If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, I would have said that the chances of my doing a My Twinn review were next to zero. I’ve never been very interested in the My Twinn dolls. My Twinn is known for selling 23" play dolls that are custom made to resemble a specific child. I guess it has always seemed like such a hassle and a gamble to have a doll custom made. The catalogue pictures of girls with their matching dolls are pretty amazing, but the faces of My Twinn dolls are dangerously hit or miss—some are wonderful, some are not. The bodies also look funny to me in some pictures, but I always assumed these shots were the result of a tall doll in a bad camera angle. In the end, the price has simply been too high to take a chance that I might not like the end product.
So why am I writing a My Twinn review now? It’s a bit of a convoluted story. It all started because I have been getting serious about the purchase of an American Girl. It would be very helpful to have one for comparisons to dolls like Karito Kids and Carpatina. Last week, I was debating which American Girl I should choose. Saige, the Girl of the Year for 2013, seems perfect. She loves horses (just like me) and has red hair (like I wish I had). I stumbled across this amazingly helpful post on Never Grow Up, though, and it convinced me that I actually prefer Josephina’s face mold and might want her (or Rebecca) instead. Hmm. So, I was looking at Saige’s horse and being massively indecisive, and then I remembered that My Twinn horses are better than American Girl horses and that got me wondering if My Twinn was still in business. Last time I checked (in 2009) there were rumors of bankruptcy. So…I headed over to the My Twinn website to scope things out.
That was the last my family saw of me all weekend.
|My Twinn takes over the house.|
Ordering a custom portrait doll is a still a major component of the My Twinn concept (custom dolls are $149 and take three or four weeks to make), but it is no longer the only way you can purchase a doll. There are three simpler doll-buying choices. The option that roped me into exploring the website was the “My BFF" doll designing feature. This interactive tool allows you to customize a doll by picking and choosing between six head molds, nine eye colors, four skin tones, five hair colors and twelve hairstyles. You can also add freckles and choose from three different makeup palettes. At the end of the activity, you can pick one of ten outfits to put on your doll (that's 1,166,400 unique BFFs, if you really want to know). The online project can be done for free as many times as you want, but if you're going to purchase the doll you design, it will cost $129.00. Here's a screenshot from the doll builder site:
As fun as the My BFF doll builder is, this isn’t what took all of my time and money. One of the other doll buying options on the site is called “Adopt a Friend.” This was my downfall. Adopt a Friend dolls are one of a kind, full-sized My Twinn dolls that have been assembled from “left over components.” They might have some minor defects and imperfections. These dolls can be purchased on the spot with no waiting. Also, with these Friends, you see a photo of exactly which doll you’re getting. The My Twinn site further explains that the Adopt a Friends “may contain components from dolls we were unable to complete or components that we were unable to use on a custom doll” (and may contain peanuts).
Basically, these are abandoned, unwanted (maybe slightly defective) orphans. Sigh. They're probably put together from scraps and leftovers. Ooof. And, these little abandoned scrap orphans were on sale for $49 last weekend. Help me.
|It's a hard knock life.|
What surprised me is that the doll I bought is nothing like any of the girls I made in the My BFF doll builder. She doesn’t have red hair, green eyes, or freckles. My doll, who I like to imagine is Greek (and loves horses) stood out to me because of her olive complexion, her cute smile and her dark eyebrows. I think she looks wonderful. I named her Kalliope (kal-eye-oh-pee):
|Kalli, for short.|
Besides, the custom My BFF dolls were $109 (on sale) and the Adopt a Friend orphans were $50 (on sale). So, no contest.
I felt pretty good about this purchase, but I was still slightly uneasy about what Kalliope would look like in real life. I didn't have to wait very long to find out. I ordered her on Saturday and she arrived on Wednesday. She arrived in a very large pink cardboard doll box with the My BFF logo on the front:
The top of the box is a bit flimsy, and it arrived with several dents and creases in it. The bottom of the box is more solid, and has an extra cardboard support piece that covers the lower half of the doll's body and contains the separately packaged outfit.
