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

Friday, July 24, 2015

Historical Clothes Reviews: Kit's Limited Edition Chicken-Keeping Set

The care and keeping of chickens, by Kit.
The availability of Historical and BeForever Characters marches on. In only about five weeks or so, Caroline will head off into the archives and be replaced by the red headed, some-colored eyed,1  Florida living Maryellen of the 1950s, leaving only three girls not placed in the 20th Century--and all of them girls of color. AG's balance is, shall we say, hella imbalanced.

I'm still up in the air about Maryellen's collection--the doll is still on the miss me side for now--but I will be reading the books and jacking things for Edith and Dorothy. Speaking of which, if you haven't preordered Maryellen's books, your best bet right now is Amazon. Thanks to Lucina on AGC, I've been informed of a huge sale. Her Central Series dual books are almost half off;  The One and Only is down to $5.23 and Taking Off is down to $5.18. The Sky's the Limit--the My Journey With book--doesn't have as steep a discount at $9.18, but all three books have the Amazon Preorder guarantee: If the price goes down before release then you get the cheaper price and if the price goes up, you still get the cheapest price that was offered. Right now that's pretty much like buy two of her books and get one free, and all still less than $20. Along with Josefina's Journey book and any item of about 6.50 or more, you can even get free shipping, and you won't be charged until things ship. This is cheaper than getting the box set from them and definitely cheaper than the $10 that AG will be charging for each book and $30 for the box set. Game the system and go read books. They're brain making, and can make folks like a character more than if they'd just gone on looks and sparkly collection things.

I know that was the case with me and Kit Kittridge. Kit--along with Samantha and still-vaulted Molly--used to be part of what I called the 20th Century Block Out. Starting at about the time I got into AG collecting in 2005, AG tended to be on a trend of releasing sets that only focused on Kit, Sam, and Molly. First it was the Rolling through the Ages sets of outdoor wheeled activities and outfits. Then the swimwear through the ages sets, which again, was the three of them and their beachwear. Then the Scrapbooking collection of books that and even though Kit did not get a new outfit for those, she was included by having a book. So I didn't like Kit, and felt she was kind of an usurper taking emphasis away from Addy. Then I picked up her books secondhand and started to read and found that Kit, for all her blue eyed, bobbed blond hair self, was more than just another classic molded face. Girl was struggling in poverty, dealing with a best friend who didn't always get it, and liked to write news. Six read books later Kit went from "do not want" to "do want" and so became part of the gang in 2007 soon after I moved to the place I'm at now, and she's in my top five Historical loves. Addy keeps winning at BeForever, but Kit's not so far behind her and often places second in the race, and if I have to dicker about who to get something for after busting the budget on Addy, it's quite possible that I'll go for Kit. Especially now that her BeForever Wardrobe is less 40s mashed with 20s and more properly early 30s.

Like Addy, Sam, Julie, Kaya, and Rebecca, Kit was included in the BeForever Limited edition release as well as the prior Limited Edition Release with Rebecca, Julie, and Kaya.2 This spring, she got Kit's Chicken-Keeping Set which had me geeking from the moment of release. At the cost of $48 dollars, Kit gets a cherry print blouse, green checked overalls, brown buckle shoes, a headband, and a plushy chicken to tend. Accurate to the books, even--in Happy Birthday Kit!,3 Aunt Millie comes up from Kentucky and stays with the Kittridges for a bit, and in the process sets up chicken keeping and selling the eggs for money. Kit's mother thinks this makes them look even more country rube than anything, but Kit really likes the chickens and loves helping take care of them. During the spring sale, it was offered for $38 and like Addy's Sewing Set, went quickly on backorder. Unlike Addy's sewing set, it's practically stayed that way. First until April, then August, and currently it shows backordered until October. Sweet Polly Oliver, Kit. At least when things are on backorder, they can still be ordered, so that's what I did. I managed to order it during the sale over the phone at AG Seattle and while this meant paying shipping, it meant also that I got the set at discount. If you're small enough or have kids that are small enough, you can also get into the Cheery Blossoms Top and Cheery Checks Jumper for historically inspired cosplay. The set's only here in this form until December 31st or as long as supplies last--and Kit's supplies on this have not lasted worth a damn, so place the backorder and wait til it ships out this fall.

Under the cut!

