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Monday, December 2, 2013

Historical Clothes Reviews and Historical Accessories: Josefina's Christmas Dress and Mantilla, Niña Doll, and LE Mini Doll

Feliz Navidad from 1820s New Mexico!
Behold, the Winter Holiday Season! That wonderful end of the year where evergreen trees are erected, snow happens in a lot of the US, people finally give their children the things they've been promising them since August1 and the year gets the hell out of the door with a string of festivals cause it's dark out and there's fuck all to do in the Northern Hemisphere. Some celebrate the birth of Jesus even though we're all pretty sure that happened in the spring, some celebrate black unity and togetherness with candles and first fruits. Some wait until Three King's Day to give out their gifts, some do it on Saint Nicholas's saint day, some people celebrate the low point of the sun and the longest day of the year. Some have a Holly/Oak King thing going, some are celebrating the birth of the Horned God, some of us celebrate the day to celebrate the dwelling of Persephone's time with her husband in underworld (yo) and this year the Jewish kids decided to get that shit overwith early and ran Hanukkah during Thanksgiving. As for the 25th of December? Around here, we call it Giftmas, the Festival of Giving and Receiving. Because contrary to popular belief, some of us like to show our love to and from others with material goods, and if we're not Christian but want to do shit on the Socially Obligated Day of Holiday Mirth, we're stripping the religion out of it. That or we just like the discounts on Cyber Monday. All the fun of holiday shopping, none of the pants!

Wait, I'm supposed to put a review in here somewhere instead of rambling on about holidays. Right.

I have a theme for this month and next month, and that theme is holiday wear for my gang members. Why into January? Cause I have that many holiday dresses for my gang. Everyone has an outfit--and the two girls that don't technically have them yet will be getting them and having that displayed in a Crafting Creatively post. I can probably even Casual Friday a couple other holiday dolls I have. And so that I don't feel obligated to post every day--that's stressful for me--these holiday reviews will be a little spaced out. Let's see if I can finally get back to that "three posts a week" goal I had.

Yes, this is a long opening.

First on the docket is Josefina Montoya and her Christmas Dress and Mantilla2 (also known as Josefina's Holiday Outfit). Josefina, as we all should know, is from 1820s New Mexico--not long after Mexico broke off from Spain and became its own country in 1821, but before the chain of events where Texas split off in 1836, joined the US in 1845, and the US and Mexico had a three-year slap fight over Texas called the Spanish-American War which led to the US getting damn near everything out to the Pacific including New Mexico, Arizona, California, and a lot of other chunky state bits.3 So Josefina's family didn't cross the border, the border crossed them.

When Josefina debuted in 1997--one year before Ms. Rowland decided that money was a nice thing and sold Pleasant Company to Mattel, thus leaving a nice point where nostalgic people can point and go "that's when everything about AG got ruined!"--she was released with her first three books and the outfits and accessories for each in time for the holiday season. As the books had a pattern at the time, her first three books were her meet book, school book, and holiday book--and so she had her holiday dress lined up and ready to go for Holiday 1997. Josefina joined the AGGiB (then the AGGiR) in a private purchase in early 2007 that included Kaya and a good portion of her clothes but not her holiday stuff. I got holiday stuff for her and Kit so they could look their best for Giftmas 2007, and then found out she was a PC doll and just gave her the Destuffing Diet.

Josefina's Christmas Dress and Mantilla comes with an empire waist dress, mantilla and attached peineta, full combination white underwear, white socks, and black shoes for a cost of $32. I paid $24 in 2007, checking my packing slips. (Welcome to cost of products rising.) There is no good reason to buy any currently available outfits on the secondhand market unless you can't get AG to ship to you or you desperately want a PC version for some reason--in which case, on eBay the set generally goes for just about as much as it does direct but is often shoeless, sockless, and underwearless. Just buy it from the company if you can.

This review will have a bonus of Niña, Josefina's personal doll, and the LE Mini-Doll that was released for the 25th Anniversary of AG.

The foundation of every good outfit is underwear.
Combinations: Josefina is the only Historical whose holiday wear comes or came with special underthings4: a set of white high-waisted combinations with long pantalette-style legs. For some reason, the official description calls these pantalettes. Close but no bizcochitos, AG. There's a bodice, so they're combinations. As was the fashion of the time they're all white, because white underwear can be sun bleached without losing color.

Bows and bodice.
The bodice is empire-waisted. Fashions tended to go as they willed in some locations, so the empire style of dress lasted well into the 1830s in some places. It has a little false placket with two grosgrain ribbon bows tacked on the front. The bodice is low enough that the bows don't stick out the top of the dress once it's on. Back in the day--and today still--people liked looking pretty under their clothes, even if they didn't let anyone see, and so there were frills and lace and bows.

The bodice has very thin straps that are just there to help hold the combinations up. Again, nothing that will stick out from the top of the dress or spoil the lines.