Look at little Kalliope's happy face smiling out from her box:
The website warned me that my orphan might not come with any underwear or shoes. In fact, Kalli has a full two-piece underwear set and shoes. My first impression was that she is adorable, and her face looks very realistic. She photographs well:
|That neck seam is a little distracting.|
The underwear set consists of a white rib knit tank top and a matching pair of shorts. Both pieces have peach colored lace accents around the edges and a small pink satin bow in front. It's hard to see in the pictures, but "my twinn" is embroidered in pink on both the top and the shorts.
The tank top does not have an opening in the back, and so it is a little hard to get off. It would have been nice if there was snap or some velcro to make this process a bit easier. It brings back memories of getting dressed in turtlenecks when I was younger. Oh, the 70s.
The torso of the My Twinn body is stuffed and has an internal armature. Without doing exploratory surgery, my best guess is that she has a plastic beaded armature similar to the one shown here. The doll has a vinyl head, vinyl lower arms, and vinyl legs below the knees.
A couple of things bother me about this body. First of all, the arms are too long. This can look fine from some angles, but if you look at this child anatomy reference, you'll see that a child's hands should hang at about mid-thigh. Kalliope's hands stretch down to knee level:
The mistake is in her upper arm. If they had just shortened that cloth section by about an inch, it would make a huge difference. I wonder, with all of the changes in the company over the last decade, why has no one ever fixed the body?
Anyway, I tried to bend her armature so that she had wider shoulders and shorter arms, and while this certainly makes her arms appear to be a more natural length, her shoulders don't look very realistic:
The armature allows all of the cloth parts of the body to be quite flexible. In contrast, the vinyl arms are completely unarticulated. What makes this really awkward is that the seam between the cloth and the vinyl falls above the elbow joint. So, the doll has no elbow or wrist movement, but she can bend her upper arm (what would be her humerus bone) in six different ways. This, of course, is completely incorrect anatomically, and it makes for some very bizarre, unnatural posing.
Here's a close-up of the arm seam. It would make such a nice, natural elbow joint. What a wasted opportunity:
In the lower limbs, there are two things that help the body pose more naturally. First of all, the seam between the cloth body and the vinyl falls almost exactly at the knee. This can be counted as a knee joint. Also, the vinyl ankles are articulated. This allows the feet to rotate and accomodate a wide variety of poses:
The feet can rotate and also flex back and forth a little bit:
It's a mystery to me why they would design the lower limbs so carefully and leave the upper limbs (which contribute a lot more to the expressiveness of the doll) so clunky and inaccurate.
The cloth portion of the body is made out of a beige knit that resembles thick pantyhose fabric. My doll is a little overstuffed in the chest. This doesn't bother me, though, because if this doll were played with and carried around, her stuffing would probably flatten over time.
She doesn't have much of a bottom, either, but this should make her easier to dress.
My doll has some shiny rubs on the vinyl parts of her arms. Perhaps this is the defect that sentenced her to the orphan page? I don't find the marks bothersome.
Here is Kalliope showing off her flexibility:
Kalliope's neck can rotate around, and the armature allows her to bend her head from side to side and up and down a little, although these motions take some effort.
Overall, while the lower half of this doll poses nicely, the upper half is a disappointment. The arms can move, but they move in an unnatural way. I find the length of the arms incredibly distracting.
Kalliope came with an adorable casual outfit complete with shoes and socks. The My Twinn outfits cost around $29 on their own. This particular outfit (called Happy Hearts) is on sale for $21.75 right now. To get the full outfit and the doll for $49 was a fantastic deal.
The shirt is made out of a chocolate brown cotton knit with a light blue and red heart print. The shirt has an empire waist accented by red ric-rac. Below the waist, the shirt is gathered and falls in loose pleats.
The shirt opens all of the way down the back and has a white velcro closure. It is elasticized at the cuffs and is very easy to get on and off. The construction looks solid.
The outfit includes some soft brown corduroy boot cut pants. I'd wear these if they fit. They are complete with several sewn details, including working belt loops (no belt) and real pockets.
