In the world of Tommydoll, a fashion doll is an adult representation of a human being or otherwise anthropomorphic creature that wears clothing and accessories to an often sickening level, and knows how to sissy her walk. It does not include child character dolls, but sometimes may include older teenagers, as was the case with Barbie (and the unfortunate Janet Lennon). Skipper, Betsy McCall and others of the type are considered a gray area because they have fashions, but can hardly be described as fierce (well, to most normal non-pedophilic people, anyway).
Aside from the psychology one could apply to the dynamics of fashion dolls and the meaning to their collectors, you cannot escape the one simple fact that fashion dolls are pretty cool. Baby dolls can’t say that…and few child character dolls can boast such a trait. And as is the case with fashion in general, the people drawn to the fashion doll are of the constant craving for change, hopefully change that is fabulous. Oh yes, we can get caught in a rut, holding on to things we have so firmly attached our very souls to, resisting the shape of things to come – but in the end, we will succumb to change whether we like it or not.
Does this make us members of an exclusive attention deficit disorder cool kids’ club? Not really…no. Of the fashion doll people I have met across the years, all kinds of neuroses are wonderfully represented, all types of social hierarchies are represented, and people of all shapes, colors, creeds, and taste levels are here. And most of them are pretty likeable, too.
Of course, there are the fashion doll collectors that refuse to acknowledge any other type of doll except the one they worship. They are loyal only to one doll and one doll only. That is truly unfortunate, because like fashion, the appreciation and adoration of all types of fashion dolls is an inherent gift of the open-minded. You don’t have to buy or collect them all…but you appreciate them for what they are. And yes, that even goes for Alex…because there are people who love her, and that’s really all that matters.
But all fashion dolls are not the same – lumping them all into a single category is like saying all humans are alike, or Justin Beiber is just like a little girl. Comparing a vintage MEGO Cher to Poppy Parker is laughable at best…or consider standing Cissy next to JAMIEshow – apples and oranges. Some fashion dolls are about as basic as a doll can get – Dawn comes to mind – but even in her tiny little world, Dawn was pretty fab. Still others have tripped the wire separating haute couture from sculptural art where an artist might cringe if you called his or her work a ‘fashion doll’ – get over it. You should be so lucky to be included in such fashion royalty (sorry, Integrity, I had to). And it is a fashion doll – just not equal to other fashion dolls. Simply put, the term ‘fashion doll’ is a pretty high compliment for any miniature mannequin wearing clothes and exhibiting a certain flair for la mode…it’s sentience of style?
Of course, the fashion doll is primarily about three things: sculpt, clothing and stuff. It’s the stuff you really want, and may even be willing to talk yourself into a debt-inducing stupor just for the stuff. What is ‘stuff’ you might ask? Well, there are some non-doll people who read this, so let me fill you in on the stuff. To simply reduce ‘stuff’ to accessories is a fashion doll crime punishable by plucking your eyelashes out one by one with rusty tweezers. STUFF includes fashion accessories such as shoes, handbags, scarfs, etc. Jewelry is NOT just a ‘fashion accessory’ as Marcia Friend will attest – and grouping jewelry into ‘fashion accessories’ is yet another fashion doll crime with a penalty so demoralizing, I cringe at the thought. Jewelry is jewelry…which is also part of the ‘stuff’. Stuff also includes cars, wardrobe trunks, townhouses, and Ken. You get my drift…
And thusly, it is important to understand the different types of fashion dolls. Herein lies the types of fashion dolls, why they deserve their own category within the dolly world garden, and why they are important in their own right. Let’s begin, puddings…but please get offended on your own time, this isn’t about you…
Barbie – There is only one Barbie, and despite her crossing the lines into so many other categories below, she is a class in and of herself. It doesn’t matter if she is a $5 toy, a Silkstone collectible, a 5-figure vintage gal, or some crazy whore for just about any product out there from Little Debbie to Avon – she is Barbie, and to deny her magnitude amongst the fashion doll spawn of the age is to ignore the pink impact of which this Queen has firmly established across an entire planet. Bow down, bitches…none of you will be Barbie…ever.
