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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Historical Clothes Reviews: Addy's Cape Island Dress

Addy's Cape Island Dress. On the only one who should wear it.
You think I'm kidding. 
Addy Walker is my very first American Girl. I got her, as I've said before, as a gift on Giftmas 2005. And I loved her since before then. Addy is my girl. I have read her books back and forth since they came out, I have soaked in her world, I have dressed and brushed her and designed unique sets for her that no one else should even try to cross me on. I have cuddled her at night and carried her place to place. I went to the children's play that was in Seattle in 2007 three times, each with Addy. I consider myself an expert on all things Addy.1 And I will get fucking pissed seeing other people who only have her for false diversity, who call her ugly or boring or too scary for her children to learn about2, or who make her look like Little Orphan Addy when they do her hair. Or who worse, get a lighter skinned doll to wear her collection cause that's good enough, especially some blond ass white girl. Fuck those people. You respect Addy or we will fight like inner city children in Houston. I have feels, and I will fight you.

Aduke "Addy" FirstArrival Walker means the world to me. She heads the AGGiB around here, she is my love, and no one challenges my girl. Because of this, I admit that she's more than a little spoiled. Okay, she's max spoiled. I'll bend over backwards to get things for her collection, including the harder to find bits, and if the price isn't too high I'll pay it. Thus I have, systematically, gotten almost everything for her. Yes, I have paid a bit over face for some of the sets, but I'd rather pay that kind of price for her things than anyone else's. And I will get twitchy bitchy about her clothes being on anyone but her. Here she only shares a few things with Sarah, and even so that's just til I can get Sarah's collection more off the ground.

One of the things I'll admit I paid over face for is the Cape Island Dress.The Cape Island Dress is one of what is classified as the Short Story Outfits. Back story: AG released sets of short stories in the magazines for years3 and later released them as small individual books. Addy--along with Samantha, Molly, Josefina, and Kirsten--got five stories. Felicity initially only got four cause she got kicked to retired for a while, Kaya got just one, and Kit got two. (The stories were also rereleased in total collections, and the short three got a full set of five stories in the collections.) The 1999 stories and the 2003 stories each got an outfit with their stories except for Kaya, and Addy's 2003 set was the Cape Island Dress to go with Addy's Summer Place, the story that shows Addy that even po' ass white folk thought they were better than any black person by virtue of not being black. The dress came with a hair ribbon, and while it was normally shown with Addy's Work Shoes, my house has eaten them. The dress was retired in 2005, which gave it a very short run. I tried to make a version of my own but it didn't come out nearly as pretty as the real one, I'm not even going to lie.

The original cost was $26 dollars. I paid $90 in a big ass private purchase last year that also got me the sweet potato pudding set, gardening set, school supplies, and church fair fun set (only missing slide whistle). Yeah. Addy's spoiled rotten as dirt. On eBay it goes for--when it shows up--anywhere for 60 to 100 bucks. At least she won't outgrow it. 
The dress, in all its glory.
Dress: The dress, is of course, the main piece of the outfit itself: a faux linen style pale coral short sleeved summer dress with black braid and piping trim and a full, calf length skirt. The dress is a early Victorian style characterized by wide bell style skirts for ladies; by 1860 while dresses were starting to head more towards the back, they were still very full and girl's clothing was no exception. While Addy can't wear a chemise under this dress until I make her a sleeveless summer chemise, she can and would wear petticoats under it. I was just too lazy to put it on under there when I was taking pics.

Boat neckline.
The bodice has a wide boat neckline that, on Addy, barely covers her shoulders. Summers were hot and there was no air conditioning in the 1860s, so it was acceptable to have bare necklines for girls in summer clothing. You had to keep cool somehow. The neckline piece is trimmed with black piping.

Stupid people will claim that the wide neckline means the dress was intended for a boy. These people have no fucking idea what they are talking about. Wide necklines were for anyone wearing a dress in a hot ass place that could get away with it.

