Saturday, July 13, 2013

The American Girl Store in Boston

It has always been my plan to visit the American Girl store in Manhattan.  My mom lives in Manhattan, and I figured that the Big Apple would have a pretty great example of the American Girl shopping experience.  What I failed to notice, though, is that there's a big American Girl store in Boston, and Boston is 2 hours away from where I live in Maine.  So, this week I decided to hop in the car, go see what American Girl is all about, and finally purchase my first American Girl doll.  Many of the other dolls I have reviewed (Carpatina, Princess & Me, Our Generation, Karito Kids, Hearts 4 Hearts, My Twinn) beg a comparison to American Girl, which is a hard thing for me to do without ever having spent any time with an actual American Girl doll in my hands.  Besides, I'll admit it, there's a part of me that has always wanted to go to one of the American Girl stores and get one of those awesome big red bags.

Thanks to your help in my poll, I went to the store determined to purchase Rebecca.  I'll say right up front that the experience was nothing like I imagined it would be, and I did not end up buying Rebecca...or at least not in the way I thought I would.  Apologies up front about that.  Let me tell you about my experience at the store, show you some of my favorite items, and explain why I came home with a different doll (and a few other goodies).

American Girl Boston
The American Girl store in Natick, MA.
So, first of all, the Boston American Girl is not actually in Boston.  It's at the Natick Mall in Natick, Massachusetts.  Traffic around Boston is scary (for this Mainer), but the mall itself is easy to find and the American Girl store is hard to miss.  It is in the front of the mall and has its own clearly defined two-story edifice:


The store opened at 10:00 and so I tried to time my arrival for 10:30, just so I wouldn't be beating down their doors...or be the only customer.  I shouldn't have worried.  The store already had about 10 enthusiastic shoppers by the time I arrived...and was packed full by the time I left (three and a half hours later). 

There are large, attractive, modern window displays on either side of the front door:


Cute dogs!
Once inside, I asked if it would be ok for me to take pictures for a blog, and they looked at me suspiciously and said, "no."  Maybe I forgot to brush my hair that morning and looked a little spooky?  I don't know.

The thing is, everyone there was taking tons of pictures, and they even had several places set up where you were supposed to take pictures.  I protested a tiny bit and they agreed that it would be fine to snap some photos, so no harm done.  This is a good time to point out that after that awkward initial interaction, every single person working at this store was amazingly friendly and helpful to me.  They struck a perfect balance of being there when I had a question and disappearing when I wanted to browse on my own.  

The front of the store is filled with the historical character dolls and all of their accessories.  There's a small book area in the middle, and then the back of the store has all of the Bitty Babies.  It's a bit overwhelming at first.  There are a ton of displays, and many of the dolls are featured in multiple displays scattered throughout the room.  I had to wander through the displays about five times to get my bearings before I started taking pictures.

The first dolls you see when you walk in are Molly and Emily.  Emily was in my top three favorites list.  Molly and Emily are slated to be discontinued late this year or in early 2014.


The American Girl Archives?
That sounds dark and musty.
As I mentioned, each character appears in several displays.  This is good because you can see how the dolls look in many different outfits.  It can also get confusing--I kept thinking I was seeing new dolls when it was just re-dressed dolls I'd already seen.  

Here are Molly and Emily with Molly's Birthday Set ($68), Molly's Table and Chairs ($85) and Molly's Party Dress ($28):

Everything in this picture would cost $429.  Ack!
Here is Molly in her pajamas, sitting on her bed.  I didn't recognize her.  She looks really sweet like this, I think.  Much cuter than she looks in the online photographs.


American Girl Molly

Emily was standing next to the bed in her chenille robe and PJs:

American Girl Emily
Ready to shuffle around the Archives.
Emily was easiest to photograph from this bookshelf display where there was no glass.



Emily also looks very different in person than she does in the catalogue.  Her hair is longer than it looks in the pictures, and her eyes are very blue and plain.  Her outfit is beautiful and looks perfect with her eyes, but that cardigan is sold separately.


She's really cute, and was a serious option for me, especially because she is being sent away to the Archives.  In the end, though, her eyes are just a tiny bit too vacant. 

American Girl Emily
Please don't send me to the Archives....
Another doll on my favorites list is Saige.  Her display was pretty large and was also right inside the front door. 


Saige has a nice collection of diverse outfits.  I like the dress she comes in the best, but it's interesting to see how different she can look wearing her other outfits.  Here she is in the Parade outfit ($34):

American Girl Saige

Here are the earrings from her accessory set:


I was especially anxious to see Saige's horse in real life.  I think the horse's name is Picasso.  The catalogue pictures of Picasso don't look good to me.   



For some reason, I forgot that Picasso is articulated, so I didn't play around with this display horse.  Also, at this point in my visit, I had not yet realized that it was ok to play with the open displays.  I was keeping my hands to myself like a good girl.

American Girl Saige

Apparently, Picasso's right leg, head and neck can all move.  The right front hoof has a molded and painted silver horseshoe on the bottom.  This is a cute detail.  It's weird how the flocking stops at the knee on the American Girl horses, though.  I find it very distracting, and I don't think that the seams look good.  The ears and muzzle aren't fuzzy, either.  


Picasso with his bridle is $94 and the Parade Saddle set is another $38.  The saddle looks good, but it is made out of very thin fake leather.  I can remember some amazing real leather saddles that I used to have for my Breyer horses.  Those had actual metal stirrups and working buckles on the stirrups and girth.  Given the realism of some of the other American Girl accessories, I'd have enjoyed a more rugged Western saddle.


I think Picasso has a very sweet face, and his mane and tail are soft and fairly full (the mane is thicker than the tail).  I love his flea bitten grey color.  Too bad about his strange body stocking fur.

American Girl Picasso

Saige's hot-air balloon is insanely big.  I should have gotten a full picture of it.  It costs $150, and having seen all of the options in the store, all I can say is that there's a much better way to spend that kind of money.  The balloon is attractive, but I don't see the play value being anywhere near as high as the price.  I guess it would make a nice decoration for a large playroom.  If I was visiting the store with a kid, I might try to present some of these larger accessories as props--not things you'd actually buy.

Saige looks elegant in her Sparkle dress with her hair let down.  I think she almost looks like a different doll in this dress.  The sparkles and color are a nice contrast to the Parade outfit.  