Down the front seam are three decorative white buttons that, like pirates, don't do anything. If these were on a person and not a doll, they would be the opening along with the ribbons above. So accurate, if not functional.

The pantalette part.
The pantalette part of the combinations comes down to Josefina's ankles. These will peek out from under the dress, as was the adorable trend of the time for young girls.

Pretty edges for pretty pantalettes.
Since the hems are intended to peek out, they have some decorative trim--and would probably have this even if they weren't, but again, why not fancy it up? The hems here have double ruffle trim and satin white ribbon in the center.

I just want closure.
Naturally, since the front doesn't open, these velcro up the back.

The combinations get an A+. Normally I don't give a plus to underwear, but these are really cute and look and fit great under Josefina's dress. And again, the only official holiday underwear. Work it, girl.

All sock, no crotch. That's how you take pictures.
Socks: Josefina's holiday set also comes with unique socks; before her, everyone wore the same socks and shoes that came with their meet set until their birthday, when they would be gifted with fresh socks but no new shoes until the summer sets.5 They're ribbed white knee socks that I prefer to get above the knee instead of below.

Heel, toes.
The heel and sole of the sock does not have any ribbing.  You don't want ribbing on the soles of socks. It makes walking annoying.

Toes again.
The toes are a little wonky, which can make them need to be tucked in to the shoes carefully so as not to stick out. B+, socks. You do your job and add lovely visual texture.

Dress it out.
Dress: Finally, we get to the meat of this outfit, the dress itself. Josefina's dress is an empire waist ankle length fancy dress in a decorative striped print, with what are called Regency sleeves. Regency, Federal, Empire--all that time between the 1800's and the mid to late 1820s can be called many things in fashion.

The front bodice has two shaping tucks at front and a low, curved neckline. On the back, the back bodice is actually made of four separate pieces to curve in, much like the front. The combinations are not visible at all under the neckline.

Ruffle bumpkins.
There is a small ruffle around the neckline, made of the same print of the dress itself.

Ribbon Waist.
Around the high waist is a thin black satin ribbon, tacked into a bow at the center and left to hang long and loose.

The top of the sleeve.
The reason these are called Regency sleeves is from a style made popular at the time: A short puffed upper sleeve--

and the lower half.
--and a long straight lower sleeve. These double style sleeves will later make a fashion reappearance in the late half of the 1800s as leg-o-muttons, but there they will be ridicu-huge. The lower sleeves are cut on the bias (the diagonal, for those who don't sew much) to give them a bit of stretch. No trim on the cuffs.

Skirty skirt.
The skirt is cut in an A-line and falls from the high waist to the ankles. The A-line style leaves faux-chevroning on the sides which doesn't match up perfectly, but doesn't bother me as much as it could.

Let's take a closer look at the pattern of the fabric. The background is a pale yellow and black stripe, and overlaid are very small darker ochre and green meshed swirls and red dots that hug the black lines. It's a very lovely visual pattern, probably something like calico as the story calls it cotton fabric.

The hem is a very simple flat hem, no trims or anything.

Back closure.
And of course, our obligatory shot of the back closure, done with velcro. A+ dress. It's fancy without being a mass of frills and lace, patterned and visually stunning without being fussy, and so very fitting in style and fashion.

Black flats.
Shoes: Josefina's holiday dress comes with matte black flats. They're really simple for the outfit, but compliment the black stripes of the dress and the ribbon at the waist (and the mantilla, but we're doing this in my order).

One shoe. Not Two.
The shoes are lined plain white and probably faux leather, but historically would have been actual leather.

Sole. (Fish joke goes here)
The soles are black and plain with a little gloss that the camera picked up.

Side shoe shot.
The shoes aren't fancy or covered in a lot of fuss. Which I love, because they're not just holiday shoes here--I've fond of pairing them with others of Josefina's more fancy wear. I'm debating getting a pair for my Texas girl, if I can find them alone on eBay or might just get them direct through the company. A+. Dolls need more plain black historical flats.

Mantilla and peineta, for a topper.
Mantilla/Peineta:  Josefina tops her holiday look with a faux tortoiseshell peineta6 with a black sheer mantilla, or veil.

A mantilla is often worn by Spanish Roman Catholics during special occasions or during holy week. In the past, however--which is where we're doing this--they were very fashionable. They became a thing in the 16th century, became even more popular in the 17th and 18th century, and were made really fashionable by Queen Isabella II of Spain (which is post Josefina but still), and didn't drop out of fashion until after around 1900. And you thought the 80s stirrup pants lasted a long time. The addition of the peineta was to help hold the mantilla up, and Josefina wearing a set would have felt very grown up.

