Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Salon Doll "Sydni"

One of the neat things about writing my American Girl review back in July is that many of you had suggestions for other similarly-sized dolls that might be fun to look at.  As a relative newcomer to the 18" play doll scene, all of these tips were greatly appreciated.  I followed up on Holly's suggestion to look at My Salon Dolls, the anonymous recommendation of the Vanange line, and Char's enthusiastic endorsement of A Girl for All Time.  I didn't end up keeping the Vanange doll and A Girl for All Time Clementine hasn't arrived yet, so this review will focus on My Salon Doll, Sydni.

My Salon Dolls are designed by a small Utah-based company and manufactured in China.  The special thing about these dolls is that they have micro-rooted human hair.  The commercial on the My Salon Doll website advertises that the dolls can "tolerate any hair product that would be found in a regular salon."  The dolls are also described as being bathtub-safe.  In my experience with human hair doll wigs, the only problem with them is that they get dusty and dry.  This doll's design appears to have eliminated those problems by making it safe and easy to wash and condition the hair.  I love this idea and was very curious see what these dolls are like in person.  The dolls are listed at around $130, but were on sale for $107 when I purchased mine--and are still on sale now.  There weren't many dolls to choose from back in July, so I picked Sydni, who is the horse-lover in the group, and was also the only available doll who looked like she had reddish hair.

My Salon Doll Sydni
My Salon Doll, "Sydni."
The first glimpse of a new doll is critical.  I hold my breath when I'm de-boxing some dolls (especially the expensive ones), waiting to see if that first reaction will be positive or negative.  I love it when a new doll exceeds my expectations and makes me smile or even exclaim out loud.  That's the best feeling.  The worst feeling is when a new doll is a let-down...when you know at first glance that the relationship isn't going to work.  The Vanange doll I ordered (Luz) did not pass the first glimpse test.  She was nowhere near as high quality as I hoped she'd be and I could not relate to her face.  I don't have enough pictures or information to write a full review, but if there's anyone who is curious about these dolls, I'll share my initial impressions over on facebook.


I took a few pictures before I shipped Luz back to Amazon, but I don't want to take up too much space in this review.  Here's the facebook link if you don't have it.

My Salon Doll, Sydni, passed the first glimpse test with flying colors.  She has a unique, appealing face, detailed eyes, and her hair looks promising--even though it is blonder and shorter than I expected it to be.


As I mentioned, the options were limited when I chose my doll.  There are eight original My Salon Doll characters (all with the same face mold) and of these, Malaree was my favorite.  Malaree has reddish hair and green eyes.  Unfortunately, back in July, the regular Malaree was sold out and the special edition Malaree (with highlights in her hair) was too expensive (on sale for $130).

What made selecting a doll tricky is that it's hard to tell what the dolls look like from the small catalogue pictures on the website.  Here's the picture of the special edition Malaree doll (sadly, she's sold out now):


I couldn't see the doll clearly enough to risk $130.  

There are many new dolls that have recently been added to the website, and the picture quality has improved.  I still think that clearer catalogue pictures would boost sales.  The video commercial on the My Salon Doll home page has some nice clear head shots of a few of the dolls, and it would be wonderful if all of the catalogue pictures looked like this!

This is Kendrey ( I love the color of her eyes!).
If I were shopping for the first time today, I think I'd pick one of the newer girls, Jade (on the left--now that's red hair!) or Bailey (love her coloring and her grey hat):


As I was browsing the My Salon Doll website, I noticed something familiar about the Maycee doll:


She's wearing Karito Kid Gia's outfit--right down to the tasseled boots. It's not exactly Gia's outfit, of course (the two dolls are different sizes) but the design is essentially the same.  None of the other outfits leapt out as being familiar, but I didn't spend a lot of time investigating.  I don't know what to think about this.  It's not very creative and I find it slightly off-putting.  

Back to Sydni.  I think I'll start calling her Sydney because the unusual spelling of that name is really confusing for me.  I keep seeing "Sindy" instead.   Sindy is a fine name, but that's another doll.

Sydney comes in a cardboard window box.  The box was actually falling apart a bit at the bottom when it arrived at my house, but the doll was safe and secure.  The box decorations are colorful and simple:


I like the My Salon Doll logo with the "S" in salon drawn as the cord of a curling iron:


The two sides of the box are decorated differently.  One side is blue and white striped and has a notice about the doll's authenticity mark:


The other side has some facts about the doll against a white and yellow polka dot background:

I think she can wear regular earrings (but I don't have any to try).
The back of the box is mostly bright green with a few areas of text:


At first I thought it was redundant to call this doll "first" and "original" because the two words are synonyms.  However, the alternate definition of original is "not a copy or imitation," so that works.   Although it doesn't apply to some of the clothing, apparently.