The Toy – Monster High, Bratz, Diva Starz, etc. – These are the fashion dolls in the mainstream that are created and marketed to the masses as a child’s toy. Remember – just because it’s a toy doesn’t diminish its quality or its popularity. The Toy fashion dolls are the doll world’s bread and butter, and if you so happen to be one of the many who can’t afford the high-end girls, the Toy is perfect for you – and they have loads of stuff. You’ll never be bored with The Toy.
The Vintage Toy – Dawn, Blythe, Jem, Tammy, etc., excluding Barbie – They were ordinary ‘Toys’ once, but time and hoarding have turned them into a unique genre. Revered for their rarity and condition, The Vintage Toy seldom sees the play time that newer Toys do. Often stored in acid-free tissue, or displayed in vacuum-sealed cabinets, The Vintage Toy is great to look at, but don’t even think about touching her. For the brave, bold and beautiful people that share as much playtime with your Vintage Toys as you do your new Toys, Bravissima! Remember, your new Toys will become Vintage Toys, so keep that in mind when you leave them next to your pet, child or drunken spouse.
The Grande Dames – 50s glam gals – This really should only refer to Cissy, because the quality of Cissy’s spawn just don’t hold a candle to the amazing detail and quality put forth by Madame Alexander (at least then, anyway). But for the sake of not having my tires slashed by the Miss Revlon cult members who actually think she was better than Cissy, we’ll group them all into one little coven. And rightly so if you think about it – these Grande Dames of the 1950s enjoyed a very brief run when compared to the other fashion doll genres in history; yet, the lasting impression of this sorority suggests they were around for many, many years. That’s pretty powerful, don’t you think? To this day, they still have significance, and they are still cherished by those refusing to acknowledge Barbie’s divine right. If you are looking to collect these, the ‘little’ Grande Dames (Little Miss Revlon, Toni, etc.) are odd in their body proportions, but they have really cool stuff – and they restore really well.
The Old Bitches – antiques – The fashion dolls of antiquity dismiss anything plastic as rubbish. But the joke is really on them – they are rarely touched as they once were a hundred years ago when they were Toys. I can only hope I live to see the day when plastic is replaced by some new revolutionary material, and plastic dolls are then placed right next to the old porcelain bisque dolls in the museums – there goes the neighborhood! The Dowager Countess of Grantham would not be amused.
The Imposters – knock-offs - no, not murder – The Imposters are a touchy sort. Not to be confused with The Heathers below, The Imposters carry a significant place among fashion dolls because they are collected in their own right. When Toys “R” Us placed ‘Hayley’ on its shelves, and through the miracle of the Internet, Gene collectors everywhere were amused, confused and outraged at this blatant Imposter. There are some who believe Candi Girls were a direct rip-off of Barbie, and although these dolls had a bit more sexuality than Barbie, they still pretty much were Barbie Imposters. Still others would fight me to the ground defending Alex as an original rather than an Imposter of Tyler Wentworth (bless their hearts) – but we’ll cast her into The Heathers (see below) – if nothing more than kindness to Alex’s fans. Be that as it may, The Imposter fashion dolls try very hard to look like a competitor, all under the guise of its own label – and one only needs to use one’s eyes to see through the bullshit. Now…that being said, what would you call multiple incarnations of Scarlett O’Hara or Marilyn Monroe – in the same scale? Imposters? No…celebrity dolls are Page Six Girls (see below).
The DIY Divas – craft dolls – you see them in craft stores, now more abundant than before – but now dominated by American Girl knock-offs for the home crafter – they are the fashion dolls of such ambiguity, they are used to decorate cakes, cover toilet paper rolls, or serve as a pin cushion. These are the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Divas, and they deserve respect, too. How would you feel being covered in antebellum crocheted acrylic yarn and plastic beads just to tastefully (Ha!) cover paper with which we use to wipe our asses? DIY Divas are also crafted in resin, paper clay and sculpey at the whim of some would-be doll artist, but cannot ascend to The Goddesses’ level.