Hair out of the eyes.
Headband: Kit's got to keep her hair out of her eyes one way or another, and in this case it's with a headband in a print matching the shirt. I'll delve more into the print when I'm working with the shirt. In order to keep her hair back, protected, and out of her eyes, a girl or woman often wore headbands or bandanas. Practical, and not too flouncy. The bow goes off to the side, people. Not on top of her head. Maybe if you turn it around it can go on the left with her part, and in the AG displays it's often to the right, but it does not go splat on top of her head.

Floppy bow.
The headband has a sewn closed basic knot bow attached, to simulate how Kit would have tied the bow of the cloth itself to get her hair out of the way fast. No fancy huge Edwardian bows here, we're trying to gather eggs and muck out chicken poop.

Checking out Kit's kitchen.4
The headband wraps all the way around Kit's head and has elastic at the back. The elastic goes to the center back. Try not to cock it up. I hadn't cut the AG ego tag off yet, so it was sticking out near my thumb. The headband can be a touch hard to get on, because of Kit's hair. Brush, put on and around the neck, brush it all back again, pull up, adjust, brush some more. Always have a brush nearby when dressing dolls.

Off site.
With the headband off Kit's head, it's much easier to see the construction. The elastic part is covered by cloth and takes up less than a quarter of the headband's entire circumference. It's possible to just hide the ego tag, but I hate tags so off it went.

Bow stay low.
The bow is not actually tied from the headband; it's a knot of fabric sewn to the round loop headband. So no, you can't pop the threads and untie it to have a long strip of cloth. B+. A touch complicated to get on, but a nice cute accent.

Blouse and bloomers. Kit has her proper ones now.
 Blouse: Kit's blouse is a short sleeved cherry print cotton style top. Generally, little girls did not wear shirts like this to school; they wore dresses, jumpers with more feminine tops, or neat little feminine blouses with nice skirts. It wasn't until 1969 that girls could wear pants to school, and even during the depression girls were expected to be little ladies even if they were tomboys. Kit could probably get away with wearing a shirt like this to school with a proper skirt, but she would have to dress it up considerably.

The only way to show off the shirt all by itself is to show off Kit's bloomers, but she really doesn't mind that as much as the other girls do.

Cherry blossom print.
The print of the shirt--and the headband--are a mix of pink cherry blossoms with yellow centers and darker pink outlines, pink background flowers with dark pink centers, and light mint vines and leaves. Likely in story, this and the later overalls are made of feedsack or flour sack, in Aunt Millie's Waste Not Want Not mindset.

Cherry blossoms are heavily associated in American mindsets with the country of Japan, who calls them sakura. Japan gifted 3,020 cherry blossom trees to the United States in 1912 to celebrate the nations' then-growing friendship (replacing the 2000 trees gifted in 1910 that had to be destroyed).5 During the late 1920s and early 1930s, a lot of fashion trended towards Orientalism; Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea were seen as trendy and exotic, especially with the countries only recently reopening to places like Europe and the US. Cherry blossoms could be seen on things such as tea sets, robes and other clothing, posters and art, earrings, and dishware, for a touch of the "exotic." (This was before World War 2 in the US, and after World War 2 a lot of it still came back anyways.) Furthermore, floral prints were super trendy. So this would have been a style of print likely seen on things such as sack-print.

Collar comforts.
The collar is similar to a lapel suit collar, with double points that form a notch.

The sleeves are short, stopping well above Kit's elbow, and with basic hems and only a slight gather from being set in.

Button up. Well, close.
The front has three small pink two-hole buttons that are evenly spaced down the front. The front of women's blouses go with the right side over the left so that the top seam runs to the left of the buttons. Men's shirts, of course, go the other way. There's a lot of theories why this is, but the prevailing one is that men generally dressed themselves and women were dressed by servants, so the buttons were oriented to assist right handed people in closing them.

Closing with velcro.
The buttons are just for show, though; underneath is a strip of velcro to close. AG doesn't want to sew more tiny button holes than they have to. 

The back is plain with no trims. A. I adore the shirt all on its own.

Cover all in your overalls.
Overalls: Over the shirt goes a set of minty green check overalls of thicker fabric than the top--so I'm going to headcanon this as osnaberg. Not all feedsack cloth was on the same level. Cloth designed to hold foodstuffs such as flour, sugar, and salt were made of tight, softer weaves, while osnaberg--in the 30s, a cotton version of the low quality coarse linen that was associated with working class, poor, and previously slave clothing--was used mostly for animal feed such as chicken seed. It could take the beating that finer cotton didn't always take. So it would have been the better cloth choice for overalls that, by all rights, were probably going to get pretty mucked up.

