A Girl for all Time is a British doll brand designed and marketed by the Daughters of History, Ltd. and made in China. The dolls represent young girls from different generations of the fictional Marchmont family. Each doll is dressed and styled according to her particular time in history. There are three dolls in the collection so far, Matilda, Amelia, and Clementine. Matilda is from the middle part of the 16th century, Amelia is from the Victorian era, and Clementine is from the late 1930s and early 1940s, during World War II.
The dolls are made out of vinyl and stand approximately 16.5" tall. They are sold for $134.99 on the Girl for all Time website. Each doll has three or four beautiful outfit sets and accessory packs that can be purchased separately. There are also three short novels that tell a story from each girl's life. The books do not come with the dolls, but can be purchased on the Girl for all Time website for $9.99 and also on Amazon for slightly less. I have been admiring A Girl for all Time's Matilda doll for quite a while, but after Char from Doll Diaries told me that the next girl in the Marchmont family tree would be a green-eyed redhead, I decided I'd better wait and let Clementine be my first Girl for all Time. She is a perfect doll to review at this time of the year, because her eyes and hair match the rapidly changing foliage here in the Northeast in an uncanny way:
|"Clementine," by A Girl for all Time.|
I find this drawing of Matilda hauntingly beautiful:
Matilda's story is set in the court of Henry VIII. Matilda is imagined to be the cousin of Katherine Howard, the ill-fated fifth wife of the famously fickle king. I have read or tried to read a lot of stories that accompany play dolls, but I have never read anything like this. This is a fantastic story. I was up late at night, eager to finish it. Not only does this novel have a gripping plot, but it is not a watered-down fluffy kid story. There are enough nitty-gritty details about life at court that I could clearly imagine and empathize with Matilda's experiences.
|There are a few pages with eclectic picture collages.|
What makes me like this story even better is that while there is a lot of talk of fashion, hairstyles and jewels, the moral of the story will likely steer girls away from superficial frivolity rather than encourage it. I immediately ordered Amelia's story and will be watching for Clementine's book to become available.
I pre-ordered the Clementine doll back in July and she arrived in the middle of last week. UPS did their level best to ruin Clementine's box, and my heart sank when I saw the ripped, crushed package slumped on my doorstep. Thanks to a careful packing job over at A Girl for all Time, the inner doll box was only dented a little bit. When I lifted Clementine's box out of its packing, I was surprised by how light it was, and also by its style. It is not a typical 18" play doll box:
I had been expecting a two-piece cardboard box more like the American Girl packaging. This is a nice box, though, and it's great to be able to look into the plastic window and see the whole doll.
The back of the box is mostly white and has some gold text summarizing the company's vision with the Marchmont dolls:
Clementine is attached to a five-sided cardboard holder that slides out of the main box. She is held in place with four wire ties and a larger plastic string that loops around her head. She comes with a brown felt hat and a pamphlet:
Her hat was a little crushed, presumably because of the rough handling during transit:
Underneath where Clementine was attached, there is some printed writing on the cardboard. I think this must be an excerpt from the novel:
The crushed had looked pretty bad...
...but it popped right back into shape with no evidence that it was ever dented:
The thread that tied the hat to the box left some holes in the ribbon trim:
The picture on the pamphlet is by Louise Robinson, the same artist who painted the picture of Matilda. I love this style:
The pamphlet has another summary of the Girl for all Time concept and a mention of Clementine's book, Clementine's Journey. The rest of the booklet has photographs of Clementine's wardrobe extras. My favorite piece is the pink wool coat shown below. It retails for $49.99.
Here's Clementine free from her box. She has sturdy shoes and stands really nicely on her own:
She comes wearing a hairnet, and in this picture she still has the brown packing tie twined through the hairnet and looped around her head:
With the tie removed:
Once I could get a good look at Clementine, my first thoughts were that her dress is incredibly beautiful and well-made, her hair is a glorious color, and her face looks almost exactly like her promotional pictures.
