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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Historical Clothes Reviews: Cécile's Special Dress and LE Mini Doll

Joyeux Noël from Cécile Rey!
So as you've noticed, every other day brings you a new holiday review. Because not only do moddies all have holiday outfits left and right, so do the Historicals. This is because all the historicals ended up with some sort of holiday in the winter to have them have something specific for parents to look at and go "That's the holiday dress! Put them in it!" thus making holiday shopping easy as fuck. Kaya got Generic Winter Giving Holiday with her adorned dress, Kirsten initially mixed it up with St. Lucia's Day and a wreath1 and Rebecca holds down the entire Hanukkah front. Julie got Chinese New Year even though her entire collection focuses on the incredibly awkward holiday tea with her father. Every historical at least skimmed near the winter holidays at some point--or faked it, as the case is with Kaya.

And then along came Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner, two girls over six books. Because heaven, the Summerlands, and the Gardens forfend they just, you know, give a black girl her own series without her white companion. People might mistake her for Addy or think she's worthy or something. (I really wish Marie-Grace had been left out altogether, or demoted to Best Friend.) Their six book split doesn't even dance near the holidays, what with focusing primarily on the 1853 yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans and the fallout of that as it affected their families and lives. (There is a mention of Christmas in the start of the books, as it is post holiday season--what with their new fashion of the Christmas tree--and then at the end of Book 6.)

While Marie-Grace is boring to me, I adore Cécile. Cécile Rey is a rich black girl in 1850s New Orleans--much better off than Marie-Grace. The fact she is really got some white collector's bloomers twisted because Cécile is black, free, rich, and friends with a white girl. And the way they teach history in this country is so shitty, spotty, and whitewashed that there are generations of people who claim to be educated but believe that black people before 1865 were all slaves and that rich black people are historical anomalies or unrealistic and they certainly would have never been friends with white people lest they be turned into slaves by proxy or something. As Cécile spits at the American idiots in the candy store, she is gens de couleur libres, or a free person of color. Free blacks were not only in New Orleans but everywhere, and have been since the start of the US. Don't go saying stupid shit. She's a goddamn smartass and her first bold act in the books is to basically say "fuck you whitey, don't think you're better than me, I'm free black and if you insult the wrong people in this town we will take your white Américain ass down to the motherfucking ground." Ahem. Go girl.

Still the two girls needed fancy dress. So the two got "special" wear, which can pretty much be considered their holiday wear. Marie-Grace got her Party Outfit, and Cécile got her Special Dress: a set consisting of a red patterned ribbon trimmed dress, white pearl necklace, and matching velvet hair ribbons. Technically she doesn't wear this for the holidays; she wears it when she recites a poem at a benefit for the orphanages in the city in the wake of the yellow fever epidemic. But AG pimps it as holiday wear and holiday wear it is.

As soon as I saw Cécile I declared that she must be mine a la Igor from Dork Tower. I originally had planned to pick her up day of but then they tossed in a preorder bonus of a small set of paper dolls, and I decided that was better than having to go pick her up after work on a Tuesday. Tuesday, when I was working, was my Monday and thus my most bitchy of days and I didn't want to have to cuss a motherfucker out. Cécile got here about a week after official release; I preordered her, every outfit available for her at the time other than the Masked Ball wear,2 and then went to AG Seattle and traded in the single book for the six book series and got to reading and all that. The Special Dress cost $28, and still costs that much except for sales. For some reason it is currently not available off the site at the time of this writing, but I suspect that it will go back into stock and not just be abruptly retired out of nowhere. Shit, it better not be. On eBay it appears to be going for less than that, likely because of all the sales MG and Cécile have been having on their collection. I'm sure it might stay there on eBay, barring this temporary sell out being a total retirement whereupon the prices will jack the entire fuck up. 

The double proof that this is her holiday wear is that it's what her LE mini doll is wearing when it was released--though, since there was no holiday book, her mini book is an abridged copy of Meet Cécile. There was a mini book with every LE, and yes I have them, and no, I'll discuss that when I discuss Mini dolls and not a blog post before.

