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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pajama Jammy Jams and Historical Clothes Reviews/Historical Accessories Reviews: Maryellen's Pajamas and Hairstyling Set

Jamming for bed, the 1950s way.
Don't you love it when things conspire to make sure you get fuck all done? I sure don't. So there I was on this past Friday, planning to take some shots of Addy in her Sunday Best Set and Maryellen in her meet set, after getting the mail. Addy so I could compare her to the tiny LE mini, and Ellie to show her in something before her PJs. This was planned after getting my package from the office.

...And then I had a random encounter with a curb. I rolled for dexterity to save my balance, hit a two out of twenty, tripped hard, fell even harder, and both scraped my palm and felt shooting pain in my leg. I caught my breath, got my package and went back home, and inspected the damage. And wow that was a lot of blood and a wide ass cut. A temp patch up and a painkiller later, I waited for the Bae to get home from work and hoped it maybe wasn't as bad as I thought it was. I was wrong. He took one look at the cut and put me in the car and made me go to the urgent care center. This is where the doctors looked at my cut and made faces at it before injecting me and poking and flushing things out with others and three hours of my Friday evening was spent in the urgent care center, including a book reading. All that is to say that there are probably six to twelve stitches in my left knee,1 it hurts like a son of a motherfucker to walk anywhere or flex my leg too much, and I'm not going to be doing any kneeling for pictures for at least two weeks. Fuck you too, gravity, you whore.

But I did have some older pictures I took beforehand, even if I wasn't planning this review to be Ellie's debut. So Ellie will just have to accept that her debut on the blog is going to be her in her pajamas. She's cool with this, considering she came with me to the Urgent Care center. If anyone understands healthcare needs, it's Ellie.

Ellie--Maryellen Larkin, but around here she much prefers to go by her nickname--wasn't initially going to be a Historical Character I cared for. The 1950s are the most overhyped nostalgia era ever for obnoxious white Baby Boomers, who want to remember the time of their childhood as a wholesome, perfect era of American Greatness when people didn't think about segregation, sexism, racism, or oppression and they didn't have to think about others at all. The Fifties get overly wrought down to the surface aesthetics: poodle skirts, records, jukeboxes, bobby soxers, roller skating diners, television spread, drive in movies, ponytails, white rock and roll, families with father knowing best and mother in pearls and heels, etc. Basically all the fluffy feel-good times with none of the understanding or discussion about the sociopolitial issues that plagued the time. But like Caroline and Kit before her,2 Ellie's stories endeared her to me--she likes comics, science, does art, and supports vaccinations (having been disabled by polio). I basically went through a set of Five Stages with her:

1.) Denial: "Damn the 50s! And damn her! She's hazel eyed, she's white, she's got the classic mold, her name is meh--there is nothing special about her. I'm not getting her."
2.) Bargaining. "That outfit's nice. And that one. I'll just get a few of her things for Edith. Edith can wear her clothes. Dorothy too. I don't need Maryellen."
3.) Anger: "I've read the books and why is she such a charming character?"
4.) Sadness. "eeeen I wasn't supposed to like you eeenn i am cry eeeeen"
5.) Acceptance. "Come on, Ellie-jelly. You're the newest member of the Gang. Meet Edith and Dorothy and be friends."

So I ended up getting her as my 35th birthday gift to myself along with some of her clothes, making her the fastest from "I hate you" to "let us snuggle and be friends" since Kit. This included her Pajamas at the standard cost of $24: a top, bottoms, and flat style slippers. A later trip I picked up her Hairstyling Set for $20: a set of twelve rollers, instruction card, storage bag, and sleeping bonnet. The eBay costs are not even being considered on this post. Go to AG, Go Directly to AG, do not pass eBay, do not spend $50. Seriously, it's been five months. Girls' variations on the pajamas exist for those that can fit into them; I am not one of those people.

Hairstyling set first because Ellie had her bonnet on and I took her curls down as I was taking the pictures.