I find it amazing that no other doll company has attempted a doll with rooted human hair.  It's such a great idea.  I searched around a bit to see if I could find anything similar.  Some artists use reborn kits (like Reva Schick's Angelica) to make play dolls with rooted human hair, but these don't count because they're not manufactured with the hair in place.  There are also styling heads with rooted human hair, like Courtney, but she's not a typical doll.  My Salon Doll does seem to be the first and original.


There's a little poem:

I'd have stopped after, "whatever you can imagine, you can create."
There's also a small picture of the dolls on top of an advertisement for the "Styles and Smiles Academy."  The Academy is a series of videos on the My Salon Doll website (and on YouTube) that address the doll's construction, how to be safe when styling the hair, and some suggestions and directions for different hairdos and styling techniques.  I like these videos.  The woman who narrates them (the owner of the company?) has a great energy.  She is friendly, knowledgeable, and easy to follow.   


I read somewhere online that the dolls are made in the United States (I was excited about that!) but the box says that they are, in fact, made in China:


Sydney is attached to a blue and white striped cardboard support that slides out of the main box:


She is attached to the cardboard with two cable ties that are very easy to cut.  Look at her cute shoes:


I'm not crazy about the style of this doll's outfit, but I like the green and grey color scheme.  The shoes are nice, and the leggings are fine, but I didn't like the camp shirt right out of the box.  It's a little cluttered, which detracts from the doll's mild face.  



I like Sydney's face a lot.  There's nothing about it that confines this doll to any one style, age or mood.  She seems versatile without being generic or plain:

Her eyes are a little wonky, though.
I think she has an especially pretty profile:


She has inset pale blue plastic eyes with painted and applied lashes:


The painted lashes are nicely done with tapering, delicate ends.  I wish the eyebrows had this level of artistry.  The iris detail is printed, and while individual printed dots are visible up-close, the eyes look very convincing at normal magnification.


The applied lashes are glued in place and are beautifully realistic.  They're not chunky or thick, and they have a nice light color that matches Sydney's hair.  They look and feel synthetic, but I can't be sure.  


The hair on My Salon Dolls is hand-rooted human hair.  On the My Salon Doll website there's a big deal made over the fact that this hair is purchased from a hair extension factory and does not take hair away from the wig-making industry.  I don't know enough about the wig industry to have been upset about this possibility, but (assuming hair extension factories aren't taking hair away from the wig-making industry...) it sounds like the hair selection is socially responsible.  

I think I was expecting the rooting to be sparse--like the horrible rooted mohair on my Ashton Drake silicone Baby Emily. 


I was pleasantly surprised to see nice tight rows and hair plugs that have no more than five or six strands each:


The hair is rooted nicely around Sydney's face so that up-do styles will look natural:


The doll's side part has two rows of hair that are placed especially close together for a natural look:



The hair can also be parted anywhere on the head, although the area of visible scalp will be wider in a random spot than it is with the indented part:


I'll talk more about the hair in a bit, but first, I want to take a closer look at the outfit.  The shirt is made out of a grey fabric that resembles denim, but (unlike denim) it's very soft and fine with a nice drape.  The green plaid accents are made out of thicker material that doesn't hang as nicely. There are things I like about this shirt, but the belt area seems too cluttered with those huge belt loops and the thick, bright belt.  

The plaid neck area doesn't line up evenly in front.
The shirt has three decorative green buttons on the outside with concealed snaps underneath.  The snaps seem loosely attached (they move around a lot), but none of them have fallen off.


The construction of the shirt itself is nice.  It has darted seams in the back for a slim fit, and all of the edges look well finished.





The pockets really open and could hold small hair clips or other items.


Underneath the shirt, Sydney is wearing green and grey jersey knit leggings:


Her shoes are made out of grey canvas and have a non-functional metal buckle:


The lining of the shoes matches the green plaid in the shirt:


These are wonderful little shoes with great attention to detail.  Even the underside of the strap is lined in green plaid:


I was surprised to find the Kidz 'n' Cats logo on the soles of the shoes:


I asked someone at the company about this and she said that there's no association between My Salon Doll and Sonja Hartmann, it's just that "the material that the factory used to create soles is simply the best they could acquire."  I gather that these dolls share a factory with Kidz 'n' Cats and that some leftovers might be shared?  That's just a guess, but I'm not sure what other explanation there could be.  I suppose we know that these two doll lines can share shoes!

Under her leggings, Sydney is wearing plain white underpants:



I checked the bottom of her foot, just to make sure she has the My Salon Doll authenticity mark--she does:


Sydney has a soft vinyl body with five points of articulation:


I think that the shape of this doll's body is very natural--with a few exceptions.  First of all, her arms are a little short.  Also, she has an oddly-shaped bottom:


Sydney's posing repertoire is not very impressive, but it's on par with most 18" play dolls.  She's nicely balanced and can easily stand on her own.  She can also do the basic split moves, and can sit on the ground without her legs splaying out too much to the sides.