Short sleeves.
The sleeves have a slight puff and a bit of a gather at the top above the cuff. Around the whole arm scythe is black piping, as well as black piping on the top and bottom of the cuff.

All gathered up.
The bodice has a gathered front and is fully lined, front and back. The front has pleating across the front--four to either side of the middle. This causes it to tug up some. It really won't lay flat, even with pressing. It adds beautiful visual texture.

Like most outfits in the 1860s, the bodice gathers to a smooth waistband--which like the cuffs, has the black trim. Since the black trim is the only trim on the dress, it's not too busy at all. The 1860s were characterized by trims or visual break ups like this. Authenticity for the entire win.

Skirting it.
The skirt--rectangular--is gathered to the waistband with tiny tucks. With the width of skirts of the era--they could have yards and yards of fabric for those huge bells--there was a lot of gathering of fabric to very small waistbands. There were methods for getting yards and yards of fabric gathered to a skirt. I need to learn them if I'm to ever make Civil War style dresses for myself.

The best damn trim on a dress. Ever.
The trim on the front of the skirt is done with thin black braid that has an elaborate looping pattern. It was the easiest way for a simply done dress to be fancied up, and given that Addy's stories explain that Mama made almost everything she wore, she would have done that for Addy's dress to give them city style on a low budget. The dress has it machine sewn but if I were to ever try to do it again I would hand sew it in very tiny stitches, cause I don't have a braid feeder foot.4

Hem's Deep. (I think that's a LotR pun.)
The hem comes down to the calves. I'll have more to say about that when I start the series on dressing your historical girl properly and authentically. It's very deep--two inches to the typical one inch hem on AG clothing. Generally hems aren't so long, but this adds to the style of the dress.

Back of the dress.
The back of the skirt, alas, does not have trim. It's about the only thing I have a complaint about, since all the other trims go all the way around to the back.

The dress velcros up the back and down the skirt; authenticity would have small buttons but no one wants to fasten tiny buttons on doll dresses, not even me. I get pissed over snaps and hook-eyes.

The dress is an A+. About the only thing I could bitch about is that the trim doesn't go around the back of the skirt.

Big ass bows in the back of your head.
Ribbon: Addy doesn't wear a ribbon in the book, but as almost every outfit she got had some sort of ribbon, this one is no exception. This one is a pink, white, grey, and green taffeta plaid 22" ribbon with grey loop edging and v-cut ends. It's stiff enough to hold a good firm shape when tied. Ribbons didn't always exactly match your dress and while it doesn't match perfectly, the pink of the plaid compliments the dress greatly.

And the other ribbon.
I actually have two ribbons; at one point I purchased just the ribbon from someone for $5. So I have one extra to keep smooth or tie up for double bows, which I am so not above doing.

The ribbon gets an A. It doesn't match, but it doesn't have to.


In the short story book, Addy is of course wearing the dress on the cover. No hair bow as Addy had her hair curled for the first time on paper rollers.5 This image is inside, and also graces the cover of  the second Addy's Story Collection.

Addy's Cape Island Dress is one of just a few AG sets that actually has a real life historical version--I can only think of one other (and I own it too). The actual dress, seen here6 as part of the Wisconsin Historical Society Children's Clothing Collection, was manufactured in 1865 and worn by an actual girl back then, made of pastel orange wool and trimmed all around with black trim. The authentic dress has gathered bodice front and back and the looped trim around the back of the skirt as well, and closed with a button at the neck and two at the waist.

So yeah, that whole "this is a boy's dress" thing that went around the AG community for some time is a bunch of bull shit. Boys wore dresses, but the size of this dress is such that it's long past the age where a boy would have been breeched in the mid 1800s.

ETA, 4/18/2016: Research shows that this is possibly a smaller toddler dress, as the original wearer was born in 1864 and the dress was made in 1865. Still, the description on the article is as follows: "Worn by Anny Lyall (b.c. 1864), donor Minnie (Lyall) White's younger sister, in Xenia, Ohio. Anny and Minnie were the daughters of James and Alice Lyall[.]" So this dress has been traced back to being worn by a girl. Girls wore boatnecked dresses frequently.