Sleeping caps keep your hair curlers in.
Sleeping Cap: Ellie needs to keep her curlers--next to be seen--in her head when she has them in. Therefore, she has a fashionable sleeping cap to cover her hair up, preventing hair muss and curler loss. Sleeping caps have existed for centuries and beyond--Felicity has her lappet cap. Before the widespread use of central heating, when people did not keep fires burning heavy at night lest they burn the damn place up, people slept with various headcaps on for extra night warmth. (Example nearly all of us know is "Ma in her kerchief and me in my cap" from Twas The Night Before Christmas.) Later, when women started to sleep with curlers in their hair to help preserve their curly upstyles, sleeping caps became almost de rigueur. What about hair washing? Well, no one washed their hair that often. Shampoos were harsh as hell--if you weren't just using a bar of soap or something--and conditioners weren't everywhere. So daily washing would fuck your hair up massively. Not to mention that shower heads didn't even start becoming much of a thing until early 20th century, and even when they started to come about hair washing wasn't often done under them. So what most adult women did was wash their hair once a week, set it in curlers---this was either done at the hair dressers or at home--and then let it dry and set overnight, since most people didn't have home bonnet dryers. Then the curls were set with lots of hair spray, gels, or other products to keep the hair in place. There were also permanents--setting curls into the hair with very thick chemicals, that lasted a little longer.4 But none of this was washed out daily, like many white people do nowadays. This is where the idea of "Sorry to decline, I've just washed my hair/I'm going to be busy washing my hair" comes from, as well as the idea of women at home with their curlers under a kerchief.

Ellie, being ten years old, would likely not do all this elaborate curling all the time unless it was a very special occasion--she liked to swim and would fuck up the hair--but we'll let it slide. Should she, though, she'd need the night cap. This one matches the pattern of her pajamas, which we'll discuss when we get to them. I believe her curlers were already out when I took these shots, but her hair is all tucked up.

Bow the bow.
At the center front of the cap is a light green grosgrain tacked on bow. You're going to see more of this ribbon when we get to the pajamas and other components. The edge is not hemmed and is instead surged all around.

Side shot.
The cap is elasticized all around the edge with or without curlers. The cap can't be stretched out fully, but it's a round style cap--a little like some of Felicity's mob caps. The major difference is that Felicity's mob caps would not have had elastic, while sleeping caps would have. This one is cotton styled, but sleeping caps could come in various fabric including satin.

All the hair covered.
With or without the curlers, all of Ellie's hair (minus her bangs, unless you tuck it as such) will tuck under the sleeping cap, covering all those strawberry waves up.

Off the head.
The bonnet off is simple and mostly holds its shape. B+. Matches the rest of the pajamas and set.

Curly curls.
Spoolie© Curlers and Instructions: The curlers are a set of twelve blue plastic Spoolies styled curlers. I am calling them Spoolies because they are the most prominent brand of spool rollers that existed--and they still exist, as I was utterly delighted to find out in my research into these hair rollers. Spoolies were likely released in about the late 40s to early 50s in the post war return of the use of rubber, and using these styles of curlers meant that a woman could set her (likely damp) hair into popular pin curls or nice waves without having to use so many of those blasted bobby pins that Molly had to do, or the larger clamp on and pin in plastic rollers, only needing one "piece" per curl. These were high tech at the time and advertised as the most comfortable rollers to wear to bed, so as to keep your fashionable lady curls fashionably curled at night.

At the time they sold for a ten pack for about sixty cents, which would make them $5.31 for ten relative to today's prices. The new, modern ones on the Spoolies site are made of heat resistant silicone, come in a pack of twelve for $18 from the site,5 and can even come in glow in the dark for more cost. Older ones were made of rubber and might fall apart with regular use today. Ellie's are probably straight up plastic of some form, though they could be silicone.

The structure of a Spoolie is a single molded piece, and when open resemble nothing so much as a wine goblet or martini glass: an upper "bowl", a round "base", and a thick center stem. There's four holes in the top bowl, and while the bottom and center of the bowl top have holes, they don't connect through the center.

To close, the top bowl is folded over the stem, and now you have an angry little mushroom with a hole at the top.

Instructions. That's not Ellie.
The instructions for using the curlers are on a cardstock rectangle. The front has a pink top and a blue bottom--about 2/3 pink--a side image of three of the Spoolies loose, and "Soft Hair Curlers" in white text ("Soft" in script, "Hair Curlers" in all caps). On the right side is a doll in an oval with the curlers in. And that's not Ellie demonstrating her. Not even a little bit. The doll shown has freckles, a side part, and blond hair with no bangs. Process of elimination6 has determined that this is Moddie #56. No one invited you to this 50s party, #56. The colors are all slightly muted for that retro 50s look, which makes no sense since it would be bright at the time and fade over the years. Silly people.

How we do this.
The instructions on the back show four drawings, demonstrating how to use the curlers. On a dark haired side parted bangless moddie. Ellie, they just ain't want you showing off your own curlers, I see how it be. The steps are different than most curlers that are used. Not only will I type out the instructions, I'll link to the Spoolies instructions here.

