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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Historical Clothes Reviews: Samantha's Play Dress and Pinafore

Nellie-girl, looking properly Edwardian.
Aooga! Aooooga! Less than two weeks to the BeForever Launch! All hands on deck! Batten the hatches and hard to starboard! It's the return of Samantha and her ruffles and new books and people mewling that Teal Wasn't Around in 19321 or that this is "extremely traumatizing"--which if the redo of a doll line from a major company that isn't catering to you specifically is your biggest trauma in the last year and change, I am glad you haven't really had major problems. I for one am so excited I can barely sit still for the want of new things for Addy, Kit, Josefina, Kaya, and the others. I may be at the launch--working things out with buddies--and will likely give y'all my happy reviews that Friday, seeing as I won't be at PAX til Saturday. Doll blogging gaming nerds unite! Our moddies have a 3DS and take pics with nerds.

If you have spent any time on this blog, you've heard me nearly pop a vessel at the fact that AG marketed Samantha Parkington as a bright "Victorian" beauty for a majority of her release. This is because it's wrong. I refuse to let her be referred to as Victorian. Samantha, and the time period from 1900 til about 1910 is better called Edwardian, if we're going to tie American eras to British monarchs. Queen Victoria of England--who the era was named for--died in 1901, and while most eras don't have a definitive end date we have this as a record so good goddamn there's no excuse. Sam's series not only is set in the US--despite the whole "England was the center of Western culture" thing going on til about WW2--but in 1904, which is well into the Edwardian era. The Edwardian era was big on fighting the rigid class hierarchy and societal positions and assumptions that had been thought of as default in the prior era. Women sought rights, the common laborer was pushing back against the idea that it was all right for them to be exploited in the name of progress, and people of color were fighting back against the idea that they just had to put up with white people shit and their colonizing everything and killing people just because they could. In the US, the better term is probably the Progressive Era, which ran from about the 1890s to the 1920s and was characterized by the reformation of government, society, and economic policy. Samantha's books--well at least the first two2--emphasis a rebellion against the class structures that characterized the Victorian era. Grandmary is Victorian minded, but even by the end of the main series she's opening up her mind. So for the sweet love of fucking ruffled bloomers, hairbows, and gingerbread, stop calling Samantha Victorian. Addy is more Victorian--at least Queen Victoria was alive then.

I may not have tons of love for Samantha the doll, but she's starting to be an okay distant character and I do like her time period. Which, at the launch of AG, was one of the big throwbacks of the 80s; there was a huge revival of late Victorian and early Edwardian fashions and trends. So Samantha and the AG launch took a bite down on that and held on, and that's why so many years we're looking at her again to be the bridge to support a relaunch of the Historical Line. When I first started having AG pop on my radar in the late 80s I was not much into Samantha, because I much more preferred the idea of the Pioneer era thanks to it being a huge thing at my elementary school. I did like some of Samantha's clothes, but I was very much of the mindset that each doll kept to her own era, and that was that. You stayed in your lane, and I didn't like Princess Samantha, and her stuff was not allowed. And since I didn't want her, I didn't have her stuff. This carried through my first years of actually collecting after I got Addy--with a few exceptions such as kimono and yukata--until Kaya arrived. Kaya was not going to stay stuck in the Braids Beads and Buckskins mentality and pulled on a set of jeans, thus becoming my first Historical/Moddie blend. Then, several years back, I and a collector friend of mine, Jane, came upon a store locally that sold secondhand AG clothes. They had Samantha's Play Dress and Pinafore among some other older, retired outfits. I decided that if I hated it that much, I could always sell it secondhand and bought it and the Tea Dress. I put it tentatively on Marisol, Marisol looked goddamn gorgeous, and that was all she wrote.3 I started picking up Sam's things for her and then Rebecca's, and expanded my collection focus.