Overall Feel: This dress is just lovely in its simplicity. It's got fancy trims, but only in one black corded style, which leaves it uncluttered--not something that can be said of several Historical AG outfits. The ribbon compliments without matching exactly, a trend in a lot of Addy's clothing.

Cost Value: The original cost was sensible. The price I paid was a lot more than standard. If you don't love it and want to put it on Addy--yes, Addy, not for any other flitty non Addy dolls, especially some blond girl--don't pay the cost for it, cause it doesn't often go for less than what I paid. I did pay more than I'd have liked and would have felt wonderful paying $60--which is still higher than original. But I didn't want to miss a chance to get it complete, and so I took the hit.

Authenticity: Didn't I just link to and show the fact that this is based on a real dress? Like in a museum in a collection worn by someone real dress. Damn straight it's authentic. And it's for a girl.

Appropriateness to Character: It's Addy's. It's tied to her short story. It's only Addy's. No one else gets it, no one else should get it or wear it and you will make her look her best. Don't put it on anyone else in my line of site or make her look left behind or I will give you such an evil look of evil and cursing that will cause you to step on the corners of sharp Legos when you least expect it. I'm not even sorry, I have a lot of Addy feels and you can't fuck with me when it comes to them and I get so fucking pissed seeing anyone but her in her clothes in a way I normally don't for almost any other AG.7

Final Grade: A+. Like I could ever give it less.


1 There is this one person who, during my time on AG Playthings, claimed she knew more about Addy than me. That woman is an idiot. She can't even do Addy's hair without fucking it up. And bitch you know who you are.
2 Baw, slavery is scary and the part where Addy ate worms made my daughter upset. Think of how terrifying it was for the people who were slaves and had that happen to them
3 Which you see in my Magazine Monthlies.
4 Yet.
5 I can get the same look on Addy likely with sponge rollers.
6 Should the link redirect back to the main site, you want to go to The Children's Clothing Collection, then look under 1860s Girls.
7 Other AG Historicals I flip my shit about seeing their clothes on someone else: Kaya, Josefina, occasionally Cécile. Note a pattern. Come at me.


  1. One of my all time favorites of AG's things. It is primarily my Addy's dress, but because my Addy has the prettiest dresses,and probably the most complete collection, her things do get shared, including this dress, because it does look good on nearly any doll.

    I , too, paid a lot for this dress from Ebay, more than any other dress. Addy has been my most expensive doll partly because of this dress and her Ironstone Compote set because I paid so much for those two pieces since I missed out when AG was selling them directly. Wasn't into the dolls then.

    Great review of the dress. I agree with everything except not letting other dolls wear the dress. It's too gorgeous not to put on other dolls.

    1. Thing is, I'm not going to agree with that. Addy's clothes are gorgeous--and made for her, canonically. Which I can and do swap clothes around for several other characters, I am hardline on the fact that Addy shouldn't have to and doesn't share her outfits Even if people ask me how her clothes look on other members of my gang, I won't do it.. Especially when those people who share her outfits too often show them off not on her. It's not something I'm ever going to agree on, and there are a lot of complicated reasons for that that will show up in another post.

    2. That's ok, Nethilia. Love your reviews and look forward to reading the reasons as well as the continuation of your doll board adventures. But all of my dolls do share their clothes to some degree, though I do less of that with any of the historical dolls I have. My Addy gets some Kirsten's things that work for her too. I have two Addys and love to put them in display, and I try to keep their clothes for that period. But of all the historical dolls, I like Addy's clothes overall A stroke of genius to make her mother a seamstress so that she can realistically have all of these beautiful outfits. Unlike some of those dolls that realistically should not. A lot of Addy's clothes are timeless too.

    3. Considering this, what's your thought on using Addy's patterns as a basis for making Civil War dresses? It seems like every other "1860s American Girl dress" I come across on Etsy or handmade sites is the Christmas dress in different fabrics.