The pants have a metal snap closure at the top with a velcro fly.
The boots have sturdy side zippers for easy dressing, and they are decorated with lovely pink embroidered flowers.
The downside to the boots is that they leave some heavy grease stains on porous surfaces. This is really gross to me for some reason. I think it's the result of adding oil to plastic to make it flexible. Some of the oil leaks out over time. I assume it's not dangerous or anything, but still. Yuck.
Here's Kalli all dressed in her outfit:
With her coloring, I think Kalli looks great in brown:
She has carefully painted dark eyebrows and applied upper and lower lashes. The My Twinn eyes are made out of plastic, but they have realistic details. These eyes are hard to photograph because they are so dark and reflective, but they are a natural deep brown color with a subtle black rim. They are set evenly. Several of the Adopt a Friend dolls had obviously wonky eyes, so it's a good idea to peer at those pictures pretty carefully before you buy.
The size of the irises might be slightly big for this face:
While I love this doll's charming smile and realistic features, I have a few issues with the head sculpture. It's not apparent from all angles, and the doll photographs well, but notice the size of her chin and the depth of her jawline:
Her chin is very prominent. Younger kids, in particular, tend to have less imposing chins. Also, the region between the tip of her chin and the front of her neck is too shallow. Here's a generic child profile picture for comparison. I shouldn't even comment on this, because back when I used to sculpt dolls, I was terrible at getting the depth of the neck correct. It's hard.
The face seems odd when I am looking down on it, too. The problem here is harder for me to pinpoint. I don't know exactly what is wrong. Maybe it's the size of the eyes? Maybe it's still the chin?
She looks lovely in a half-profile, though:
Kalli's hair is wigged. It has a center part and falls in loose ringlets.
Along the center part, individual strands of hair are rooted into a pale plastic strip. This looks incredibly realistic--like skin showing through:
The skin tone along the part is a bit light for this doll, but the overall effect is great. The rest of the hair is sewn in long strips to a black canvas wig cap:
Examining the wig and taking the ribbon out made Kalli's hair really messy. The wig was also uneven in length and had to be trimmed. The hair fiber is a bit coarse. I tried brushing some of the curls, but they tangle really easily and create this big poofy rat's nest of hair. This wig is pretty bad.
The quality of the wig is particularly frustrating because I spent so much time looking at hair before I bought a doll. With the potential disaster of curly hair, and some of the strange bang styles and cuts I saw, if I had to pick again, I'd stick with straight hair and no bangs.
I positioned Kalli for a variety of shots, but felt like she had a limited number of unique, realistic poses.
In between good shots, there were a lot of robot arms and messy hair. Here are some outtakes:
That smile is a charmer, though:
I don't have many other dolls that are the same size as Kalliope. She is taller than the Karito Kids and the Carpatina dolls, and her proportions are those of a much younger child:
She's about the same size as my Philip Heath World of Children doll. The Heath doll is skinier, so although she can wear Kalliope's outfit, the fit is a little loose.
Just for fun, here she is next to my Skille doll, Ola:
So, that could have been the end of my My Twinn adventure.
However, even after I chose Kalliope and purchased her, I couldn't stay away from the website. For one thing, I had to go back through the list of orphans again and again to make sure that I hadn't missed any real gems. I was feeling fairly attached to some of the faces that had become familiar during my hunt for Kalliope. This, one, for example:
She has (poorly photographed) green eyes and looks like her name should be Jane. Also, this cutie reminded me of a little girl I used to babysit:
Luckily, someone else adopted her before I lost all of my self control.
Then, I noticed another area of the website where "Vintage Collector" dolls are for sale. I had to investigate. The Vintage Collector dolls are also pre-made dolls that can be purchased on the spot. These dolls aren't cheap, though. The price range on these babies is $199-$299 (and they are not returnable or exchangeable). The problem is, to me, they look exactly like the $49 Adopt a Friend scrap orphans.
