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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Clothes Reviews: Silver Belle Outfit (2008)

Otters doesn't mind if the celebration goes into January, and I don't either! 
So here we are with three days left in 2013--not including today--and the series on holiday wear continues. Because here the holiday wear will going on as long as I want, damn it, I do what I what to make things lovely.1 Plus, after showing you everything I've bought for holiday wear from AG, I get to show you all the pretty outfits I've made too. Cause I'm talented like that.

Now it's no secret that AG characters are supposed to resemble ten year old girls, thereabouts. The books almost always start before they turn ten, they turn as such by their birthday book or at some point, and by the end they are still in that not near teen range. The dolls back this up--no figure to speak of, and with very young looking faces. However, I keep my gang a little older than that--in about the eleven to thirteen age range.2 Yes, technically they should be hitting puberty at that edge and being more towards teens than girls, but I let some things slide for my gang. Plus, AG actually has good books for girls who are about to hit puberty and are like "why am I getting bumps and hips and freaking out about everything and feeling sexyfeels for other people and what do you mean every month?" It's better that making the dolls look or dress younger than that and being a creep. Yes, I have horror tales. Later.

In the AGGiB, Otters is one of the oldest gang members at thirteen and a quarter--the only one older than her is Kaya who's thirteen and three quarters. So she tends to wear more mature clothing--not too mature, but a little more sophisticated than the others. She almost never wears pink, and she doesn't wear ruffles, and she doesn't want floofypoof holiday clothes or flippy stuff. She actually owns a pair of black goth boots that no one else wears. She's goth-hippy-bohemian, which is why I'm amused when I walk through the store or look in catalogues or skim stuff on the site and see her in things like, for example, a cheerleader set. Her first year here I made her a holiday outfit rather than buying her one, because there wasn't much I liked for her in holiday wear. This was true for 2006 and 2007--I especially hated 2006's holiday set--and she wore the same set for her first two years. Then in 2008, AG came out with the Silver Belle Outfit--and Otters was like "I'll be taking that for me, thank you." And she's worn it ever since, with her curls pinned up just so and looking like the sophisticate she is. 

The outfit--with its punny name3--consists of a silk-and-taffeta dress with Chinese stylization at the bodice, heeled shoes, and two decorative hair sticks (and a short story in a book form because AG did reprints of short stories and little fact books before they switched to the charm beads). Original cost was $28; the set was, like most holiday wear, retired by the next year's season to leave room for the new sets. Since I didn't have a local AG store at the time, I still did all my ordering direct and ordered this in group that that also included spoiling Addy, getting the then-new meet outfit back when they were available separately,4 and jumping on more ballet wear for Marisol. Since it was only out for about a year, the secondary market prices are high in places but it's possible to get it for no more than $10-12 over the original cost. Short opening is short. Don't get used to it outside of Magazine Monthly--bringing it back next month. November threw me.

They call it an outfit but it's a dress.
Dress: The dress is, of course, the driving point of the entire outfit. It's designed to look like a blouse and skirt combo, but comes in a single piece. The top is designed to look a whole lot like a Chinese qipao (chee-pow) or cheongsam. I once purchased a cheongsam that I wore here and there for nice events. I have since gained weight so it doesn't fit like it used to, and don't feel comfortable wearing it both because I'm not Chinese and ever since one of my not-favorite late uncles called me "ping-pong" in it and it took everything I had in me to not curse him out. (Goddamn bigotry.) I still have it, though. Many people will call this the "Chinese top" which I can't get really pissy about or "Asian-style" which I won't because Asia is more than China, more than Japan, and more than Korea--these are the the three that tend to always come up for Asia. Asia includes Thailand, Indonesia, India, the majority of Russia, and what generally gets called the Middle East. But I digress.

AG has never done a proper qipao for a doll--as articulated on beanbunny.com, they've skimmed close. This is not really close--it has Chinese style in the bodice but not in the band or skirt. Alas I saw too many idiots slapping this dress on all their #4s and Jess dolls and saying it was Asian enough. Don't do that, you'll look and smell like a culturally insensitive jerkass.

The bodice is light blue brocade fabric with a pattern of flowers, stems, and leaves all over. I love brocade and the way it looks. I hate sewing it because it frays like a motherfucker and is slippery as seven kinds of lubricant, but I tend to just pin like a motherfucker and hope I only have to sew it once. This is one of my favorite shades of blue--a sort of fresh light color that isn't too bright.

