I’m on the fence and can’t make up my mind about a resurgent trend in dolls… the natural and different body type trend. It seems that about every 10 years, we see dolls come out that have realistic human proportion and less idealized body shapes. Two current examples are the Lammily doll, which is based on the average proportion of the American 19 year old woman, and Mattel’s Fashionista Barbie line. They usually get a lot of press, then maybe a few are sold. Time goes by and they sit on shelves, and eventually they fade away. I remember seeing a natural proportion doll on the shelves in Toys ‘R’ Us back in the early 90s. I thought, cool idea but what is she going to wear? I can‘t for the life of me remember the name of the doll and can’t even find a reference to it online.
On the one hand, the feminist side of me says YES! I love it! I like the message that there are many kinds of beauty and that not just one standard is acceptable. There are all types of beauty and children should grow up knowing that, even if they don’t fit into societal norms of what is attractive, they ARE beautiful and deserve to be comfortable and love being in their skins.
On the other hand, the doll lover and designer side of me says meh. I’m a little wary of how this effects play patterns and can’t help but to think is this just a gimmick to bolster sales? Children play with dolls for dress up. Different sized bodies makes it more difficult to share clothing or some accessories. Children usually don’t play with just one brand. They get creative and mix it up. Barbie might be playing with a Disney Fairy (Jakks Pacific), Disney Princess (Hasbro) AND a new Descendant (Hasbro) doll for that matter. Usually doll bodies from different companies vary slightly but proportionally, they are similar enough that clothing may fit, adding to the play value and overall creative fun.
The sales angle is a little trickier. Mattel is getting a lot of press at the moment for the Fashionista line. This comes at a time when Barbie sales are at an all time low and have been plummeting for a few years. Is this line an effort to bolster sales and reclaim the lion’s share of a highly competitive market? Never before in the last 50 years have there been so many different doll lines on the market competing for top place.
I know there’s a lot of press with Mommy bloggers, collectors and focus groups saying how much they like the new realistic proportions. They’ll run out and buy a few and that’ll be the end of it. Then it’s up to children to ask for the doll they want. The thing is, most children don’t think that much about the different proportions unless prompted by an adult and won’t ask for them. They MIGHT notice that there aren’t enough African American, Latino or Asian American dolls that look similar to them. I’m happy that children are finally able to see a myriad of different skin tones and ethnicities on today’s shelves. I’m happier still, to see a change in the Clark Doll Experiment from the 40’s. It’s a slow change but it IS happening.
So what do you think about this trend? Is it here to stay or an ash in the pan? How do YOU feel about the different proportions? Write in and let me know. I want to hear your thoughts while I make up my mind.
From Top Left: Lamilly Dolls, Barbie Fashionista Line featuring Tall, Curvy and Petite Body Types.