1. Set the curler on the head near the scalp, the flat end down.
2. Wrap the hair strand around the stem of the Spoolie.
3. Smush the top bowl down, making the angry little mushroom and closing the Spoolie.
4. Several hours later, take the Spoolie out and enjoy your wild curls!

It's very important, lemme tell you, to set the stem down and then wrap the hair around it. If you try to use them like traditional rollers--that is, twirl them up and then clamp down--they often slip out and untwist.

Hair everywhere!
So can Ellie can get all twelve curlers in her head? Yes with a but. I managed to get all of them into her head. But they're overloaded with hair and are super crammed on. So they will easily slip out, and she must have the bonnet on to keep them in place--and even so, will still slip and slide out. If I use more sensible bites of hair, I can't get quite all the way around her head.

I'm surprised they held on so long.
You can see the hair wiggling out of the sides and falling everywhere. I feel like if even six more curlers were included, they would help immensely in getting her hair curled without feeling like if I even move her head slightly, she's going to shed curlers like an angora bunny sheds fur at the start of spring. Part of my personal push for ordering one of those new sets is that I'll be able to get twenty to hold her hair much nicer than twelve do.

Curlers in for a little bit.
So on goes the cap. But did they work? I used a bit of braid spray and let her hair sit in curlers for about two to three weeks from bed snuggle sleep, and--

They did the job.
She did get curls! So they did the job.

From the front.
They also look okay from the front. I think most of this was the length of time they were in. I could probably get more curls with more Spoolies, which I'm planning on doing. The instructions get a B- for usefulness but actual lack of Ellie; the Spoolies get a B+ for being super authentic for actual 50s use but can't go to even a low A for the low number of them that makes using them properly on Ellie's head feel crammed together and loose. But they are lovely curlers and seriously, I'm debating getting myself a set later on as well as extras for Ellie-beans.

Storage Bag: We can't have these curlers out willy nilly, so included is a storage drawstring cloth bag, made of the same fabric as the sleeping cap and the pajamas we're getting to. Not only can it hold the curlers, but it can probably hold other things, like hair pins, accessories, and sleepover goodies. AG had a storage bag like this years ago in the Doll Travel Set.7

Another bow.
On the front is a tacked on light green grosgrain ribbon, just like the bonnet cap.

There's no ribbon on the back of the bag. The bag draws closed with two laced through and knotted cords of the green grosgrain ribbon.

Ego Tag.
Inside is the long AG Ego and Care Tag, which can be hidden under stuffs.

Round bottom.
The bottom is a round circle base. No stiffening at the bottom or anything.

Sealed up.
The bag is easily drawn shut when the cords are pulled tight.

Full of curlers.
All twelve curlers will fit inside, for storaging. B.

Intermission: The Hairstyling set and all its components. Well, all and the other nine curlers in the bag.

Pajama tops!
Pajama Top: Finally, we get to the pajamas themselves. First we start with the top part--an open necked baby doll style short sleeved summery cotton dotted swiss top. Ellie is from Daytona Beach Florida, and--like the southern parts of Texas--Florida doesn't get super cold even in the so called winter months. So Ellie can get away with these style of pajamas all year long. Up here, though, I'm going to have to get or make her a set of long flannels later on.

Might as well mention it. There's a guy in the American Girl collecting communities who creeps all over this style of pajamas, and wigs me the fuck out as well as several others with his slimy ways about little girls, so several people are avoiding having these pajamas for their Ellie. But let's try to divorce creepy old white guys with severe issues left unchecked from this8 and talk about the history.

Baby doll pajamas became a style in the 1950s--I haven't found any images or patterns for any earlier than that. They carried on for years and made a major resurgence in the 80s, and I owned a set of summery ones that I adored wearing as a kid. They were popular with both girls and women, considered light and generally summery in style, and were intended as loungewear in some places--often though with a robe over them, because you just didn't show that much of yourself to anyone, family included. AG doesn't do robes and cover ups anymore, so Ellie will have to wait for a matching robe from me.

Dotted swissy.
The fabric--used, as stated above for the pajamas, sleeping cap and bag--is dotted swiss, a light cotton that has a texture all over of small dots. Mostly sheer, it can also be pretty solid. The dots can make up a design; in this case, it's the texture in contrast to the print, which is light blue and blue flower bunches with light green leaves, evenly spaced throughout. I absolutely adore it.

Around the top boatneck style collar is an open surged and gathered neckline, trimmed over with light green grosgrain ribbon. It's stitched down gathering, so it doesn't stretch at all, and goes around to the back opening.

 On each shoulder is a tacked ribbon bow.

Cap and ribbon.
The cap sleeves--very short--are short hemmed and trimmed with ribbon. 

