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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Historical Clothes Reviews: Samantha's Limited Edition Flower-Picking Set

Marisol, always looking fine in Edwardian wear.
We have less than a week until Maryellen Larkin touches down officially and Caroline Abbott leaves forever and ever and ever. AG Scottsdale, since they opened this weekend and (smartly) didn't want to set everything up for Caroline and then have to take it all down in a week, released Maryellen first, so the stuff is floating around. Good for them, allowing the new store on the block to get the shiny new stuff before everyone else who's already done this game. It's not like we can't wait a piddling week.1 I'm still working out how to go to the ME release because I lucked the fuck out and got PAX Prime tickets for Saturday and Sunday, and Thursday and Friday are always complicated for me getting anywhere. But I will get there, by gods. Even if y'all don't see the post about it all til that Monday.

It's only been about a year since the BeForever Launch and the anniversary of the return of the line's favorite Edwardian, Samantha Mary Parkington.They're slowing down on giving her a crapton of stuff, but she's still ahead of the game in sheer volume what with the gazebo and the ice cream parlor and the easel. AG won't leave her out of a release if they don't have to, and the Limited Edition outfits gave her a spot to shine. Since Addy is no longer going flower picking and kite flying in the same dress,2 Samantha has stepped in to make flower gathering a respectable task again with her Flower Picking Dress: a wrap-style calf length dress, tights, high button shoes, a hairbow, and a basket of tulips. The set retails for $48 right now but like Kit's Chicken Set, I snagged this one on sale for $38. eBay prices are ridiculous, and this set has--as far as I can remember--never gone on backorder so there's no excuse to not get it direct until it's retired. The girl's outfit--the  Lacy Tee and Lacy Tiered Skirt--I personally find utterly hideous. Nope!

Flower picking is actually fitting for the era. During the Late Victorian and Edwardian period, bringing nature into the house and prettying it up was a high class hobby, especially if you lived in a city because it showed you had the money to skip out and visit the rural life. At the 1900 Census, about 40% of people lived in urban areas like cities, and only two decades later the population would shift to an urban majority population. (Now about four-fifths of the population resides in urban areas and the percent is still going up.)3 Samantha could be counted as one of the rural turned urban, moving to NYC before the end of her series. All that squished up city living was mentally bothersome and so people would always try to bring nature into the house, though not always for the positive. And since little girls were supposed to be ladies and not go climbing trees Samantha Mary, flower picking and arraignment was a proper activity.

Marisol has graciously decided to wear this outfit for you to see; she does love the turn of the century aesthetic. She even has little pink studs to help the look. Nellie didn't model this set because at the time of the massive photography session, she was wearing the pink dress and pinafore I'd made. She'll model the next Edwardian set that looks bomb on her.

This bow is insufficient.
Hairbow: To pull the half ponytail Samantha wears everywhere back, AG has put a magenta satin hair bow with the set. Marisol has opted to wear her hair in a full side pony for this.

Samantha's clothes often come with hair bows. They did in the past and they do now. However, AG has really skimped out on them. Instead of luscious big hairbows, perfect for flopping and bopping all over the place, we get them pre-tied and attached to terrycloth ponytail holders. This is true with her new meet set,4 her frilly frocks set, her hair styling kit, her holiday set, her BeForever biking outfit and this set. Every hair bow comes like this now. And they're all goddamn terrible. There's not a lot about BeForever I don't like, but this is one of the things I don't fucking like. The hair bows are too small and the pony tail holder just ruins the look. I could rant about this for days. It's just so damn ugly and lazy. I'm not saying every kid knows how to tie the perfect bow, but how can they practice with this dinky thing?

Bow off.
The bow off shows the knot; the ribbon is 3/4" wide.

Terrible. Utterly terrible.
The bow is tied around the ponytail holder and then sewn down with a knot that goes through the bow itself. Dismantling the bow from the ponytail holder means carefully clipping and untying the bow as you go. The only reason this bow was not immediately removed from that ponytail holder is because I wanted to show it for the review. But it has since come off and retied freely--it's not long enough to be a bow around a ponytail. So it will be clipped to a less obnoxious small silver hair clip, and also mitigated by me going out to Joann's next time I think about it and buying the widest matching ribbon for the biggest Fuck You AG bow I can get.

D-. I really don't like the new hair bow trend for Samantha (or anyone) of sticking bows pre-sewn onto ponytail holders. The only thing saving it from an F is that it's not as bad as stick on earrings.

