Thursday, February 2, 2023

What a Difference a Decade Makes

OMG! Can you believe it's been 10 years already! Back then after not finding the style of doll fashions I was looking for….  I launched this blog. 

“Welcome to Fashion Doll Stylist! Your fashion doll collection is about to get a little more interesting! If you've found your way to this blog, you don't need me to tell you about the expense involved with doll collecting. Between the initial cost of purchasing the doll and the associated costs of dressing her, you can easily run yourself ragged trying to keep those 12" plastic divas in the height of fashion. This blog is for the frugal collector who wants to create sophisticated fashions for their dolls. We will look at how to get your creative juices flowing; how to choose fabric and create basic silhouettes; and where to look for inspiration. There are countless blogs and websites all to dedicated to making clothes for Barbie. Trouble is, most of the clothing rarely goes beyond the juvenile styles one makes to satisfy the tastes the children in our lives: prom or princess frocks, sparkly party dresses, beachwear. I wanted something different. Something reflecting adult tastes like....suits, sheath dresses, fur coats, uncomplicated trends reflecting modern tastes.” (FDS, February 2, 2013)

Bloggers and collectors have come and gone but we are still here. Admittedly, it's not easy maintaining a blog like this for 10 years. Someone once asked me if I really thought I could find enough to blog about long term. I said "of course!" Fashion is a living breathing entity. Of course I could not have imagine all of the aesthetic and lifestyle changes that lay ahead. We have tried our best—even though we hobbled along to the finish line this past year. So we can say… we made it! And that’s thanks to you and your loyal support. But let’s not get sentimental, just yet. Instead, let’s take a look back at how our dolliverse has changed over the past 120 months. 

In 2013,  finding dolls was as easy as strolling through retail stores or perusing information on blogs like Collecting Dolls by Terri Gold, Inside the Fashion Doll Studio or The Fashion Doll Chronicles. Even better, there was “Doll Observers” a free online club where many of us met up to post photos of our favorite dolls, participate in challenges and communicate with other collectors. (That’s where I learned that not all 12” dolls were Barbies!)  In fact, 10 years ago the internet was host to lots of bloggers: some who talked about new dolls; others posting dolly  “soap operas” or adventures; and a few (very few) who offered tips on making naive doll clothes. Some used their blogs to showcase their own dolly photography or handcrafted clothes. There were even blogs that promoted our blogs (Fashion Dolls Top 100). And some of us even found ways to promote each other (remember the Liebster award).

For me, what I found missing at the beginning of the 2010s, was real information on how to create current fashion trends on a 1/6 scale complete with DIY tutorials on patternmaking and where to find ideas for clothes. The few designers who sold their wares did not share their secrets! 

Mission Accomplished

Hanky Couture

Over the past ten years, anything and everything I could imagine I would want to wear myself, I transformed into miniature versions and delivered it via tutorials and “trend reports.” At first I assumed few folks in this community had sewing experience, so I began with simple ideas: wrapping fancy or colorful pocket squares around the shoulders of a doll, making a fringed poncho out of a square of chamois. Over the next several we covered all the basics of patternmaking beginning with slopers customized to fit your own doll whoever she is. Then we showed how to manipulate those slopers into a few basic patterns. As if that weren’t enough, eventually we expanded into clothing for Ken and friends!

I was so focused on the clothing, I did not think about accessories until I started looking at “Billa’s Dolls & Fashions” blog where I noticed how well put together her dolls were right down to their toes. That prompted me to venture into DIY accessories: hats, handbags, designer luggage, stockings, lingerie, gloves and of course, shoes. Oh yes, I found myself spending so much money on shoes!

Especially those little gems from Integrity Toys dolls! With encouragement from BlackKitty (one of my first to leave comments on my blog) and a tip about epoxy clay from Galacticat (a fellow member over at The WClub), I figured out how to make my own 1/6 scale footwear, information which I promptly turned into a set of tutorials for you. 
Oh and let’s not forget the guys! It was my dad who asked why there were no male dolls. Wonderful, I brought Ken into the house and eventually he invited his FR Homme friends. All of them needed clothes but I was warned about how silly looking “home made” Ken doll clothes could look, So I found looks that did not require any type of tailoring for him and our menswear was born.