Her construction is very simple.  She has one elastic cord strung between her two arms, another strung between her legs, and a third attaching her head to her neck:

Her right arm pulled away from her body.
Looking into the arm hole:
 the elastic runs through a section of PVC pipe.
The arm elastic goes through a PVC tube, but the leg elastic is unconfined and can easily be seen by pulling the leg away from the socket:



Looking up into the body through a leg hole, it's possible to see the PVC pipe between the arms and the pink plastic connector that sits up against the body wall:

 


The head elastic is anchored to a pink flanged connector piece in the neck:


What I like about this simple construction is that I feel like I could re-string this doll if I had to.  I often get intimidated by elastic-strung dolls, and figure that if their elastic loosens, I'll have to call in a professional.

Sydney's strawberry blonde hair is layered in back and hits the top of her legs at its longest point:


The hair feels fantastic.  It's soft and smooth and behaves just like real hair.  Syd has a few dry ends, but overall the hair is amazing to the touch.  The hair is shorter and thinner than I expected it to be, though.  I could just be imagining it, but the dolls in the Styles and Smiles Academy videos seem to have longer hair.  While the length and cut are wonderfully scaled to the doll, there's not a ton of hair to play with.


The layering adds to this volume problem.  Again, the layered style looks great, but it thins out the overall feel of the hair, and it means that the amount of hair around the doll's face is limited.  I imagine that this was a hard balance to strike--do you give the doll a believable hairstyle and hair length for her scale, or do you attach an unrealistic amount of hair so that there's more to play with?  Price and hair availability probably factored into this decision as well.


Sydney is about the same height as my other 18" play dolls.  If you look at her next to Carpatina Erin, Sydney's slightly larger head seems to make up most of the difference in height.  Also, Syd's shoulders are broader and her hands are bigger.  Sydney's large hands make it hard to put some of the slim 18" doll shirts on.


Sydney's clothes fit Erin nicely, but Erin's fitted Guinevere dress is too tight through the chest for Sydney:



The green in the outfit looks nice with Erin's eyes:


Because I have a BFC Ink doll again, I can show you how she compares to Sydney.  What strikes me most in this picture is how cheap and orange BFC Ink Kaitlin's plastic looks next to Syd's naturally-colored vinyl.  Also, as I mentioned in my Britt review, the BFC Ink's teenaged body is at bizarre odds with the childish head.  


BFC Ink dolls also epitomize bad doll hair to me, so Kaitlin is a good poster child for what My Salon Doll is trying to avoid.  Although Kaitlin's hair looks fine in the picture, above, her hair is already frizzy and tangle-prone--especially at the bottom.  

I recently got the chance to look at a BFC Ink Kaitlin doll that had been played with for a year or two, and the hair has become an unruly, un-brushable mat of tangles:



Sydney can't fit into Kaitlin's clothes, and the My Salon Doll outfit is too big for Kaitlin:


Here's Sydney next to a Karito Kid (Piper this time, in case you're tired of seeing Ling).  Of all the dolls I compared to Sydney, Piper is the one that stands out as being of much higher quality.  Everything about Piper's construction is top-notch, including her silky, smooth hair.  Piper is a class act.

A class act with ridiculous tan lines.
Piper is quite a bit taller than Sydney, but her torso size isn't that different.  Most Karito Kid pants and skirts are too wide for Sydney, but the shirts fit well and the shoes are only a little bit big.  Piper can wear Sydney's outfit, although the leggings have more of a capri style, and the shirt's belt sits above Piper's waistline.


Again, the outfit makes green-eyed dolls look nice:


Sydney's chest is about the same width as My American Girl Keira's chest, but Keira has wider shoulders and her stuffing gives her more thickness from front to back.  Also, while Keira keeps the same width throughout her torso, Sydney tapers a bit in the waist and hips:


These differences mean that Keira can wear Sydney's outfit, but the shirt is tight through the shoulders and the leggings are tight all over:


Many American Girl clothes fit Sydney, despite being loose in the shoulders and loose around the waist.  In general, pants work better than skirts because unless they have an elasticized waist, most skirts will fall off Sydney's hips.  

These generalities apply to 18" doll clothes that are advertised as fitting American Girl, like the My Life As athletic outfit I used in my Paradise horse review:



And the blue Springfield Collection dress that looks good on everyone:


My Salon Doll Sydni

At this point, I decided to leave Sydney in the blue dress and start playing with her hair.  I want to preface this section by saying that I have absolutely no hair styling skills.  I didn't even own a curling iron when I ordered this doll.  So...whatever I am able to accomplish with Sydney's hair, keep in mind that it's just the tip of the iceberg.