Here--let's play a little game so you can see what I mean. Below are four dolls. The prices on the day I was shopping were either $49 or $249. See which ones you like best and see if you can guess which ones are more expensive (hint: there are two from each price group):
So, first of all, that green dress is awful. Why have a low cut neckline when half of the neck is vinyl and the other half is cloth? Yikes. Anyway--the dolls in the top two pictures look very similar to me. I slightly prefer the one on the left. In the bottom row, I like the one on the left significantly more. Of the four dolls, I'd only be tempted to buy the one on the top left. The prices?
Top left: $49 (Adopt a Friend)
Top right: $249 (Vintage Collector)
Bottom left: $49 (Adopt a Friend)
Bottom right: $249 (Vintage Collector)
What??!! This did not make any sense to me at first. After some reading, I understand this pricing a little better. Apparently, the Vintage Collector series is made from left over scraps and parts that have been discontinued. Some of the discontinued My Twinn parts, in particular those that hail from the Denver factory era (1995-2001), can be quite sought after and valuable. I guess it's like how some of my Tonner Cinderella dolls cost $80 and some cost over $200.
Ok, fine, but seriously? To me (admittedly a My Twinn newbie) this is just ridiculous. Look at these two:
One of them is $49 and was on my top ten orphan list and the other one is $299 and is pretty much crazy looking. Here's a screen shot of the price, in case you think I'm kidding:
So, I played this game with myself for hours. I really need to find some better things to do. When I compared these four dolls, though, I got into real trouble:
Again, two of them are cheap and two are expensive. All of them are redheads. Have you formed your opinions? Ready for the results??
Top left: $299 (Vintage Collector)
Top right: $49 (Adopt a Friend)
Bottom left: $199 (Vintage Collector)
Bottom right: $49 (Adopt a Friend)
My favorite? The girl on the top right. The problem with playing this game all day? $50 starts to seem like a relatively good deal.
Meet Hazel, aka Top Right:
I think Hazel is cuter than her Adopt a Friend thumbnail picture. I can't tell you how many times I completely overlooked her. Here she is, side-by-side with her website portrait:
The big disappointment is that her hair isn't nearly as red as advertised. It's light brown--maybe auburn. Definitely not bright red. I've read this elsewhere about My Twinn hair. You can't expect the colors you see online. For example, the red color in the My BFF doll designer looks like this:
But looks like this in real life:
Hazel's eyes are also slightly askew, but she's pretty cute:
She has pale green eyes and very faint, raised eyebrows:
I don't like the color or the style of the purple ball gown that Hazel is wearing. The wide cut neck shows too much body fabric:
However, I have to admit that the dress is nicely made. It has a detachable lace sash, romantic bell sleeves and a tulle and satin layered underskirt:
She also came with adorable satin slippers:
Her straight bobbed hair is silky and smooth and very easy to manage. I just wish it was red.
Hazel has essentially the same body as Kalli, although the bodies were made in 2009 (Hazel) and 2011 (Kalli). Maybe Hazel's arms are a little shorter?
Hazel's chest is not quite as overstuffed as Kalli's, so her body is better proportioned and slightly easier to move:
Hazel looks great wearing the Falling Leaves My Twinn outfit. If she'd been presented like this on the website, I'd have bought her much faster:
She might look even better (and more like a redhead...) wearing Kalli's brown shirt:
Bottom line? My Twinn offers a huge variety of options. Not only are there a myriad of choices for the appearance of each individual doll, there are also four different categories of doll to choose from. The variety makes each My Twinn doll seem special and unique. Of the ~400 dolls I looked at, no two were exactly the same. On the other hand, the variety also presents some tough choices…with an uncomfortably unpredictable outcome.
The pricing is all over the map. From a newcomer's point of view, the dolls are all very similar, but you can pay anywhere from $50 to $300 for them. To complicate things, promotions come and go frequently and offer significant discounts. For example, a few days ago, the Vintage Collector dolls were 75% off, and now they’re back to full price. The price inconsistencies make me uneasy. I don't have a lot of confidence in the declared value of any given doll. My conclusion? Don't purchase a My Twinn doll unless it's on sale.