When I was looking at Saige online at home, I found her Painting Set ($48) appealing--maybe because of the featured horse picture:


The store had another display with Saige and the Painting Set, but this display was out where it could be handled.  This Saige was wearing her slightly frumpy Sweater outfit (yet another very different look!):

American Girl Saige
She looks a bit like an antique dealer from Sedona.
American Girl Saige

All of the paintings are printed onto paper with a canvass texture.  It looks very realistic.  


The painting is cuter than the toy horse.
The pictures have a nice backing:


The paints and palette look authentic, and the brush is a perfect miniature of a real paint brush:


The portfolio contains some pencil sketches of various things:


Everything in this accessory set is fun to look at, but it doesn't deliver enough for the $50 price tag.  This would fit well in the $28 category.

Many of the girls visiting the store were carrying Saige around.  She is an appealing doll, but one thing I noticed (that has also been pointed out to me here on the blog) is that all of the Saige dolls visiting the store had messy-looking (and very long) hair.  

Finally, here is Rebecca--the doll I assumed I would buy.  She is great, and her meet outfit is fantastic:


I also love her in the Winter Coat outfit.  If I had bought Rebecca, I would have included this coat for $24:


Rebecca's bed display was the easiest to photograph:


Here you can see how pretty her eyes are.  They have a lot more detail and realism than Emily's eyes:

American Girl Rebecca

Here are her two cute kitties:


Rebecca's Sideboard and Sabbath set made for an impressive display:


My plan was to buy Rebecca's Phonograph accessory set, which I have been coveting for a long time.  In real life, though, the phonograph looked too big and I wasn't crazy about the large, un-detailed plastic bell:


The merry go round from Rebecca's Souvenir set was also on my radar, but it is made out of plastic and is a bit too simple to impress me to the tune of $32.


So, of the three dolls I was considering, I actually felt most tempted by Emily.  Her red hair and pretty dress almost won me over.  Rebecca was a close second with her wonderful green eyes and fantastic clothes.  Saige was a more distant third.  She just didn't stand out to me.

A few of the dolls that I had dismissed during my online shopping deserve special mention here.  First of all, Caroline wins for the prettiest doll with the most expensive taste.  If you fall for her, you're going to be wanting some very fancy accessories...like this boat:


That little skiff will set you back $175.  Unlike the ballon, though, I can see some fun games centering around the boat.

There's also this Parlor Set ($300):


I have to admit that while I didn't consider buying the Parlor or the Skiff for a second, Caroline's pretty face and ringlets did impress me more than her catalogue pictures ever did and I considered her as an interesting option for a while.

American Girl Caroline

Julie wins for having the best accessories.  My enthusiasm could just be because I am a child of the 70s, but I think Julie has some seriously cool accessories: a bike, a VW Bug car, a groovy canopy bed, a record player, a tape deck, several dogs and an awesome flower lunchbox.

American Girl Julie
Ok, which of those dogs is not like the other?
I don't have a good picture of this, but the dog set is a bit ridiculous (you can look at the catalogue picture here).  I mean, I own a Chihuahua and a miniature poodle and they are exactly the same size.  Julie's dog walking Chihuahua is waaay out of proportion to the other dogs.  It made me giggle, though.

Here's the lunchbox--complete with a thermos (I almost bought this):


And here's the car:

Punch buggy convertible!
I wasn't really impressed by the car.  It looks great from a distance, but it's sooo big, and it doesn't do much.  The hood and trunk open and the headlights turn on...


But there are only two buttons on the dashboard: one causes a faint, garbled radio noise to play, the other is meant to be the ignition and triggers a realistic car engine noise.



Julie seems to barely fit in the driver's seat (would two dolls even fit in here?):


The car seemed cheaply made to me--and too big to play with.  The side doors don't open and the plastic felt flimsy in places.  I didn't test this, but I hear that the wheels don't even move.  As much as I love VW Beetles, I wouldn't pay $350 for this toy.  No way.  It's fun to look at in the store, but that's about it.

In contrast, I came really, really close to buying Julie's record player set:


You can actually change the little records and each will trigger a recording of a different song.  The songs are a little bit hard to hear.   If the arm isn't positioned correctly, the music won't play.  It is very realistic!


There are three records to choose from and they can be stored inside paper sleeves and packed into a shiny blue and white cardboard storage case.


The record player is part of Julie's Sound accessory set.  The set also includes a mini tape recorder.  The cassette is molded into the rest of the recorder (it doesn't come out) but the cassette holder lid lifts up and down.


The tape recorder has two working buttons--a red one under the REC label and a black one under PLAY.  I figured this meant that you could record your voice and play it back.  I used to tell little stories into my tape recorder when I was a kid, so this feature would be nostalgically wonderful to me.  I double-checked with a sales associate to make sure that it would actually record sounds, but she told me that the buttons were just for show.  That was the deal breaker for whether or not to buy this set.

Back at home, I see that in fact this recorder really will record and play your voice.  So, I am back to thinking that this is a great accessory set.


Another accessory set that caught my eye is Kit's Reporter set ($28).  I think the camera in this set is great:


It comes with a camera case:


I almost bought this set just so that I could read all of the miniature newspapers. They are filled with real printed articles.  



A few more random accessories caught my eye.  Cecile's Parrot and Games set:


And Kit's Schooltime set with an amazing rolltop wooden desk:


I also stopped to peer at the mini dolls, many of which did not look as cute to me in person as they do in their pictures.  I think this might be because the dolls get handled a lot by passing children and have pretty messy hair.


Rebecca and Samantha.
Molly and Julie.
I had been in the store for about an hour before I finished circling these historical displays enough times to start making some decisions.  I had pretty much decided that I would buy Emily, mini Rebecca (because I said I would buy Rebecca...), and Kit's Reporter set.  I was pacing around at the back of the store, adding up the prices and making sure I felt good about my purchase, when I saw an escalator.  I figured that the restaurant and salon would be upstairs, and I should probably check out the whole store so that I could report back to you.

Well.

Upstairs, as many of you probably know already, there is a restaurant and salon, but there's also a whole other store.  This is where the My American Girls live.  I should have known about this.  What can I say?  I have been so focused on the historical characters and keeping them all straight and trying to decide which one to buy, that I never gave any thought to the My American Girl dolls.  I didn't even notice that all of the dolls in the windows at the front of the store were My American Girls.   