Fancy dress for fancy life.
Dress:  The calf length dress is a one piece pink and white medium length sleeved dress with a high collar. Of course it's one piece. That's why it's a dress.5 Samantha does not wear bloomers except to bike, and that was a concession from Grandmary. You will kneel to gather ye rosebuds while ye may, and you will do it like a lady. Some persons will complain the dress is too modern as it's not puffy bodice over a drop waist and every little girl had to wear that. These persons are idiots. Tell them that. I'll show you why by the end.

The thing about Edwardian/Progressive Era/turn of the century fancy dress is that it was always so damn fancy. Lace and cloth had become notably cheaper thanks to industrialization and mass production--albeit at the cost of worker's lives and health, thank you Nellie. So since more than just a few could kind of afford trims, the rich had to over do it to show they could afford the most trims and laces and shiny things. Throw lace and ribbons on everything a girl could put on, thank you. This dress is not a frilly as it could be, but it's still pretty frilled.

Inset panels.
The front has an inset white panel so as to resemble a fancy dress over a white blouse or shirtwaist. This attaches to the faux wrap front, so as to make the dress look like it wrapped around and tied to one side over a shirtwaist. While there are probably quite a few dresses that do this, this is not one of them. 

This is attached to a high narrow collar. I swear, not all of Sam's stuff has the high thin collar. Just the three sets I've reviewed so far.

Lacy lacey lace.
The front panels are trimmed with two rows of fancy triangular edge lace. The left side is tacked down under the right, so only the right can show the details of the lace attachment properly. It's a fancy mesh style with machine embroidery over it. Back in the day this would have been tatted or knitted, so it can possibly be called picot edge. It would have taken a long time and cost a lot relatively to other trims because of the labor intensity.  Very Expensive. [/Mr. Dink.]6
While the top layer of lace is attached to the seam directly, the bottom layer--both left and right--is attached to a thin curved edge of dress fabric. This shows through the top layer of the lace, adding a soft muted background behind it.

The printed fabric of the dress--here, seen on the skirt--is a fine pale pink striped background; printed on top are alternating right side up and upside down six-flower rings topped with pink shaded bows. It's a nice subtle print, spaced out enough to repeat without seeming over the top. Plus, the magenta ribbon helps bring out the print.

The sleeves come down to just below the elbow curve and stop on the forearm. They're gathered but not super poofy.

Cuff em.
The cuffs are simple pressed over edges, and large enough in width that no velcro or snap closure is needed in order to fit over the hand.

Waist, but not a waistcoat.
The waistband is slightly wider magenta ribbon, set in between the skirt and the bodice. So no, you can't take the belt off at all. I've moved the collar lace away enough to show the waistband alone; it comes to a slight V point.

Ribbons and bows.
To the side--to help the illusion of the wrapped top--is a tacked on side bow, the same width as the hair bow ribbon.

Panels. Those things I don't go to at cons.
The front panel of the skirt is three panels--a front and two sides. There's no side seams, though, so the skirt just has the one front panel. Which kind of sucks, because I'm a sucker for a properly gored panel skirt. Alas.

Back it up.
The back has the lace, collar, and waistband go all the way around and then close up the back with pink velcro. It's the snaggy kind, so be careful when you dress your folks. B+. I can't give it an A because of the way the skirt's done and that saddens me, but the rest of the dress is wonderful enough, especially the play of colors. I like a well done pink.7

Tights: They're tights! They're black! Samantha is not allowed to ever go bare legged because it's not proper! They go over Marisol's panties and under her bloomers in her fancy clothes! Hooray! B.

High  Buttons.
Shoes: Samantha gets another pair of nice high button shoes, in black and white. They're similar to, but not like, the ones that were originally offered as her High Button Shoes that eventually got bundled with her summer middy dress and hat, and then retired. And nope, didn't get them out again. Later.

High button shoes are some of the quintessential Late Victorian and early Edwardian shoes. High button boots became the fashion around the 1870s; at the time, hemlines had gone up some to not sweep the ground as skirts did before. But a lady was expected to cover her ankles. Not because, as is often assumed, that Victorians were so prudish that the sight of an ankle would cause penises everywhere to rise to the occasion.8 It was a modesty thing too, yes, but give them some credit. It was also being cute and pretty. Everyone wore them--men, women, girls, boys--and it was a sign of wealth to have shoes so fancy they had to be hooked shut rather than tied like some common poor. Men were suggested to have lace shoes for bad weather, Oxfords for the summer, and high buttons for standard wear. Furthermore, a button boot was considered to be more secure, because laces could untie and loosen as the day went on, but buttons stayed shut.9 Around WWI, the rationing of leather (among other things), along with flapper styles, helped push the high button boot out of favor by the 20s or so. 