Not that Kit would need to care if they did. Overalls were most certainly not casual wear for girls in the 1930s. Overalls have been around in some form for a very long time, starting in the 1700s and associated with low class people, since classy men wore breeches. This didn't change until the Regency, when trousers became the more popular choice, but overalls were still low-class wear and tied to farm life and a rural mentality. In the 1930s they were not casual wear for anyone, and most certainly not for young women and ladies. Kit would have probably not minded going out on the street in a set, but her mother certainly would have minded it and made her go in the house and change because no daughter of hers was going to walk around looking country. The garden and the chickens were quite enough, thank you.

I personally adore overalls; not only because I was a teenager in the mid 90s when overalls with one strap unhooked was the bomb fucking diggity, but because they remind me of my late grandfather on my mom's side who tended to go pretty much everywhere in faded comfortable denim overalls and a workman's shirt.

You can see down the front seam that the checks don't match. This pisses me off like burning. Damn it AG, fucking line up your plaids.

The front bib of the overalls has a low sweetheart style neckline and slight gathers at the bottom, making these more feminine. It's topstitched all around, as are the two shoulder straps, in contrast pink thread that matches the shirt thread.

Actual button?
The straps attach to the bib with two medium sized pink four-hole buttons.

Actual button!
The buttons actually fasten, and go through button holes on the front.

Down flaps.
Underneath, the bib is slightly reinforced with lining of the same fabric. This helps prevent the buttonholes from ripping. I hate making button holes--this is why almost every doll thing I make has velcro closures or snaps under buttons--but one of these days I'll try to be assed to demonstrate how it's done.

Waist not, want not?
The waistband is large and comes up to a point in the center, where it's topstitched. It stops on the side; the backs of the overalls don't have a waistband.

Checks count as plaids, AG.
The cloth has subtle white lines that make for small checkboxes all over. Which weren't matched on a single seam on my set. Drag me under and kick me, I just recently bitched and bitched about matching plaids. And checks, ginghams, and other large square prints ore rectangular prints fall under matching the plaids. I can't go yelling at the people who put this together because they're a bunch of factory workers in China who, thanks to capitalism's fat hands, don't get paid jack shit. But I'm still irritated.

The straps on my britches are too loose, Ma!
If you take this set out of the box and put it on Kit, you may make a mistake. I made it, I know MCooper made this mistake, and I'm sure kids will make this mistake. When you take the set out of the box, the straps are likely to be straight--left strap over left shoulder to left buttonhole, and right over right to right. So when you put it on, the straps will seem unusually, almost laughably loose. The first pictures I took of Kit in this set had the loose straps. So this is one of the few times I won't point and laugh at people fucking it up out of the box, because I fucked it up. And the fix is plain and easy.

There we go!
Criss cross the straps. It doesn't matter if you put the left one over the right or the right one over the left. What matters is that there is an X in the back and the straps now go to the opposity button holes. This will add just enough distance in pull that the straps will fit right. Problem solved!

Don't make my mistakes. 

Butt buttons.
Over the back center seam of the non-waistbanded backs are three more pink four hole buttons sewn to the butt. While nowadays overalls have side seam fasteners to make the bottom pants part loose enough to pull on (a la the Holiday Bibs) for a long time the opening was in the back and you had buttons on your ass crack.

With velcro!
These don't function like the top buttons, and instead close with matching mint green velcro. I'm noticing that velcro by AG almost always has the top X-square reinforcement. I will have to remember to start doing that when I sew it in.

The pants part come down straight and basic. There's no trims or designs at all, since this is really the main part of the overalls that would be pressed against the ground in kneeling or stressed in squats.

When worn with the straps crossed and the whole thing adjusted the hems--topstitched in pink--should come down just over the tops of the shoes and stop at Kit's ankles. No highwaters, please. B-. I love overalls and I love mint green, but I can't give them an A because the plaids don't match.

These shoes are, in fact, not too fancy.
Shoes: To finish the outfit, we have a set of cordovan colored Mary Janes. Now, I hear what you're thinking. Dress shoes? For chicken tending? What the chicken shit. Shouldn't Kit have a pair of practical work boots or sneakers or lower level casual to go stomping around chicken cages? First of all, boys didn't even really wear sneakers outside of athletic shoes, so girls did not; Kit probably didn't even own a pair of sneakers.6 And while workman's boots like her old set7would have also been on the more practical side, they would have also been very dumpy with this set and an unpleasant contrast, so I've changed my mind from when the set first came out. So why her good shoes? Simple. These aren't her good shoes.