Clementine has a very distinctive face. Her eyes are smaller than most play doll eyes, and she has a long, angular jaw and a short forehead.
Her mouth is one of her most unique features. It has a rosebud shape with thin edges that curl up into a subtle smile:
I think that this doll has a beautiful overall look, but there's something about her mouth that doesn't sit right with me. I can't put my finger on the exact problem, and it only bothers me from certain angles, but I think that if her her lower lip was longer or if her whole mouth was narrower, the problem would be resolved. As it is, her lips look slightly pursed or puckered, and the edges of her smile seem to pull down quite a bit before they curve upwards. All of the Girl for all Time dolls have different faces, and I think I prefer Amelia and Matilda's mouth shapes.
I did a sloppy mock-up of what the face might look like with a different lower lip:
I want to reiterate that I am only troubled by the mouth from certain angles--mostly looking up at it from below and in some profile views. From many vantage points she looks sweet and perfect.
Clementine's eyes are fixed in place and made out of plastic. They are a beautiful mix of green colors:
She has simply-drawn eyebrows and lashes, and she also has a short strip of black synthetic applied lashes:
The applied lashes fit into a slot in the eye, just under the upper eyelid:
The pattern in her iris is familiar to me. It's similar in some ways to Bratzillaz Magic Night Out Meygana's eyes, with those radiating feathery grey parts:
|Bratzillaz Magic Night Out Meygana's eye.|
Despite their vibrant color, the eyes don't quite measure up to the quality of the rest of the doll. I don't expect glass eyes in a $140 doll, but I hope for plastic eyes that have significant depth and realism--like Hearts 4 Hearts Lauryce's amazing eyes. The pretty colors make up for some, but not all, of my luke warm reaction to the design.
Clementine's hair is wigged, and the fibers are a beautiful, natural mix of bright reds. The hair is soft and shiny and the short, bobbed cut will make it refreshingly easy to manage:
The hair is uneven in the back, but I gather that this is intentional, as part of Clementine's story:
Clementine has a nice hand shape. Her hands seem well sculpted for holding small objects:
Also, the detail in her fingers is great. She has elegant long fingers and her tiny fingernails have a bit of contrasting gloss on them:
Clementine's dress is made out of a lovely sheer sage-colored fabric that feels like silk organza. According to the Girl for all Time website, it is actually a polyester-cotton blend. The dress has a satin collar and a delicate belt with a plastic belt buckle.
The bodice is lined in cotton and there is an attached cotton underskirt with a hem that hangs just above the sheer skirt's hem.
The dress is darted in back and perfectly fitted everywhere.
Clementine is wearing netted white knee-high socks and brown imitation leather shoes:
The shoes are adorable. The straps attach on the outer edge of each shoe with a small patch of velcro. The toes have a teardrop pattern cut into the leather-like material:
The felt hat does not fit very well, so I abandoned it.
At this point in the review, I got frustrated because my backdrop was not showing off Clementine's outfit and coloring well enough. Her dress isn't grey at all, but the muted sage color ends up looking grey when it's in a grey environment. I decided to break tradition and take Clementine outside before I undressed her.
I'd like to acknowledge Char and Natalie's beautiful pictures of Clementine before I show you mine. The similarity in our pictures is unintentional--I think it's just that this doll begs to be photographed in the beautiful fall colors that compliment her so well. I highly recommend checking out the pictures over at Doll Diaries.
Here's Clementine in her element:
Her hair is the color of the red fallen leaves and her eyes match the grass--which is still bright and green, peeking out from under the leaf cover.
In daylight, you can get a much better sense for the color mix in Clementine's hair. The highlights really stand out in the daylight and the silky fibers shine like crazy in the direct sun.
