Culture Magazine

Dolly Report: American Girl and My Thoughts on BeForever

By Ashley Brooke, Kewpie83 @KewpieDoll83

One of the first doll lines I saved up my allowances for as a kid (4th grade through 8th) was American Girl.  Back in the day, American Girl had a neat freebie they offered future customers.  They would send a ‘saving guide’, so to speak, that would help you keep track of how much money you had saved.  Actually, it was really quite cool and totally useful, especially when your allowance evened out to $4 a month! (I can’t find evidence of this kit online and my mother doesn’t remember it, but I swear, I’m not making it up!)

The Pleasant Company Releases (Felicity, Josefina, Felicity, Addy, Samantha and Molly)

The Pleasant Company Releases (Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly)

There were many dolls I had my eye on, but the first doll I decided to purchase was Molly, the WWII doll.  Who didn’t love Molly?  She had some great outfits and the mixture of bangs, braids and glasses was adorable.

After Molly, I started saving again and eventually purchased Samantha, who’s stories were slightly earlier than Molly’s, taking place in 1904.  Samantha was a favorite of mine from the get go.  Her long hair gave a little more leeway for styling (A purest from a young age, I have never removed Molly’s braids!) and her outfits and accessories were just fantastic, so very different than Molly’s (also very neat) accessories.

The cycle continued until I had added two more dolls to my collection, Felicity was the third.  Felicity stood out amongst the other dolls in the catalog because of her lovely red hair.  To this day, I’m still very happy to have picked her up pre-Mattel. Last, but not least, I bought a Girl of Today made to look like me.  All of these were ordered before Mattel purchased Pleasant Company and averaged about a doll a year.

American Girl Dolls, believe it or not, were launched in 1986, making them young’ins in the doll industry.  Pleasant Company was founded by Pleasant Rowland.  Pleasant had noticed a gap between the ages represented in popular doll lines, noticeably the lack of  a doll meant to look between 8-11.  Marrying the idea that the dolls would give girls (and boys) a more personal glimpse into the past, American Girl dolls were born.

The first three dolls released were Samantha, Kirsten and Molly.  Interestingly, I learned from the American Girl Wiki that these dolls were developed by Gotz. (I’ve never been a huge fan of Gotz, so this was very surprising news!) I’m kicking myself for having never purchased a Kirsten doll while pre-Mattel.  Each of these three dolls lived in very different times.  Kirsten represented pioneer times.  Samantha represented the Edwardian Era.  And Molly, my original American Girl, represented the World War II era.  Each doll was accompanied by a chapter book that would give readers a glimpse into the world these dolls lived in.

In 1991, Felicity was released.  She lived during the Revolutionary War.  Felicity was the first doll to model a fleshtone body, unlike her predecessors who had white muslin bodies.  Addy, a Civil War era girl and the first black American Girl doll, was released in 1993.

In 1995, the Girl of Today line was introduced and allowed girls to create their own American Girl doll by choosing from various hair colors, eyes colors, and skin tones.  They came in a really awesome outfit that included a fun vest and awesome hat that was a pretty perfect representation of the mid-90’s girl!  Josefina joined the American Girl gang in 1997, representing the history of New Mexico prior to it becoming part of the United States.

In 1998, there was a big change with American Girl.  Pleasant Company sold American Girl to Mattel for a whopping 700 million dollars. She stayed on as an adviser for a few years after this sale.  I, personally, wish this deal had never gone through, as I believe the quality went a bit down after being purchased by Mattel.  They didn’t change much in the very beginning, but I feel like some of the magic was lost after Mattel picked these dolls up.

The first doll to be released after the Mattel sale was Kit, a girl living through the Great Depression, in 2000.  Of all the Mattel releases, Kit is the only doll I really love.  Her freckles and bob hairstyle make her look adorable!  2000 is also the same year that Pleasant Rowlands steps down from her advisory position with the brand and gives Mattel full control of the line.

In 2002, Kaya was released. Her stories focused on early Native American history.  In 2004, Mattel begins releasing friend dolls for past releases, starting with Nellie, Samantha’s friend.  The next historical doll wouldn’t be released until 2007.  That doll was Julie, a girl growing up in the 70’s.  In 2009, Rebecca was released, representing early twentieth-century America during the second wave of European immigration.  Marie Grace, a girl growing up in 1850’s New Orleans, joined the group in 2011.  The most recent historical girl to hit the stage was Caroline, who’s books focus on growing up during the war of 1812. Caroline is my least favorite doll.  I don’t like the look of her at all.  2009 brought along a new historical doll, Rebecca, from the twentieth-century America during the second wave of European immigration.