High Mandarin Collar.
The collar is a high mandarin style collar with a gap--so called because the style originated from fashion's interpretation of dresses and garments worn by mandarins (Chinese bureaucrats) in imperial China, especially as done by the Manchu people during the Qing Dynasty. See, if we'd gone on about clothing and society in Chinese History in college instead of every other goddamn war and emperor, I'd have paid attention. At the edge is thin grey piping that line the entire edge. I know more authentic qipao don't do piping, but I like it.

Side "opening."
Down the front from the opening at the neckline to the left sleeve center front is a seam that is edged with more grey piping and three small silver-grey beads. This is what gives the outfit the "Chinese" look. If this was more authentic to the style there would be frogs where we've got pearl beads, but we're dealing with a doll dress that's not trying to be a cheongsam so slack is given. But the side angle is accurate. Women's shirts generally go to the right, sometimes to the left, and sometimes go both. The seam is topstiched as well. And no, it actually doesn't open. I don't think I've seen a cheongsam in recent years that didn't zip up the back.

Super short sleeves.
The sleeves are very short--near to cap sleeves. Cap sleeves generally come out just enough to qualify as a sleeve, and almost never touch the underarm. These do cover the underarm a little bit--maybe a centimeter--but under my definition these qualify. If you can't really raise your girl's arms in short sleeves without the fabric going tight, they're cap sleeves.

Silver Sash. Damn this sash, bless this sash.
The sash at the waistband is a silver, very stiff fabric--I can't put my finger on it, specifically. I'm leaning towards organza. It is tacked down near the waistband and at the sides and left free at the top edge, then goes goes to the back to be tied. I like it in the fact that the sheerness allows the brocade to show through, and it makes a nice transition between the blue brocade top and the taffeta skirt we'll be getting to.

Butt bow.
The sash--double layered--comes to points sewn shut and ties in the back over the velcro opening into a nice bow. Remember, go the other way and it'll tie pretty! I do have one major complaint, though; years of tying the bow have resulted, with my set, a noticeable kink in the fabric where the bow knot ends up and rough ripple to the edges, one that doesn't really go away even with light ironing. It's a little frustrating especially when I take the dress off for storage in the Moddie Holiday Wear Drawer.

Swishy skirt~
But enough about the parts that piss me off. Let's go to the skirt--wide gathered with no side seams, just a continuous rectangle gathered to the waist. It's a grey-silver iridescent taffeta which, if it catches the light just so, throws a hint of red. And gods, does it hold its shape well. I love that about taffeta. I am thinking that for next year, Otters will have a netting petticoat under it to really get the "bell" into the silver part of the dress. She's not a fluffy girl, but she does appreciate a good silhouette to her clothes and the petticoat will help.

Swirly whirls.
The skirt at the bottom edge has a one and a half inch span that is a of blue embroidery stitches that swirl into a patterns of five petal flowers, vines, and leaves. It's really subtle so you have to look close to make out the flowers. The embroidery is interfaced with stabilizer5 so that it didn't pucker. The edge is hemmed, and then trimmed with a half inch of the silver organza that makes up the sash. I love this touch that ties the sash to the rest of the dress, though I wish the sash didn't kink up like it does. A-.  Minus is because of the sash kinking.

Semi-cute shoes.
Shoes:  The outfits only has a few components, and good for everyone that one of them is the shoes as AG almost always includes shoes with moddie clothes. Well, good and bad. You'll see. They're made of the same grey taffeta that the skirt is made out of and match perfectly. The complaint I had back about the Purple Party Outfit having basic patent leather instead of matching the dress fabric is because this set spoiled me so hard for matching shoes.

The shoes, while being generally basic slip on, have a semi-decorative strap of light blue stretch velvet ribbon. Don't pull too hard or you'll mess it up.

Decorative holes.
At the toe of the shoe are three groupings of three decorative holes in a triangle that has the point pointing up. Another of those cute details that really make these shoes.

Strap attack.
The strap is tacked down on the sides. And you can see why this shoe is about to drop a whole letter grade and some.