During this journey, we even took our dolls to the beauty salon, showing  how to care for them, apply lashes and even how to make hair pieces or apply flocking. (Unfortunately we could not do manicures because we couldn't figure out how to get the long fingernails to stick!)

You've Come a Long Way, Dolly

Many of the dolls we collected back then--especially if you collect Barbies, Monster High, My Scene or Bratz, are no longer in production. But if you’re lucky, they have, perhaps, appreciated in value! Mattel’s SIS dolls cost me as little as $7-13 a piece in my local (US) store. When you can find them, they now run $50-120 each! My Model Muse Barbies have also tripled or more in price! When I stop to think about how much money in dolls I have, I started putting some of those dolls away!

On the plus side, doll technology has greatly evolved over the past decade. Most now have articulated bodies and are found in a vast array of ethnicities, skin tones, looks and hairstyles. For those of us who collect Integrity Toys, all dolls now have removable hands, allowing them to wear form fitting sleeves, bracelets modeled in one piece and more realistic “gloved hands.” Some dolls have legs (with heeled feet) that come apart at the knees and can be swapped out for lower limbs with flat feet thus allowing them to wear flats, sneakers AND high heels whenever they want.

The last 10 years has also been about customizing our dolls. A few of us tried our hand at re-rooting and repainting. Many more have given our dolls new bodies! And yes, a few of my dolls are hybrid: Barbie heads atop Fashion Royalty bodies.

In terms of aesthetics, I've noticed how today scale has become extremely important. Dolls and everything in their world look incredibly real. Facial features are more refined and the details of the torso more natural. Gone are all of those figure eight bodies with pinched waists. "Belly button" torsos are now the standard.The male dolls really look like guys (and not bug-eyed nerds). Many of my dolls today have personalities, attitudes. Some even give the side eye. 

Look at the difference in beauty and expression. Top left is a replica of AA Barbie 1980 placed next to Fashion Royalty's "Modernist Eugenia" 2018, On the bottom... I was very happy with my SIS Chandra Barbie 2013. But IT's Annick Vandale (2019) takes Black doll aesthetics to a new level. 

Let's go back to the basic blond fashion doll. They have become so much more sophisticated over the last decade. This is IT's Petite Robe Classique Veronique (2020) giving attitude (from top to bottom) to Barbie Fashionista (1999), Barbie Basics (2010) and FR Veronique Silver Society(2001). 
Ken dolls have always been a challenge. Look at the difference between Ken as Barbie's inanimate sidekick, and the heart throb FR Hommes dolls. Notice how modern, even daring the hair styles are!

(Top) Ken circa 2010 and IT's latest Weekender Lucas Maverick doll. The dude dolls have grown up! (Middle) An Adonis doll on the left and Studio Sessions Darius Reid on the right seem to overpower Barbie Basics Ken. The bottom photo is another example of the modern guy doll versus classically coiffed Ken. 

What we lost 

Robert Tonner no longer produces his iconic 16" Tyler Wentworth and Antoinette dolls. 

And unless you are collecting Mod Dolls, Sybarites, Kingdom Dolls, JamieShow and the like, it seems that 16” divas are no longer a thing. Tonner’s DollChat on Twitter has ceased. Not enough interest as other social media platforms took over the spotlight. And those of you who collect classic Barbies, you lost your beloved Silkies when Mattel halted production of the Silkstones! 

We also lost some really great blogs. Some bloggers dropped out of the hobby and onto other interests. While others fell to health issues. There are many that I miss, but one in particular: "Fashion Dolls at Van Doll Treasures." I miss seeing not only the adventures of Vanessa's dolls, but also the fashions she created for her Dasha doll. 

FDS by the Numbers

Over the past ten years I have made 559 blog posts, visited 1.39 million times. The most popular ones are, of course, anything with patterns, slopers and sewing tips. On Pinterest, our shoe tutorials continue to generate a lot of serious buzz, followed by accessories.

