American Girls

In 1986, educator, writer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Pleasant Rowland, began designing and producing a range of 18 inch dolls. An avid history lover, Rowland was inspired to create the dolls by a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. She believed that young girls might become interested in history by exposure to dolls associated with historical events and periods. Each doll she designed related to a specific historical time period and was accompanied by books, clothing and other accessories.

One of the first "American Girls".

One of the first “American Girls”.

Rowland’s company was a runaway success. From dolls, the line expanded to include clothing for both the dolls and their owners, books, dollhouses, furniture…you name it. She set up stores in major cities and held events centered around the dolls. Mattel came along in 1998 and bought the Pleasant Company – now renamed American Girl – ¬†for $700 million…yes, you read that right!! Today American Girl sales are second only to Barbie.

I was vaguely aware of the American Girl phenomenon before we moved to the US. One of the American women I met in Antwerp ‘warned’ me about it but I still didn’t really grasp the overwhelming marketing juggernaut that is American Girl. Olive and Edie were introduced to the dolls at the homes of our neighbours’ and through conversations at school. After doing a bit more research I endeavoured to keep them out of the house as long as possible!! But when Edie’s birthday rolled around this past January all she wanted was…you guessed it…an American Girl doll. ¬†Richard and I begrudgingly acquiesced. At least we were confident it would get played with – Edie is legendary for the amount of dolls, stuffed animals, figurines, pieces of paper…and all manner of other bits and bobs that get roped into her elaborate games. Olive, on the other hand, has never been a doll or stuffed animal kind of girl…but once she clapped eyes on ‘Isabelle’, carefully cocooned in that giant red box, we knew just what she’d be asking for come April 13th. And so despite my best efforts, we know have two of the blasted dolls – Isabelle and Lillia.

Isabelle is the girl of the year - in another stroke of marketing genius, a special doll is released for only one year...only 365 days to buy the clothes, ballet shoes, dance studio...aaaaaaaaah!!!

Isabelle is the girl of the year – in another stroke of marketing genius, a special doll is released for only one year…only 365 days to buy the clothes, ballet shoes, dance studio…aaaaaaaaah!!!

Today the girls and I made the big drive into the mega mall that is Tyson’s Corner, home of the American Girl store. I had promised them a “this is only ever happening once and will never be repeated again” day at the store which included…I’m embarrassed to type this…getting the dolls hair done (!), lunch in the AG bistro and a chance to ooh and aaah over all the, not on the cheap side, merchandise.

Well my butt was never going to fit in that chair!

Well my butt was never going to fit in that chair!

Isabelle looks like she has been dragged backwards through a bush. Must have a word to Edie about her grooming standards...

Isabelle looks like she has been dragged backwards through a bush. Must have a word to Edie about her grooming standards…

Yes - what you are seeing  did actually happen!

Yes – what you are seeing did actually happen!

"Mum...you have to take a front and back picture!"

“Mum…you have to take a front and back picture!”

Isabelle scrubs up pretty well.

Isabelle scrubs up pretty well.

IMG_2063 IMG_2065 IMG_2064
Julie from the 1970's is totally cool. She even has her own VW!

Julie from the 1970’s is totally cool. She even has her own VW!

After the hairdos and the racing around the store it was time for lunch in the pink, flower bedecked bistro.

Must make sure the most important guests can sit up at the table.

Must make sure the most important guests can sit up at the table.

I think I am the most popular mother in northern Virginia right about now :)

I think I am the most popular mother in northern Virginia right about now :)

My special highlight - a hook for your doll so she can accompany you whilst you pee - genius!

My special highlight – a hook for your doll so she can accompany you whilst you pee – genius!

Can now tick that one off the list.

Can now tick that one off the list.

Back home the girls played for hours. There was a school set up and cubbys and funny voices and outfit changes and then videos made of all the fun. Best part though was the sound of two sisters playing happily…mmm…perhaps those dolls aren’t too bad after all??

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Croadie

    Nice blog honey, one of your best I think.
    double,thanks are due …one for taking the girls and one for doing it without me. Usually I won’t to be with them regardless, this however is definitely mother and daughter!

  2. Miss Cynthia

    Funny how the dolls look like your girls too :)

  3. Dierdre

    I Would be in my element! That is the coolest blog…and now I want to go to the USA to buy a doll and get her hair done.

  4. jenny syme

    How delightful . It was so fabulous to speak to you all a week or so ago and after hearing the girls were going to see Katie Perry I made a throw away comment to my boss at work – what happened to dolls and the wiggles! Its great to see they still have a place in young girls lives – dolls that is not the wiggles!
    Love you all…Jen/Auntie Jenny xxxx

  5. Miss Cynthia

    HI
    You Kiwi’s still alive there? Missing you! Big Hugs to all. X Miss Cynthia

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