I guess I knew in the back of my head somewhere that you could get an American Girl doll that looked like you--that there was some sort of capacity to personalize these dolls.  For whatever reason, though, this notion had completely left my mind and so when I saw all of these diverse, contemporary dolls colorfully spread out across the upper floor, I got a little giddy.

Surprise!
There were so many hair color, eye color, clothing and accessory combinations that it made me dizzy.  I had no idea where to start my exploration of this area.


Fortunately, a wonderful sales associate was on hand to help me navigate this new room.  There are two huge cases displaying all of the available dolls, and this seemed like a good place to start:

My American Girl

I peered into these cabinets and tried to pick out which combination of hair color, skin color, eye color and hairstyle (oh--and freckles or no freckles), appealed to me the most.  The dolls are identified by number, and if I got confused, I could grab a little sheet of paper with a doll's number and a complete description of her features.  

My American Girl

After a few minutes, I saw that I had about five sheets of paper in my hands, and the dolls were all starting to look the same. I decided to take a different approach.


I wandered around the room, looking at the diversity of displayed dolls, waiting to see if one of them would strike me as being special.  

There was a brunette doll wearing a wedding dress and brandishing her flute like a weapon:


There was an ice skater with long, shiny red hair and freckles:


There was a cute girl in a wheelchair:


And several dolls in the bathtub:



There was even a doll with stick-on braces:

Peeling off.
As I walked around this part of the store, I got distracted in my mission to find the perfect doll, because there are a million new accessories that go with the My American Girl dolls.  There were clothes, sporting equipment, horses, instruments, food, furniture--everything.  The shoes are particularly great.  Look at these sandals, as an example:

Awesome.
There was so much to see on this floor, but I'll stick to showing you four displays that I really liked.  First, I was anxious to see the horses.  These horses are very similar to Saige's horse, but they lack articulation and have the same strange flocking pattern.  Kind-of a disappointment, although I am a sucker for anything that is horse-shaped, so it's mostly the price tag that keeps me from wanting these.  I think the Our Generation articulated horses would be a wonderful, inexpensive alternative to these equines.

Palomino horse, $75
One of the riders was really cute with her horse tee shirt and tortoiseshell glasses...


But her wig did not look very nicely cut in back:

That worries me a little.
My favorite part of the horse display was this little foal.  He's adorable, if a little cow-like:

Moo.
I was so excited when I saw this schoolroom display:

Reminds me of the Arizona Doll and Toy Museum!
Each girl is reading a tiny book filled with real printed information:



Miniature books with real printed writing are among my favorite things in the toy world.  Look at all of the real math problems and pictures!

Squeel!
So cute!
And look at what this doll has on her desk--a SCIENCE set!  With a mini microscope!

American Girl science set

This is the first thing I grabbed and put definitively into my shopping bag.  No doubt about this purchase at all.  I'll write up a short review of it in a separate post.

I kept coming back to this schoolroom display throughout the afternoon, and I was delighted every time I saw a young girl walk past, get excited and say something like, "Oh, I love science!" 

I also like the school lockers.  They're a bit short for the dolls, but the details are fun.  These were temporarily sold out:



The musical instrument section was another favorite.  My kids play a lot of music, and so I love this kind of thing:



Some of the instrument sets seemed very well-priced to me.  For example, the violin set is $34 and comes with a very nice case, a violin, a well-made metal music stand and some music.


The latches on the case are plastic, but the overall look is great:


The violin doesn't play, but it has real wires and bow strings and looks very convincing:


They didn't have any of the instruments that my kids play (a mini saxophone would have been another slam-dunk purchase...) but I almost bought the flute set.  This set is $28 and also includes one of the nice metal music stands.


The keys on this flute don't move, but it looks like you could actually blow into it, and the music is readable and looks like real flute music.



I tend to gravitate towards food sets, too, and so I spent a lot of time drooling over things like this Delicious Breakfast set (although, eep! $58 without the table...):


The winner of Best Accessory In the Entire Store goes to this set:

Campus Snack Cart, $150.
If this cart hadn't been sold out, I might have decided to buy it instead of a doll.  It is fabulous.  I wanted to ditch my camera and bag and just plunk myself down on the floor and play with this thing for hours.


The pictures above are of a display behind glass, but there was another cart out in the open that I could actually sit down and play with:


The cart itself is colorful and nicely designed.  The canopy is made out of some kind of sturdy vinyl type material and the rest of the cart is plastic, but the plastic seems thick, heavy and strong.

American Girl Campus Cart

The set comes with tons of fun food items.  There are hot dogs, smoothies, ketchup and mustard bottles, shish kabobs, fries, corn, ice cream treats, and maybe more things that I missed.  There are several paper items included with this set, like a cake box and hot dog holders.  Because of these less durable items, and many of the smaller parts, this set might be best for kids on the older end of the American Girl enthusiast spectrum.


The hot dogs do not come out of the buns...mild disappointment.
There's a hot dog warmer with a little dial that actually turns, causing a "heating" light to come on.  You can also spin the hot dogs around with a knob at the top of the unit.  These hot dogs do not come out which is another slight disappointment.  If you could pretend to heat the hot dogs and then actually take them out of the warmer and slot them into the plastic buns, that would be amazing.  


The back of the cart has a lot of moving parts, including a microwave oven that opens and closes, a cupboard, and a drawer:

American Girl Campus Cart

Those little dials on the microwave really turn:



The skinny drawer on the top also opens to reveal some cash:


The size of the coins is wrong, but appropriately scaled coins would be too small to play with.



$150 is a ton of money, but nothing at American Girl is cheap.  This set stands out to me because, unlike the Saige's balloon or Julie's car, I can see this playset getting a lot of use.  It's big, but not so big that you couldn't move it around or put it on a table or a shelf.  Also, I have found that "playing store" is a fun game for a huge variety of kids.  You could even use the food from other American Girl sets to expand this cart into a larger enterprise that sells sandwiches, pastries...or even rugelach.  