But the outfit. When Samantha launched with Molly and Kirsten in 1986, she only came with stuff and things from her first three books, followed later by her last three books and the stuff from that. Then in 1989, she recieved an outfit not on the cover of her books but mentioned in her very first book, her Play Dress and Pinafore: a blue checked dress, a matching hairbow, and a white pinafore for $22. Samantha, being rich, did not have a work dress. Originally the outfit did not come with the lacy socks--but these were later added by 1999 when the huge Wishes Catalogues came out. I think I paid about that much. I got the socks and shoes--which are part of this review--in Samantha's Shoes and Socks set for $15 when I was building up Marisol's turn of the century wardrobe. The pinafore was retired in 2006 and the shoes and socks set went down with Sam's initial retirement. Right now we don't know for certain that it's on the way back in a few weeks or a new version of it. Ignoring the stupid spikes on eBay for the outfit, it can be gotten for about $25-30 bucks with everything. The shoes and socks go for dumb prices and I would not pay them. My dress is a PC version, but I'm sure there's little to no difference in this one and the Mattel one.

Since Nellie recently joined my gang this January, she now has the beautiful distinction of getting to model a lot of Samantha's clothes for reviews. I dickered on getting Nellie before her retirement in 2008, so I got her more recently when a buddy of mine in AG collecting wanted her to find a good home when she was downsizing her collection and held on to her for me for a long time. Nellie O'Malley is a mix of moddie and Historical, and now she can wear all Sam's stuff for reviews (cause gods knows Tara has to be dragged kicking and screaming into it). I don't have much for Nellie directly out of her collection except her meet dress, so she'll be rocking Sam's stuff. Nellie shares my birthday--October 15th--and is a much more practical, sensible, thoughtful, and knowledgeable girl than flighty, froofy, head in the clouds Samantha. It's really terrible how she got shuffled off in the books by Valerie Tripp/on AG's order because she really sort of smacked Samantha out of her privilege just by being her friend, and her being pushed off until book 6 was terrible. 

Freckles everywhere!
Also, fun fact? I didn't like the sparse freckles on her and so added a ton more, including three on her chin and one on her lip.

Review ahoy~!

Hairbows, the staple of headgear in the Progressive Era.
Hairbow: Samantha's clothes all came with huge hairbows; it was fashion for little girls to have huge bows either in the back of their curls, around their heads, or to the side of their heads. Sam wore em, Nellie wears them, Marisol wears them when she's wearing this. In this set the hair bow is a hemmed length of the same fabric of the dress. Since I took the pictures of it first, it gets reviewed first. I have tied it neatly around Nellie's side hair pony to look its best. It's of the same blue check as the dress, a darker muted blue shade that I like to call French Blue with white lines that make a square pattern. Not quite plaid, not quite gingham, but still needs to be properly cut and handled like a plaid and look its best.

The sides are hemmed and then sewn together, with the ends pressed and then sewn into a neat point. I love this detail.

Bow knot.
And the expertly tied bow knot. It's not hard to tie bows if you take your time and do it around the right way to get the stronger, horizontal knot.4 A. Not super fancy, but it so ties--hah--into the rest of the outfit.

Pinafores are important.
Pinafore: Over the main dress is a white cotton style pinafore with ruffle trim.

Time for historical clothing lessons! Pinafores have been around in some form for centuries. Felicity's birthday dress comes with one of the earliest versions of one, which you'll eventually see. The name comes from the fact that it was pinned to the front--afore--of regular clothes, and the name stuck even when pins were no longer used. The colors leaned to white and pale colors, and the pinafore gained bodices over the sleeves and became the domain of young girl's clothing. Pinafores as girls' clothing are and were a brilliant strategy to avoid major washing of clothes. They were worn over regular clothes as well as play dresses to keep laundry to a minimum and keep clothes fresh. Most day to day dresses were not washed after one wear, and even a proper little girl who was not supposed to be climbing trees Samantha Parkington would get their clothes messy just being little girls. The plain pinafore took the brunt of the dirt and mess and--often being white and thus easily sun bleached like underwear--went in with the more regular laundry. It was much easier to wash and replace a bunch of pinafores for your little girls than having to wash a whole dress regularly, which would put wear and tear on the outfit. Pinafores are generally characterized as being sleeveless with an upper bib or bodice part, come all the way around the dress as much as possible to cover the majority of the dress and thus protect it with the sleeves uncovered, show a good part of the dress underneath, and fasten at the upper back with an open bottom. We've all seen pinafores if we've seen any part of Alice in Wonderland. Or lolicon fashions. Or a lot of 80s fancy dresses for little girls. Or the 1950s. PINAFORES.