Clementine can't strike too many standing positions while holding her balance. She can go for a casual stroll through the leaves, though:
With the sun behind the dress, you can appreciate the layering and the gauzy weight of the daisy print material:
Other features of the dress are easier to see in the sunlight, too, like the plastic belt buckle:
And the sheen of the satin collar:
Here are Clementine's eyes and mouth in natural light. I caught her mouth at one of its least attractive angles in this picture, I think:
Her green eyes practically light up in the sun. They are a wonderful color and the small pupils are perfect for a bright day:
Clementine is a joy to photograph outdoors. Her posing is quite limited, but her gorgeous coloring and her willowy dress are incredibly photogenic. I also really enjoy the simplicity of her hair. It caught the little breezes in a fun way and I didn't once have to worry about it getting messed up or tangled. It seems very low maintenance.
I reluctantly came back indoors to take a closer look at her clothing and her body.
Here are her brown shoes up close:
And a better look at her dress:
The underskirt is attached at the waist:
The lined bodice is beautifully sewn and closes in back with three delicate metal snaps:
The dress has a wonderful drape to it and feels expensive and special.
Underneath her dress, Clementine is wearing simple white cotton underwear:
Clementine's body is all vinyl and has nine points of articulation...sort of. She is strung with elastic and her arms and legs are each made out of two separate pieces, but she doesn't necessarily bend like a highly articulated doll.
I was surprised by her body's proportions--mostly her unusual arm shape. She has very large, thick arms compared to her tiny torso and waist.
Her arms naturally sit in a half-bent position, and they can't be locked in place at any other angle. She can raise them and lower them at the shoulder, and they'll hold these poses nicely, but at the elbow, the default is to be bent at about a 120 degree angle.
|Her lower arms look a bit like gauntlet gloves.|
She can only straighten her arms if they are braced against something like her leg, or if they're rotated out at the elbow so that the palms of her hands face away from her body:
The half-bent position is perfect for her to grasp her hands together or touch her head:
Here's the elbow joint up close--this straightened position is only possible because the leg is holding the lower arm out. Notice the gap at the joint:
Here is the position that her arms are in most of the time:
Her hip flexibility is much like that of any other strung 18" play doll. She can do simple splits, and can sit straight-legged on the ground or in a chair:
Her knee joint only bends if there is constant force on it. In this picture, my hand is holding her leg in the bent position (and holding really hard, at that):
The knee snapped back into a straight position the instant I removed my hand. A nice feature is that the knees can rotate at this joint, which adds to Clementine's standing posture options.
The head is also strung, and so it can look up and down and all around. My doll has a slightly loose neck, but it still holds poses well.
She has the Daughters of History mark on her left side:
Overall, the joints on this doll are similar to those on a doll that has only five points of articulation (i.e. no knee or elbow mobility). The difference is that Clementine can rotate at the knees and elbows. Clementine's leg articulation is about the same as a Carpatina or My Salon doll's leg articulation, but the added rotation at the knee makes Clem's movement better. However, to me, Clementine's permanently angled arms actually make her upper body harder to pose than a straight-armed doll.
Clementine is even more petite than my slim 18" play dolls. What strikes me most when I look at her next to Carpatina Erin, is that Erin's eyes seem huge, round, and cartoony compared to Clem's more realistically proportioned eyes:
Also, Clementine has relatively broad shoulders when compared to Erin.
Erin can almost fit into Clementine's dress (although definitely not the hat...):
But the dress won't fasten in back and the waistline is too high.
A Girl for all Time dolls would be wonderfully suited to the range of beautiful Carpatina historical outfits, so I was really hoping that clothes sharing was possible between these two lines. Clem can fit into Erin's Guinevere dress, although the dress is long on her, and the nice fit through the bodice is probably due mostly to the fact that this particular dress has adjustable corset ties at the sides. Still, it looks wonderful on her:
The slippers look fine, but they're too long in the toes:
Magic Attic Heather's outfit is fine on Clementine--the shirt fits well and the skirt is just a bit too long:
Euro Girl shoes (the same as Magic Attic shoes) fit well, too, and would be even better with socks.
