Doll Clothes and Razor Blades

Doll clothes for 18" dolls

Doll clothes for 18″ dolls

Today I was thinking of the oft repeated story about King Gillette, (real name) who supposedly invented ‘freebie’ marketing – the old “Give them the razor free, then sell them a gazillion razor blades” concept.

(Popular as that story is, it’s wrong… not because freebie marketing wasn’t a great idea, but because in reality, King actually charged a pretty hefty price for his razors!)

OK then… what does this have to do with our Doll business?

Because whether you think of it as similar to ‘freebie marketing,’ or more like ‘McDonald’s® Marketing’ add on selling (“You want fries with that?”), doll clothes is a multi-multi-million dollar part of the doll business.

Barbie® comes closest to being a ‘freebie marketing’ model. You can buy a Barbie® doll in a basic swimsuit for $7.99 – delivered to your daughter’s front door. 11″ Barbie Clones at the Dollar stores are even less! On Amazon there are approx 3400 different clothing items that you can buy that fit Barbie® and her clones.

American Girl®, is more like McDonalds® add on selling. Only available through their own stores or pop-ups, the 18″ dolls cost approximately $110. Their clothing runs roughly $30 for most outfits… some more, some less. I’ve seen articles online that price the average American Girl® doll and accessories, or a trip to one of their stores (including lunch) between $400 – $600 depending on who wrote the article and what kind of experience they were pricing. That’s a 3 to 5 times multiple folks.

In either case don’t you think we should all be paying more attention to selling doll clothes in our stores!?

Most of the major doll lines that we carry at the Pattycake Doll Company’s store has clothing to go with their dolls, Adora, Corolle, Madame Alexander, North American Bear, Manhattan Toy (Baby Stella and Groovy Girls), etc.

So there, in brief, is the marketing concepts behind doll clothes. Freebie Marketing like Barbie® or McDonalds® selling like American Girl®

In next week’s post we’ll discuss why selling doll clothes is great idea for the consumer – both the parents and their children.

How Many Dolls Have You Ever Owned?

If you’re reading The Doll Blog, I’m going to assume you love dolls. I’m also going to assume you’ve owned dolls.

How many dolls have you owned in your lifetime?

Which one was your favorite?

My all time favorite doll, Cutie Pie

My all time favorite doll, Cutie Pie

In my case there are two answers: As a doll store owner I’ve ‘owned’ somewhere around 100,000 dolls give or take. I bought them and then sold them. I warehoused them. I owned them.

But if you want to count only ‘personal’ use, dolls I’ve unwrapped and loved and kept on a shelf in the office and wouldn’t ever want to sell them until I’m ninety-nine and there ‘s no room for me to keep them in a hospital room… well that number is a lot smaller.  couple of dozen maybe.

And if you ask: do I have a favorite, just one doll that I would take with me into that aforementioned hospital room, then yes I do. Her name is Cutie Pie. And she’s my favorite.

Why that doll? That’s between me and my therapist; if I ever do go to a therapist. Without a therapist I couldn’t tell you why that one doll has such a strong hold on me.

And I would also like to turn that question around… can you tell yourself why your favorite, out of all the dolls you ever had, is your favorite doll? Probably not!

But if today’s post has got you thinking, or if you want to share with me a story or a picture of your favorite doll of all time, I’d be interested.

5 Really Non-Traditional Uses for Children’s Dolls

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post  on five traditional uses for dolls that got a lot of interest. Today I’d like to talk about five uses for dolls that are ‘non-traditional.’

1: Good Touch – Bad Touch

antomically correct Asian Boy doll

It doesn’t surprise us, but it does make us feel sad every time The Pattycake Doll Company receives an order of anatomically correct dolls from a Social Services Agency. For children, it is easier and more comfortable to talk about it happening to a doll then it is to themselves.

2: Aromatherapy, Relaxation and Bed Warmer Dolls.

A Microwavable Aromatherapy and Bed Warmer Doll

A Microwavable Aromatherapy and Bed Warmer Doll

Filled with Flax seeds and herbs instead of fiberfill and foam, like these childrens heating pads, are just as soft and cuddly as a traditional teddy bear or other ‘take-to-bed’ doll. But you can put it in the freezer and then between the sheets as an ‘air-conditioner on a hot summer’s eve, or in the microwave to release the delightful aromatherapy and bed warming benefits.

3: Teaching and Representing Diversity

Using dolls to teach diversity

Using dolls to teach diversity

You know that more than half of America’s Children are children of color right? Gone are the days when the only dolls in America’s schools were pink.