While I was examining all of the accessories and displays, I was also keeping an eye out for a doll that I might like better than Emily or Rebecca.  Many of the displayed dolls have numbers on their shirts like this:

Number 38.
If you see a doll you like and she has a number, you can go back to those two big display cabinets and figure out which doll she is.  Some of the display dolls aren't labeled, though, and so you have to do a bit of investigative work.  Neither of my two favorite display dolls were labeled.  I really liked this one, who was being used to show how the doll carrying bag works:


I picked her up and carried her around for a while, trying to find some good light to photograph her, and trying to figure out what her number is.  She has long dark brown hair (with a slight curl) and dark green eyes.  Her eyes have a lot of detail, but they're not the same as Rebecca's eyes.  I'm pretty sure she's number 55.  I can't find her in the online store.


I found her in another display, wearing a colorful hair extension and a beautiful pink beret:

My American Girl #55
I love everything about this doll.
The other doll that I liked was in this display:


Not the redhead with glasses, as you might suspect, but the brown-eyed brunette on the left:


Something about this doll just stole my heart.  Towards the end of my visit, many of the dolls were starting to look the same to me and blur together (I was tired), but his doll kept catching my eye.  She has a sweet, innocent, expectant expression on her face, and that knitted dress looks beautiful with her darker complexion.

I found her box (she's number 29) and then carried her up and down the escalator (twice...) to compare her to Emily and Rebecca.  There were many good reasons to buy the other dolls--Emily is being sent away to the Archives, Rebecca won the poll, Saige is the Girl of the Year, there were several brand new My American Girl faces...but in the end, I decided that I should stop being so analytical and just follow my heart.   

My American Girl #29

So.  This is my new doll, and I will give her a full-blown review when I get home from Boston.  I also bought her the dress she's wearing in this picture, because I wanted to re-create this exact doll as precisely as I could.

I finally got my big red American Girl bag...


And a mini red American Girl bag, too (for Rebecca).  I love miniatures:


Bottom line?  Well, first of all, I was supposed to buy Rebecca but bought Number 29 instead.  Why did I change my mind?  What are the big differences between the historical characters and the My American Girls?

The historical dolls are great, and they offer a better value than the My American Girls because they come with a full-sized book and a carefully-designed historical outfit.  In addition, the books have some real history in them, and I love the idea of kids learning something while they're having fun.  One of the sales associates told me that she's had teenaged customers come back to the store to tell her how much the American Girl books helped them build a foundation for their study of American history.  Also, it's neat to see so many culturally diverse accessories like Josefina's outdoor oven or Kaya's sled dog and teepee.  This historical component of American Girl is brilliant, and it is very well executed.

The My American Girl dolls were more exciting to me, but this is partly because I had never seen them before.  I hadn't spent any time looking at these dolls or accessories online before my visit.  There's an online play feature that accompanies the My American Girls.  This is not as appealing to me as the historical books, but I might give it a try some day.  Mostly, I loved the creative element of the My American Girl part of the store.  You can go in there and design a unique character all for yourself.  You don't even need to buy everything you see--the vast range of accessories and displays can just serve as the fuel to imagine what kind of girl you want to create.  I picture my doll as being a shy, kind, horse-lover who is good at science and math and plays the flute in her spare time.  She collects dolls (AG Rebecca is her favorite...) and she likes to ski in the winter.  She has her granddad's old record player sitting on her dresser, and enjoys listening to his Beatles records on weekend mornings.  She also runs a snack cart...or visits it frequently, I don't know.  I just know that somehow the snack cart has to play a role.  


The American Girl phenomenon has a lot to do with the in-store shopping experience.  The knock-off dolls like Our Generation or Journey Girls might have some cool accessories, but buying one of those dolls is not an event.  You don't feel transported to another world when you walk down the OG aisle of Target.  I got completely caught up in the novelty of the American Girl shopping experience.  I loved watching one family patiently follow their young daughter around, sharing in her enthusiasm for every tiny detail.  I was moved by the little girl who came in with a custom-made bald doll...to match her own temporary lack of hair.  I chatted with a wonderful mother and daughter pair from New Hampshire, who both seemed to be having the time of their lives just enjoying all of the displays, taking lots of pictures, and smiling so much they seemed to glow.  I liked seeing that some girls had just come to give a beloved older doll a makeover, or get her some new earrings.  I enjoyed overhearing the sweet conversations and deliberations of the girls who were sharing a day out with their grandparents, carefully selecting an item that was within the budget, or sometimes just browsing and dreaming about future birthdays.  

I wasn't so excited to watch the more spoiled children demand high-price items and pitch fits when their wishes weren't granted.  I didn't like the parents who dragged their kids through the store in an irritated rush, moaning "aren't you done looking yet?"  I didn't like the older girls bragging to each other about how many dolls they had, making those with fewer dolls feel inadequate.  I didn't like seeing parents set reasonable guidelines for a purchase and then cave to their angry, bossy kids.  This was consumerism at its worst, and it cast a different light on the extravagance of the store.   

Like so many things, I suppose the American Girl experience is what you make of it.  Some parents see it as simply a huge store with lots of overpriced toys that tempt them to spend unreasonable amounts of money.  There's some truth in that.  I think it might be safer to view this store as more of a doll museum.  The larger, expensive items can be seen as props or decorations, much like the life-sized stuffed animals at FAO Schwarz.  I'm not sure I'd ever go to this store expecting to buy nothing, but if you don't want to buy a lot, the store's opulence can still provide the raw materials for creating some magical family moments.  If you walk in there with enthusiasm, imagination and time, it's like Disneyland for a doll lover.  With the right approach, a girl will remember shopping at a store like this forever.  Whatever she has in her red bag when she leaves, whether it's a new doll or just an awesome new pair of doll shoes, that item will be special enough that you're unlikely to regret the price.

My American Girl #29

70 comments:

  1. Eight years ago my husband worked a consulting job in Chicago. I was homeschooling at the time, so I could bring our daughters out for a week or so to see Daddy, and we visited the museums and also made several trips to the American Girl store. My eldest was into American Girls; my youngest was still in love with Bitty Baby and loved looking around what she called BittyBabyLand.

    Now my youngest has My American Girl, and because she plays the violin, her doll got the AG violin. One thing about the AG stuff is even though it can be expensive, similar off-brand items usually aren't nearly the same in quality or detail. For example, the AG violin was the only I found with a music stand, a book of sheet music, and a pretend block of rosin. All those extras made me end up springing for the AG version. Now I'm thinking she might get the science set for Christmas, since she likes science.