Side bow.
There's also side bows above  the side slits on the top.

Bottom hem.
The bottom hem comes down to just around the upper thigh--way too short to be a standard nightgown by any means.

Back closure.
And they're velcroed up the back. A.

Bloomers! But only for the sleeping.
Bloomers: Since the top is too short to be a gown on its own at all, Ellie has on some elastic edged sleeping bloomers to match her top. They're much like the bloomers that Sam and Rebecca have, only these are clearly meant to be slept in, not for everyday underwear. By the 1950s, bloomer style underwear weren't nearly as popular as before, especially with women and girls wearing more pants (though not for proper day wear) and slimming things like girdles and the like, as well as full length pantyhose on little girls instead of separate stockings when they wore them. So Ellie's plain white underpants are a lot more realistic to the 1950s than putting her in bloomers for day to day wear; even elastic were designed to be smoother than previous puffy styles. The fabric is the same as the pajama top. Baby doll sets matched.

The waistband is gathered elastic inside a hemmed edge. No velcro needed.

Leg bands.
The legs are also hemmed and elasticized, a very simple style. They don't need to be crammed up into her inner thigh for wear. These are sleeping bloomers, not underpants bloomers, and that high up on the inner crotch line could be very uncomfortable. Just let her wear them tugged down so they're visibly sleeping bloomers, no matter what creeps say or do in stores to ram the poor edges up into Ellie's crotch. Tugged down, you can see them, which was the whole intent--to make it clear there were bloomers under the short top.

The back is not visibly different from the front at first glance, but it's easily told when you look inside--the front does not have the inner tag or the back seam that was done post elastic at the waistband--it sticks out. So make sure that back seam is towards the back. A.

Slippers: At the feet, Ellie is wearing light green ballet flat style slippers. They're not inaccurate, but while these styles were semi-popular for women and some girls, a more popular style were furry lined fuzzy slippers. Ballet slippers with bows are more towards the latter part of the 50s, not the middle part. AG could have made some lovely softer knit slippers, fuzzies like what Molly had but in green, or fur topped trimmed ones. But they seem to be gripping hella hard to the ballet flat style shoe whenever they can get away with it. They made Josefina's night slippers like this--I don't even know that she would be wearing slippers much unless they were like moccasins--and they also made Ellie's play outfit shoes ballet flat style. Damn it AG, extend your shoe options.

The bows that were on the cap, top, and bag extend to the toes--light green grosgrain.

Boring sides.
The sides have no slope like slippers, and are just ballet flat style across the sides.

Inner lining.
Inside is the plain white lining per usual.

And the bottoms are slightly textured green plastic. C. I don't hate them, but they're so plain as to be an afterthought of a shoe for a pajama set. I would have liked something better.


Because Ellie's books have no illustrations except the cover--new style only!--there's no images to show. But there is historical precedent, and I'll give that over to you. 

If you do an Etsy/eBay/vintage pattern search for baby doll pajamas, you'll likely find tons of patterns from the 1950s and ahead. This is Butterick 8251, and view C is the closest to Ellie's pajamas--the major difference being a more puffy sleeve. The short top and bloomer bottoms are the same style, though. 

Retrowaste shows some great slippers from the 1950s. The 1952 children's styles show a style semi like Ellie's in View P, but even those have some dots on the sides. But man, the furry and fur-trimmed ones and animal styled ones are lovely! We could have had it all.  

Spoolies! Actual factual ones, in the exact same style as Ellie's. These are pink--pink was a big damn thing in the 50s--and made of solid rubber. Sixteen for 79 cents.


Overall Feel: I adore the style, print, and lay of the pajamas, especially the comfort of the summer style, and don't regret getting them with Ellie when I got her for my birthday. I got the hair set later on because I liked the Spoolies and sleeping cap, and because it's one of the few sets that actually doesn't seem tacked on like most of the other hair sets are to the meet sets as a last minute thing--it feels like these were developed together. I'm hella delighted by the Spoolies, can't say it enough. I'd complain more about the sets being so matchy-matchy--all the fabric is the exact same--but the 50s liked doing that, so that's how it be and I'll deal. 

Cost Value:
$24 is the standard for pajamas now, and hair sets vary--this one is a good cost to me. Hell, this is probably the best of all the available hairstyle sets,9 given that the set is properly useful and not just an add on to a meet outfit that feels out of place with with "pretend" components. The curlers actually work, there's no bows on scrunchies, and there's a lot of components for the cost. I could have used more curlers to roll her hair, which is the only part I feel scrimped out on, along with the generic ballet flat style slippers. You can wait for a sale or a discount if you're not feeling it, but I'd get them both again if asked. eBay what no they're five months along just go to the source.

