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

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Historical Clothes Reviews: Rebecca's Hanukkah Dress and LE Mini Doll

Marisol doesn't celebrate Hanukkah, but she does celebrate nice clothes.
Yesterday was Yule--which is my religious holiday as an eclectic pagan. The Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, and many pagans celebrate with bonfires, holly and ivy, keeping the lights on, and reminding ourselves that though the darkness seems long and endless, from this day on the circle gets brighter and the days get longer. Celebrate the reason for the season--Our Lady of Darkness Persephone spending the winter with her husband and lover, Hades, in the Underworld.1

Among my gang of AG girls, I have a major pagan and her younger sister, a faithful Roman Catholic, several nominal Christians, A gang member who feels Episcopalian, and some that really don't give a shit about Christianity beyond the cultural influence. However, I don't have any Jewish or Muslim girls. I have a mild fascination with Judaism the same way I have one with Islam or Catholicism, in that I like to study and learn about faiths not my own. I already know enough about Protestant/Non-denominational Christianity, being raised in it partially, and eventually chose to make a deconversion in my 20s. I own a copy of the Tanakh and read it in college, and will probably read it again, especially if I eventually have a Jewish gang member. But I don't purport to know everything about the faith.

American Girl was pretty lackluster on the Jewish front for some time. At first all they had was a Hannukah outfit and accessories which, despite a reformation at one point, have hung on through the years--and been misused by many people.2 Then there was Lindsey Bergman, Girl of the Year 2001-2002 who had one book which mentions that her older brother is having his bar mitzvah. Her traits are more like what TV Tropes calls Informed Judaism: a marker here and there but nothing really Jewish, more Jewish in opposition to Christianity. Then in 2009 after the removal of Pretty Princess 'Mantha, we got her replacement: Rebecca Rubin, a Russian-Jewish girl living in post-Titanic era New York City. Rebecca wasn't just nominally Jewish: her family keep the traditions and so does she and while she is only one example of living Jewish in Eastern Immigrant America era, she does it in a lovely way. I did pick up "Rebecca" soon after she came out, but only to customize into another historical I had planned as she was the perfect look for the job. And since Marisol Luna--my pretty Latina dancer--had started to find a love of early 1900s clothes, I gave her Rebecca's meet wear and started getting Rebecca's clothes for her here and there. Rebecca feels a major level of awkwardness in the US and the pressure to assimilate to the dominant faith by her peers. One of Rebecca's books that best show her discomfort is Candlelight for Rebecca, where she and her classmate Rose try to explain to the teacher that they don't want to participate in making Christmas decorations, but are told by the teacher that since Christmas is a national holiday, everyone celebrates it, and thus pushed into doing things that don't make her feel right or comfortable.3 Rebecca's grandparents assure her that she is free to feel discomfort and not want to do Christmas things, because Christmas is a Christian holiday, and tell the signifigance of and celebrating it in America freely, and it all works out for her.

For Hanukkah, Rebecca has a dress she loves wearing for the holidays, and it is quite relevant to her stories. Rebecca's Hanukkah Dress consists of a a purple striped dress with white sleeves and collar, a woven embroidered hairbow, cream tights, and cream shoes; the set was released the September after her release and just in time for the holidays. The current cost is $32 direct from AG--it was $28 when it came out, but costs rising and all. It's on eBay, and most of the prices are not a good one. Why are you on eBay for this? Just buy it from AG. I paid Gift for it--that is, in a holiday swap this was gifted to me.

Since I don't have Rebecca, Marisol Luna will be modeling Rebecca's wear for you, but they share face molds so it works. Marisol would have had three clothes changes, but Tara and I came to an understanding. My Marisol is a lot like book!Marisol, with the noted traits here of being a little ditzy, a touch snippy, allergic to chocolate, in love with Disney princesses, and beautiful with languages. And also being Felicity's first crush here, because she looks like a Latina version of Felicity's Dear Elizabeth. Like the others, this review contains LE Mini Rebecca.

Hairbows: A staple of 1910s girl wear.
Hair Ribbon: Rebecca's set comes with a long embroidery-woven hair ribbon with V-cut ends. It's intended to be tied to one side, as a fashion of the time for girls was to tie a ribbon around the hair off to one side headband style. Here, I have tied it mostly right, so that it doesn't look too cocksided.