    The dress you called a wedding dress is called a "Fancy Occasion" dress on the website. My first thought was that it looked like a First Communion dress. I guess they left it open-ended so it can be whatever the girl wants.

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    1. Hi Barb--you must have so much fun with your girls at AG! I love the expression BittyBabyLand. :)
      Those musical instruments were so impressive. I think even the music stands by themselves are great! I adore the real sheet music. Has your daughter tried playing what's in the violin book? That'd be fun. I didn't see the mini rosin--they must have removed it, or it got lost. That is such a great detail!

      I like the science set a lot. I'll try to get my review done soon so you can see the pictures.

      Thank you for finding the name of that "wedding dress!" I wondered if it might be a Communion dress, too. I like that they keep it ambiguous since kids will have lots of different imaginative uses for such a nice dress. I called it a wedding dress because that's what an excited little girl called it at the store, "Look, Mom! That one's wearing a wedding dress!" :D Very cute.

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  2. i just went to the american girl store last week in D.C it is a doll wonder land i got caroline can't wait for your review of number 29

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    1. Oh! You got beautiful Caroline! Congratulations. :) She was much more lovely in person than I expected.
      Doll wonderland is the perfect way to describe these stores. I totally agree. Hope you had a great time!

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  3. I love American girl dolls. they started my interest in dolls. did you get the dress she was in on that display though? I really thought for sure you were going to get rebecca.

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    1. Hi June, I thought I was going to get her, too! In fact, I came very close to buying Rebecca (or maybe Emily) and missing the whole upstairs entirely! I'd still like to get Rebecca some day, but I got so excited about the My American Girls. And, I did get the knitted dress that Number 29 was wearing. I honestly wanted to ask if I could have the display doll, but that might have been weird. :P

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  4. Congrats on your beautiful new doll!
    I will always have a soft spot for the Historical dolls, but I can definitely see the appeal of the MyAGs-- and plan on getting one or two at some point (specifically, one with the Sonali face and one with the Jess face-- I just need to decide which ones). :)
    Unfortunately, though AG's stuff IS very high-quality, I still think it's gotten too overpriced. When I picked out my first AG doll (Samantha) about 13 years ago, the most expensive thing in each doll's collection was her trunk, and those were about $150-$175. Now, Caroline's parlor (awesome as it is) costs twice that amount. Every year, things seem to cost about $2 more, including the little accessories like shoes or earrings. I'll still buy stuff from AG, but I find I'm spending more time deciding whether an outfit is worth buying if I could make it myself for a fraction of the price.
    I can't wait to see a more in-depth review of your new doll! Do you have any names picked out for her yet?

    --Kate :)

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    1. Thank you, Kate! It's funny that you ask about names, because I have been really struggling to find Number 29 a perfect name! She needs a sweet, soft name and I can't find one that fits. I am open to suggestions! :)

      The historical dolls are really great. I was very interested in all of the books, and almost bought a few just to read them for fun. I also love the accessories that the historical dolls have--they are so special, and I would have LOVED playing with some of them as a kid, going back in time in my imagination.

      It's funny, as I was trying to choose a My American Girl, I kept asking the sales associates about the different faces. No one could give me a straight-forward answer about how many faces there were or anything like that. Certainly no one seemed to know face names. I wish you had been there with me! :D

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    2. i think she looks like a Valorie to me... or maybe sophie? Katie?
      here is a link to Never Grow Up's post on the face molds: http://nevergrowupdollguide.blogspot.com/2013/02/american-girl-doll-face-mold-comparison.html
      i have always found this post on the face molds very helpful!
      -Juliet

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    3. I LOVE that Never Grow Up face post! That's how I decided that I like Rebecca so much! It's very helpful--you're absolutely right.

      I was thinking Sofia or Sophie, too! Love those names. I'm worried that it'll just make everyone think of Sofia the First, though. :/

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    4. Haha, anything I know about the faces and their names I learned from BeastsBelle's post on the topic (thank you, BeastsBelle!). :) I'm dreaming of someday getting a job at my local AG Place, so it'll be cool to be able to tell customers about all the different faces.

      If you're looking for a good website to search for names, I recommend www.babynames.com. It has a great search feature (look for the "advanced search" button underneath the larger search bar at the top). You can specify the number of syllables, language of origin, etc. It's really handy, and I use it all the time for naming my dolls. :)

      --Kate :)

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    5. One of my favorite places to go to when I am thinking of names is a great website called Nameberry.com I highly recommend it! They not only give you all the usual of what name websites/resources would but they also offer some extra things - lists that say, "If you like____, you might like____" or ones that are themed with (I feel like) very clever and thoughtful themes.

      Beautiful pick and I don't blame you for what you picked. I just "adopted" my first AG doll for myself (probably the only one I will ever have) but she is a custom that I made from an Addy-mold doll because they don't make the wigs with cornrow braids. For this reason I made one myself! (http://onegirlmanydolls.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-beautiful-echo-of-my-treasured.html)

      Looking forward to your great reviews of what you bought and your #29 and I am so excited that you were finally able to experience the AG love.

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    6. I'm thinking that Cara might be a nice name for her, but Keira is very similar! She's such a lovely doll - congratulations!

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  5. Ooooh that looked like an amazing, if not overwhelming, day out. Lucky you having a trip to Boston. I love it there. I would really love to go to the AG store in Manhatten too. However, I suspect that if I ever get there it will be my boys saying "aren't you done looking yet?" and my daughter pestering me for everything in the store :D How about they go do something else and WE meet there?! Lets pencil it in for sometime 5-10 years from now. (I wish I was kidding!!) I sort of want a red bag too now, even though it means nothing in the UK. Congratulations on your new girl. I think that you made a great choice. When you are parting with that much cash you have to go with what feels right for you.

    I finally made it to the Museum of Childhood in London. It was fantastic and I think you would have loved it. Lots of antique dolls and HUGE old doll houses. I could spend all day there.

    Looking forward to the next review. Exciting times!! I keep looking at Pinkie Cooper in the shop and will buy her when I have the funds. No sign of Ever After High yet.