So of course Samantha would have worn high button shoes. In fact in her older illustrations she almost never wears Mary Janes and is almost always seen in black high buttons. Hence me swiping Rebecca's black ones for Marisol and Nellie's Fancy Pancy Ruffle collection.

The high buttons that give them the name.
Along the sides of the shoes are the buttons that give the shoes their name. In reality a shoe could have anywhere from twelve to twenty buttons--and of course, the more buttons the fancier the shoe. Even doll shoes could have fancy tiny buttons. But this is a new age and you'll have four decorative buttons and you'll like it. There's a seam on the side to simulate the closure. The inner side, of course, has no seams or buttons. Buttons to the outside, don't look like you can't put your clothes on Mary Suezanna.

Around the entire bottom edge is black trim that is part of the shoe. I didn't snap a shot, but the soles are standard AG black.

Nowadays, almost all of AG's boots or back fasten shoes close up the back with clear, low snag velcro. It makes the shoes easy to close, and it doesn't bother me too greatly. B. While I still I like the older ones a touch, I like these for not hurting my hands and for being different enough to be their own shoes.

A tisket, a tasket, a "woven" flower basket.10
Basket: Sam's got to have something to put the flowers in while she's picking them; she can't carry them in her apron like some sort of poor. Hence the basket. The basket looks woven but is actually molded plastic in one solid piece, so no basket weaving merit badge for you. If you want a real woven one, hie thee to the 'Bay.

A flat style flower basket meant that the flowers or plants set inside it wouldn't be squished by the high sides, but the sides were curved up enough to prevent them from just rolling off.  Felicity's Rescue kit has a basket somewhat like this. You weren't supposed to be swinging it around anyways, just carry it neatly, like a proper young lady.

Around and around.
The basket is a simulated circle with curved sides.

The handle is faux-attached to the side with X-cords, and then curves up and over the top to the other side.
The bottom is rippled to show the same style weaving that a straw basket would have. It's also strategically distressed in spots to look like woven straw would.

Look close, that's when you'll see the molding.
Once you look close, it's clear it's plastic, because of the solid seaming between the spokes. Likely a real basket was woven, then a mold was made of it to mass produce it. Really, you can only tell it's plastic once you touch it, look super close, or are told so, and that's not a bad rub at all to be honest. I've seen worse AG baskets. B. It'll carry the flowers well. Speaking of which:

Flowers: The flowers being picked today are pink tulips--we've got five of them. Mentally, a lot of people slot tulips as having origins from Holland/The Netherlands; think of tulips and a lot of people think of windmills and wooden shoes. But like everything that Europeans like to claim they had first when they got it elsewhere--like locs, potatoes, tobacco, hip hop, and washing their own asses so they didn't die of germs--tulips come from another place, specifically the Ottoman Empire around the Turkish region. The reason people think of them as Dutch is because in the 1600s Holland was historically marked as having lost their shit over tulips--tulip mania--and this resulted in the documentation of one of the first historical fad-runs that had money attached to it. People charged out the ass for them, searching for variants and charging fucktons, and then a few people lost goods and money when the market popped. This is only partially true--the one source on tulip mania went uncontested until the 1980s. It was like the Beanie Baby runs of the late 90s, only that one actually happened.

Pink flowers express happiness and confidence in flower language. But they were just made to match the dress so don't get excite.

One Tulip.
We'll just look at one in detail, since all five are pretty much made the same way. Each tulip has a stem, two leaves, and the actual flower part. Flowers are where the reproductive organs of plants are contained, and the petals help protect the stamens and pistil from damage from elements and outside forces,11 and the colors help lure animals to come spread their pollen so they can make more flowers.

Stem and leaves.
The leaves--wrapped wire attached to cloth--are wrapped to the stem (peduncle) which is made of green floral tape. There's no sepals or receptacles, because these are just faux flowers.

The petals are not solidly pink; they're pale cream closer to the base and a light pink at the tips.

Peeling back.
Peeling back shows a slight curve and that the colors are the same inside. Each flower has six petals.

Stamens and pistil.
Inside are the stamens and pistil; here they're molded in yellow plastic. Tulips are perfect flowers, and so have both parts inside to reproduce on their own without help from animals and other outside forces.