I began by attempting two simple braided pigtails.  The hair felt perfect as I was braiding--silky and smooth and easy to manage.  There were two problems with this style, though.  First, the shorter layers of hair around Sydney's face can't be contained very well by a braid, and they stick out pretty badly about half of the way down:



The second problem is that right where the part fell in the back of Sydney's head, I found this: 


There's a fairly large crack in the vinyl on the back of the doll's scalp:


My hypothesis about why this happened has to do with the design of the doll's head.  The vinyl used in these dolls is soft and pliable.  In the hair region, however, the head feels rock hard.  There's something inside of the head--like a skull made out of hard plastic.  My guess is that this skull serves two purposes; to help the head keep its shape and also to hold the rooted hair securely in place.  It's pretty clever, actually.  The hair is rooted into the soft vinyl, but then this hard plastic piece is glued to the inside, anchoring the ends of the rooted hair so that it doesn't fall out.

The downside to this design seems to be that the inner head piece puts some stress on the vinyl, stretching it and/or simply eliminating its flexibility.  The rooting holes probably create weak points in the vinyl that, when stressed, run the risk of starting a fissure:


I feel confident that if I had approached the company with this problem back in July when I purchased the doll, they would have happily replaced her (or her head).  Even now, three months later, something tells me that they would have cheerfully done something to remedy this.  I just didn't feel like it was fair for me to ask for a fix this long after my purchase.  I also didn't want to stop my review and wait for a new doll!  

When I re-parted the hair straight down the middle, the defect was completely hidden:


I'm pretty happy with how this part looks.  The rooting is dense enough to make the hair look quite realistic:


Here she is from the front:


Next, I tried a French braid on one side:


The hair looks nice and it behaves just like normal hair--thin hair, to be sure, but silky and very easy to manipulate.


The only problems are that, again, some of the hairs are so short that they pop out all over the place, and also there isn't enough weight in the hair to hold the pigtail down.  It sticks out at the bottom:

Pipi Longstocking style.
I changed Sydney's outfit and hairstyle.  Now she's wearing Magic Attic Heather's shirt and dress (the shirt is pretty tight, but it stretches to fit):


With a simple side braid in her hair:


The visible hair plugs here make me wish that this doll's hair was more densely rooted:


I got out my new curling iron ($4.99 at Walmart) to try some more adventurous hairstyles.

3/4 inch size was the smallest in stock.
Before turning up the heat, I decided to glue Sydney's head defect closed so that it wouldn't get any bigger.  I used super glue.  It was actually quite hard to push the edges of this rip together because the vinyl is very securely attached to the underlying support and there's practically no flexibility.  This made it even more clear why the rip occurred in the first place.  The vinyl must have been stretched too much over the plastic skull.  

I made a bit of a mess with the glue... 


...but after pressing the edges of the gap together with toothpicks for a while, I finally got it closed: 


As the curling iron was warming up, I tried some very loose curls:


These all but disappeared when I brushed the hair, though:


As the curling iron got hotter, I was able to make some tighter curls:


These make the hair behave very differently and are fun to play with:




These were the tightest curls I was able to achieve with my 3/4 inch iron:


It was really fun to see how these curls changed the look of some simple hairstyles:



Adding hair spray into the mix allowed for even more dramatic options!  

My Salon Doll Sydni

Now I really wish I had a crimping iron and some curlers to try next.  There's a lot more that could be done with this doll's hair.


I wasn't at all shy with the hairspray, so after this fancy up-do, Sydney needed a bath.  

All hair products are supposedly safe for this doll, so before Sydney's bath, I mused over the idea of dying her hair red.  I quickly concluded that it would be impossible to avoid staining the vinyl on her head, and that even highlights probably wouldn't be a wise idea.  Disaster averted.

I set Sydney in a sink full of soapy water and washed her hair under the faucet.  I used moisturizing shampoo and followed with some nice Aussie heavy-duty conditioner.  I scrubbed pretty hard at the head defect area, hoping to get rid of some of the glue residue.  


I tried to be a little carful around the doll's eyes, but on the other hand I didn't want to be too careful, because it is advertised that these dolls can go into the tub, and that's certainly going to mean full submersion.  Her eyelashes looked fine after getting pretty wet:

My Salon Doll Sydni

Sydney has a very small hole in the bottom of her body (a "pee hole") that is presumably meant to drain water out of her hollow torso.  It's pretty ineffective.  I had to twist all of her limbs upside-down and dump out the water.  I also had to pull one of her legs out of joint so that the water in her torso could drain.  It took a while to get to the point where I wasn't hearing water sloshing around in her legs, arms and head.  