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    1. Thank you, Nat Kat! You're on! I'd love to meet in NYC and visit that American Girl store! That would be so much fun. Something to look forward to in 2018. :)

      Oh, goodness, I would also love to go to the Museum of Childhood. That sounds amazing. Did you take any pictures? I wonder which antique dolls they had. Maybe they had a Baby Dimples! Perhaps I can meet you in London in 2020 and we'll visit there, too?? ;)

      These are exciting dolly times, aren't they? I am really anxious to see Pinkie (and Pepper, too!).

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  6. Why couldn't you find #55 online? I found her immediately. She was actually the doll I was thinking about getting :) But I didn't have anymore room! Haha. With 6 dolls (Julie, Rebecca, Kanani, Josefina, McKenna, and MyAG #28), was just impossible to fit anymore!

    -Marissa

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    1. Hi Marissa,
      Yeah--you're right! I went and checked a minute ago and there she is! Yay! When I checked yesterday, they only had two pages of dolls. Hm. Maybe I did something wrong in my search? That wouldn't be anything new. ;)
      I am glad she's there. I was worried that she was a store special or something weird and there'd be no other way to get her.

      You have a great collection! Having been to that store, I can see how it might be hard to stop collecting them...even when there's no more room!

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  7. Don't leave that braid in her hair. Her hair may become permanently crimped

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    1. Thank you for the tip! I don't think I want her hair crimped permanently. I love how straight and smooth it is. I'm not sure she comes with that braid, though. Do they all come with braided hair? I still haven't gotten her out of the box, so I don't know for sure yet!

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    2. the braided hair is just on that display doll; the dolls hair is not styled when you buy them, but it is in a hairnet.when you open her, be careful with the box! DON'T THROW IT AWAY!! it you ever go to sell her, the box will add $10+ to the bidding. try to save the packaging too.
      -Juliet

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    3. Oooh! Good advice, Juliet! I can't see ever selling her now, of course, but you never know! As much as I like the braid, I am glad to hear that her hair will be straight.
      Thank you for your help!

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  8. Congrats on your beautiful #29! :) I can't wait to hear your review.

    I'm still waiting for my first trip to an American Girl Place. There's a new one going in this fall that will only be a few hours away, so my mom and I are hoping to get there with my daughters sometime in the next year. :) It was wonderful seeing all of your amazing pictures! I felt like I was right there with you. ;)

    #55 is also one of my very favorites (my doll Hayden is a 55). She has gorgeous coloring and is really photogenic. I think your newest gal will be great on camera too, though. :)

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    1. Thank you so much! :D I am excited to de-box her.

      Hayden is a great name for the #55 doll. Isn't she adorable? She has some spunk to her, too, I think. It was so hard to make up my mind between all of those dolls and #55 and #29 were so close. I know I would have been delighted with either.

      I really hope you get a chance to visit the store--it's way more impressive than I had imagined. Such a fun experience. I know you will love it, and your daughters will be over the moon! I bet you are the perfect mom to have at an American Girl store! ;) To have your own mom there, too, will make it even more special.

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    2. Lol...I don't know about perfect, but I can assure you that the minute my kiddos starting whining or complaining, we'd be out of there! ;) They're usually pretty good in stores, though. I think it will be more like information overload! ;)

      I think #55 has a ton of personality! :) I've had so much fun doing photo shoots with her. :) Hayden got her name from my blog readers. I listed the three first names and three middle names I was thinking about and had everyone vote on them. Hayden Brooke was the outcome. :)

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  9. I got the same flute set when I was little because I had just started to play the flute. I loved taking my doll downstairs and setting her up with her flute next to me to encourage me to practice. :) I tried playing the songs in the books (they're real!) and I used the fingering chart FREQUENTLY. ;)

    American Girl dolls really are magical. I love love love how you wondered about and let your doll find you. :)

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    1. That is amazingly neat that you actually used the AG flute book with your real flute!! It's exactly what I was fantasizing could be done! Fantastic. It is so cool that AG would go the extra mile to make sure that the printed material in the dolls' accessories is REAL. I love it!

      I was a bit of a skeptic going into that store--I have to admit it. But you're right, there's something really fun and magical about the experience. :)

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  10. Ugh, you're constantly making me more jealous with every review! xD No seriously, I've been following your blog for a while and you've mentioned wanting to get an AG doll for quite some time, so I'm happy you finally own one. :) I might be going to the Minnesota location myself next summer!

    #55 looks like a Heather to me almost. One thing I always do when trying to name a doll is think of the first letter that fits them the most. I'll be waiting for your reviews of your goodies! ;)

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    1. Sorry, Emma! I don't want to make you jealous! I am pretty excited to finally have an American Girl, though. :) I hope you get to go to the Minnesota store. It's definitely worth a bit of a road trip. In fact, it's probably good if the closest store is a little ways away--I'd be in big trouble if that Boston store was closer to where I live!
      I think #55 looks like a Heather, too, and It's so neat that you go by first letters--I do that a lot too! I think my new #29 is a "K" or an "S." I wanted to name her Kaia or Kaya, except that it's already an American Girl name! Urg. Still thinking...

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    2. Kate? Katie? Keira? Sydney? Sienna? Simone?

      (I like brainstorming names. Pardon me!)

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    3. I really like Keira--that suits her, too! Thank you, Andrea! :D

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  11. She is so cute! In my opinion, she looks like a Brianna, a Sophia, or a Isabella. I have two of these dolls, one have had for three years now, I got here for my 8th birthday. I will be visiting the Columbus store soon before school starts and I will get Saige with money I have been saving up. Have fun with your doll, and I can't wait for the review!

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    1. Oooh--Isabella is a REALLY good name! That suits her! Sophia, too.

      You'll love Saige. Her hair color is beautiful and she has such a great range of outfits. Her eye color looks lovely, too. I don't think any of the other dolls have that same eye color. I didn't see any, anyway. Saige is a very appealing character!

      Have fun in Columbus! It's such a treat! :D

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  12. Hi, i used to work for one of the smallest american girl stores,t he kind where it only had one level. we had a really small selection ut the girls loved to come anywy. it was a great experience for them and i understand the want for an my american girl doll that has some history to it on its own.(( back when they first came out they were originally TOTALLY customizable just like my twwin)) because of the job my collection has grown alott, though stopped because of my going to a new job.
    i love all my dolls and it is a fun doll to have. oh and remember to use a wire brush and always comb the hair when wet. if you dont then the hair will get hurt. especially for red hair. do not heat it in anyway. just spray water on it. i cant stress this enough. old habits.
    but they have great hospital care to, and the hair addons are great.
    and if you want another one i sudgest trying for a pleasant company doll. before the company switched. ebay and sometimes amazon has those.