    4. That is not so much of a bother, since styles/silhouettes were steady through the era. But if I can tell exactly what pattern you made the outfit from to the point you added no variation, I end up with levels of annoyed.

  2. Ugly?? Addy?? UGLY??? Are there actually people who say that? Not calling you a liar or anything, but I just can't believe it. I mean, we're talking about one of the most beautiful dolls the company makes, plus her stories are the most intensely involving of any on the AG bookshelves! (Just MHO, but I'm sticking to it....)

    The Cape Island Dress is very pretty, and this was a good detailed review of it. My Addy deserves one of her own, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford eBay prices for it. (My Addy deserves a lot of things, including a good hair stylist, but I'm doing my best to learn.) Anyway, thanks for posting this and fueling our dreams.

    1. This. Every word. I don't have Addy (yet), but the 2nd paragraph would also be true if I did. I'm pretty good with hair, curly or straight, but haven't spent enough time with textured hair to say weather I would be okay with Addy. And Addy is sooo NOT ugly.

  3. Just asking your opinion on something else...is it making Addy look left behind if when I'm having an attack of the clumsies and can't seem to get her hair right, I just I put her in her birthday dress and bundle it into the snood that goes with it? I confess to having done this at least once...felt a little guilty about it too, but at least she didn't look an absolute mess--and I haven't given up practicing!

    1. The hardest thing about Addy's hair is it needs to really be smoothed down. A lot of people try to do that puffy look, which is all well and good but there's a fine line between puffy and lost. When I put her in the snood from her birthday set, I french braid her hair back flat and twist it up--there's no need for all that front bulk. I should likely do a post on Doing Addy's Hair, at some point.

    2. That would be good...I'd definitely read it!

  4. Yes, please make a post about Addy's hair. I'm white with stick straight hair that just needs to be washed and brushed. I struggle with Josefina's hair already because there's so much of it. I don't even have Addy yet and I stress out about what I'll do with her hair once I get her.

  5. this is the first I've seen this dress and OMG it's soooo purrrrrdy!

    you are, officially, a bad influence. ;o)

  6. I just wanted to thank you for this. I'm white, but still what the shit? Addy's stories are too scary? Why? I think all kids need to learn about life in the 1860s for a girl who escaped slavery, and I just wish they made her stories in Braille, because I'm totally blind and can't read print. I want an Addy so badly, but I'll have to likely do the eBay orphanarium because of lack of money. But of all the girls, she's my absolute favorite too. And if you could do a post on fixing Addy's hair, I'd appreciate it, because I'd like to know.

    I appreciated this review so much, because it was a really detailed review, and since I can't see the dress in question, your description was a huge help. Also, if I had Addy, her clothes wouldn't be given to anyone else. Because they are her clothes, as you said. I really think your blog is awesome. I found it through a dear friend who also reads.

    Also, I don't understand how anybody could say that Addy's boring or ugly! What are they talking about? She's beautiful and deserves all the respect.

    So, tl;dr, I'm with you!

  7. Same anon from last night. OMG they have her stories on iTunes, so I'll be able to read them after all. *So excited.*

    1. That's awesome! I don't know if they have her short stories or historical mystery--if I was any good at recording, I'd do it for you.

  8. Ok. Let me see if I can do this without blogger eating my reply this time. If you get it twice, Neth, I apologize.

    This would be the same anon from a couple days back. Heck. Just call me Rhymer. Anyhow, I was gonna say, they seem to have at least the short stories. Not sure if they have ALL of them but they do seem maybe to have SOME.

    Also, the fact you'd record those for me if you were good at recording has entirely made my night. You're super, super sweet, and I'm glad my friend pointed me to this blog.

    In turn, I pointed another friend to you as an example of how I wish every doll blogger would describe things in reviews, and they asked me to deliver a compliment. They wanted you to know they adore the way you style Addy's hair and think it's gorgeous and you do a great job.


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