Here's Clementine next to the My Salon Doll, Sydni (aka Sydney):
Syd's clothes are too big for Clementine, and Clementine's dress wouldn't even begin to fit Syd. What strikes me when I look at these two dolls together is that Sydney has very short arms, a nice natural vinyl color and a child-like body. In contrast, Clementine is petite, pale, and has longer arms and more hints at a womanly figure. Well, and of course there's a huge difference in the style and playability of these two dolls' hair.
Here's Clementine next to My American Girl doll, Keira:
Clothes sharing between these two will be extremely limited. Keira can not wear Clem's dress, but Clementine can get away with wearing a few items of American Girl-sized clothes--like the Springfield Collection dress (because it has a sash that can be tightened around the waist):
It really does look good on everyone:
Surprisingly, the American Girl Sweet Spring Dress also fits Clementine reasonably well:
It's big in the neck (you can see the shoulder seam at the edge of the neckline) and it's longer than it's meant to be, but it doesn't look terrible:
In contrast, the My Life As clothes are hopelessly too big:
Here's Clementine with my new BFC Ink girl, Kaitlin:
While Clementine looked womanly in comparison to Sydney, she looks childlike in comparison to Kaitlin. These two seemed to have a decent chance of sharing clothes, but Clem's large arms make the tops too tight and her thicker legs will limit her to wearing only the stretchy BFC Ink pants and bottoms.
Clementine's dress is a bit loose on Kaitlin (especially in the arms), but the colors really suit her. This dress makes any doll look quite special:
Clementine's articulated knees gave me high hopes for her riding ability, but given the unbendable nature of the knee joint, she doesn't sit on a horse much better than the straight-legged girls. Her size is a decent match for my Paradise horse, Galloway, though:
Here are a few more pictures of Clementine in my back yard, soaking up the dreamy fall sunshine:
Bottom line? I have a lot of complex reactions to many dolls, but my thoughts about Clementine are relatively simple and clear. She is a sweet, special-feeling, beautifully-made doll with exceptional clothes. The colors in her hair, eyes and dress go together like a work of art. Her face might not suit everyone (for me there's something odd about her mouth at some angles) but her distinctive features give her personality and realism that makes it easy to relate to her. She has the kind of quirky individualism that I tend to fall in love with over time. There's no mistaking Clementine for another brand of doll--she is unique. Clementine's body is a bit of a disappointment. It has odd proportions (especially in the arms) and the extra points of articulation add curiously little to the her overall flexibility. Her default arm posture can look endearingly sweet, with her hands clasped together in front of or behind her body, but her arms can also look quite awkward if she isn't posed carefully.
Based on my enjoyment of another book in the A Girl for all Time library, I have a lot of confidence that Clementine's story will be well-written, historically accurate and gripping. I can very safely say that I have never read a doll-related book that was as outstanding as Matilda's Secret. It literally kept me up late at night, drawn into the sinister and fascinating world of Tudor England. That book almost made a bigger impression on me than the doll. The thing is, books this good can add considerably to the appeal of a related doll. It's similar to how the Cinderella story makes me love Cinderella dolls more than I would if they weren't associated with such an achingly romantic tale. After reading Matilda's Secret, I find myself wanting the Matilda doll more than ever. I have no doubt that reading Clementine's story will overlay a captivating personality on an already appealing doll.
Clementine makes me very anxious to review my Kidz 'n' Cats doll. I would love to see first-hand how the articulation of Sonja Hartmann's similarly-sized dolls compares to Clementine's limited joint flexibility. I almost de-boxed my Kidz 'n' Cats girl for this review, but there's too much going on already. Watch for that review soon, though.
With her whopping $135 price tag, Clementine will not be purchased frivolously. I urge interested collectors to be aware of her articulation, but count on being dazzled by her clothes and coloring, and prepare to be won over by her unique face and rich personality.