Simple dress for the background.
Dress: The dress is a red print linen-style dress with velvet ribbon trim. Let me explain something about the 1850s and 1860s. Unlike later eras, fanciness was less in the fabric and more in the print and trims. And New Orleans is hot. Even in the winter. I grew up in Houston which is close to the same climate--swampy swamp with a warm climate--and I can count on one hand the number of times it even iced over near the holiday season when I was in school.3 So no, even for the winter holidays Cécile was going to try and keep cool, especially in the era before central air, and linen kept you cool. The dress is completely unlined and most of the time AG shows this over her crinoline, which I own. I however have a different fluffy petticoat combination under the dress, that I got from another doll in my gang, and it's what my Cécile wears to get that lovely skirt poof that was the fashion at the time. You'll see it later.

Pattern out that fabric.
The fabric has a nice pattern; the main fabric is a calm, muted red shade. It has a print of of white and black random plant branches, that dance all over the fabric. AG calls it posy print, but AG's accuracy is hit and miss and I'm more inclined to think it's cypress or ferns or something. Whatever it actually is, it's very pretty. The fabric is also light and fresh, so fancy without Cécile sweating her entire skin off.

The fancy's in the trims.
The bodice has a boat neckline a little like Addy's Cape Island dress. At the front are three curved rows of velvet-style ribbon: black, then deep olive green, then the same black again. This does not, alas, extend to the back, which makes sense stylistically. It adds fancy on a small scale, and considering velvet was not cheap in the 1850s it shows mild richness.

Sleeves are short and crisp.
The sleeves are very short and slightly runched up; the edge is trimmed in black velvet ribbon and the runched part is trimmed with more of the lovely olive ribbon.

Waist ribbon.
At the waist is more black velvet ribbon trim that goes all the way around, and on the left side is a white satin ribbon rose with green satin leaves. It adds just enough contrast to the darker black and olive without being too much, and is small and delicate.

Skirt and skirt trim.
The skirt is wide and trimmed around nicely about an inch above the hem with more of the black velvet ribbon that also goes around to the back. The skirt won't poof out without foundations. Put a good white petticoat under it--or that crinoline thing. I personally think a petticoat is much neater and fluffier and accurate, since ladies wore crinolines but not just bare and always wore a petticoat over them. And, like all AG clothes tend to lean most of the time, it velcroes up the back. A. Nice pattern, nice trim, nice visual effect.

Pearls for girls.
Necklace: Cécile is the only historical other than Felicity and Elizabeth whose holiday wear comes with a necklace. Hers is a simple string of small pearls--not authentic, natch--that drap neatly around her neck. They help the white flower at her waistband not stand alone, and they're rich without being ornate.

The clasp.
About the only thing that irritates me is the clasp. It's a gold hook-and-loop, which require a lot of pressure to hook shut and bothers my hands. Once I hook it shut, it's also hard to just ease off and unhook. But I love the look of simple beads and pearls. A-, the minus being the clasp.

Hairbows: Cécile's special dress comes with two of the same ribbon as the trim on her dress. Cécile is never without two hair bows in her outfits--so I tend to make a set for when I put her in a historical set that doesn't have them.4 Cécile has lovely hazel eyes--another thing white racist doll collectors shit themselves over is the idea that she's black but she has "white" eyes. The fuck if she does. Black people can get all kinds of eyes colors without being mixed. Have you not seen Rhianna? Or shit, James Earl Jones? Black people pop up with non-brown eyes all the live-damn-long day. But I digress. The color of the hair bows with her green-hazel eyes is striking and it really does bring out the beauty of their shade.

One side.
They're plain on the back, velvet on the front, and tie at her temples. Don't tell me you took down her temple curls. I'll cut you. I only took them down to replace the plastic ties with clear bands. B+ for hairbows.
Petite Cécile.
Mini Doll: The mini doll was released in October 2011 with Marie-Grace, finishing off the LE mini dolls; in fact, the fact there were twelve minis going to be released but only ten historicals in the company at the time was fandom's tip off that we were going to get something historical that year. So I got her then from AG Seattle for $24. Unlike, say the earlier releases, she had a short run of only two months before retirement. This leads to people on eBay thinking you'll pay twice as much as a full size for the LE. Throw homemade Gak at them. She has the same curls of Cécile, but on such a small scale they get a little overwhelming for her head so I have them pulled back a touch with a clear band. Clear hair bands are the best for historicals.

The sleeve and bodice "ribbons" are done instead with satin stitch. Why they embroidered the bodice and sleeves is likely due to small scale, but it looks a little rough. The shoulder ribbon is done in velvet ribbon, as are the waist trim and the skirt hem, and the waist flower is there as well. Good show. Something else that I do adore about the holiday LE is that, rather than using the larger print and over bulking it, they used a shrunk down print. Also, no necklace. Boo.