The hair can easily be parted anywhere when it's wet like this.  In fact, it was difficult to find and restore the original part.


Some of the glue residue washed off, but not all.  I think it will come off with time and repeated washings.


Even after I thought I had most of the water drained out of her body, Sydney kept dripping.  Part of the problem is that all of the elastic was soaking wet, and water was trapped in the plastic pieces that anchor the elastic:



I decided to blow-dry Sydney's hair, and then let her sit and drain overnight.  Blow-drying was fun, and it gave the hair some additional body:


Both blow-drying and curling require quite a bit of tugging and pulling on the hair.  I am impressed that very few stands of hair came out during the whole process.  This hair is very securely attached.


What you can't tell from the picture is how great this doll smells now, too!


What I was missing during my styling sessions was a way to hold the doll in place while I manipulated her hair.  I ended up doing most of my styling with Sydney awkwardly wedged in between my knees.  The Styles and Smiles Academy videos show the dolls in a fancy salon chair.  This has always struck me as a cumbersome and silly doll accessory, but I might have just changed my mind.  A salon chair could be very useful, provided that the doll can be attached to the chair and the chair has enough weight to stay in one place.  The My Salon Doll chair looks impressive--and has a little seat belt for securing the doll.  American Girl and Our Generation offer salon chairs for their dolls, too.

The next day, I re-curled Sydney's hair (because it's fun) and took her outside for a photo shoot in some natural fall lighting.  I dressed her in American Girl Keira's pink shirt, Karito Kids boots (a little big), and the My Life As yoga pants (they're big in the waist but look great everywhere else).  

At first, I thought I could use my new fence as a backdrop....


But I realize that Sydney is fence-colored:


I took her out to the old leaf pile, which shows off her coloring much better:


My Salon Doll Sydni

After I moved her around a few times, I noticed something funny on her neck...


She's still dripping!


Sydney looks lovely in the natural light, and her hair might not be as shiny as some synthetic doll hair, but is a gorgeous natural blonde color.



My Salon Doll Sydni



Here she is in Karito Kid Ling's shirt, Piper's boots and her own leggings:

My Salon Doll Sydni


Apparently, Sydney likes climbing trees.  This is ok, I guess, since I know how to get her clean.



 She found a mushroom that perfectly matches her shirt!



Doesn't she have a sweet face?  I think lots of different people could project their own ideal personality and range of emotions onto this versatile expression:


Here is Sydney back inside, and back in her original outfit.  The outfit has grown on me a little.  The fabrics feel nice, and if I remove the belt, the shirt looks less crowded and the belt can be used as a hair accessory:


I might just snip the belt loops off--they're really large and they cover up the nicely seamed waist of the shirt.




You can see that in the indoor light, Syd looks much more like a redhead than she actually is.  I'll end the review with another outdoor picture, since these give the best sense of what the doll really looks like.


Bottom line?  I didn't have huge expectations for this doll.  I couldn't get a clear sense of what her face looks like from the small catalogue pictures online, and I assumed that her rooted hair would be really thin, or would look unnatural.  Also, a doll like this could easily have been all about the hair, with very little attention given to other details.  I was pleasantly surprised on all counts.  It was actually Sydney's sweet, mild face and big eyes that impressed me first, and then the unrestricted fun of playing with her beautiful hair that won me over completely.  


My Salon Doll advertises these dolls as bathtub-safe, and claims that they're able to tolerate any typical salon hair styling product.  Both of these statements are technically true, but I feel like there are some caveats.  I don't own many hair styling products, but everything I used on Sydney worked nicely.  However, I don't think that coloring or highlighting this doll's hair would be a good idea.  Maybe that's obvious enough to most people without having to plaster warnings on the box.  In terms of being bathtub-safe, she can certainly be submerged in water, but I wouldn't recommend it.  It was time-consuming and difficult to drain all of the water out of this doll.  Three days after her bath, Syd's head is still dripping and her hair is still damp.  I picture a little girl taking a bath with her My Salon Doll and then asking to snuggle with her in bed that same night.  This would be a bad, soggy idea.  Also, I am hesitant to get the gorgeous eyelashes wet.  I would hate for them to come un-glued.  Last, I worry about the internal elastic getting wet since it doesn't dry quickly.  No one wants a moldy doll.  In the future, I will wash Sydney's hair in the sink, carefully keeping her body and eyes dry.  

