Are Fashion Dolls Over?

Let's see what we have here... (photo by ajandjc)

Let’s see what we have here… (photo by ajandjc)

It is true that only fashion dolls matter – not just because of their reach, but also because of their ability to take reality and transform it into different eras, ethnicities and fantasies, all while maintaining the one thing that unites them as a genre – the clothing. Baby dolls can’t say the same thing. But it is also evident that not all fashion dolls are the same – each being separated by materials, price point and availability – creating subsets of Goddesses, Monas, and Heathers, among others.  If you are new to my blog, or would like a refresher on what a fashion doll is, click this and read before you move on.

Thanks for nothing, Penny Dreadful...

Thanks for nothing, Penny Dreadful…

We still see a diverse popularity in varying types of dolls – because all dolls deserve love. That goes without saying…people will always love dolls (or even love to hate them). But the fracturing of our community into cliquish tribes praying to their goddesses and shunning all others – well, it’s amateurish at best. I understand we all have our favorites, but what is it about one’s personal worship of a favorite that banishes any appreciation of others out there? I personally think of dolls like Alex and Evangeline Ghastly – I am not a fan of these dolls, but there are plenty of people who are. I write my blog about my perspective and opinion, but I also try to stay open-minded when it comes to dolls of which I have little interest. What is the phrase? “If you can’t say something nice…

Well, I don’t always have nice things to say (no really, it’s true)

mammygif

But readers of my blog know that, and they take it with a grain of salt. I have talked with many of them via email, telephone and even in person. It reminds me of the heterosexual man that is completely comfortable in his own skin and sexuality, that being around gay men simply isn’t a threat or an issue. That’s true of the many friends I have in our community – they are confident in their own tastes and passions for certain types of dolls, knowing that they are not for everyone – and they just aren’t insulted or challenged when someone has critical or horrifically nasty things to say about a doll he or she might love with all his/her heart. It’s a sign of high confidence and maturity – and these doll collectors deserve the most respect of any in our industry because they endure the onslaught of ‘opinions’ from bloggers like me (and others), social media interaction, and the old bulletin boards where faceless opinions spawn perpetually like Southern kudzu.

MY DOLL HAS WONKY EYES!!!

MY DOLL IS PRETTIER THAN YOURS!!!

Two communities come largely into play when dissecting the decline of the modern fashion doll: BJDs and Barbie. And before you start throwing vegetables and dirty underwear – hear me out…because what is interesting is what both of these tribes bring to fashion dolls as a collective, yet they both have diametrically opposed points-of-view.

As complicated as it is out there - we should just be happy to be dolls...

As complicated as it is out there – we should just be happy to be dolls…

One might think that BJDs are on the rise…and they kinda are – you see new makers popping up all the time. Many of them seem to sell out very fast, but when you make ten of something, it probably won’t last long. Their quality is exceptional, they don’t really seem to give a rat’s ass in effectively communicating with the West (though they are very happy to take our money). They are an excellent example of a tribe being defined by a material rather than a look, even though they all largely look the same, despite realistic human-like BJDs and the vastly exaggerated wide-eyed Lolitas that use sexual suggestiveness as an almost sinful barrier to entry (no pun intended)  – through a looking glass and into a dark world of elves and fairies and warlords who either slaughter vampires, or they make sweet passionate love to them, thereby creating whole other worlds of characters that seems to run on like a Song of Ice and Fire novel (and this sentence).

You're a BJD collector?

You’re a BJD collector?

It doesn’t matter if it’s a diminutive pixie, a toddler of darkness, a coked-up Sailor Moon, or a hot hunky prince – they are all BJDs – and that makes them unified in terms of their fans. They don’t see them all as the same visually – but they do accept broad character definitions as long as they are crafted in that perceived holy grail of materials: resinand if they are made in the Far East. Think of their world what you may – but what we should learn from the BJD makers and collectors is that they are able to broaden their minds across all different incarnations of beings – holding the artistry and quality of their dolls as one of the top defining characteristics they value the most, despite what their appearance may be. How ironic that many of them may shun plastic fashion dolls and others – or they look upon BJDs made outside of Asia as not a part of the tribe? Not all agree with this opinion, but it still amazes me how one can oooo and coo over a BJD child-like waif from Korea, and turn their nose up to a fantastic representation of a similar child doll – just because it was not made in the Far East. Yet, these are still dolls that wear and exchange fashions – fashion dolls, if you will – just made someplace else and in a different material. Odd. It reminds me of those that refuse to refer to ‘action figures’ as dolls – or those that accept no other fashion doll other than…you guessed it…Barbie.

