, I was a little bit jealous.

I had American Girl dolls that had school desks or canopy beds as their furniture options. Nowadays, kids get theatrical stages, hammocks, salon stations, mobile homes, and a tree house! The American Girl world is so much more open; they're so much more than educational nowadays!

I always thought I was born ten years too late, but looking at this stuff today, I thought maybe I was actually born too early. I admit this is not a thought I have often. Most of the dolls that today's little girls have to play with are quite scary, and quite skanky and not something I'd feel comfortable buying. Bratz have replaced Barbie (and let's face it, there was a whole crusade against Barbie once for her impossible physical standards, so what does that say about the image we are putting out in society?). Hell, even My Little Pony seems to ooze sexuality along with its usual sparkle.

Now, though, I am just waiting for the day when one of those period dolls is from the 1980s or 1990s. Ten year-old DanielleTBD will gladly scoop her up and revel in the minature slap bracelet, scrunchie, and high-tops she will inevitably be wearing!


Heather said...

Ah, I remember my AG Bear, with its green fleece pajamas. And the life size Samantha sleepwear with the pink ribbon trim! Those were the days.

I'm not a big fan of the modern outfits, mostly because it's too recent for my taste. I like AG because of the peek into days gone by - long past. But I guess for today's girls, our childhood is far enough back. That's sad.

I miss the paper dolls, too.

danielletbd said...

I totally had the bear! Only it was wearing a denim skirt, purple vest, floppy hat, and had a backpack. Man, I almost forgot about that. I had Bitty Baby, too, and I was glad to see tonight that it still exists (virtually unchanged by time).

I really do hope they come up with a 1980s period piece doll soon. They just released one from the 70s, so I can only imagine this isn't too far away from becoming a reality. I find it hilarious that the 80s/90s are now considered "nostalgic."