Sydney's hair looks and feels realistic, and the internal "skull" anchors the rooted fibers securely to her head.  Careful brushing, washing, drying and styling caused very little hair to fall out.  The length of hair looks great with this scale of doll, but the layered style reduces the total volume of hair.  For a doll that is specifically designed for salon play, Sydney doesn't have quite enough hair.  The pictures and videos on the My Salon Doll website suggest that there's some variation in hair length from doll to doll, and I might have just gotten a doll with hair on the short end of the spectrum.  Similarly, I have no way of knowing whether my doll's scalp crack was a freak occurrence or a common problem.  I guess it raises some concerns about the durability of the soft vinyl, especially since the rooting holes appear to create areas of weakness.  While I wish the hair was a bit thicker, I worry that a denser rooting pattern would increase the likelihood of a fissure in the vinyl.   

The range of possible hairstyles with this doll line is exciting.  You can part the hair anywhere, curl it, crimp it, braid it, twist it, add any amount of hairspray and gel...and then wash everything out and start over.  The only thing you can't do is cut the hair and expect it to grow back.  The hair is so nice that I find myself yearning for the few changes that would make it flawless.  Having perfect doll hair within reach is tantalizing.  If Sydney's hair were thicker and a few inches longer, I wouldn't be able to think of a single negative thing to say about it.  I have a lot of admiration for the people who recognized the frustrations and limitations surrounding synthetic doll hair...and proactively set out to manufacture a high-quality solution.


I like to ponder how some dolls manage to overcome their flaws and win our hearts completely.  For me, this doll is an interesting example of that phenomenon.  I have lukewarm feelings about her outfit, her head had a crack in it, the length of her hair is too short for some hairdos, and I wasted a lot of time trying to drain the water out of her body.  And yet I find myself very attached to sweet Sydney.  Furthermore, I would be really excited to purchase another My Salon Doll, either for myself or as a gift.  I like small companies and new ideas--but that's not why I like this doll so much.  I have mentioned before how I think certain shared experiences can strengthen the bond between a toy and its owner.  I think that the strongest force behind Sydney's charm is how realistically I can interact with her hair--and not just because her hair lathers well and and parts nicely.  Shampooing and styling this doll's hair was so lifelike that it evoked a motherly tenderness in me that I did not expect.  It brought back memories of bath time with my own kids, making spiked-up mohawks and sweet-smelling bubble beards.  It was a bonding experience.

Sydney is cute, personable and flexible enough to offer the same range of play options as most other 18" dolls.  On top of that, though, she introduces a whole new level of hair play.  Her realistic hair will help fulfill both the creative ambitions of young hair stylists, and also the desire to form an emotional, nurturing connection to a very special doll.

My Salon Doll

104 comments:

  1. I'm generally a little disturbed by dolls with human hair, but Sydni is a stunning doll, especially once she's not wearing the shirt she came with. It's good to know that her eyes are okay after washing. Thanks for another great review! Can't wait to hear your opinions on Clementine.

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    1. I think I became immune to the creep factor of human hair on dolls when I was young. I had a human hair Sasha doll, and it never occurred to me to think too much about it--I suppose it just made the doll seem more like me! I do feel like there might be some reading to do regarding the ethics of the human hair trade, though.

      Clementine arrives today! I am very excited. :D

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  2. I think you just want to make me poor. Just kidding! But seriously WHY must they make a doll that can have curled hair and is beyond cute?

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    1. Sorry! ;D I know what you mean, though--just when I think I've seen the last good 18" doll, another one crops up!

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  3. Great review as always, Emily. I'd heard about these dolls but had never seen one in person.

    It's funny, I've found that most dolls that claim they can be submerged in water don't really follow through with that promise. :} My middle daughter got one of the Lalaloopsy Mermaid dolls that was supposed to be able to go in the water. She took it with her in the hotel pool on one of our trips, and basically couldn't use the doll for the rest of the trip because it took the next 3 days for its head to drain...and that was a doll with plastic hair and a very small body cavity! I would definitely be nervous to get this doll's elastic wet. As you said, no one wants a moldy doll.

    I do love her sweet face and all of her styling possibilities...I think she'll be a big hit for little aspiring hair stylists. ;)

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    1. Thank you, beastsbelle!

      I wondered about those mermaid dolls! Ugh! That's too bad that your daughter couldn't enjoy her for the whole trip. Submersible dolls probably have to be solid plastic or solid vinyl. That could be interesting! Sydney would be pretty heavy if she was solid vinyl, but it might add some nice realism.
      Maybe that could be My Salon Doll 2.0? It would no doubt double the price, though...

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  4. where do you buy bfcinc and piper dolls in stores

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    1. Right now, BFC Ink dolls are showing up in Marshals and TJ Maxx stores for $14.99 (!). The Karito Kids are mostly overpriced on eBay these days, but were at Tuesday Morning about a year ago for $29.99. Both lines are discontinued, so they're getting hard to find!

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    2. Just so you know emily, My Salon Doll has mini crimpers and curlers :oD

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  5. OMG. I know who will be at the top of my Christmas list!!! I will probably ask for Jade and I can send in some photos or even a guest review, but the latter may be a bit redundant. Have fun with your doll!