The Page Six Girls – Tonner, Integrity, et al. – As the name implies, The Page Six Girls are the fashion dolls collected by the non-Barbie masses. In most cases, celebrity-themed dolls are Page Six Girls, but that isn’t always the case. In the fashion doll microcosm, dolls receiving most of the mainstream attention are typically Page Six Girls. Themes come and go, quality is high (but not always – remember, ‘Real Housewives’ can also be Page Six Girls), and they can generally be bought and sold in a fairly strong secondary market. Although first-issue prices for these dolls continue to climb, they are the middle of the road separating a Barbie ‘left’ from a Superdoll ‘right’. Often influential, The Page Six Girls drive creativity and customization rituals, spawning an entirely new genre of fashion dolls (see The Whores below).
The Heathers – main stream competitors to The Doyennes (Gene and Tyler – see below) – In the world of 16inch hard plastic fashion dolls, only two are of significance: Ashton-Drake’s Gene Marshall and Robert Tonner’s Tyler Wentworth. Gene is largely nobility by the sheer timing of being first. Despite quality running amok on its own Ashton-Drake rollercoaster, Gene infused new life into doll collecting in a genre that was better suited to the adult collector. Tyler may have followed Gene, but what makes her worthy of her own title was the exceptional, modern clothing Tonner imparted to his fashion doll. Gene and Tyler have since passed into the realm of fashion doll memory (well, there are newer Gene and Tyler-ish dolls), but as a subset in the fashion doll game, they are still significant. And then there are the others…and oh so many of them, too. Fashion dolls that tried to take a swipe at Gene and/or Tyler are simply regarded as The Heathers. A label coined from the popular underground film of the late 1980s, Heathers were the girls who wanted to be THE Heather, but just couldn’t make it in the game. I must emphasize that The Heathers were not necessarily victims of poor quality or even design, many were well-conceived, even earning them a high FRODO. But in the end, they just couldn’t find their Storybrooke in a sea of characters that endlessly fought for the collectors’ money.
Why are The Heathers not inclusive of Barbie? Because in Barbie’s world, competitors can be classified as a Toy or an Imposter. That, and because the 16inch newcomer, Gene, was the new girl acting as catalyst to a whole slew of competitors (not unlike Barbie in the early 1960s)…and everyone wanted to be her (or at least enjoy her success). Barbie was still Barbie, even with the introduction of the collectible Silkstone dolls. Don’t you think it’s funny Mattel never ventured into the 16inch fashion doll market? Well, why would you when you own a God?
The Activists – fashion dolls with a message – You know the ones: Butterfly Ring, Zeenie Dollz, and more recently Lammily, among others. These are the dolls that were created more out of a message to be imparted to the world rather than good design or concept. Again, not that they were badly made…they don’t always concentrate on what makes a fashion doll a fashion doll – and that is fabulousness. If you are going to send a message with your Activist doll, then best damn well make sure she is drop-dead gorgeous with plenty of stuff – otherwise, join The Toys, The Heathers or The Imposters. And if your new doll with a message is being marketed to children, better have loads of cash around to muster up some serious advertising through television, because pamphlets, trading cards, a jazzy website, Facebook, and other social media outlets won’t cut the mustard. Most Activist dolls won’t be around next year, not unlike most Toys that fail within its issue year.
The Boys – Billy, Ken, JAMIEshow Men, FR: Homme, etc. – It doesn’t matter what they are made of, where they come from, or how long they have been around – boys are boys, and that’s it. Amongst The Boys, you do have varying degrees of quality, fashions, sexuality, even hyper-articulation (I’m talking to you, Action Figures), some even actually have a penis (Billy and this guy) – but make no mistake, they can only be reverse victims of sexism when it comes to fashion dolls. There are even female fashion dolls that may qualify in The Boys’ club (Ru Paul and Lisa Littlechap come to mind) – and that is probably the topic of another conversation.
