American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Creating Original Historicals for Fun and Frivolity: The Right Doll for the Job

Charlotte had her look picked before she was bought.
You're still working on your Original Historical Character Creation. and, if you've been following my pattern, you've got a time period you like and a name that doesn't suck. So now another step: The doll herself.1

Not every Historical Character created is going to have a doll, granted. But chances are, if you're into AG and you're creating an American Girl Historical, you probably want to actually bring your character out of the theoretical and into the actual. That's where dolls come into play. Some people buy the doll first and then create the character--especially if they get a doll secondhand or have one they own already they're turning to a Historical--but many times, a lot of things can be laid out before you actually pay for a doll. So some things to think about before you drop the cash on a character.

I'm just saying, if you're looking at a hundred and so dollars new, you might want to think more about it than "oh, why not her?"

Sketch her out. I'm not saying that you have to get an actual sketchbook and draw the character. I often do, because I'm an artist and things make sense sketched out. But you should have an idea of what you'd like her to look like. What color is her hair? How is it styled? What color are her eyes? Does she have freckles? Does she have birthmarks? What race is she? (Very important.) It's a good idea to have an idea what you want her to look like before you start searching for the doll specifically, so you can narrow things down.

What Face Mold do you want? There's only eight face molds that have been released by AG. Classic/White Molds are going to have a lot more diversity (annoyingly enough) than other molds, but they only come in light and medium. Same with the Josefina mold. Addy Molds only comes in medium and dark skin, Sonali molds are only dark skinned, and Jess Molds have only been light skinned. Three of the molds--Kaya, #4/Asian, and Marie-Grace--have only been used on single dolls. (And for the love of gods don't assume that all Native characters have to be portrayed by Kaya specifically.)

How hard/expensive is it to get the doll you want?  So you want your girl to have grey eyes? Great! Now take into account that all the modern grey-eyed dolls have been retired and Molly is on her way out, so you are looking at Ruthie for the only option for grey eyes from the company direct. (More on that in the next paragraphs.) If you want a Lindsey to be your historical, she goes for a lot. Same with a black haired brown eyes #6, who was only out for two years. Several dolls have been out of production for years, and if you're hardline on that specific look you might be paying high costs.

How historically accurate is the doll's look to start? Kirsten is a unique character. But she has bangs and, like it or not, bangs weren't really fashionable before about the late 1800s/early 1900s--no other girls in her series have those bangs.2 The side parts or layered hair that a lot of modern girls have aren't accurate before the 1980s; for decades girls had center parted hair and no bangs. Bobs didn't become a thing for girls past very young children before the 1920s. Ear piercing, however, has been a thing for centuries so don't assume that girls before a certain time didn't have or wear earrings. There's not going to be a lot of change in faces--this more applies to hair styles--but it's important to take into account.

Elizabeth was very customized. Felicity just came as is.
Will you need to customize her, and if so, how much? Want #26's eyes in a light mold? She's the only one with them, so you will have to do an eye-swap if you're gung-ho about that. You might have to adjust the doll herself to fit your idea. When I conceived of Charlotte, I knew that "Rebecca" was a near perfect fit--since I had already decided she would be green eyes with the Josefina mold--but I'd have to shift her wig, and I knew that going in before I bought her. Ear piercing is easy enough to do at home. Rewigging can be complicated and may need you to buy a new wig altogether. Freckles are likely going to have to be painted on. Then there's eye swapping and full body dying, and I've never done either of those. (Take into account that no matter how'd you want to do it, you can't make darker vinyl lighter so you're not getting an Addy Mold in light skin.) My Elizabeth was customized by a friend from an AG Elizabeth--and this required rewigging and an eye swap, since I wanted a brunette Elizabeth. And if you need to eye swap you have to use AG eyes because they're a unique size and no other sleep eyes will work.

Are you willing to tweak things? This is different than customizing her. This is making concessions about the look originally planned around the dolls available, or changing things to save time and/or money. I originally conceived Dorothy with green eyes, but I was able to get a #7 cheaper than anything else and so I changed her character to blue eyed in my story.3  Maybe you wanted a blond grey-eyed character, but you found a cheap blonde doll with brown eyes. Do you want to take the time to swap her eyes, replace her with a grey eyed doll, or just not bother and let her have brown eyes? Are you willing to just have a dark haired girl so you don't have to figure out a rewigging? It's going to be a lot easier to get #30 or #40 to be East Asian than #4 because they're actively available. Don't feel like you have to do this, but it might be easier on the wallet and the hunt to make some concessions.


Really, getting the doll is one of the easier things, unless you're looking at a lot of  customizing. Which is why this is a short post. Next time, we'll figure out how your historical should dress--which is one of the hardest sections and where a lot of people fuck it up.


1 Or himself/theirself/zieself. This applies to more than just girls.
2 I am sure this is because it was easier to get banged wigs for a starting line than give her her a more accurate center part.
3 Yes, I'm writing books for my created historicals, even Charlotte. I'm a writer.


  1. I'd love to read the stories about your historicals! You should post them on here!

  2. I'm really enjoying your blog, and I would love to know more about your historicals too! I have two customized historical myself but neither is an original character. One is a character from Kirsten's series (Marta) and the other is my version of Caroline. You've got me thinking about making one from scratch now!

  3. Ah, how they're suppose to dress. I was thinking about Ancient Rome the entire time I was reading this post (blame the fact that I take Latin class) and you'd have a moderately difficult time trying to find something for an Ancient Roman Historical to wear. Women and girls weren't Roman citizens so they couldn't wear togas. That leaves really weird, long, many-layered dresses (I should be able to say 'dress' in Latin, I am terrible)that would take a lot of time to make. I'll definitely be waiting for your next Historical Creation post!


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