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  6. Maybe you can use some of that spray in/shower out hair color?

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    1. Those are tempting suggestions--although Juliet, I had never heard of hair chalk. Now I am intrigued! :D

      I do worry that coloring formulas that wash off skin and hair might not wash off vinyl (?). I'd have to do a test on the bottom of her foot or something. That would be so fun, though, if Sydney could change her hair color!

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  7. What a great review, Emily :) I like but am not crazy about most 18 inch dolls but the fact that she has real hair is definitely cool to me - how nice to be able to style a doll's hair without using scalding water! And with real hair styling tools! The only thing about her I don'tlike is that the hair looks so thin, but I suppose it's a trade-off.

    I wonder if there are many doll customizers out there who do reroots with human hair extensions? I know I've seen a Blythe doll with rerooted human hair but at the time I found it a little creepy... Now I actually want to look into it more.

    Thanks again for a neat review!

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    1. Hi Amelia, the hair is a little thin--nowhere near as thin as I assumed it would be, though. I agree that it's a trade-off, but I do wish the hair were longer, to make up for the limitations to the rooting. To keep perspective, these are minor complaints. It's great hair overall!

      I think a lot of "reborn" artists use human hair and hand root it strand by strand. I can't even imagine undertaking that job. Blythe has a smaller head than most baby and toddler dolls, so that seems slightly more reasonable, but how would you even root a Blythe head? Now I need to look into that more, too! ;)

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  8. Cool I'm getting the Ashleigh doll

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    1. Ashleigh is great! I love her coloring and her outfit. Lucky you! :)

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    2. Hey it's me again! I've changed my mind. I'm gonna get hailey because Ashleigh is sold out

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  9. Her face is very charming! I hate her eyebrows, though. ... They look very playline, like the eyebrows you'd find on a $20 doll, not a doll that's over $100. If she had better eyebrows, she'd be perfect. I do like her quite a lot, though. She does have a sweetness and a lot of charm. Her hair looks fun to play with, too.

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  10. As much as I LOVE the hair (my teenage sis would go crazy over that hair), I tend to prefer just one type of doll for each size. Right now, 18 inch is, and probably always will be, dominated by AG. Even though Sydni is a pretty darn epic doll! Speaking of 18 inchers, have you heard that My Twinn came out with their dolls in 18" form? Still custom, a little less $$$. I would love a revwiw if them if you could.
    Thank you,
    Juliet

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    1. I have an 18" My Twinn doll ordered, Juliet! Two or three more weeks until I expect her to be ready. I am very curious about these dolls (and especially curious about how they'll handle my customization form...). They look extremely similar to American Girl, but with scaled-down My Twinn faces. I don't care much for the clothing they have listed right now, but there's no shortage of 18" clothing out there!

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  11. what a pretty dollie!!loving her delicate and natural look and also - her hair looks fantastic!!Thanks for another great review!

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    1. Thank you Urshula! "Natural" is a great way of describing her face--that sums it up very well!

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  12. Hi Emily!

    What a sweet doll Sydney is. I'm glad you've become so fond of her, given your disappointment with the Vanage doll, Luz (I read your comments about her on facebook - recently "liked" your page there! - and I can't blame you a bit for sending her back, as she was definitely not high-quality).

    Sydney has a very sweet face, with much more personality than an AG doll (I'm really not a big fan of their faces...). I like that her expression is pleasant and open, but not overly cheery. I guess I like dolls with more neutral expressions!

    I don't think Sydney is worth such a high price...but that is probably because I'm such a newbie to the doll world. It's good you got her on a discount, though. I suppose it's that lovely human hair that makes her special. The unique experience of getting to interact so much with her hair makes her more worth her price, I'm sure, but I think I would have to play with one of these dolls personally before considering purchasing her.

    I'm not too fond of very many 18" dolls though, so I have a bias there. The exception for me is the Karito Kids dolls. They are so special. Don't feel you're showing Ling too much in comparison pictures - I, for one, will never get tired of seeing her. She's gorgeous! But it's certainly fun to see your other Karito Kids as well. :)

    I have to thank you so much for sparking this admiration of dolls in me. My mom caught me looking at J-Dolls on Amazon the other day and I explained my recent interest and showed her some of my favorite J-Dolls. She thought it was very cool and so I am considering asking for one for a Christmas or birthday gift. I wanted to pick out one of the less expensive dolls under $40, but of course I fell in love with a more expensive one that costs $59.99 (the Picasso St. East doll)...argh!

    As always, great review! I always look forward to reading them and when you post a new review, it's the highlight of my day. :) I hope you're doing well, please take care and have a great week!