Nothing about the pinafore specifically ties it to the dress, which is probably the best part of it since it can go over any other dress Samantha has in her collection or any made for her. It's plain white and would match anything else.

The pinafore has a very high bodice; while waists tended to go low into drop waists, pinafores were often very high up in the Edwardian era. Pinafores do not have to mimic the dress structure under them.

The bodice is trimmed with a white ruffle that also serves as the "sleeves" over the armscythe. Not all pinafores had ruffles but given that Sam is a pretty princess, her pinafore naturally has ruffles. Over the top is white topstitching.

Pinafore body.
 The main body of the pinafore is cut to be like an A-Line dress, falling more from the shoulders than the waist. 

On the front left is a simple white rectangular pocket for Sam to tuck cookies or other things in. Sam's clothes: More progressive than some women's clothes today.

More ruffles.
At the bottom hem is more white ruffles, because if Sam's stuff doesn't have ruffles it's not Sam's stuff. 
Under the arm you can see that the main body of the pinafore is cut so that the arm hole is standard size over the dress.

The back of the pinafore has the back loose open, and the top part closes with velcro.

Back ruffle and closure.
The shoulder/bodice ruffles come around the shoulders and to the back closure. A+. I really love the pinafore and can, in theory, put this over other clothes I make for Nellie or Marisol to wear.

Even Sam's play dress fits the era.
Dress: The long sleeved casual day dress with wide collar is of the blue check fabric the bow is based on. It's rather simple, since all the ruffles are on the pinafore. It stands on its own as a dress, and would be good wear for day to day shenanigans, parlor time, and making social calls. The whole point of the pinafore is to keep the dress under it clean, and the dress needs to look good on its own, so there you go.

My dress was purchased second hand and so has faint stain spots here and there. I can live with that.

High collars.
The white high neck collar around the neck is high on Nellie's throat. This was both the style of the time and to cover up Sam's terrible defects. Until Felicity, AG made white bodied dolls, so everything the first three girls wore for several years wore was designed to fully covered their hideous deformed white torsos so they wouldn't look more terrible than they already did.5

Second collar, for bibbles.
The dress has a secondary large collar that drapes over the front. It's somewhere between a bib collar and a Bertha--very characteristic of the era. The collar comes down to a point in the front.

Underneath the collar.
The collar is not attached to the dress anywhere but at the neckline.

This is a terrible look and I'm only doing it for the review.
This means that a lot of people display this outfit with the collar over the pinafore bodice. This is a terrible, backwards look and I personally hate it to death. What's the point of wearing the pinafore to keep your clothes clean if you're just going to flop the collar all over it? Don't do it, people. That's enough of that.

Sleeves. With some spots.
The sleeves are long and slightly puffy, coming down to the wrists. You can really see the spots on the fabric there. Eh.

The plain white cuffs close with velcro at the wrists.

Blouson Waits.
The waist slightly puffs around the waist and hangs over the waistband. Don't tug the dress down to make it smooth. It was the style to have puffy bodices over skirts, called the blouson waist. 

Skirts standing out.
The skirt is unadorned and gathered to the waist.

The hem is a simple one, with no trims and ruffles.

The dress velcros up the back, like most AG clothes.

Collar party in the back!
The bib collar is separated in the back, adding a sweet charm. A. Damn but I love this dress.

Bonus: lace ruffled petticoat for all your fluffy skirted needs! I made this one myself to go under Edwardian wear.

Lacy sock goodness.
Socks: Originally the set did not come with any socks; if you wanted lacy socks, you bought the extras or used the ones from Samantha's birthday set. Since my set was a PC version and I was buying socks and shoes for Marisol anyways, I got the socks. They're white lace socks that come up to the knees.