Flat ribbon.
The center of the satin ribbon is patterned with gradient pattered flowers and ribbons that shift from purple to magenta to pale pink, with green accents and leaves. The sides are edged with pale mauve satin. The back is much messier, and shows all the loose running of thread that was woven in to get the picturesque front. Hence, my not taking a picture of it. This means when the ribbon is tied in the way I did, the knot will show the backside. There's probably a way to show only the right side, but I decided not to bother. B+. I wish there had been a backing so that I didn't have to learn to tie a picture bow to make the bow look its best.

Dressy Dress-ness.
Dress: The dress--the main component of the outfit--is a purple striped drop-waist dress with multiple contrasting trims and components, each to be articulated in the closeups. The main fabric is likely a style of satin weave that was done to make semi-thin stripes with the "right" and "wrong" side of the weave; at touch there is a slight texture difference between the dark purple and lighter purple stripes, with the darker being smooth and the lighter being rough. There is a bit of iridescent shine to the darker purple stripes. Much like Samantha before her, the drop waist look on dresses for girls carried to the 1910s. However, there was a lot less frill (especially for a middle-class Jewish girl). Mostly there was less of the puffy blouson look and more of a straight, tube look in the bodice and skirt. Purple is one of my liked colors, and Rebecca was the first historical to have a purple holiday dress.

The collar is of a unique, historical design--the main dress collar stops low, is trimmed in purple solid cotton, and then goes up to a sheer cream undercollar that gathers to a matching high collar with slight scrunching. It makes the dress look like it's being worn over a visible sheer underblouse which was very historically fashionable; many girls' dresses actually did that instead of making it just trim or integrating it into the bodice. I even have a book--How to Dress an Old Fashioned Doll--that emphasized the guimpe under a dress look.4

Oversleeve comes tucked up.
The sleeves come down into two "parts," an oversleeve and an undersleeve. The over sleeve of the purple striped fabric comes down to a little below the elbow, is tucked up, and backed with the same purple at the bodice collar and cut into a scalloped edge. 

The undersleeve is of the same sheer fabric as the undercollar. It comes down to the wrist, and is elasticed at the wrist so as to make a ruffle over the hand. It's really easy to see this as an undershirt under a dress and not just attached to the main dress. While that would have been a bit bulky for doll wear, it's a very accurate look.

The wide sash is below the natural waist and much closer to the hips; it's made of the same plain purple cotton or broadcloth that trims the collar and backs the sleeves. The right side of the sash is slightly gathered and tacked into place on the side seam..

Sash out!
The other side of the sash is tucked into a waist loop of striped fabric tacked to the front left side, and so can be pulled out and adjusted as needed. (Yes, for those who can see it, my nail polish is chipped. I painted my nails black and chrome for the funeral service, and have been letting it naturally chip off.) The short end from the left should be tucked in first and then the longer right tacked edge tucked over it, before being smoothed out a little.

Double skirt.
And, to continue the double look fashion, there is a double skirt look--the overskirt is scallop edged like the sleeves and tacked to a plain purple faux underskirt that comes down to just around the knees.  

Back close.
The back closes with standard no-snag velcro. The sash is tacked in place, and the velcro runs from it up and to the high undercollar. A+--I love the double look fashion, the rich color with the stripes, and the sheer cream accents.

Tights. They're not exciting.
Tights: Cream. Slightly sheer and slightly ribbed. B. I'm not going to go into tight detail unless I have to. Note that Marisol is just wearing standard panties right now, not puffy ones. Rebecca has the same cute puffy panties that Samantha does. 

These are so damn cute for shoes.
Shoes: Rebecca finishes off her set with a pair of heeled cream strapped matte "leather" dress shoes5. They're not quite Mary Janes, as Mary Janes are a more specific style of shoe that buckles to one side. These don't buckle at all; instead, the vamp arches up to a butterfly bow style faux closure. In real shoes these would probably be a tie, buckle or a clasp. Most high button shoes were starting to go out of fashion at the time for young girls; the excesses of fashion and the time it would take to didn't mesh well with working and lower class women. 

Bows on the strap.
The front of the shoes have a unique double butterfly bow style that has a butterfly cut  back and an oval over it with a knot closure. Double everything.

Since the actually shoes would have tied, AG has subbed this with elastic behind the bows. This way there's no velcro, and the shoes just slide off and on. Nice.

Sole and Heel.
The sole is solid black, and there is a significant heel. It's better seen from the side...