Though I post almost exclusively dolls from my IT collection, my doll family now numbers 176 which includes 67 IT dolls, 57 Barbies, 24 dude dolls; 7 Tonner; and 3 My Scene.

The female dolls share more than 620 garments which are hung on little foam hangers in 17 closet boxes. They have 287 pairs of shoes and boots (132 pairs made in house); 55 Bags, 53 hats, and an assortment of over 150 accessories ranging from scarves, extra hands, gloves and hairpieces to jewelry, small props (like cellphones) and sunglasses. And yes…. My bedroom resembles a toy store!

State of the FDS  Blog Report 2022

2022's Tutorials
Ten years ago when we were new and there was so much to cover, we put up 102 posts in 2013. But as content on our blog began to build, and fashion trends tumbled into astraction, not to mention the blinding impact of pandemic lockdowns, it became more challenging to be inspired, harder to arrive with new ideas. Last year was lean…. only 13 posts and out of those, only two were tutorials: Pucker Up Again (revising permanent pleated fabric) and Hot Glue, Cool Corsets. Moreover, my blog was one of several victims of web-scraping and plagiarism by another toy based website . This for me was disheartening, discouraging, adding to my mental block.  Somehow I managed to keep up with the fashion reports, but could not avoid being impacted by personal challenges, which also crimped my creativity. 

But the dolls were still there…cheering me on! I’m not sure which dolls put the word out there but, we apparently have a reputation for one of the best dolly wardrobes on the planet. So there’s no stopping the constant stream of dolls knocking on the door to join us! In 2022, we let seven of them into our home. For the first time ever, members of the Poppy family arrived: Simone (Resort Ready Poppy) and her sister Sandy (Belle Mariee Poppy)  Even though I no longer collect Barbies anymore, I could not resist Yoon (Vera Wang Barbie). Much to the delight of my ladies, two handsome new boyfriends arrived in the house: Ahmed (Weekender Lukas Maverick) and Terrance (Studio Sessions Darius Reid). And finally, two very sultry ladies rounded out the year: Vivienne (Glamour Coated Elyse Jolie) and Lindsey (Petite Robe Classique Veronique.)

From left to right: Simone, Sandy, Vivienne, Lindsey, Yoon, Terrance, Ahmed.

So, what will the future bring? Honestly, it is anyone’s guess. I simply hope I can keep my head above water while the rest of the universe adjusts to this “new world order.” Fashion right now is as insane as ever which makes it difficult to find inspiration on catwalks or red carpets. I’m still hopeful that I can find small snippets that can spark new ideas. Personally, things are such that there is less stress in my life right now.. Hopefully I will be able to sustain this momentum and create decent content over the next 12 months.

Ten years ago, this hobby was ablaze and blogs were immensely popular. Back then we were doing something very new. And though I perhaps can’t take credit for any of this, we’d like to think our presence had some impact on what we see today in our dolly universe. Everybody’s dolls are so much better looking, better dressed and wearing current fashion! There are lots of very professional doll fashion and accessory designers doing very interesting things! And for anyone not creating their own dolly wardrobes for their dolls, Etsy and Ebay is abound with amazing products ranging from 1/6 garments and jewelry to footwear and designer handbags. There's even a professional furrier, Dimitha Doll Furs with a store on Ebay ( selling doll sized mink coats (made from recycled garments!

On the other hand, there are many who have left the blogosphere for Instagram. It’s a platform that is quick, easy and doesn’t require as much work as a blog. And, it reaches a broader audience. But the “tutorials” are to my eyes, more “quick tips” or “show & tell” and don’t afford lots of hand holding though the creative process. Though I do post photos to our Instagram and FaceBook pages for those who simply want to look at pictures,  I have remained faithful to the blog format because it allows me to provide in-depth detailed tutorials and commentary on the things that matter the most---all things fashion for the fashion doll.

Thank you for your friendship, your loyalty, your curiosity and your moral support. Thank you for continuing to follow us here at Fashion Doll Stylist.

April & the gang

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