Off her head.
The peineta is permanently attached to the mantilla with black thread. Authentically it likely would have been pinned or otherwise temporarily tacked in place, but we're doing this on a small scale and there's no need to have it separated. The mantilla is sheer lace and roughly triangular in shape with decorative black flowers at the edge and throughout the mantilla. 

Tortoiseshell. Well, plastic.
The peineta is made of plastic to resemble tortoiseshell, which would have been one of the major things that a peineta would have been made of (the other being silver). It has a high rise, decorative gaps and circles at the corner and middle, and long teeth. The mantilla is attached to the two center circles.

That darker circle is the "Made in China" sticker

In her head.
The curve and length of the teeth in the peineta make it so the best placement is near the back of Josefina's hair; once it's braided back, side it near the back. It will stand up nice and pretty like a crown and let the mantilla drape nicely.

Side drape.
Then the long sides can drape around Josefina's shoulders...

Back view.
And the back will cover her hair some--almost fully if you tuck the braid up like I didn't do--and land near her shoulders. And that's how it looks when someone tries to do it right, thank you. A, mantilla and peineta.


This next part are two mini reviews. In that there's a review of Josefina's doll Niña and the 25th anniversary mini doll, and since they're dressed the same way practically there is not going to be as many closeups.

Hola, Niña.
Niña: Niña, Josefina's doll, is dressed the same way she is for the holiday season; story wise, this is because Josefina's older sister Clara dressed up Niña to pass her down to Josefina, as that was a tradition from Mama to dress her up to match when she was gifted to the next daughter. I got Niña for $15 in 2007, which was the cost she stayed at before her retirement in 2012. Now that she's retired, people are asking upwards of twice as much. Don't do that.

Niña is a rag doll that's been  all cleaned up, dressed in the same style dress--minus a few components cause, well, doll for doll here.

Niña has a simple embroidered face of black line eyes with black eyebrows and a pink mouth.

Her hair is made of fine black yarn, braided, and tucked up under the sheer lace mantilla. No peineta.

Earrings for dolls.
She has sewn on gold loop earrings--since Josefina and her sisters all had pierced ears, so would their doll.

Dress against dress.
Her dress is the exact same style and made of the exact same print. The neck ruffle is white instead of the print and the mantilla is tacked to the front.

Mini sleeve!~
 The sleeves are even the same double style that Josefina has.

Underneath, however, she has an attached petticoat--which honestly, Josefina likely would have had.

Actual pantalettes.
And underneath she is wearing actual pantalettes. See? No bodice. She does not have shoes, and her feet are square.

I give Niña an A. She perfectly matches Josefina--which is story accurate--and has little details that make her shine. However, the eBay costs are, as usual, ridiculous.

Mini Holiday Doll: The mini Holiday Josefina--released in June 2011 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of American Girl--came with an abridged copy of Josefina's Surprise and cost $24. I am pretty sure I just picked her up up in the newly open AG Seattle, as I ended up getting all of them. Mini Josefina greatly resembles her full sized counterpart. Same dress, same shoes, same mantilla--however, she does not have her peineta and it's just tacked to her head. Boo.

She is also wearing pantalettes, not combinations; they are much simpler, with just a gather at the hem. But she is wearing socks. A- because I really wish she had her peineta.


Time fore references! The original cover of Josefina's Surprise shows Josefina in her holiday dress at the church, holding Niña in her hands. This carried through the second cover, but on the third Josefina is pictured from the Las Posadas procession so only a sleeve is visible. 

Josefina is also unique in that her dress is explicitly made before the holiday book. In Josefina Learns a Lesson, Tia Dolores brought a style book that showed new European style fashions and new fabric for the girls as gifts, and Josefina picked out the style and sewed the dress herself. Get it, girl.

In Josefina's Surprise, Josefina gets Niña all cleaned up in her new dress, as sewn by Clara. It is a touching moment. Go read the book.

In Josefina's Paper dolls--it's in all three sets--we have Niña and what is called the "European-Style Dress." We also have her mantilla and peineta. Look, I blotted out the summary. Go read the book.

A girl sized dress was available for a while, as the "Very Best Dress" for $80. No mantilla set, though.

The dress was part of Josefina's patterns as well, allowing a remaking of the dress--or in my case, happy modifying from it. I got her patterns from the net.7 

Overall Feel: Josefina has one of the prettiest Historical holiday dresses ever designed. The flow of the mantilla around her shoulders helps top it off to be respectful for her faith, the dress is patterned and thus visually stunning without being fussy or busy--very important.. The overall look is mature and formal without screaming "Red!" or "Green!" or "Holiday!" and looks like a dress she can continue to wear as a fancy nice dress outside of the holiday season for years and years. Also, she got new underwear, socks and shoes before anyone else did. Her underwear are nice and help the dress's sweet look, and her shoes are some of the cutest, most practical doll shoes I've ever had for a gang member, I shit you not. Niña matches her perfectly with her own interpretation for a doll's doll and the LE mini doll almost does as well--though really, even on a small size I'd have liked a peineta.