Sock tops.
The tops are slightly elastic and have lace trim at the top.

Back seam.
And like most socks and stockings before the advent of commercial circular knitting machines, there is a seam up the back. Well, this one is simulated. B+. I really like lacy socks.

Shoes that matter!
Shoes: The shoes and socks set came with basic black patent leather Mary Janes. And damn but these are the best shoes for Samantha. I don't know why Samantha never came with good shoes like this during her first run. I don't use those terrible meet shoes she came with, they are purely for collection purposes.

History lesson again! Mary Jane shoes used to be a registered trademark. They were named after the sweetheart character of Buster Brown in the comic strip. In 1904, Richard F. Outcault--the creator--traveled to the St. Louis World's Fair and sold licenses to various companies to use the Buster Brown characters to advertise their products. Among them was the Brown Shoe Company, who hired actors to perform as the characters and wear their style of shoes in theaters and stores--thus making the Brown Shoe Company become the most prominently associated brand with the Buster Brown characters. The style of shoe both Buster Brown and Mary Jane wore--the plain flat shoe with ankle straps--came to be known by Mary Jane's name, and eventually stopped being a trademark.6

So it's actually a little blurry if Samantha would have worn them often, but they would have been coming into fashion.

Shoes from the sides.
The shoes close on the side with velcro. At least mine do. Older versions have snaps.

The inner lining is plain white for lack of staining on doll feets.

The soles are plain black with a little heel. A+. Why didn't Sam and Molly get these outside their sock and shoes sets? Why, Shug, why~?


Book ties!

As seen in my Meet Samantha review, Samantha has this dress on in her very first image, giving Eddie super bitch face. Some people even feel this is a more iconic dress for Samantha than the plaid one, since that one wasn't seen until later. 

The illustration of Samantha in the parlor shows the dress with the pinafore off. She just has a plain white bow in both sets of illustrations. 

All three versions of Samantha's paper dolls have the Play Pinafore and "Afternoon Dress", complete with bow. She's wearing white tights (stated to be a big deal because white tights = expensive to play in) and high button boots, the pinafore pocket is on the opposite side, and there's no nice huge collar. In the Play Scenes and Settings, the pinafore isn't separate.

And on the cover of Samantha's Friendship Fun she's wearing it proper.


Overall Feel: This is a dress that, even with the ruffles, looks clean and basic enough for every day wear. The bow ties into a nice huge hairbow and matches the dress perfectly, seeing as they're the same fabric. The pinafore is crisp and clean; I ironed my entire set lightly before dressing Nellie to have everything nice.7 The dress works both with and without the pinafore, thus doing exactly what it should, and isn't too fancy or frippery which is why I think it looks great on practical Nellie and could go with dark or white tights as well as the socks--or high button shoes. The mary jane shoes are what Samantha should have had later on--they are so much better than her terrible ones. And don't drape the bib collar over the pinafore. That looks dwoppy and defeats the whole purpose of the pinafore.

Cost Value:
$22 for the set--with and without the socks is a good deal. What I paid for it--around that much--was also a very sweet deal. Don't pay more than $30-35, regardless of it being PC or Mattel; you can find it for much less complete, even without the socks. I would hold out for the bow, but the socks can be substituted. With the shoes you'll be paying too much and can probably find some okay black mary janes that will do just as good a job--I love mine, but I wouldn't pay as much as the 'Bay asks.

Quite authentic. The plain white high pinafore over a patterned day or afternoon dress is a very accurate look and can be seen in photographs and paintings of the era on little girls left and right, regardless of social status--hell, the wikipedia page has that as its image for "pinafore". A wonderful book, All of a Kind Family, has the five girls wearing sets just like it. (You can see it here.) The outfit style just screams "this is Edwardian/Progressive era." A set like it was in the Samantha movie, and so maybe just maybe we'll be getting a new set like it. 
Appropriateness to Character:
It is probably one of Samantha's quintessential outfits, and is in fact the first dress her illustrations show.8 In my collection it looks brilliant on Nellie and Marisol. I once put it on Tara and she sulked, but she looked okay in it. But I think it really is Nellie's set more than anyone's for everyday Edwardian wear around here--and it just brings out the blue in her eyes. I'm going to take her in this to the BeForever premiere.
Final Grade:
A. While it's frilly and Samantha Princessy, it can drop down to casual and neat. I hope we get a new version of it--and if we don't, I'm sure I can drape the pinafore over other Sam things. 