Close enough for mini scale.
Her hair ribbons are small thin satin instead of velvet, but they are tied around her pulled off hair and then tacked down in place. Unlike my annoyance with LE Mini Josefina lack of peineta, this works because velvet on a small scale can really bulk up. I give her an A-. But don't you dare pay eBay costs. She's cute but she ain't that cute.

The dress features on the cover of Cécile's Gift, in all its spectacular and complete glory. (Blah blah blah whole story blah blah diptych.) It's also shown in a less zoomed out picture on the interior pages. But why did we not get this boss ass hat. I will have to make one now of velvet and buckram. I hope you're happy, AG.

Since AG had switched to the Play Scenes and Paper Dolls style of paper dolls by this point, this is the style Cécile got. These are smaller than the originals, and there's no nifty historical facts or details on the back. Damn it, those were the best parts of the paper dolls! Fuck you, AG. Cécile's "Recital Dress" is part of the set. Along with that bomb ass hat.5 No really, I'm gonna need to make or find a hat like that hat.

Overall Feel: Goddamn but this is a cute dress. It's not technically a holiday dress and is more of a fancy dress, which makes me feel like I could take it out at any time for Cécile to wear and not just during the holidays; still, it's not a summer dress as the colors are too muted for that. The light fabric works for the heat of New Orleans, with the velvet ribbons showing the fancy that the fabric doesn't need to. The hair ribbons, waist flower, and necklace add small sweet touches and the way the hair ribbons bring out her eyes is just magnificent. Still, it could have used the hat. The mini doll is cute despite some flaws. I'm glad to have her.

Cost Value: $28 for the set is a little high--$24 feels a little more right to me. This is one of the rare times I'll endorse eBay if you want to save a bit, unless it's actually been retired in which case it will spike and then I'm going to say no more than $30. It looks out of stock as of today, but I'm thinking this is because of the end-of-the-year retirement of Saige, Emily, and Molly so the web staff isn't putting up sold out things and it'll come back. Petite Cécile is so not worth secondary prices. You can get the big one and some outfits for what they're asking.

Authenticity: Not only is the style of the dress accurate, the fact it's done in a lighter fabric instead of something heavy or silky for the New Orleans climate adds to the accuracy. For even more, put Cécile in a nice white petticoat to poof the skirt out. The crinoline doesn't quite do it right. 

Appropriateness to Character: Damn straight. In fact, take everything I said about Addy sharing her clothes and apply it to Cécile. No, she can't even share it with Marie-Grace, she already has to share her books and the Party Set.

Final Grade: A. Get it, and put it on Cécile, and make her cute--and if you put it on Marie-Grace there will be words. She has her own set.


1 Even though her Mini doll got the Winter Set. What's up with that, Neth asked.
2 Yes, I don't care that it's plot relevant, it's still not a very cute outfit and why does she have to share it whine~ I got it recently in a sale, but that's the only way I was willing to do it.
3 The last time I remembered having winter in Houston, Texas, I believe it was on a Thursday.
4 Or Marie-Grace's clothes which I am very prone to do. Oh noes reverse dolly racism >.>
5 I scanned and edited this fucker myself, so if you see it elsewhere let me know who to stomp into the ground.


  1. FYI, the buzz is that this has actually retired. None of the C & MG stuff that was up on CM has reappeared on the website, both C's and MG's "holiday wear" is now gone, and CS is calling it sold out for good.

    1. I'm hoping this isn't true--I'm going to wait before I pass judgement. If so, that would really suck ass, unless they're revamping the collection.

    2. Sadly, some have also said that they called CS and were told that both were to be retired in 2014. Boo. There seems to be some sort of crafts for MG+C in (I think) May or April, so it won't be until then. BUT- there is also a trademark by AG for "Beforever", witch is supposedly a revamp for historicals.

    3. Hopefully it is a revamp. CS said that Kaya's book set is gone for good too

  2. Really happy about this review, until I read that comment!
    I've been debating getting Cecile with this dress on eBay for weeks now, but had finally decided to wait because I basically broke myself on Christmas!
    Dammit, now I have some ebaying to do..

    Oh, I love Cecile and this dress. Very glad I got to see her and the dress up close. I love most of her wardrobe really; she's gorgeous and they put her in so many gorgeous clothes.

    Ugh, to eBay...


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