I can see your naughty bits.

Peeling it down shows  multiple stamens and the pistil.

Science time! Plant reproductive organs are divided into two parts.12 The stamen--and there's always a bunch of them--hover around the pistil. Their parts consist of the anther--the head that makes the pollen--and the filament, the stalk that holds the anther to the flower. The pistil is the part of the flower that produces seeds and fruit. Its consists of the stigma--or head, where pollen sticks; the style which is the tube that pollen sends the tube down; and the ovary at the base. Inside the ovary are ovules, or eggs that once fertilized will eventually grow into seeds. In fruit bearing plants, the ovary grows to encase the seeds and then eventually ripens to edible fruit, which people then eat--things like apples, pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other true fruit.13

Basically, fruit is the bright, tasty way for plants to convince animals to spread their seeds through their poo. Science! 

I give these a B+. What can I say, I like flowers.


It's real!
Before we get to the finale, a bit of historical note. This dress is shown in one of my absolute favorite historical clothing resources, Children's Fashions 1860-1912: 1,065 Costume Designs from "La Mode Illustree"--a fashion magazine. It shows children in all styles of clothing, which is hard to find sometimes pre-widespread photography. This page is from about 1901, and shows a dress very similar to this outfit.It's a little early for Samantha by year, but would have likely carried some.

So piss off, historical wrongers, not every dress for Samantha has to be low around the hips, draped in lace with a high collar at the top, super ridiculously wonkypuff sleeves, and puffy blouson topped like a pigeon.


Overall Feel: I actually adore this dress, pink and lace aside. It's pink--practically everything of Sam's nowadays has a pink tint to it, such is BeForever--but pink is a pretty good color for her overall. The tights get the job done and the shoes on their own are very nice. Even the molded plastic basket passes muster. I could have used multiple flower colors, but c'est la vie. About the only thing that can fuck right off is that shitty ass hair bow, and I can fix that by hauling ass to Joann's.

Cost Value:
$48 is what we're paying for LE sets now. Well, what we're paying when not on sale. I'm glad I snapped it up at the lower cost, though I would have probably paid the $48 later, high as it is. Don't even look at eBay for now. The dress may stick around post Dec 31st as another outfit minus accessories, since it's shown under her travel coat and hat and AG may not want to update that. If this is the case, pay whatever cost that is--probably in the $30 to $38 range--and go get a small basket and some faux tiny tulips all your own from a secondary source instead of paying stupid prices for the basket and tulips because of the fact it says AG on it.

What's that picture up there I just posted? I did it there so I didn't stick it here. It's accurate to the turn of the century. Ta-da! Fancy dress. Let Samantha have nice things instead of making everything drop waisted and 80's-tastic.

Appropriateness to Character:
Around here, Nellie and Marisol will probably be wearing this, as there's no Samantha. But for Samantha it fits. Flower picking is exactly the kind of things that ilde rich girls would do to keep them out of trees or thinking about subversive thoughts like wanting to vote and have their own money.

Final Grade:
B-. It's got some components that irritate me--fuckin' shitty hair bows--but it's overall a nice addition to the Fluffy Panty Drawer.


1 I swear to Gods if you pay eBay prices for Maryellen instead of waiting less than a week, you deserve to be dragged sideways. It won't even get to you first unless they next day it, and if you're paying that much I am going to come to your house and take your money and give it to the hungry.
2 More on that when Addy reviews it. 
3 Part of why I glare at people in places that claim it's unfair that a single county like King County turns all of WA State Blue while East Washington State is pretty red. Most of the population of WA State lives in the Seattle and surrounding. 84% of the entire state population lives in either urban areas--densely developed places places that contain at least 50k or more people--or urban clusters that have at least 2,500 people but fewer than 50,000 people. And King County is the most populous county in Washington, and the 13th-most populous in the United States. In conclusion, piss off.
4 Part of why I'm fine not having it, that.
5 Though historically, not all dresses were in one solid piece. Some were an underwaist attached to the skirt or a skirt alone, and then the top was worn over that and pinned. History!
6 Double Income, No Kids. I learned that back when the show aired, and never forgot it.
7 But not a well done steak. Medium to medium rare. I like to be reminded a cow died to nourish me.
8 The Victorians made a lot of porn. Like, a lot of porn.
9 More on buttoned shoes here at Who Were They? where I read some of it.
10 "I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I dropped it~" The rhyme was first noted in the United States in 1879, as a children's rhyming game, so Sam could have sang it, but likely no one before her.
11 Just like human labia protect the vaginal opening, urethral opening, and clitoral hood and glans from outside dirt and debris. I put this in a footnote rather than the full text, so you had to go down here to look. And if you think learning and using proper terms for the human reproductive organs on a blog about dolls is obscene, you can sashay away.
12 Not calling them male and female, because not all ovaries are in "females."  Plants don't even have gender. Their gender is "plant."
13 There are some toxic fruits though. For example, potatoes--part of the nightshade family, like tomatoes--make little green fruits that look like cherry tomatoes and if they're eaten they will fuck you up entirely, so don't eat them.