    P.S. about the pictures incident. its typically a no situation if you involve the workers and social media because of how it could put a bad look for the company, but since you were just doing the dolls it should have been fine.

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    1. Hi Johanna! Thank you for the tips, and for sharing your experience with working in the store! It seems like a great job, but I imagine you'd have to be really patient. I was so impressed with how friendly and energetic everyone at the store was, despite a very big crowd and a lot going on.

      It's good to hear your opinion of the hair add-ons. I was looking closely at those. I wanted to buy the looong ponytail extension, because it looked like it was pretty high quality, and it wasn't crazy-expensive. I'll have to save that for next time--there were just too many things I wanted to buy! Gah! :)

      I can see why they were hesitant about pictures, since I basically admitted that I was there to evaluate the store (I didn't mention that I also wanted to spend money!) but when they saw that I was an enthusiastic shopper, too, I think they relaxed. I get it. No one wants to be criticized! I also tried to be careful not to get any actual people in my photos.

      I have read about the Pleasant Company dolls. I will keep an eye out! Thank you again for sharing your expertise! :)

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  13. Congratulations! She's gorgeous.
    I remember the first time I went to an Ag place, I was seriously blown away. (I ended up getting Kirsten) It seems like kind of the same thing happened to you!
    Can't wait to see a review!

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I am so glad that you had a similarly wonderful experience at AG. Is Kirsten one of the Pleasant Company dolls? She's so cute. She reminds me of Little House on the Prairie (which I loved as a kid).

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    2. Well, I got her in 2007 or 8, the year she was retired, so she wasn't pleasant company. She was one of the originals, as with Felicity, Samantha, Molly. She is simply adorable. (Though I am considering painting freckles on her)

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  14. You got my FAVORITE DRESS for her! My Mari has that dress, picked up at AG at the Mall of America! I can't wait to see more about your girl and find out what you've decided to call her! As it stands, Mari says "'Sup!" to the new girl!

    Also, a tip... find the nearest Sally Beauty Supply or similar store and get some Braid Spray. I linked a post about it in my Maddie review, but that stuff is like magic for AG - or really any doll/pony with synthetic - hair. A few spritzes every few weeks or so will keep her hair shiny and soft.

    Eee, so excited for you, E! Have fun!

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    1. Hi AJ! :D We actually HAVE a Sally Beauty here, I think! I will take your advice immediately because I love my doll's shiny hair as it is right now! Don't want it to change.

      Isn't that dress wonderful? I think it made all of the dolls who wore it look good. I liked the real girl dress version, too!

      I love the name Mari, BTW. I used to have a friend named Mhairi, which I think is the Gaelic version of that name. :D I need a beautiful, special name like Mari for my new girl...

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    2. My Mari was once upon a time Marisol, a former Girl of the Year. I shortened it because the person she lived with while she got restrung already had a Marisol and we needed to differentiate. It stuck.

      That is my favorite dress ever. Hmm. I think a blog post is going to have to come. I owe more pictures of Maddie, and I think Mari needs photographing.

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  15. Yay! finally a American Girl doll, she is such a cutie!! I also have the sweet spring dress and it looks great on every doll, you will love having an AG join the fam:)

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    1. I totally agree, Chloe--that dress looked good on every doll in the store who wore it! I wanted the real girl version, too, but the only person I could buy it for is my niece, and since you can't do gymnastics in it, I don't think she'd like it. :)

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  16. Ahh your so lucky! lol congrats on your new American Girl, I'd SO love to have one day. I used to be in love with Felicity when I was a kid and was so sad when I found out that she went into the archives a couple years ago. I can't wait to see your full review on your new doll, Will you have a name picked out for her?

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    1. Oh, no! Not the dreaded Archives! I love Felicity's green eyes and her outfits--especially her green riding outfit! She's a winner.

      I am torn about a name--right now, I like Isabella (Anonymous suggestion) and Keira (Andrea's suggestion). I actually thought about your name for her, too! Amber is a great name. :)

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  17. PM'd you about my visit to the Museum of Childhood.

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  18. You got an AG!!!! I'm soooooo excited! I went to the store in Natick, too, and I loved it! I'm so glad you got 29:)

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    1. Thank you, Nina!! Isn't the Natick store huge and overwhelmingly awesome? I wonder how it compares to the other ones? Could Manhattan's store possibly be even bigger? Hard to imagine.

      I'm so glad you like Number 29. I think she'll fit in around here. Did you get a doll in Natick, too?

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    2. the Chicago store is 52,000 sq. feet. In contrast, the Seattle store is 12,500. I think these are the biggest and smallest. Seattle is one floor, Chicago is three. Naturally I live by the smaller one... DX
      -Juliet

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  19. Wow, she is pretty. My AG collection tends to shy away from the classic mold for personal reasons, but that is a lovely doll. And I have that dress and plan to review it on my Marisol soon. (though mine is modified--a seamstress's work ain't never done).

    Taking pictures: Oh, I never ask. I live a short distance from the Seattle one (to the tune of a trip once every month thereabouts) and I just whip out my camera and snap away. There's so many people snapping pics that they won't care. They probably said no because you noted it was for a blog, but just don't say that.

    One thing I'd like to point out--and not to be rude? the My American Girls--while they were called Just Like You at one point--haven't ever been customizable. You can pick diverse ones, but you can't say "I want this one but with green eyes." They've always been somewhat diverse--there's been 60 different options--but they've never been customizable officially through AG.