Heel. Oh, heels on AG shoes. You ruin everything.
The heel is a touch high--what is generally called a kitten heel. Now, the thing with AG dolls is that they have very very flat feet and off kilter hips. So while a tiny heel doesn't throw them off balance too much, too high heels without a similarly high platform in front leads to one of two things--dolls who tip forward and fall without a doll stand,6 or a hip forward stance that makes them tilt their legs backto keep them upright and counterbalancing the heel tilt. I don't like it one bit. And so, as much as I love cream bow closure shoes, I don't like cock hipped doll standing. B-. Would have been no minus--or maybe even an A--but the heel is just high enough to cause off hip display.


Mini Doll: Rebecca came out mini style in September 2011 (along with mini Julie) and a mini copy of Candlelight for Rebecca. I snatched Beckies up in my last month of getting the rest I hadn't already got for $24. She gos for about $30-40 now, when she does show. All right, if you have to have her. But the prices will likely go up. She's fairly faithful to the full sized one, with double sleeves, skirts, and collars.

Hey y'all, look at my bow.
Her bow is tacked in place, and set up so that the knot looks nice with no back view. I really like that they didn't giver her a non-woven ribbon for her look.

Sash ain't moving.
The sash is not adjustable and is tacked in place.

Shoe bows.
And her shoe bows are, since this is small scale, are simple ribbons tacked to Mary Jane style whole piece shoes. A, Mini-Rebecca. Now I just need to find your normal counterpart in my house.


To tie the set to Rebecca's collection, it featured prominently on the cover of Candlelight for Rebecca, along with the family menorah. It's shown in the book, but there's spoilers, so I'm not scanning them. Not that the spoilers apply. I'm just feeling lazy and also go read the book. Since Rebecca is fairly new, she doesn't have the clothes rep that the others do for their holiday sets.

And since Rebecca only had the Play Scenes and Settings paper dolls so far (and its offshoot the Pop-Up Scenes), her dress is shown. However it only came in one style, where the accessories come on separate pages, much like Cécile. And, much like Cécile I scanned and edited this set to look like it does for my blog, so don't go using it yourself.


Overall Feel: What's not to love? The dress has a lovely double layer look that was very chic and is very authentic. The purple draws it out of the standard holiday look and into a fancy party dress feel--beautiful, as Rebecca does not celebrate Christmas or even Giftmas, and so she wouldn't really want a set that said "Christian Holiday." I especially love the sheer undersleeves and collar, and the sash being loose around the hips, as things would start turning towards in the 20s. The hairbow I wish I could tie better, but even with visible knot, the pattern is lovely and flashy without being too much. The shoes are cute too--well, except the part where putting them on Marisol makes her hips pop forward. AG, stick to flats or very small heels. 

Cost Value:
$32 is average AG cost for an outfit that comes with dress, stockings, shoes, and a hairbow, so it's not too bad in my view. I really can't give it value except as an awesome gift from a friend I'm still in contact with, but if it hadn't been a gift I'd have bought it for myself for the cost given. Don't even look at eBay. Go to AG, pick it up, and don't get yourself frustrated with the eBay racket. Beckie is not AG available, but if you can find her at a respectable cost and you like minis, pull the lever, Kronk.7

Yes. The sheer collar and sleeves give that guimpe look that was hella popular at the time and--while not actually a separate undershirt--I can see it being done that way. Also, rather than a wide or overly elaborate skirt, or poofy bodice and sleeves, her look is a lot sleeker and more slimming--a look that went forward into the 20s. Not flapper style, really. Just slimmer than the Edwardian and late Victorian outward, elaborate consumption profile.

Appropriateness to Character:
Yes, it is. Rebecca adores the dress and has been wearing it for several Hanukkahs at the point of the story. Here, Marisol wears it for a fancy historical look--which is fine. It's labeled a Hanukkah dress for story context, but it's not really culturally Jewish so much as it is the dress that Rebecca likes wearing during her favorite, very personal holiday--one that her family holds on to in a country that was pushing the melting pot idea as long as you left all your personal flavor out of it. (England, can't believe you took over so many chunks of the world for spices and then had the nerve to lead to white people not flavoring their food.) Around here Rebecca, Molly, Julie, and Samantha give up their clothes to my gang for the betterment of others. You can call me a hypocrite since I'll cut your pretty eyes for putting the DoC clothes on the white dolls, but fuck you, I put the fancy dresses on the ethnic dolls and not the other way around cause I'm not scared of brown dolls. I just keep my gang mostly DoC.
Final Grade:
A. Sweet and unique just like Rebecca--and Marisol. 