Yep. Baby doll pajamas were super popular, sleeping caps were the best way to keep hair did when you were sleeping in curlers, and the print is super accurate. And the Spoolie curlers--well, learning those were real and can still be bought in some form just made my day.

Appropriateness to Character:
Very much so. They're accurate, and given that Ellie comes from a very warm climate, suitable for muggy nights in Florida. No book references, mind, but they work for her and her style. I'm very glad they're not coated in lace and ruffles either, and just have some simple trims. Femme but not frilly. Don't let creepy people dissuade you from the rightness of these.

Final Grade:
A- for the pajamas, B- for the hairstyle set. Fifties fantastic!

Now I'm going to take some painkillers. My knee. Ugh, fuck. Don't get into a gravity fight with a concrete curb, you will most likely lose and the concrete is very hard.


1 I haven't counted. The doctor covered them and I will check when I can uncover my injury for a bandage change.
2 Kit became part of the gang. "Caroline" in a form.
3 Black women still use sleeping caps frequently, especially satin ones. I don't mostly because I toss and turn so much that they come right off, so at most I use bandanas.
4 Not the 80s style waves. 50s curls were supposed to look loose and natural.
5 Other costs include $30 for 24, $9 for 5, or $33 for 24 glow in the dark ones. There's also other, cheaper brands. Do some research. 
6 Process: Open Freckle Article on AG Wiki, go down Moddie list, manage to eliminate all but one.
7 I bought the set secondhand--and mostly use the carrying basket for a sewing basket because I can do that.
8 I will rant more about that particular slimeball later. Every time I think about his "contributions" to the AG fandom I want to push things over into fires.
9 Yes, even better than Addy's. I have the older pink set, I'll probably get the blue one, but overall I don't feel like they add anything to Addy's meet sets at all whatsoever.


  1. Yay, I actually have time to comment on one of your posts for once!

    Wow, I'm so sorry to hear about your knee! That's awful!

    Thanks for doing a review and such a detailed one when you're feeling so bad. I had stitches a couple years ago from what sounds like a similar incident and I was damn near useless when I was recuperating.

    As always, any post from you makes my day, but I love the historical touches. Geez, AG, cool it with the ballet flats. I have to admire (not really) their ingenuity in working ballet flats into even the historical line. Sometimes I wonder if they got a financial adviser that told them hazel eyes and ballet flats are super popular and so they're sticking with it. ;)

    Get well soon!

  2. I recently re-read Betty MacDonald´s autobiographical "Onions in the Stew", set between 1942 and 1954. When her daughters (11 and 12 in 1942) are teenagers, curled hair is fashionable for several years, and all the girls from their class keep their hair in rollers pretty much all the time when they are in private. They take it down once they arrive at school, and as soon as they get back home, they set it back in rollers, which is how they wear it even when they visit friends (except for one girl whose dad vehemently objects to her sitting down to dinner with her hair in rollers, so she takes it down for dinner and puts it back up immediately after). The family lives on an island and the girls need to take a 12 min ferry ride to commute to school, so they take it down and comb it while queuing for the ferry, wear it open during the ride and put it up while the ferry enters the harbour. Every day, on the way to school and back. The book is quite an amusing read, and I had to think of it - and of Molly´s hair-curling experience - when I read your review (as usual, well-written and fascinating... a treat to read).

  3. Sorry this is off topic, but THANK YOU! I bought some braid spray yesterday and I cannot believe it!! I've been boiling all this hot water and using all the stuff that takes so much time and all I needed was this $4 spray bottle! And it's makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing this. I got a doll lot to fix and resell and bc if the spray this ratchet Our Generation doll has been resurrected. I could see immediate results, but it's even better the next day after soaking in more. Seriously appreciate you sharing this info! Have a great day :)

  4. The curler bag reminds me of the purple and gold velour Crown Royal bag that my mother kept her sponge rollers in during the 80's. We had a TON of those bags though I never saw actual liquor in our house. Hmmmm...

  5. You and me both on the knee injuries-though mine was more of a workout injury. I hope you start feeling better soon!

  6. Hi! Not related to this post, but can you check something for me? Do you have the Felicity school outfit? If so, does the top have an ego tag? I just got one off eBay and while the skirt has a tag, the top does not, so I'm concerned it's a replica.

    1. Months late--sorry!--but my set doesn't have an ego tag in the top.


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.

If you are under 13 your comments will be removed; you're too young to be on the internet unsupervised and you know it.