1 Someone whose blog I won't give link hits to said, completely seriously, "Seeing as Kit's family is poor and struggling to eat during the depression, why is she now wearing a bright teal dress? Her clothes would be from feed sacks or faded hand me downs." Because when you become poor you are no longer allowed to have nice clothes, and in the 1930s your clothes instantly faded into dull boring feedsacks. (I can tell from some of the pixel prints and from seeing quite a few shops in my day.) Also Kit's family does not struggle and starve to eat. They have boarders and they almost lose the house, but they don't starve in bowls. Have you ever read the books or are you just riding on some coo coo made up monkey shit in an effort to be a try-hard PC humper?
2 Still working on those reviews. I kinda like to have the summary on the wiki before I do my reviews here, and it takes a bit when I'm busy with so much during my awake hours.
3 No, I'm not lying. Look at this adorables.
4 Ever since I watched that TED talk I cannot get over the fact that I'd been doing it wrong to make fluffy bows look perfect and throw this at everyone.
5 I hate white-bodied dolls so much. 
6 Other trademarks that have fallen into general names include the zipper, escalator, asprin, and heroin. Yes, the drugs.
7 So many people fuck that up by dressing dolls in wrinkled clothes. I have things to say about that.
8 Until the 28th. Goodbye, illustrations!


  1. I hear you on the whole Victorian thing--these are AMERICAN Girl dolls, why do we have to make a reference to an English era and not even the right one! I like Progressive Era much more, it makes perfect sense if you've ever watched "The Men Who Built America".

    Terrific information on this outfit too, I never got this outfit, almost wish I had now. Very cute and it looks great on Nellie. I was never a fan of the Nellie doll, but I love what you did with the freckles, I think it made all the difference in the world in her appearance!

  2. This is one of my favorite Samantha outfits (close seconds are the Buster Brown dress and the blue velvet dress that I will never ever be able to afford.). I wind up putting Samantha in this one quite a bit, usually with her boots since the seem better for knocking around in than the Mary Janes.

    About the only thing I can say in favor of the gawdawful plastic shoes is that they seem to be the only shoes that I can get to fit under her ice skates.

    Oh, I agree about putting the collar on the outside of the pinafore--it drives me nuts when I see pictures of that.


  3. I adore your customization with the freckles!
    This is one of my favorite outfits and I think it looks better on Nellie for the blue eye factor alone. I share your frustration at the CONSTANT fuckery of "Victorian" because honestly, a company that prides itself on historical education (I'm counting Pleasant Company who started the name nonsense) shouldn't be passing along misinformation and keep at it for, oh, twenty-eight years? I repeat my wish into the heavens for a Black ACTUAL Victorian cuz that'd be awesome as shit and she could have real live Victorian pretty princess clothing as well and could doubly educate people on the Victorian era as well as the fact that Black folk weren't always in rural poverty/slavery and since due to AG's bungling of their last Black historical, don't we fucking deserve...eh, oh well.

    "Seeing as Kit's family is poor and struggling to eat during the depression, why is she now wearing a bright teal dress? Her clothes would be from feed sacks or faded hand me downs."

    I'm a total masochistic and morbidly curious. I thought were humorously exaggerating despite the quotations because although I know better, some small part of me doesn't want to believe people can be that f*cking clueless, but I thought I'd give it a Google search and OH MY GODS. I seriously agree about the lack of book reading, but does this person even read the product info? Kit has a feedsack dress. It's her very cute, very BRIGHT birthday dress. Her Christmas dress is a handmedown from Ruthie. The explanation for shitloads of her clothes are the fact they've been reworked, altered, or otherwise. I realize AG has retired/downplayed Kit's more "tomboy" clothing but goddamn.