1 Or axial tilt. Whatever warms your little heart up in the cold.
2 Let's later tell the fun story of the person who had her dolls "celebrate" Passover with a menorah and dolly matzah ball soup. That was some SHIT.
3 And that, folks, is why Christians don't get to bitch about a War on Christmas when they've tried to smash out every other faith's holiday by claiming they're the universal Winter Holiday.
4 It's an awesome book if you're trying to sew historical era clothing for Samantha, as the book was originally published in about 1906. Be warned though, that they didn't hold your hand in the 1900s. The patterns are not full sized and don't show every step.
5 I'm pretty sure that most AG shoes are made of pleather or vinyl.
6 I generally hate AG's doll stands, and can get a doll to stand without it. I generally can have an AG stand without a stand.  I don't own any for the Gang. 
7 Wrong lever--why do we even have that lever.


  1. I love you reviews !!! And I love your attitude !!!

  2. I always like your informative reviews, Neth, and I appreciate your sharing your knowledge of history, sewing and crafts with us.

    But let me get this straight...we whitefolks must never EVER put clothes that officially belong to dolls of color on white dolls, on pain of an Angry Black Woman reaching through our internet connections to do terrible things to us, but you can freely plunder the white dolls' wardrobes for your gang anytime you want, because..I'm not even sure why. I don't like to use the word "hypocrite" about anyone, but let's just say that if you see a critter that waddles like a duck, has webbed feet and a yellow bill and screams "Aflac!", well then....

    Meh. Your blog, your rules. I'm going to take my hands off the keyboard now, but before I go, I just want you to know that I return your sweet sentiments one hundredfold.

  3. @LaughsatLuna Oh Christ, whine somewhere else. White [dollies/folk] get ninety-five percent of everything ever, or had you not noticed just how fucking lacking AG is in diversity. Absolutely let the Dollies of Colour keep their nice shit to themselves. --they have barely any. Your white dolly can wear eight hundred different outfits that have never touched anything other than the creamiest creampie of lilywhite doll skin. Get over it and learn to share with the rest of the world.

    (All that being said, I actually really dislike the way this one looks --but I've known for ages that I can't stand the super super tube-like straight lines of the twenties. I'm glad you love it so, but I just find it a heap of "meh".

    Well, okay, the colour's real good. I like that part.)

  4. oh, laughsatluna, I will never understand you lot & your super-facile understanding of things. suffice to say, there's more historical & societal context than you seem to be able to grasp. representation is important & has measurable effects; I'm assuming you won't quite understand that, so there's some independent study work for you to do.

    I mean basically, it's what Kat said, but there's more to it than that.

    Neth: I also have a hard time w/kitten heel AG shoes. it seems almost like a design flaw, considering the way the legs & hips are constructed. I don't so much have an issue w/AG doll stands (except the ones from AG are ridick expensive), but I'd rather not have to buy them. oh well, most of my gang spends the bulk of their time sitting, or standing somewhere they can lean on something for support.

  5. Question: What about DoCs living in the era of mass-manufactured ready-to-wear clothes? Are their outfits also off-limits for White dolls?

    Also, if you want to learn more about Judaism, don’t rely on AG, which clearly caters to the assimilated Jews, and which can’t get even the most basic facts right. Obviously, in the first book (I read the Beforever version), the author knew the Yiddish word for “grandmother” (Bubbe), but not for “grandfather” (Zayde). The explanation given, that in America Zayde wanted to be called Grandpa, just didn’t ring true. Okay, that’s opinion, not fact. But here’s a fact: no way would Bubbe send Sophie down to fetch butter for a meal at which stuffed cabbage, a meat dish, was being served. Observant Jews are prohibited from eating meat and dairy (meaning milk-based) foods at the same meal.

    I also found it offensive that Rebecca’s father opened his shoe store on Shabbos. On the other hand, although he wasn’t compelled by a boss to work, I believe New York’s Sunday Blue Laws would have forced him to close on Sunday, meaning he would have had no weekend business at all. However, an observant woman like Bubbe would never have handled Rebecca’s crochet work on Shabbos, much less directed her sisters to work on their trousseaux, as needlework of any kind is strictly prohibited on Shabbos.

    My fantasy is to write a Passover story for Rebecca, but I just don’t have the energy or initiative. But that’s another can of worms.


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