4: Comfort Babies

a reborn doll

An example of reborn doll artistry by doll artist Donna Lee

For some people, a ‘Reborn,’ Realistic Doll can fill a void in their hearts. Empty Nesters, widows and widowers, people who have recently lost a child… are all examples of people who have used a doll as a surrogate to attach to while working out their feelings.

Most successful reborn doll artists have had the request to create a doll “exactly like…” a recently deceased child.

5: The Potty Training Dolls

Aquini Boy Doll on doll's potty

Drink and Wet dolls have been around for a long time, but Drink and Wet dolls sold in kits with the potty as Potty Training Dolls, especially the boy version, are a very recent variation.

Japanese Friendship Dolls

One of the 1927  Japanese Friendship Dolls

One of the 1927 Japanese Friendship Dolls courtesy NMNH – Anthropolgy Dept Smithsonian Institution Washington DC

Here’s another great ‘doll’ story: The ‘Blue-eyed Dolls’ and ‘The Japanese Ambassador Dolls,’ also known as the “Japanese Friendship dolls.”

It is basically a story about gift giving, and friendship with a little bit of odd history thrown in.

It starts with the odd. In 1924 Americans were paranoid about immigrants – go figure, right? – and had passed laws that basically kept Japanese and other Asian immigrants out.

But there were a lot of people who wanted to maintain our friendship with Japan, and one such fellow named Dr. Sidney Gulick arranged for thousands of ‘Blue Eyed Dolls†,” as they were called, to be sent by American children to Japanese children as gifts and symbols of our good wishes. He had been a missionary for many years in Japan, and was very familiar with the Japanese ‘Doll’s Day,’ March 3rd

The Japanese are also pretty particular about gift-giving, and it is part of their culture to reciprocate gifts in kind. They sent approx. 60 beautifully dressed dolls to various colleges and libraries and other public institutions in the U.S. in return.

This exchange, the thousands of American dolls sent to Japan in a gesture of friendship and goodwill, and the beautiful Ambassador Dolls in their kimonos that we received in return, is one of my favorite doll stories.

Many of the Ambassador Dolls are still on display across America, almost 90 years later. Although very few of ‘The Blue-eyed Dolls’ survived the War in Japan – estimated at about 300 – those that did are still very much cherished and on display in schools there as well.

Unfortunately, in a simple blog post there is not enough space to tell the entire story of these exchanges, but if this tidbit of doll history interests you enough, there is tons of information out there on the web.

† A blue-eyed doll,
Made of celluloid,
Was born in America.
When she arrived at a harbor in Japan,
She had many tears in her eyes.
I do not understand the language.
If I get lost, what should I do?
Warm-hearted Japanese girls,
Please be my friends and play with me.

This song was written by Ujo Noguch in 1921, well before the 12,000 ‘Blue -eyed’ dolls were sent. So it wasn’t that they were first seeing our dolls, but the song lent the name to the Blue (and Brown) eyed dolls that were sent by the American children.

5 Traditional Uses for Dolls

When I was a little kid, I didn’t declare to the world: “Some day I am going to grow up and sell dolls on the internet.” Consequently, when I founded The Pattycake Doll Company with my wife, although I knew about small business formation and retailing, I didn’t know a heck of a lot about dolls. So I started studying my new ‘field.’

I learned some interesting uses for dolls historically. Like:

Some of the oldest dolls were made as fertility dolls. Like the Venus of Willendorf – almost 30,000 years old.

The Willendorf Venus.

The Willendorf Venus

Dolls were also used to cast curses… it was pretty powerful stuff for those folks, make an effigy or a doll of your enemy, and then burn it up.

Most of the early dolls in 1700’s America came from Britain and France as Fashion Dolls. The dolls were dressed in the latest European Fashions, and then sent to America for the gentry to copy. The original knock-off trade!

Speaking of fashion dolls, another ‘traditional’ American use for a doll was to teach little girls sewing. Before they were trusted with hard to get and expensive patterned cloth, they practiced their skills on doll clothes.

Finally the most common use for dolls… as a lovey or security objects or for cuddling and comfort. Traditionally families had lots of children, and it was common for the older ones to help with the younger… there wasn’t much playing with dolls. But that didn’t mean that they didn’t have cloth dolls and rag dolls to love and cherish. But the porcelain and bisque headed baby dolls that we are all so familiar with now? They are fairly recent as a toy for children. Baby dolls for children didn’t really gain traction until the late 1800’s… first in Europe and then later in the US.

Recap: 5 Traditional uses for Dolls
Fertility Dolls
Voodoo and Hexes
Fashion Dolls
Learn-to-sew
Snuggle and Sleep