    Then I saw this little gem in the same comment.

    what about Kaya's Pow Wow dress vs her LE Jingle dress(satin). NA didn't have satin LOL.


    I happen to be in love with and engaged to an NDN, but even if I wasn't, my rage face would be no less ferocious. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this person? "JINGLE DRESS OF TODAY" or do all "NA" live in the past ("NA didn't have satin") and are "extinct"? Bitch managed to make the sweep from classism to racism all while knowing very little about the characters and pretending she's an AG expert in one fuckin' comment.

    *rubs temples* I seriously can't with these shitheads. I don't know how you do it.

    I'm a go break some shit because that seriously pissed me off. WHY DID I LOOK INTO THE EYE OF SAURON!?

    *looks at your lovely pictures some more to calm down*

  4. OMG Nellie looks adorbz in this outfit! I love the way it brings out her eyes, & it looks great w/her hair color too!

    as always, I love your snark-and-wit-peppered writing style, and I learn so much about historical fashion from reading your reviews.

    and I had to go check the wiki to look up this Samantha's Tea Dress you mentioned and HOLY SHIT SAMANTHA REALLY DID HAVE SO MANY THINGS OMG HOW WHY WHAT WHEN WHERE!????

    1. Yeah, Samantha and Molly got swamped in clothes. Kit too--but Sam had like, everything.

  5. I am totally bummed that there will be no illuistrations. I hope AG will soon realize they ve made a mistake and release new books with pictures in them.

    1. I don't think they'll come back for multiple reasons: a child 8 to 12 often feels that picture books can feel rather juvenile, for one. A big one is that illustrations make people lock down to ideas of what should be in a collection--many people bitch that outfits not shown in the books weren't "real" outfits--and with no illustrations AG is free to design more things. Furthermore, all text books work better for digital availability.

    2. yes, everything you say does make sence and I had thought about it myself however:
      - kids aged 4-9 usually do love picture books, at least thats what I observe and AG`s target age has been getting younger
      - I fully embrace the reconstruction of the books from six to two. there is absolutely no need to have 6 books with the same titles for each doll and you do not have to always duplicate the outfits from the books BUT you could also add SOME illustrations not neccessarily connected with the design of the outfits. believe me, if enough adult and children customers complain AG will have to think of smth. I personally would have loved a few realistic illustrations in each book, just like on the cover. anyway we`ll have to wait and see. Im glad I got most of the books already for my kids.

    3. AG's marketing audience is not getting younger. Parents are skewing younger but AG is still aiming for an 8+ audience both with books and characters. Just because parents are terrible and give children things they're too young for doesn't mean that it's the target audience anymore than the iPad is targeted towards children simply because there's child apps.

      Parents are free to complain, but at the end of the day AG does what gets them money, and illustrations generally aren't going to anymore.

  6. My Nellie wears this more often than my Samantha... even with the frills it seems to suit her better.

    Lovely review, and Nellie's extra freckles look adorable, too!

  7. How did you do the freckles? I love them!

    1. Acrylic paint and fine art brushes.

  8. Question:
    Were little girls of the Edwardian era ever told to put on a pinafore or was something they did automatically. Did they ever balk over wearing one?

  9. I just found your blog while looking for info about Molly's undies, and now have been reading it for a few hours. And I Love it! I have always been into historical fashion and the AG dolls. I was into pioneer also at the time I learned about the dolls and so got Kirsten at age nine, then handmade a whole lotta her stuff. After a few years I got into turn of the century and actually saved enough money to buy this dress (Sams play dress and pinafore) because I absolutely looooved it, I bought it with the shoes and socks too, even though I didn't actually have the Sam doll yet, because no way was I ever going to keep her in those ugly plastic things when I did get her! Anyhow, still one of my fav outfits for Sam! Oh, I haven't looked into it yet, but I was really wondering about the historical authenticity of the new beforever pink/lavender outfit, because I love those boots, which I believe the style being accurate, but in lavender color? I was thinking of finding some on eBay for cheap and turning them black.

  10. Old old post, but what are the dimensions of the hairbow?


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