American Girl has steadily been changing the direction of the doll line by retiring certain beloved characters (including most of the original Pleasant Company girls– Felicity, Kirsten and Molly and others) and creating new illustrations and outfits for those that have stayed on in the line.  The Girl of Today line eventually was rebranded as Just Like You and now is currently dubbed My American Girl. And in 2014, the Historical Dolls were to be rebranded, as well.

BeForever Girls

BeForever Girls

My Thoughts on BeForever:  

A few months ago, Mattel really changed the game by re-branding the Historical Girls as ‘BeForever‘.  I’m not against change.  Change is important in keeping doll lines vibrant.  However, I can’t say I’m exactly on board with everything Mattel is doing with American Girl, especially with the Historical Girls.

Officially, the BeForever  line consists of Kaya, Caroline, Josefina, Addy, Rebecca, Kit, Julie and the once retired Samantha.  BeForever girls have a whole new line of clothing, accessories, furniture and new storybooks.

Some of the dolls have been tweaked a little, as well. One minor example is Kit’s hair, which has been cut a little shorter than her original doll.  There’s something about Samantha that looks different to me, too, but I just can’t put my finger on what it might be.  Who knows, it could be my imagination.

The one thing I love about this line is the inclusion of Samantha.  I am a huge fan of Samantha and her stories and am very happy they took her out of the vault.  It gives me hope that one day, some of the other retired dolls will come out and play once again.

That being said, Samantha’s outfits disappoint me a bit.  I really only like two of them, the others just don’t feel like Samantha.  It could very well be that I grew so used to the older outfits that these just don’t seem to fit the character in my head.  Still, though, it’s disappointing.

Samantha's Holiday Set

Samantha’s Holiday Set

Samantha's Fancy Coat

Samantha’s Fancy Coat

Kit, however, has some adorable outfits in this BeForever line.  She would win my ‘best dressed’ for sure!  Her Meet Kit outfit is adorable, as are her Christmas outfit and Floral Print dress!

Meet Kit Outfit

Meet Kit Outfit

Kit's Holiday Outfit

Kit’s Holiday Outfit

Kit's Floral Print Dress

Kit’s Floral Print Dress

Julie’s Patchwork Dress, Floral Jumpsuit and Calico Dress look fantastic (or should I say groovy?), too.

Julie's Patchwork Outfit

Julie’s Patchwork Outfit

Julie's Floral Jumpsuit

Julie’s Floral Jumpsuit

Julie's Calico Dress

Julie’s Calico Dress

As far as accessories go, Julie’s Egg Chair? I love it! The lack of jointing in American Girl dolls might make her look a little strange sitting in it but for more jointed 18″ dolls?  One nice feature about this, though, is it doubles as an MP3 player speaker, which makes it way more than just a doll prop.

Julie's Egg Chair

Julie’s Egg Chair

Samantha’s bike is another winner, though, again, it suffers from the lack of jointing. Her best accessory, though, has to be her Ice Cream Parlor!

Samantha's Ice Cream Parlor

Samantha’s Ice Cream Parlor

And Kit? She has an fantastic typewriter and a super fun Homemade Skooter. She also has a really nice School Desk set and Bed.

Kit's Homemade Scooter

Kit’s Homemade Scooter

Kit's Typewriter

Kit’s Typewriter

I’ll be totally, 100% honest here, I don’t care very much for the rest of the BeForever girls. They don’t excite me. I’m sure there are people that love them, but alas, I don’t.  Much of it has to do with the lack of excitement I felt towards the Mattel releases post Kit.  Kit is adorable and I’d love to have her, but the rest just never made me go ‘oh, I need that in my collection!’.

If anything, this rebranding made me recognize what I suspected already– I have fallen out of love with American Girl. I still love my American Girls (Molly, Samantha, Felicity and my Girl of Today) and the items that came out around their era, but the new items? They’re just not pulling at my heartstrings as much as they used to.  That’s not to say that I’m completely giving up on the line, because there will always be a part of me that looks forward to opening up an American Girl catalog or visiting an American Girl Store, but for now, I’m not feeling the awe that once surrounded the American Girl line.


Do you have fond memories of American Girl? What are your thoughts on this new BeForever line?  Share your thoughts below.

September 24, 2014. Tags: american girl, dolly report, mattel. Category: Articles and Doll Histories, Category: Uncategorized.

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