Barbie’s figure and other foolishness

Unless you’re living in a cave, you probably know that there are some people who think that Barbie’s ‘figure’ is damaging to a girl’s self-esteem.

I don’t think American five year olds think like that. But I’m not a psychologist, just a simple doll salesman.

My point is this: We sell 1000’s of dolls each year, and because little girls don’t have credit cards we know darn well that it’s adults who buy the dolls.

It is my firm and utter belief that when adults give a doll to a child they don’t ever say: “I hope you grow up to be just like this doll.”

I think what they say is: “Here’s a new doll for you to play with and love.”

Where I get stuck with the argument below is: ” The impossible physical proportions of the doll idolized as perfection by so many.” Who’s idolizing a Barbie doll as perfection? Five year old girls? I’ve seen some lady – in Europe I think – who is altering herself to look like Barbie. She’s pretty enough I guess, but I would hardly think that her doing that to herself is Barbie’s fault. 

And when Mattel makes a ‘Celebrity Barbie,’ like the Katie Perry or Nicki Minaj charity Barbies, does that mean little girls who idolize these singers are going to have messed up body images and self-esteem because of the impossible proportions of the dolls? (And from what I’ve seen of those two dolls, they don’t do their real life model’s assets justice either.)

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

As a doll store, in all our years selling thousands of Black, Biracial, Asian, and other Ethnic dolls, none of which have we ever presented as looking like a real person… not once has anybody returned a doll and said : “This is such an unrealistic representation of a real human body (ethnic hair style, skin tone, eye shape or whatever.) and it’s screwing up my kid’s mind.”

Just saying is all. My opinion.


Kokeshi Dolls & Their Kimonos

Kokeshi dolls

Compare the picture of the young woman wearing her kimono below to the painted kimonos on the Kokeshi dolls. On the doll 2nd from the left the doll is holding up her ‘sleeves,’ on three of the dolls the layered effect at the neck is represented as well.

From the first time I saw a Kokeshi doll on Ebay, I have been madly in love with them. As I own a doll store, you would think I would fall in love with the dolls I sell right? But somehow it didn’t turn out that way. I fell in love with Kokeshi dolls instead. Go figure.

There are a lot of reasons I like collecting Kokeshi… they’re pretty readily available, there are several different styles to choose from, they have a well defined history, and they are reasonably priced for a collectible doll, with most selling around $30. And unlike some collectibles which are too delicate to be handled, Kokeshi can be handled, there is a heft to the wood, the smoothness of the paint and lacquer, the textures of the carvings.

A  Japanese woman wearing her Coming of Age Day kimono

A Japanese women’s Coming of Age Day kimono

But mostly I like the kimonos. What makes Kokeshi dolls different, one from the other, is their kimonos. The Japanese kimonos that women wear for certain special days like weddings or Coming of Age Day are works of art. And the craftsmen who paint and carve the kimonos onto Kokeshi dolls are trying to reproduce that sense of “Kimono as Art” onto their dolls.

For me, that’s what makes them special.


Black Doll versus White Doll

Is it okay to use the same face for a Black doll and a White doll? Is that the same thing as making a white doll and coloring it brown?

What if we ask: “Is it okay to use the same sculpt for an African American doll and a Caucasian doll?”

Or ask: “Does using brown plastic make a doll a Black or African American doll?”

At The Pattycake Doll Company we think about issues like this a lot. After all, we are the largest ethnic doll store on the internet, and the decisions we make affect the lives of thousands of children every year.

We’d be interested in what your answers are to these questions, really. But here’s our take on the issue.

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” to all of those questions… when looked at through the eyes of a child. You see, children love dolls unreservedly. It’s adults who quibble, and overthink and add political correctness and feminist and every other kind of ‘ism’ and righteousness to dolls.

You can take a tennis ball, draw a smile on it with a marker, drive a piece of dowel into the ball and wrap it in a rag… and if you present it with all your heart and love to a child, they will accept it with all of their heart as the gift of love it was meant to be. (And love it to pieces – because it came from you.)

But looking at these questions as adults and parents and the owners of The Pattycake Doll Company, we have a slightly different answer, and the answer is this:

If you are making a doll, and you give the doll realistic racial features, noses and ears and eyes and hair and skin tone etc., then you need to make a different sculpt for each ethnicity.

But if it’s a ‘Doll’s Face,” an artistic expression of the art of the doll, than once you’ve created the face, you’re fine.

To give you an example, we have posted two kinds of Doll’s Faces here. Adora Doll’s Kayla, which was sculpted to look like an African American child, and Paradise’s Lia doll, which was sculpted with what we would call a Doll Face.

Can you see the difference?

Black Doll Faces

Compare doll face designs. On the left a ‘realistic’ sculpt. On the right a ‘generic doll’s face’ sculpt