The Doyennes – Gene, Tyler, Fashion Royalty – Read with The Heathers, above. The Doyennes are the core fashion dolls. Size is unimportant here. These ladies have been there, done it, and got the miniature tee shirt. They leave behind them a legacy that is unlike any other modern fashion doll. They are also made of plastic, which sets them apart from The Goddesses. To be fair, other dolls prior to Gene may be thought of as a Doyenne, but they are too close to Barbie, Toy or Vintage Toy to make any true impact on today’s fashion dolls. And for those who feel Fashion Royalty is a rip-off of Barbie…I think not. They are of similar scale, and the similarity ends there…period.
The Freakshow Femmes – Fantasy Sex Dolls – By definition, these are technically fashion dolls, but I won’t even dignify them with commentary.
The Whores – aka fashion doll makeovers. Don’t be offended by the title, it is a worthy label of these fashion dolls. They are Whores, because they have been changed from whatever fashion doll origin from whence they came for another’s purpose. They have been re-sculpted, painted, teased, boiled, redressed and sold all in the name of art. Even if they are not sold for money, they are still used to gain attention or credibility as a fashion doll makeover artist. Like true prostitutes, there are very, very good fashion doll makeovers, and there are horrifically bad fashion doll makeovers (there was even a web group that celebrated them – Minging Dolls, was it?). Nevertheless, you can slap some shadow on the lids, beat those cheeks to a rosy red, brush that hair into a coiffure, and dress them in haute couture – but they are still Whores. It should be taken as compliment to say you’ve ‘whored your doll up’ – so wear that scarlet W with pride, sisters. Look, every niche has its Whores – you have attention whores (of which I know all too well), media whores, political whores, courtesan whores, even Food Network whores…so why not fashion doll Whores? Lighten up, it is the world’s oldest profession…
The Goddesses – the good resins – Start at Superdoll, and pan right…JAMIEshow, DollChic, Fashion Doll Agency, Inamorata, Numina, Kingdom Doll (reminds me a bit of The Heathers, really) – these are The Goddesses. They are almost entirely, but not exclusively, 16inch dolls. The Goddesses rose from the chaos and frustration some fashion doll collectors experienced by not having a doll that meets his or her standards. And man, do they have pretty exacting standards! They weren’t satisfied turning their dolls into Whores (see above), so they made their own graven images. And you have to give them credit, they underwent fashion doll hell to create these Goddesses that are worlds apart from ordinary fashion dolls. They are not what I consider to be Monas (see below), and not because of the level of art realized, but more because they embody fashion at its most essential core. Now, I refer to the ‘good resins’, but understand that Goddesses may also be made from other materials, though it’s not likely. And then you also have bad resins…and they are more DIY Divas than anything else.
The Wannabes – Pseudo-fashion dolls like Cissette, the excreable Coquette Cissy, Tonner’s Kitty Collier – where-oh-where do you put poor little bitches like these – they are fashion dolls by definition, and some actually fall into and/or qualify for The Grand Dames (timing is the only thing that keeps Kitty Collier out of The Grand Dames). But the Cissette that is made today is not the same fashion doll as Grande Dame Cissette - quality and design separate the modern evil twin from her vintage ancestor. What is really upsetting about Cissette is she is virtually devoid of stuff…unless you get custom-made clothing and accessories, or very rare vintage pieces. Still, she is vying for the right to exist in the universe of fashion dolls, much like the Blythe remake, Pullip, and others of the kind…and mostly plastic dolls, too. Just because they are Wannabes doesn’t diminish their standing among the fashion doll elite, much in the same way Prince Charles is a Wannabe, too. He is still the Prince of Wales, after all.
