The “Early Adopter’s” Dolls

Have you ever heard of people called: “Early Adopters?”

Early Adopters like to be the first ones to buy and try ‘new.’ They’re the ones who line up to get the newest iphone, try the latest app, wear the trendiest clothes, go to the newly opened restaurants, move into the newest up-and-coming gentrification neighborhoods.

I wish there was such a thing as Doll Early Adopters. In my fantasy, there are hundreds of them out there… constantly checking the internet for the newest dolls, searching ‘twitter’ and Instagram, checking Etsy and Pinterest… wanting to be the firstest and the fastest to find a new doll. Sigh…

Because if such a customer did exist, I could show them my two new (exclusive to The Pattycake Doll Company) Black Dolls from Precious Moments.

When I ran into Linda ‘The Doll Maker’ Rick at The American International Toy Fair (she’s the one who makes all the precious moments dolls) we had a nice discussion about how nice it had been several years ago when we carried Black Precious Moments dolls.

And then she surprised me with a very generous offer. If I would pick a few styles that I liked, she would make a few small batch runs for me to carry at www.pattycakedoll.com.

So she did, and we did and they’re available now on our site. (You can click on either

Thousands of people come to our store every week. Some looking for Black Dolls, some looking for Boy’s dolls, some looking for Learn to dress dolls etc.

Unfortunately, very few of them are early adopters… our visitors are usually buying gifts for kids, not because they are early adopters looking for the newest dolls.

Oh well. Maybe some of you readers are early adopters?

One can always hope, right?

 

Too ‘White? Stacey and Kelie Have the Answer

There is a lot of talk in our industry about ‘where the next generation of toy makers is coming from.’ I’d like to rephrase the question: In an America where more than half of the children born are children of color, where is the diversity in toys, reflective of our children, going to come from?

I thought about this as I walked Toy Fair last month. This is not a criticism, it is an observation: Toy Fair looks pretty ‘White.’

Imagine a Black Mama with three daughters aged 3, 5 and 8. She walks  into any of the big box stores hoping to get three different Black dolls for her daughters. A soft and cuddly Black lovie for her three year old, maybe a cute 12 or 13 inch Black baby doll for her five year old – hopefully with ‘natural’ hair that she can style and play with – and for the oldest, an 18 inch African-American girl doll with a nice selection of fashions.

Yeah… right.

If you don’t know these two names, you should: Stacey McBride-Irby and Kelie Charles. What Madame Alexander and Ruth Handler were to dolls in the 20th century, these two doll makers are to the 21st century. Visionairies. Pioneers. Entrepreneurs. These two women are helping to bring American Doll making into the 21st century.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena by Stacey McBride-Irby

When you meet and talk to Stacey and Kelie you learn that they share the same story and the same passion. They’ve identified an itch – the lack of dolls of color, and they are doing their best to scratch it. It isn’t easy starting a new company from nothing more than an idea, but fortunately we live in a time and an America where it is possible.

Zaria Double Dutch Doll

Zaria is one of the Double Dutch Dolls by Kelie Charles

In the course of things it doesn’t really matter so much that I am proud of these women, or that I am proud to carry their dolls. I am but a humble doll merchant. But in an America that is changing from white to ‘of color,’ I want to stand and cheer. This is where the ‘next generation’ of doll makers is coming from.

A Tale of Two Dolls

I was surprised the first time I heard a ‘less-than-enthusiastic’ comment about American Girl’s® Addy doll. It’s not that I think American Girl walks on water or anything, but as a competitor in the doll business, I had to respect the tremendous success of the brand, the marketing and everything that goes into making American Girl such a huge success.

The Pattycake Doll company didn’t always carry 18 inch American Girl type dolls. We were geared more to the baby doll and rag doll market. But we kept getting requests, and finally I asked one of the mothers who had called me – once again – to find out if we carried 18″ Black Dolls: “If you want a Black 18 inch doll, why don’t you just buy American Girls’ Addy?”

The answer floored me. “I don’t want to give my daughter a slave doll.”

18 inch Doll Portraits -12-2

So gradually, Addie and I added 18″ dolls for children of color to our store. First we just had one Asian 18″ doll, one Black 18″ doll, and one Biracial/Multicultural/Hispanic skin tone 18 inch doll; but we quickly expanded as we discovered that there was a definite need and desire for these American Girl clones. And the more we looked, the more we found… Black American girl dolls with straight hair, and Black dolls with curly hair, eventually reaching 12+ different skin tone – hair style – hair color combinations. And because none of them were ‘Addy,’ there were no books, or ‘background stories.’  They were just dolls. Beautiful Dolls.

But this year we started carrying a new 18″ Black doll, from Madame Alexander, who comes dressed as a Ballerina. And she is simply stunning.

Ballerina 18in Doll Portrait

And for all those mothers who were reluctant to present their daughters with a ‘slave-girl story,’ we could suggest something different. Because in America today there are some really beautiful Black ballerinas with tremendously inspiring stories. Like Misty Copeland and Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams.*

American Girl’s Addy has a wonderfully inspiring story – but as we learned, it’s not for everyone. Maybe a Black Ballerina Doll, and your daughter’s imagination, can create an alternative story more to your liking?

* Neither Madame Alexander nor Pattycake Doll are inferring that this beautiful 18″ doll is meant to represent any of the real Black ballerinas mentioned in this post.

American Girl Makes It Harder

18" American Girl Doll Clones

Portraits of the current 18″ Dolls of Color Selection from The Pattycake Doll Company

Many years ago The Pattycake Doll Company got a call from a mother looking for “Black American Girl’ type dolls. (We specialized in dolls of color at that time too, but mostly for babies and toddlers. American Girl® dolls start at age 8)

And although we carried a Madame Alexander Black American Girl clone ( at less than 1/2 the price no less and safe for ages 3 and up,) we simply asked why she didn’t buy the American Girl Addy doll, it was so beautiful?

Well the answer shocked us: “I don’t want to buy a slave girl doll for my daughter.” One of my favorite expressions is: ‘You don’t learn a heck of a lot from the second kick from a mule.” I sensed a business opportunity, and today The Pattycake Doll Company is the largest seller of ethnic 18″ dolls of color.

So we found it interesting today to read that American Girl is retiring (read that as cutting the number of 18 inch dolls of color available) while they revamp their historical line-up: Post by American Girl. Their Asian 18 inch doll is American Girl’s Ivy Ling, and Cecile Rey is a Black American Girl Doll.

I, like everybody else, will be interested to see what dolls they come out with to replace American Girl® Ivy Ling and American Girl® Cecile Rey.

Golliwog – A Black Racist Doll?

A Golliwog Doll

A modern Golliwog doll

This is a Golliwog Doll. A simple sack of cloth filled with stuffing. For generations of children a beloved doll. But today, this Black doll has been turned into a racial negative.

How did this happen? How does a simple cloth doll that was loved for decades become a symbol of racism?

The doll didn’t change. Golliwogs today look much the same as they did 120 years ago when they were introduced as a character in The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls by Florence Kate Upton in 1895 my sources.

Golliwog - illustration by Florence Kate Upton

Golliwog – illustration by Florence Kate Upton

And she based the Golliwog doll on one she had owned as a child in the 1870’s. So what changed?  Let’s just say “The Times Changed.” It’s about as accurate an answer as there is for a simple doll store owner like myself.

But I would ask you: “As a doll lover, am I allowed to love Golliwog Dolls too? Can I love the doll while admitting that it is no longer a socially acceptable image? What do you think?