barbie12

Barbie is one of the oldest, continuously manufactured fashion dolls out there – and certainly the most famous. Those that gravitate to Barbie do so with verve and vigor – all in the name of nostalgia, campy fun and all that shit Barbie has. It is truly disturbing how many Barbie collectors I’ve met over the years who have never heard of any other fashion doll except Barbie – they don’t read the doll publications – and they generally don’t want to know about anything else other than Barbie.

Thanks for ruining Jem for me, Universal!

Thanks for ruining Jem for me, Universal!

It’s a devotion we see in the BJD collectors, but it’s a concept that’s fractured when seen amongst fashion doll collectors – they don’t respect the overall concept of fashion dolls like the BJD folks…they simply don’t give a fuck about anything except their favorites – and everyone else can go to hell. You might draw the same conclusion of the Barbie collectors – but you’d be wrong. What makes Barbie Collectors different is their ignorance of anything else out there – because it’s not Barbie. But being ignorant to the existence of other fashion dolls doesn’t mean they attack, either. They choose to ignore others – and insulting them has little-to-no meaning as they bathe in their Barbie bliss. This may sound like an insult – quite the contrary – it’s a devotion that fashion doll collectors could learn a great deal by observing.

Barbie is a doll?

Barbie is a doll?

Many Fashion Doll collectors can get down-right violent when they feel threatened by anything new; one that might challenge their favorite’s standing. They are aware of them – many even explore new dolls with curious excitement. Sadly though, not enough of them do. And this is why fashion dolls may be a dying tribe.

pennydreadfull4

Fashion doll collectors do tend to stay informed. They see new offerings, and many can even afford them – but this is where availability becomes the killer. Newer fashion dolls like Superdoll’s GenX Vinyl, Kingdom Doll – even Numina and others…they are controlled by production numbers. They can only do so many – and even though this helps extend their product lifecycle, it also repels those new customers that just can’t be in the right place at the right time – largely because life just isn’t that simple to schedule a doll purchase within a 60-second window at precisely 1:23 Greenwich Mean Time. You need an app for that – and only JAMIEshow has solved this little conundrum.

There's an app for that...

There’s an app for that…

Nope…ain’t gonna happen. The doll may sell out – but any attraction garnered by your latest offering is lost on the new customer because they couldn’t get one…and not that they just simply couldn’t get one – but it’s too difficult to even try getting one. In a world of instant gratification, that just doesn’t play anymore (how complicated – desiring something you can’t get) – it’s all too easy to move on to something else, or just rationalize the money saved, and move on to that pretty little cashmere scarf they saw at Nordstom’s.

scarfstays

Doll collecting is a luxury – one that is driven by impulse and thwarted by buyer’s remorse. Your product needs to be easy to buy in order to thrive and perpetuate – when it’s not, it’s too easy to just say, ‘to hell with it’ – nothing is worth this kind of hassle. And you wonder why there are a million BJDs out there that look exactly alike? Because someone somewhere is smart enough to realize there’s not enough to go around, and they fill that gap in the market. Unfortunately, this concept doesn’t work for Evangeline Ghastly, which in my own humble opinion, mostly look alike – but wait, she’s a BJD, isn’t she – or was – or…oh, who cares?

I CARE - I CARE!

I CARE – I CARE!

When Miss Gene Marshall established the 16inch collectors doll size as the norm in fashion dolls that weren’t Barbie – everyone saw an opportunity – and many of them offered up Heathers left and right. The market became saturated, people gravitated toward the better-made dolls such as Tonner (which really did set a firm precedence for manufacturing quality with its Tyler Wentworth line) – those who couldn’t tell the difference were left in the dust; and some of those felt cheated by the makers of dolls they loved that just weren’t hitting the mark anymore. These collectors either switched their allegiance, or they rebelled.

Not quite what I meant...