AG, this is where you did it wrong.
That's right. We've got blacks soles--and the kitten heels on the shoes that causes your dolls hips to cock forward to keep them balanced. I get it. A lot of girls like heels. A lot of teens and pre-teens like to wear heels because it feels like growing up. When I was about ten or so I was happy to wear heels, and now I either wear three to four inch heels or I don't wear heels at all. I like heels. Otters likes to wear heels.

But I don't like AG heels because your doll ends up cock hipped. And these cause that hip cock all too much. Sigh. We were all rooting for you, shoes.  C-.

Shiny hair sticks.
Hair Sticks: For hair decor, we finish up with two hair sticks. Rather than this current trend of head bands, hair sticks were a big thing in the late 2000s.You would twist your hair up, and then work the hair stick in in such a way that your hair stayed up in place. I can still do it. Granted, that stick nowadays is 95% likely to be a mechanical pencil or pen.6 AG often showed this with loose hair. Yeah, no. Hair goes up. Even if it's in a small bun and the rest hangs loose. Sticks don't just stay in your hair unless you have an awesome fro. 

The butterfly is not part of the hair sticks. I twist Otters' hair up into a French twist, and then hold it in place with flat clips, and the sticks are purely stuffed in the back to look cute. This year we used the blue butterflies.

Sticks out.
The hair sticks can get a little better of a look when out. They're tapered to one end, but still flat. Often when I hair sticked I would either buy a set or, being the frugal person that growing up poor can do, I would buy a set of actual chopsticks. The main body is of clear blue acrylic. 

Silver backings.
On the back is a silver film that makes them mirrored.

Decorative Swirl.
At the wider end is a decoration of two swirls and a butterfly. These are actually the same style of hair sticks that I believe came with the Butterfly Brocade Outfit. In fact, they are the same ones. I caught you recycling components, AG. Hah. B. Very cute, even if they're less function and more show.


Overall Feel: I really love this set hard. The whole set is actually lovely enough that it's not just holiday, which is why it's a bit sad that it lasted such a short time. I could see this at a family reunion banquet or a semi-formal affair. The bodice invokes a Chinese feel which depending on the designer can be very good and unique or very racist and full of stereotyping; this thankfully is the former. The dress does have an issue with the sash, but it's mitigated by the same fabric being at the edge of the skirt. Speaking of the skirt, it, it's embroidery, and its trim are so slick. The hair sticks, while they don't add a lot and need to be set secure, complete the look. About the only thing that pisses me off is the shoes having heels--this is the first time I can really think of seeing them so prominently in an outfit chronologically. AG keeps doing heels and they really can't pull it off. The colors are pale and I think need to go on at least tan skin or darker. On a blonde they'll just wash right out. But then again I think 85% of things look bad on blonde dolls because blerg, blondes. 

Cost Value: Original cost was choice--I jumped on it right away. Secondary costs I wouldn't go more than $40 for a full set. Try to get a full set. The set works without the hair sticks as long as you use some nice silver or pale blue clips. But the shoes, despite heel fail, really tie the set together and should be part of it.

Timeliness/Datedness: I don't really think so. Yes, it's modern enough in cut and style that it's not good for the 90s. And you can't take it back too much more than the mid 2000s, but it carries forward easily enough. In a weird twist, the girl's dress often shows up more often and for the same cost as the doll's outfit. So if you have someone who can fit the girl's clothes, you can do a matched set.

Mix and Match Levels: Next to none. At most you can use the hair sticks elsewhere, but the shoes and dress are a matched set. Such is some sets.

Final Grade: B+. Mature and fancy, without being overtly holiday.


1 Especially because I just learned that WonderBread the Ballerina is based in Washington, DC. Which is....known for its high black population. And we're getting this milquetoast white girl shit. You're doing a great job of fucking it up, AG. Fuck it, I'm listening to Beyoncé.
2 With the exception of one who's nine, but she's a little sister. You'll see her soon enough.
3 We're due for an update in 2014.
4 "Silver Bells" is a holiday song, the skirt is silver and stands out, and belle is French for pretty. There I explained the pun, share with your friends, try the veal.
5 That's my picture from my own review back then. I used to do a lot of reviews for the AG fandom, but then shit happened, and AG > 18 started to fade in people not being so ElJay. 
6 And then I'll forget it's there and search for it or get a new pencil.


  1. This a very cute set, I wish AG would do less solid colored dresses and more with multiple colors, or at least a few different shades. Otters, you and me got the same style- no pink frills :)


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