Let me introduce you to a concept called clothes downgrading, which a lot of people used and still use. First level is the fancy stuff. The church clothes, the fancy button down shirt and slacks, the party clothes, the shiny shoes, the super classy things. The things you wear when you must look your best. This then gets downgraded to the school or street wear: you can still wear them out and about, but you don't wear it to fancy to-dos. The dress that's maybe a little worn, but still good, or the slacks that are kind of worn out but still with some life, the shoes that are a little scuffed but can get a polish maybe to be all right. and if you put them away nice, they can still get some more wear. Then, after some time, you have the play clothes. These are the clothes that have nearly reached the end of their life cycle; the dress that's been ripped, the pants that are pretty much done for, the shoes that are scuffed to hell and back, and--in children--the almost outgrown stuff. They are a few steps away from being shredded, turned into rags, or tossed out. These are the clothes that you wore after you got home from school and changed out of your good clothes so they could last longer. You bum about in this stuff. This is the same concept for people that wear panties and menstruate.8 You got your pretty panties/getting lucky panties, your chilling panties, and your "i'm on the rag" panties. And they all eventually become rag panties.

That's what these shoes are for Kit. They look shiny and new, because they're doll shoes, but think of them being scuffed and messy and pretty much not the kinds of shoes she's going to wear to the store or school. She's not going to care if there's chicken poop on them, cause she's not going to wear these out and about. Get every inch out of them, wear em in the chicken poop or out at the garden, use em up and wear em out. If you want to put them with her fancy stuff or casual wear go right ahead, but they can also be her bumming shoes.

Toes and buckles. 
The toes have neat wingtip style design on the toes and faux "brass" buckles made of plastic. The cordovan color is lovely, and a nice comfortable everyday shoe color.

The buckles, like the buttons on her shirt and butt, are for show. The shoes close with black velcro.

Back heel.
The back heels also have added heel decor and the shoes are topstitched all over. The inner shoe is lined white, so to avoid stains.

The sole is slightly ridged and with a low basic heel. A. Nice shoes, want to go egg hunting?

Chicken: The part of the outfit that gives it its name--the chicken! Kit's set comes with a plush cream colored chicken that can tuck under her arm, sit at her feet, and tuck down in the nest I plan to craft for her later. In the books, the chickens are white, but this is close enough. She's been named Henny Penny here, and that is the name I will use for her for the rest of the review. MCooper at Up to My Eyeballs suspects this to be a Buff Orpington breed, and since my knowledge is more cloth than chicken, we'll go with that.9  

Keeping chickens during the 1930s was considered very country and poor, but by the 1950s, it was acquainted with fresh country living and getting back to the land, and a respectable method of money making. At least two episodes of I Love Lucy were based in chicken keeping.10 However, Kit's living in the 30s and that means that she's country and poor. Whatever, she likes the little egg cluckers. Most people would have done everything to keep their chickens female, with maybe one male. The point of the eggs was for selling and eating and cheap protein, not making more chickens.

Chicken alone.
Henny Penny is a small cream fuzzy chicken made of pile fur to resemble chicken feathers. Most of her is made of this, with some parts made of felt. 

For example, her face is red felt, with black machine embroidered eyes.

The wattle is also red, with red stitches on the edge. Wattles actually serve many purposes in chickens, one of the major ones being cooling and temperature regulation since chickens don't sweat.

Comb it out.
The comb is red felt with a few seam lines in matching thread along the bumps.

The beak is cream felt, and on top are two embroidered nostrils. The rest of the body is the fluffy fur pile.

No feets.
There are no feet at all. I am thinking of just making some small ones out of brown-orange felt and sewing them on the bottom, so the chicken looks less like a feather lump. The bottom is weighted with polyfil plastic beads like in beanie babies. Henny Penny is not a Weeble--she can be laid on her side and flops over and she can fall down. The weights do keep her upright while she's sitting.

Real chickens don't have ego tags.
There is also a big ego tag that came right off.

Wings. Good eats.
The wings are sewn separate from the body and then tacked down.

Finger under.
You can get a finger or two under them and fluff them out some while they're tacked down.