Cost Value: The cost I paid was very much worth it for the dress set, Niña, and my LE mini version. I'd still say the outfit is worth it with "cost of stuff rising prices" at $32 dollars, seeing as it comes with everything to the set. Don't buy it on eBay. That's stupid. As for Niña and the LE you don't have a choice to buy from AG anymore but the LE I'd pay no more than $25 and Niña no more than maybe $20. Be patient. You can find them for cheap.

Authenticity: Yes. It follows the Regency style of dress with a high waist and dual style sleeves--and yet has a much less fussy feel than most in its reinterpretation for Mexican style. Mexican women didn't do the fussy kind of dress that the rest of the US did until white America got up in there and bitched that their women were dressing too free and being too liberated, because white America stay fucking up other cultures. I like making and seeing these kinds of styles on Josefina, as long as they retain that Southwestern feel and don't shove her into Caroline's era.

Appropriateness to Character: It's not only just Josefina's, she actually chose it and sewed it for herself. She put her heart and soul into that dress, and I can't see it on anyone else looking good--not even Marisol or the like. It's hers alone. Don't go putting it on your icky blond moddies.8

Final Grade: A+. You and your holiday set have earned it, my pretty Josefina. There's a reason you're in my top Five Historical Girls. 


1 Because apparently it's Parent Illegal to give a child anything as a non-birthday gift after the start of the school year, and parents are obligated to say "wait til Christmas" and hold everything back rather than buy anything and give it to them early.
2 "mahn-tee-yah." not "man-till-ah."  Also it's "Ho-say-fee-na" not "Joe-see-fee-na." Don't be white.
Hey, would you look at that! History that doesn't involve the Revolutionary War, Civil War, or World War 2 in any capacity whatsoever, and yet is still important to the formation of the US and its history! That shit's possible. And you know who you are, just sit in your corner and shut up and don't piss me off further. 
4 Felicity doesn't count. Her dresses look stupid with the panniers. You'll see how I make it look right soon enough.
5 Yes, even Felicity; her white shoes were a later add-on after re-release, not originally part of the holiday set. The only exceptions are Samantha, who got white tights, and Kirsten who got striped socks but no shoes. Exciting!
6 Guess who learned a new word today? And now reading this, so have you. Education! Anyways.
7 You probably know where I got them from. And you'd be right, I got them while I was still a member. I can hate a site's social aspects, and still use the site--or vice versa. That does not mean, however, that I'll link it from my blog.
8 You know how I act about Addy? Apply that in only a slightly lesser degree to Josefina. The only person allowed in her clothes here is Marisol, with mutual agreement that it's a cultural thing and she's not Clara.


  1. ....Blogspot ate my comment. UGH! I loved this review a lot. And I want to thank you so much for the notes on pronunciation. I've taken Spanish for a few years now, and I never get so sick of people pronouncing that J as a J in English. Also, I like the fact her doll's name is Niña.

  2. Just wanted to leave a note to say I enjoy your blog.
    We came up with the same amount of interest in AG at nearly the same time periods (I believe you are a year older than me).
    Your blogs bring back a lot of good memories of about 1991-1993, and the occasional glance AG way when I was trying to be "mature" later on.

  3. Another great informative review. Josefina is high on my list of wanted dolls; I just hope when I get her, that I can also get this lovely dress before it's retired.

    I can be white and pronounce "mantilla" and "Josefina" correctly, though. Just sayin'....

  4. I really like Josefina, she my favorite. Thank you for the review, always enjoy your posts! Also looking forward to seeing your other holidays dress.

  5. <3 ur footnote comments! (esp the one about name pronunciation! there's a youtuber who INSISTS on pronouncing Fina's name wrong & I just... girl, NO!).

    and yet again, your review has given me a new appreciation for an outfit (even though my Fina is a Modern Girl, but that's a story for another blog. ;o) )

  6. Thank you so much for the close-up photos in this post. I love sewing for dolls, and I'm thinking I could make Josefina's doll Niña, though of course she wouldn't match the commercial holiday dress. (So maybe I could also make my own holiday dress?) BTW, the official American Girl patterns are also available on another site besides the one you mentioned.

    1. What other site is that? I only knew of them there.

    2. A pattern maker called All Dolled Up has them here:


      Scroll to the very bottom of the page and you can download the AG patterns as PDF files.

      I did some pattern testing for her: the blue Pintucked Peasant Blouse is being worn by my Our Generation doll and I also sewed the orange Cowl Neck Sweater which I put on a borrowed Josefina. (I'm a little embarrassed by the latter as it was not the best fabric choice for this pattern. It doesn't drape as it should.)

    3. Wow, thanks for the link. I'll put it in my bookmarks and likely edit it into the post later.


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