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  20. Congrats on your first AG! At one time, I had most of the historical dolls and regret selling them for college loans and tuition. When I learned Molly, my childhood AG doll, was moving into the archives, I opted for her new sunny bed, aqua skirt and blouse, and evergreen velvet Christmas dress, plus Molly herself with her accessories. My collection isn't complete without her. I just bought the science backpack also and it works wonderfully with my large My Twinn collection. I have never been to American Girl Place and yearn to visit, but even ordering from the website is exciting. I must say "sticker shock" is part of that experience. It's all what you said - magical, but sometimes for the very wealthy. On the flip side, I BOUGHT JAMIESHOW LEE AND GRACE today from the Havana Nights Collection - preorder. I just got dreamy over yours and studied the website fr 2 weeks until my eyes hazed over. Sasha is a knockout and so is Alejandro. I also bought Grace a little jewelry, but they were sold out of the curly wig. I spoke to GEORGE in person (and so did my mom) and he took my order. I am so excited it's like Christmas in July! I think your MyAmericanGirl looks like a Jane or a Janice to me. Enjoy her! They are endearing little friends!

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  21. I think you should name her Karissa ! I'm going to the American Girl place in 2 weeks for the 1st time ! I got Julie for my birthday this year :) My Aunt is taking me to the AG store because as a part of a special diet I lost 20 pounds in 30 days .

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  22. I just love your #29, and the knit dress is beautiful I can't wait for your review of it. 55 was the last American Girl doll I purchased for myself and she is adorable. As a flute player myself I wanted you to know that the music book in the set unless it has changed is an exact replica of the one I had when I first learned to play.

    On another note I am also eagerly anticipating Pepper from the Pinkie Cooper line.

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    1. The book changed slightly. I own the newer version. (I learned to play the flute in September or October.)

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  23. Also , have looked up name meanings ? For example , Amika means friend :) Hope I can help !

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  24. My only AG doll Molly was bought before there were any AG stores so reading through the semi-annual catalog was our (my sisters and I) absolute favorite thing. I just recently went to the AG store at the Mall of America and bought Molly's school set (a very long coveted item) and I'm glad I did now that she's being "retired." But I'm also kicking myself for not just spending more time walking around the store because I got overwhelmed! (I have more chance now though since I've just moved the St. Paul! hehe)
    I'm glad you really enjoyed your visit, it sounds epic!

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  25. Congratulations on getting #29 (that sounds weirdly Twilight-zonish suddenly). I must admit I'm not too much of an AG doll fan---I prefer the old JustMagic doll line, but my sister gave these dolls as gifts to my nieces years ago who are now having kids of their own. I just wanted to say how beautifully written your review of the trip to the store was. It communicated to me what they mean and have come to mean to many in a meaningful way. Loved your observation of what the experience amounted to for different types of parents which is also insightful. Maybe one or two will stumble onto your site and receive food for thought...

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  26. I have some name ideas. Juliette, Violet, Blaire........I enjoy brainstorming names. :)

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  27. I am very happy you did this review, i have been waiting along time for this. I thought it was funny that in the end you picked a doll that is my look a like (without glasses)! I have the violin set it's very well made and worth the money.... But that piano, cute but the price *cringe*

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  28. AG will always be my favorite doll brand. I have 5 AG dolls: Olivia (#19), Morgan (#39), McKenna (GOTY 2012), Brooklyn (#49), Saige (GOTY 2013). I also had 1 bitty baby from when I was little. I'm so glad you finally got an AG doll. Please do a review on her, and the stuff you got. I love your reviews! Their so helpful!

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  29. What a nice review Emily, there's so much in there that I can't even cover it all in my comment xD
    You know I'm not a fan of these larger scale dolls but I'd love to pay a visit to that store. Just seeing all the accessories and large, special displays seems like a wonderful experience. It's a shame so many things are so overpriced, who would pay that amount of money fora huge non-detailed car (for example). The smaller, more detailed items are much better. I always wanted to have one of those kitchens, wouldn't it be awesome to have a miniature kitchen for your doll? Gah, doll dreams here.. There were so many things I wanted to say in this comment but I already forgot most of it, I caught myself thinking of having a whole working doll house with a bedroom and bathroom and, ofcourse, a kitchen. Look what you do to me with your reviews hahahahaahaaaha
    Thanks so much for this wonderful review, it made me feel like being there in real life ^^

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  30. Did you consider #42?
    Just wondering!

    Hannah
    thesuperdollies.blogspot.com
    PS. I love your site!

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  31. Looking for a great age appropriate Christmas gift idea for a seven-year-old girl or boy? Consider a unique toy or an educational toy as a Christmas gift idea. http://liztoys.com.

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  32. The furniture and accessories for these dolls are amazing, but I'm constantly disappointed by the fact that you can't put them in a lower-neckline outfit without showing the fabric body. You'd think they would have fixed this by giving them an upper torso of vinyl (at least), but they never bothered. It seems to me that the quality of the clothing and furniture is wonderful, but the dolls themselves are not very good quality for the price. (No articulation, unsightly fabric body that goes all the way up to the neck, etc.)

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    1. I used to say the same thing, but then I was reminded by a doll maker in the family how much things like the wigs and eyes alone cost. I didn't understand for the life of me once upon a time why anyone spent that kind of money on a doll. I now have 2 on my shelf :) I started with a my generation doll, which is fine for the money, but once I realized how you can style the hair of a AG doll, I was hooked! I never really got to do the hair of my dolls while growing up (Im about the same age as the blogger) so I love doing so now!
      AG dolls are now my guilty pleasure. I have joined the club!

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  33. I'm a little disappointed that you didn't end up getting Rebecca. I was thinking of getting her but I wanted to see a review...

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  34. I want the Kit desk set and photography set and I think she has a typewriter set, but I don't want Kit, I want a My American Girl to put in that time period haha

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  35. Nice job with her personality. Not a lot of stories involving snack carts....

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  36. I loved your long spill towards the end about both the good and the bad of the American Girl Store experience. It's entirely true. I used to be obsessed with AG late elementary and early middle school, and I get a little guilty/embarrassed about it since it was an expensive hobby to have. Luckily I wasn't at the age where I'd throw a fit if I could't get something, and when I finally got to go to the store at age 13 I was (slightly) mature, so no fits were thrown, I was just happy to be there. Your visit sounded really fun, and I understand the struggle about picking out a doll.Eventually you've just got to stop worrying about getting certain features and just follow your heart on which doll you want. Oh my, after reading this post and looking back, I want to get out my dolls and their accessories, i'm feeling nostalgic.

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  37. Efficiently written information. It will be profitable to anybody who utilizes it, counting me. Keep up the good work. For certain I will review out more posts day in and day out. for more info

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