Kinda see it?
You can kind of see what the wings are lined with, but not while they're tacked. It's a small knot of thread that holds them down. Not one to keep things how they were, I not only cut the ego tags--

Snip snip!

--but the thread under the wings. Should you do this, make sure you find the knot and you're just not snipping out of nowhere. The knots are close to the wing tips. Be careful.

Flappy bird!
 With the wings free, you can see the lining is the same feltish fabric that makes up the beak.

The wings can be tucked back down or, if pins don't bother you, pinned back into place for display. I wouldn't use her as a pincushion, though. She's too fluffy and you might lose some of them. A. cluck cluck motherclucker.


Overall Feel: First of all HAH OVERALL. I slay me. The top is super cute especially with the matching headband; Kit would probably not wear the bandana about as street wear but she could get away with the top under a proper jumper or with a plain, practical skirt. The shoes are on the fancy side, but if I think of them as play shoes it all makes sense. The most irritating thing about this set is that it has mismatched checks, which rubs me the wrong way. Then again, chicken chicken chicken is what made me want this set and chicken chicken chicken it is.

Cost Value:  $48 remains high for AG LE stuff. Welcome to the new age. I lucked out and got this on sale along with the other two BeForever LE outfits I have. This may come out again with just no chicken--I suspect that's the item that is putting the set on backorder, unless it's trying to get the plaid to line up properly. Get it now cause I get the feeling this is the set that's going to be "until supplies last" instead of "til December 31st" and so leaving us first. Secondary without the chicken? $40 max, and get the whole thing. Even the shoes. $55 with.

Good print on the top and bow, good use of osnaberg mixed with standard cotton feedsack print, wingtip shoes popularity, a popular style of floral print, and some nice green and pink colors. Plus, all the people keeping chickens.

Appropriateness to Character: Like Addy, no book bitching allowed. Kit keeps chickens in her book, this is a chicken keeping set, it's appropriate for her. Would I put it on anyone else? Probably not. Not only is the outfit uniquely 30s in cut and design, I tend to not make Kit share. She does get into the moddy wear, but more because jeans and sneakers. I may put it on Shanna, but only with Kit's permission to share. No Historical Has to Share Their Things in the AGGiB. Even if I had Ruthie, this likely wouldn't suit her.

Final Grade: B+. It's cute and comfortable and not too girly for our not a flouncy girl.


1 Her descriptions on the Publishing site say brown, but her mini doll looks more like she has green eyes. And the leaked image of her in box have her turned just right not to see her eyes because they're in shadow. Damn you, elusive eye color!  
2 Caroline and Josefina were not included in either one. We now all know Caroline's fate and are pretty much circling around Josefina in worry.
3 Now this is the first chapters of Turning Things Around. Whenever I can be assed, I'll get her new books and document the differences.  
4 Kitchen, n. [African American Vernacular English] The particularly curly or kinked hair at the nape of the neck that is often hardest to maintain. While Kit's hair isn't even a hint of curly, I'm still using the term because I'm black and I'm allowed to, so pbbth.
5 Thanks, Wikipedia! 
6 Maybe one pair; she appears to be wearing some in Kit's Winning Ways, but not in Kit's Home Run where she's wearing black Mary Janes. And she probably wouldn't have worn them bumming about.
7 Will review.
8 This isn't AG Fans so I can talk about menstruation and underwear all I damn well please.
9 The ones in the book were probably White Marans or White Leghorns. 
10 Lucy Raises Chickens and Lucy Does the Tango, though other eps I believe mention the chickens. 


  1. Love the review! I got this set for Kit when it was off backorder for awhile and I love it. Although I just had Kit sans any other clothing at my summer dorm for like 6 weeks and finally got all her clothing back today and she was itching to get out of the outfit. (Or maybe that was just me). I don't actually own Addy yet (although I will) but I'm planning to pick up her LE set before the end of the year hopefully during a free shipping sale or something.

  2. Interesting footnote about hair near the nape of the neck. My very white daughter has curly hair that looks like Shirley Temple's, and the hair by the nape of her neck is the trickiest part to comb too. Maybe because it gets rubbed around more when she sleeps, but she sleeps on her side rather than her back.

    All your sewing talk (non-matching plaids make me twitchy too) prompts me to remind you that your sewing items would do well in the Evergreen State Fair. Sewing entries are due August 7 and 8. :)

  3. A great review as always. This is such a cute set.


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