Not quite what I meant…

The resulting fashion doll community is now sharply divided by tribe factions of fans – whether it be Gene, Superdoll, Kingdom Doll, Fashion Royalty – or even that bitch, Ellowyne Wilde. There are still many of us that still love fashion dolls as a collective – and what different colors each brings to our magnificent rainbow. We ignore the dolls we don’t like, and celebrate those we do – but we have a mutual admiration and respect for others – not very different from simple tasks like remembering to use your turn signal. It is this respect and tolerance that is evaporating within the fashion doll community – and it is killing the genre. Think about it: we’re all grown-ups that play with dolls – if there ever was a more unifying commonality, don’t you think this would be it?

A rebel's fate...

What a buzz kill…

If I were to make my own doll tomorrow, I’m not sure it would be a fashion doll (though I have great ideas for such Goddesses) – in the end, you can’t make enough to truly capture an audience without saturating too soon – and the have-nots are getting just a little sick and tired of those that do have the new dolls, and ignore any celebration of the older ones that collect dust in our hoarded homes. On the other hand, the owners of these new dolls, just trying to play and share, typically are victimized for monopolizing sharing time with vomit after vomit of photographs, some of which are actually quite good photography (but…dolls do NOT have armpits, people!!!).

Is that a re-root?

Is that a re-root?

While all this down-and-dirty is going on –

You were saying?

You were saying?

…there are hundreds who leave the hobby altogether…frustrated for multiple reasons – but mostly because they either can’t get access to the new dolls, or the economy has dropped them out of The 1%, and they need other little things in their lives, like food and medical care. And few dollmakers care about them anyway, because they aren’t customers anymore – it is a business, after all.

It's OK...we're a business...

It’s OK…we’re a business…

So what can we expect from the future of fashion dolls? I think a bleak future while we all wait for the next original idea like Gene or Tyler, at popular price points that create accessibility. Dolls that invoke the imagination, and have tons of great shit with which to play and play and play. Dolls we want to share with others without fear of retribution. More makers like the BJD world has, and as much variety as Barbie – all with a little less bitchery, shitastic drama, and asswrecks who claim to be experts (some might even say any of these about me – touché).

You can try, bitch...

You can try, bitch…cease and desist this

This post is an accurate reflection of our world – but it is not all-inclusive, by any means. Nevertheless, ‘Only fashion dolls matter’ takes on a sadly comical meaning when you examine how divided our community is – I suppose the response to this statement would be, “Yeah, but which ones?” How telling…

scarlett1

30 thoughts on “Are Fashion Dolls Over?

  1. I am new to your blog, but I have to say you are brilliant, plain spoken and HILARIOUS!!!!! I agree so much with what you have written. Very insightful my man! I also like the fact that you don’t always post negative, after negative comments. It is a huge turnoff and diminishes the value of any of the comments even if they may be true. I just plain ol don’t want to hear the bitching going on. 😛 🙂

  2. as I said on Facebook my friend, my book is on the same shelf with you! dolls, drag, drama and death and yet we look for a new release lol. Doll collectors eat their own because they can’t afford to buy food! mzlks.net

  3. It’s funny, I collected Madame Alexander dolls first, mainly the Wendy types from the 60s along with the Cissettes of the same time period, then some of the more modern ones. I knew people who knew people that collected “those” bjds [from Asia] and started making jewelry for them. The Wilde Imagination Ellowyne came along and the US made Goodreaus and they caught my fancy and were in a price range I could afford. I loved the Tonner fashions for Tyler but didn’t like the doll [or any of her buddies] nor had any desire to own one. Regardless of the fact I don’t own a “real” bjd by friends standards [one of those Asian ones] I do have an almost complete collection of the little Ai dolls by Jun Planning that everyone closetly collects but don’t talk about much except the hard core Pullip crew because they are plastic. The ‘fashion” [by clique group not putting anyone down] dolls I actually like still have a few issues for me besides just the expense in most cases, I like inset eyes. Like many from the bjd crew, that is what drew me to bjds: realistic dolls you could mess with, pose and change around. The copious pictures on one blog drew me to another like a moth to the flame. I love the styles, fabrics and in general sumptuous outfits, wigs and acruitments, however, if I couldn’t have a particular doll like a particular Sybarite, Kingdom Doll or Superdoll regardless of how much I need something to start getting some of the fashions I covet will pass [or try to force it on my Ellowyne, bwa ha ha ha]

    • I guess I should add I truly can admire others dolls regardless of what they are even if I don’t desire them for myself and readily admit to ignorance as sd and syb could be the same but there is another that captivated me when I saw her in a bistro setting fabulously dressed wit ha little to go cup of java in a picture that hooked me