  1. Another wonderful and such a thorough review! Kinda silly maybe, but I always learn so much from your blog. Not just about AG and dolls, but you also pepper your reviews with all these great historical, cultural, and scientific fact tidbits (complete with jumping off points for more info: one of my main areas of enjoyable procrastination of the interwebs) that make it so much more entertaining and informative. I do a little yelp of joy whenever I see you've updated! =)

  2. I loved the review...thanks for showcasing all of the smaller details and putting so much thought into the writing of it, especially referencing the time period. Your blog is such a great source of information! (and so funny, too!) :) I also go back again and again to your American Girl Wiki page...as a new adult AG collector I've found it extremely organized and helpful!

  3. I love all of this review, especially the footnotes. Speaking of (non) prudish Victorians, I recently found a neat little booklet called "Chicago Sporting and Club House Directory, 1889"-- it is literally a list of every bordello and 'French House' in Chicago during that year. Fun!

  4. I just found your blog, and as a budding (long-repressed) American Girl enthusiast, I've really enjoyed reading your entries about being an adult collector. Recently, while ostensibly looking at AG for my young daughters (too young for the 18" dolls), I realized that I still really want a Samantha doll. I haven't taken the plunge yet, but I'm getting there.

    Btw, I'm a fellow King County resident. I agree with your footnote, and I'm insanely jealous of your PAX Prime tickets. Best con ever!

    (Sorry to clutter up your comments by deleting my first one. I was going to log out and in as a different user, but it still listed my deleted comment with my user account. Oh well.) :)

    1. Go ahead and jump in! Well, whenever you can. Samantha's not my fave, but she's there for you.

      My Bae and I lucked the hell out on the PAX tickets. We only got Sat and Sunday, because we get everything seen we want to see in two days. This year there wasn't a lot of games that appealed to me on display, and I don't stand in line for games.

      It's fine, I fixed the comment issue.

    2. I had a thing for Samantha from back in the day when she was only one of three (mostly because I thought Victorian/Edwardian Era was romantic, and she had brown hair like me). I don't know if I ever really wanted a doll before that, but the books and the detailed accessories just got me. Well, my family wasn't particularly supportive and couldn't afford such things.

      I ended up buying her last week, which was a big step for me! Now that I've gotten my unfulfilled childhood desires taken care of, I can move on to other dolls in the future. :) I've been to American Girl Seattle now, and I'm probably hooked.

      Husband and I got tickets to PAX for Labor Day two years ago. We had our toddler with us, so we were basically there for the experience. It was amazing! Gaming and parenting don't really mix for me, but I look forward to getting back into it someday.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. 5 Though historically, not all dresses were in one solid piece.

    True story! One of my boyfriend’s was into his 20s before he actually learned the difference between a skirt and a dress! He always assumed skirts were short and dresses were long, and that’s how you could tell.

    (He chalks this up to terrible design in some “first 1000 words” picture book he had growing up —the difference he saw between skirt and dress was hem length. I still laugh at him for it sometimes.)

    Men were suggested to have lace shoes for bad weather,

    I had to read this twice, because why the hell would you tat shoes, and then why would you wear them in *bad* weather?

    I like your blog. I briefly forgot about checking it this summer, which means there were a bunch of posts waiting for me to read! Yay!!


Trolling, pointless bigotry, nonsense, and hating for the sake of hating will be removed, as will any post screaming "first" because no one cares. Cursing is fine, as I curse myself. I still expect you to act like you have home training. This is not a Free Speech Zone. I reserve the right to delete comments, kick you out of the convo, or tell you to piss off. You post, you stand by your words, and all the consequences of those words, even if that consequence is getting your ass handed back to you. Don't come in my space, spit on my floor, and expect me to call it a swimming pool. I can and will cuss your entire ass out. If I told you not to comment, and you comment, your comments will be deleted.

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