The Geishas – resin Asian BJDs – at the risk of sounding racist, there is a rationale behind the naming of this category of fashion dolls. And although Japanese in origin, the term Geisha, by definition can be applied to all fashion dolls that are classified as Asian Ball Jointed Dolls if (and only if) there is an underlying Animé theme, regardless of where in Asia it is manufactured. This does not mean all Asian BJDs are Geishas, however – because not all Asian BJDs are fashion dolls. Nevertheless, The Geishas that embody the origins of Animé (which is uniquely Japanese) are often considered doll art of the highest form, and they are amazingly exclusionary to anything of similar genre that is made in the West (see The Goddesses). Traditional Geishas were hosts of the arts, and as such, they are the ambassadors to Western Civilization when it comes to Asian style. Now, ‘Asian’ is a confusing term attempting to generalize any person who lives in a portion of the Asian continent, much like ‘African’ is meant to describe anyone of that land mass, which we all know is horseshit. I am pretty certain that Egyptians do not like being referred to as African, much in the same way Indians (the real ones, not the Native Americans) do not like being called Asian. It’s all a far cry from ‘Oriental’ which is so grossly misused to describe anything that ends in ‘…ese’ residing east of Europe – people are Asian, rugs are Oriental. Be that as it may, the Asian BJD Animé fashion dolls are a genre that represent art, fashion, and other elements also represented by the Geisha. Therefore, ‘The Geishas’ not only works, but it’s surprisingly fitting to this genre of fashion dolls. The Geishas are the only exception to The Whores, as this type of fashion doll is largely intended to be customized either by the manufacturer or the owner – kind of like DNA selective procedures differ from plastic surgery. Geishas are many things, but Whores, they are not.
The Monas – Art fashion dolls – What separates The Monas (née Mona Lisa) from The Goddesses and The Geishas is primarily the medium by which the art fashion doll is realized – which is saying almost anything that isn’t hard plastic or in a 16inch scale. This would encompass adult cloth dolls by Maggie Iacono, resin ball-jointed dolls by Helen Kish or Goodreau (no, no…it’s not an ASIAN ball-jointed doll), Marina Bychkova’s porcelain treasures, the Popovy Sisters‘ breath-taking visions, the diminutive MicroDiva, and Robert Tonner’s American Models (the 19inch vinyl series of the 90s, not the 21inch versions today, which would be The Page Six Girls or Wannabees, depending on how you look at them – hey, no one said this was an exact science). Many can successfully argue that various types of Superdoll belong with the Monas, such as the elusively hypnotic Chalk White series, and they’d not be wrong. But in the end, these are dolls that are apart from the deities seen in The Goddesses because they are beyond the realm of art encapsulated by the fashion world. MicroDivas are the exception…they are fashion dolls in every sense of the definition, but they do not directly compare to their 16inch sisters. Let’s not forget life-size display mannequins – I place these with The Monas, too.
The Fashion Mutts – non-human representations using fashion as a catalyst. I’m not referring to Monster High, really…as it is clear they are Toys. But The Fashion Animals are easily defined by what they are not (not directly, anyway) – and that is human. Vampires, Aliens, Fairies, Hobbits, Anna Nicole Smith, non-human entities that rely on human fashion to make a statement, but they cannot actually call themselves ‘human’.
So there you have it. These are the dolls that matter most in the doll world, as I explained here. Fashion dolls are ever-changing, always noteworthy, and have loads of stuff to titillate the fingers of any fashion aficionado. It’s a shame really that the Fashion Industry thinks fashion dolls are trite. They might marvel over a Superdoll exhibit, or Jason Wu’s latest Fashion’s Night Out offering, but in the end they think it’s all silly. Numerous references are made to ‘dolly clothes’ and ‘matchy-matchy’ as if they are crimes against fashion…and the ultimate diss – describing an outfit as ‘exactly Barbie clothes’. Bitch, please…you wish you had near as much fashion sense as Barbie, and when you place all your eggs into Anna Wintour’s basket, following that pulled face pariah to the ends of the earth, I need only remind you that she is the same woman who put Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue…and she also defended it. If your rationale is true, dear…then why didn’t Colleen LaRose make your cover? Nope…your credibility is done now, Ms. W…did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement? In a world that expelled John Galliano for being drunk and too vocal, you will uphold this egregious act? It’s time someone told that bitch that she has lost any credible standing as a fashion editor, she sold fashion out to the Kardashian Kennel, and that her hair is just stupid. Oh wait…I just did.