  4. now this is going to definitely dissuade me from fashion doll’s armpit photography LOL
    I’m new to doll collecting (three years) and I live on the margins of the community, but I already switched from Barbie to FR. For space reasons I have to keep the collecting at bait and for the same reason I can’t collect 1/4 scale dolls, BUT I love them all!
    Reading some stories abotut the Kingdom Doll sales I believe that anyway I’m going to get that nice cachemire scarf!
    I don’t have the foggiest idea about developements in this market. Some of the selling policies of the “goddesses” manufactures are pure nonsense to me, while I appreciate very much the marketing choices of Jamieshow. We shall see what we shall see.
    Thanks Tommy for the “insider” point of view!

  5. Thank you for the insight an what some have been thinking .For me? Its the joy of being able to collect what catches my eye an makes me happy an still be able to eat.I may not be able to afford everyone I see but that’s reality of life too I want a Mercedes but drive a cobalt, it still gets me where I want to go.

    • Yes…you buy what you love…when you can buy…never lose sight of your own collecting perspective, and ignore the bullies that would have you believe otherwise…thanks for commenting and reading!

  6. Omigoddess… how I love your blog 🙂 Cease and desist my ass.
    Love the Floyd/Judy ref…..
    After years of being a Gene collector turned “cheerleader”, I’ve found what makes me happy. I have everything from plastic fantastic Barbie on up to 1/3 resin Asian BJDs and many 16″ Heathers in between…but…. I collect by theme now. Gothic/Horror/dark pop culture. Sure, I have a few Evangelines and Ellowynes, they fit my theme. My husband stole my 17″ huge-breasted super Villainesses… to go with his super heroes. Still dark pop culture. My daughter’s love for vintage girls has me revisiting those as well, again, after selling my collections right after she was born, 11 years ago. Who knew she’d have a thing for vintage B-girls and Tiffany Taylors?
    And my little ghoul has well over 100 of those Barbie-ish Monster High things residing here… with houses, furniture, cars and all. It’s all in ghoul fun.
    Doll collecting is a strange and beautiful place to live. I’ve slowed down considerably due to the economy, but honestly, I’m happy with my collection as it is. We’ll see what the next wave brings :).

    • Indeed…and you really touch on the fascinating evolution many savvy collectors experience…but I don’t see any of you getting all Kanye on dolls you don’t continue to buy…you simply evolve like mature adults…

      • To each, his/her own. It’s what makes the hobby so fascinating. Though I’m sure there are quite a few pink purists who would run in terror at the sight of our Living Dead Doll collections……
        😀

  7. Fascinating Tommy, and I also read the 2014 blog on What is a Fashion Doll, both very useful to me because I’m writing an essay on the meaning of fashion dolls (in a sort of anthropological sense) for a small fashion doll collector’s exhibition for Canberra Museum and Gallery in September. Thing is, I can’t afford those very high end limited edition of 20 ball jointed dolls anyway, and I only have one Asian ball jointed doll, and she’s not really my favourite doll. Anyway, I could get a few JamieShow 16 inch dolls at a reasonable price and I love those. What I have found in 15 years of collecting fashion dolls is that every collector has a particular thing that they really like in dolls. As you say, it takes all kinds. I think I’ve accidentally insulted Charles from Superfrock (who very kindly recommended some reading for me) because I told him I’ve never warmed to the Sybarites and I don’t have one (same reason I didn’t like Integrity’s first 16 inch fashion dolls, I don’t like their bodies, they are not realistic enough for me, they didn’t look like women when their clothes were off). Doesn’t mean I don’t think they are fine dolls, just not for me. I don’t think niche BJD dolls are finished just yet, depends on the US economy doesn’t it? Doll collecting is such a niche market, there are only so many doll dollars to go around, and I think there is a delicate balance act between production and the market perhaps? Anyway, thanks for the blogs, very interesting and helpful, you are in my references.

  8. I actually have in idea idea for a little You know, I wrote the story of my doll journey in response but I’ll just summarize it with I collected only BJD for ages only to inch back to first playscale, then vinyl then full circle to my first love, Barbie. After she got articulation I had no resistance left. It’s like I left a window open overnight and they all climbed in. Oh well. No regrets.