The quality of the dolls is a mixed bag. Looking at Kalliope alone, I love her realistic smile, beautiful dark brown eyes and nicely painted eyebrows. She looks like a one of a kind doll. However, her facial dimensions are slightly wrong and her features look odd from some angles. The rooted center part of the wig is very clever, and the hairstyle is perfect for this doll's cheery face, but the wig itself is a coarse, tangled disaster. The My Twinn body design is great--from the waist down. The upper body is strangely proportioned and has strikingly unnatural arm articulation. The Happy Hearts outfit is attractive and well-made. I love everything about the outfit except for the fact that the shoes leave greasy stains.
If I bring Hazel into the equation, it gets even harder to make a general statement about quality. Unlike Kalli, Hazel's face is nicely proportioned and her wig is soft and manageable. However, her face paint is not especially striking or unique and her eyes are set slightly askew. Also, Hazel's hair is not the color I expected it to be. Hazel's purple ball gown is well constructed, but the design doesn't flatter her hybrid body so I had to plunk down another $25 to get her a better outfit.
I should reiterate that Hazel and Kalliope are both from the Adopt a Friend line, and the website is very clear about the fact that these dolls might have imperfections. This could account for Kalliope’s bad wig and Hazel’s wonky eyes. Ideally, I'd have looked at a custom My BFF doll to get a better sense for the typical standard of quality. Still, as I type this, the Adopt a Friend dolls and the custom My BFF dolls are both selling for $99. If there is a big difference in the quality of these two groups, then I'm back to wondering what on Earth is up with the pricing?
Despite all of the new doll buying options, purchasing a My Twinn doll still seems like a gamble. If you happen to get a face you love, pretty eyes that are well positioned, a high quality wig, a distinct paint job and a great outfit--and particularly if you get all of this on sale, My Twinn Adopt a Friend dolls are a good buy. However, I don't feel that the website provides the kind of information that is necessary to ensure an optimal buying experience. There aren't enough clear, real-life pictures of face molds, eye colors, hair colors and hairstyles for decisions to be easy. Even with the pre-made Adopt a Friend or Vintage Collector dolls, the single thumbnail portrait you have to make your decision is completely inadequate and sometimes inaccurate.
My two dolls, each with a mix of good and bad qualities, are worth the $49 I paid. The outfits alone are worth at least half of that price. I'm glad I didn't pay full price, and I am glad I didn't have any need for the doll to look a certain way. If I had paid the full retail price, the flaws and inconsistencies would be less acceptable. Kalliope is more unique and has more personality, but Hazel (mostly because of her hair) was the better overall buy. Kalliope's wig would stop me from giving her to a child, but Hazel would make a wonderful gift at a great price. I might come back to lurk during the next $49 Adopt a Friend sale, but for now, I've had enough of My Twinn's enticing website.
The dolls are large, but soft and huggable. I’d recommend them for ages 6 and up. Box says 8 and up.
Normal retail for the Adopt a Friend dolls is fair, but only if you get a doll with no serious flaws. Some sales offer outstanding value.
Mixed quality. The body is highly articulated, but bends in some of the wrong places. The face paint ranges from generic to unique. The wigs range from curly, coarse and tangled to straight and soft. The eyes are pretty, but can be set poorly. The clothing is very well made, but some styles are tacky and do not flatter the doll’s neck seam area.
Excellent. Cardboard box with cloth ribbons and cardboard securing the doll.
These are play dolls, but some of the discontinued face molds and eye colors might have collector value.
Highly versatile. These dolls are more articulated than most large play dolls. There are six different face molds that could represent a wide range of ages and personalities. There is a nice range in hair, skin and eye color and seemingly endless combinations of traits making each doll seem special. My Twinn dolls do not share clothes with any of the other play doll lines I own.
The doll bodies have some proportion and articulation shortcomings. The overall value depends on the combination of features you choose and the price you pay. If the body design doesn’t bother you too much, it’s possible to find a nice, unique doll at a great price.