    Also your blog has been an absolute delight to read. 🙂 I found it while looking for doll convention information. Maybe I’ll start a doll blog myself someday with my other 5 paragraphs.

  9. “Are Fashion Dolls Over?” you ask. The short answer, “Yeah, they’re all over my house!!!!!”
    But seriously.. I agree with much of what you say. It’s funny how you, the doll person ask the same question about your milieu as the fashion professional asks about Haute Couture. (Is HC over?) And while the purists insist that it is a dying entity, the answer is that both (fashion dolls and HC) will continue to exist in one form or another, whether or not we agree with the definition or the end product. The problem, for me, with doll collecting is the lack of physical stores carrying dolls. More people collect Barbies because you can go into a store and buy one off the shelves. You can see the detail, their color, their weight better. If other types of dolls were sold this way, there might be a more robust market. Before I began collecting, I bought my first Tonner doll at a toy store near my parents. Had I not seen that doll, I never would have known about them. It’s only after you start collecting do you discover something other than a Barbie. Even if you have the money, how and where do you find them? At the end of the day, one thing in favor of the fashion doll is the current obsession with “fashion.” The doll becomes an avatar though which the average person can express their inner fashionista by either buying or creating a wardrobe for her.

    • Interesting…I particularly like the haute couture parallel. It is a damn shame internet discounting killed the doll store…there really is no other to appreciate them than in person…

  10. A perspective as to Why Just Barbie:

    I’m still with the Barbie thing, but mainly because of $$ limitations. I’ve looked around at other types of dolls (I particularly like the Diana Prince doll of Tonner), but I must keep my collecting life simple as of this time. If I find yet another thing to obsess on with only a limited budget, I will have to do without food. That is a bridge too far…and I fear I have already crossed it…

    So far, I have found that there is enough variety in the Barbie world to hold me, and I can easily select my price points. I try to buy cheap and select carefully; I don’t care about boxes and exquisite condition, as long as the body is in good shape and the face is nice (no green or oiliness), and the expression is “right” (hair I can fix, but the personality of the face I can’t). It’s much harder for me to do that kinda picking with doll brands that I haven’t actually ever seen in person (as you point out, doll stores are gone, gone, gone), and I’m thinking I can’t take a chance right now, I just don’t have the resources to clothe and display them, and find doll friends of like size. (Just the shoes for 16″ dolls are an investment.)

    One thing that would tend to eventually take me away from “Barbie only” thing is that some of the Barbie-crazed seem a bit…I dunno…pedestrian in their tastes. There’s a certain Midwestern-ness about all-Barbie, all-the-time, kinda people, a certain “ooh, look at all the lace on that one” that gives me the hives, and I’m getting too close to being past middle-middle age (you know, on the threshold to late middle-age) to be comfortable with this idea. (I think I only look about 45, but who the hell knows.) I don’t want my tastes to CONGEAL.

    For the record, I do have one Tuesday Taylor. Just one, but I have her. And a Tammy doll that I couldn’t resist…not high-pulse stuff there, but they make me as happy as any of the various repro and vintage type Barbies I have (mostly bubble cuts). My eyes are open, but the wallet ain’t ready. Not nearly ready.

    That’s why only Barbie for me so far. But if I become a best-selling author or something, who knows!

      • One of the reasons I know other dolls exist is because I read your blog. It made me more aware, made me look around. Made me take “looking around” seriously! In other words, you sparked my interest with your treatises of the bigger doll world out there, and why it was possibly beautiful.

  11. I collect mainly vintage Barbie and most of the newer fantasy themed gals. The new faraway forest dolls are wonderful. Truthfully, I just adore dolls and would own them all if I was rich or unscrupulous! Lol! If I had the room I would collect Gene, Furga S Girls, Chrissy, Cissy, Bleuette, and many more. I have been collecting for almost twenty years; I buy almost every doll book released. I love learning about dolls. Early composition, 50’s plastic, 70’s celebrity, even Raggedy Ann. I could spew endless facts about Dawn, Darci, Blythe, Liddle Kiddles, Gene and Tammy. They all have fascinating histories and they are all zealously collected by people everywhere! I found that my collecting enjoyment is enhanced by learning about ALL kinds of dolls! Doll collectors get enough shit from the muggles; we don’t need to fling it at one another! If we don’t love one another no one else will!

My blog is satire, but your thoughts are welcome!

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