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    1. Hi Lissy! Thank you so much for your nice comment! Your comments always brighten my day, so we're even. :)

      There is something special about the Karito Kids, I am in complete agreement with you there. If I had to give away all of my 18" dolls, Ling, Piper, Gia and Zoe would be the last ones to go--probably Ling last of all because she's super-special to me for some reason. They have the neutral expressions you mentioned (maybe less neutral than Sydney, but still pretty mild...) and everything is so nicely made and carefully designed.

      That's so neat that you shared your interest in J-Dolls with your mom! I'm glad she could enjoy them with you--that makes it so much more fun. I love the variety in the J-Doll line. Searching for that perfect eye/hair/outfit combination (for the right price) is a great quest. Then, after you pick a doll, you can research her street and what inspired her outfit! The Picasso St. doll is wonderful--her plum hair is so unique! And that skirt looks great, too. You have good taste! Hunt around and watch eBay for deals, maybe you can find Picasso for less?

      Hope you're having a great week, too!

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  13. Again, I don't really like dolls like these, but her face is beautiful! I like how it looks like she's squinting a bit. Great review!

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    1. Thank you, Mae! There is an interesting, natural shape to her eyes--you're right! Especially compared to the wide-eyed Vanange doll...

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  14. Just a quick note, Conair has a 1/2 inch curling iron that apparently heats up in 30 seconds and has 25 different heat settings, It works good on doll hair :)

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    1. 30 seconds?? Wow! That's very impressive. Almost scary-impressive! ;D Thank you for the recommendation.

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  15. Special edition Malaree's outfit looks like BFC ink Kaitlins (brown dress, lace up boots, little cardigan).
    Did you try putting earrings on her? , the holes look large.

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    1. You're right! I even have that BFC outfit and I didn't see the similarity. My Kaitlin is used, though, and so she's missing the cardigan and boots. That'll be my excuse. ;) Good call! Do you mind if I go back and add your observation into the review? I find this clothing copying thing fascinating.

      I don't have pierced ears, so I couldn't test the earring holes with regular earrings. You know, I bet some Tonner earrings would work, though. They seem similar to human earrings. I should have tried that. I'll see if I can find some...

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  16. Hi Emily,
    I was hoping someone would do a review on these. I've been admiring them on the web site for some time. I'm not sure I will get one though. I kind of want to see a review of the new My Twinn 18" dolls before I buy any more expensive dolls.

    A few days ago, I was checking My Salon Doll's website and I saw an outfit similarity that immediately stood out to me. The new outfit that Malaree comes with has a very original Liv Katie vibe. Malaree even has green eyes and a similar color hair to Katie.

    As always, great review!

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    1. Oh, WOW!!! How did I miss that? You are so right about the Liv Katie vibe. Sharp eyes! These dolls aren't claiming to be about the clothes, but the copying is weird. I wonder if the company owners are aware of this? If the clothing design is contracted out to someone else, they might not even know what's going on. I wish I knew more about the process! Great catch. Maybe I'll go back and add that into the review (with your permission).

      I have an 18" My Twinn doll ordered--I am very curious about those, too...especially the customization process. That will be a fun review. :)

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    2. My guess is the clothing is contracted out to someone else, and it's probably the same company that makes clothing for several other doll lines. They probably used the same patterns.

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    3. Please feel free to add the Liv comparison to your review. Liv is a line I really miss.

      I am anxious to see the My Twinn review. I like how their bodies look from the web site. No more weird jointed limbs and overly long arms. I have one of the 23" and I can only say that the face is what I Iike about the doll. They look like they could share clothes with American Girl dolls.

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  17. I just found a Flickr group with some nice, close-up pictures of these dolls: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mysalondoll/with/5164632434/

    I do like the faces on these dolls a LOT more than the AG dolls. I always thought AGs were ugly, and hated that their cloth bodies went up all the way to the neck.

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    1. Thank you for the link! I didn't find anything like that in my search. Those are wonderful, clear shots--posted by the company, I think. There's a great close-up of the first doll I wanted, Malaree. Those dolls definitely have more hair than my Sydney, though. Humph.

      I notice that the Kendrey doll (brown hair, brown eyes) has REALLY wonky eyes. That might be more of a concern than I thought!

      Great find--thanks again for sharing. :)

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    2. The eyes don't look wonky to me. It seems like the pupils are straight. I guess everyone sees a doll differently.

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  18. Great review Emily, I think she has a sweet face but human hair is a big NO for me. Just got in the mail a lovely Christmas American Girl catalog. Looks like Molly needs to be on my list.
    A treat as Always, Tina

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    1. My first reaction was to cringe at the whole "human hair" thing, too. After seeing this review, though, it doesn't seem so weird.

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    2. Hi Tina! I can see why the human hair might bother you. I am not very well educated about the details of the human hair market (and probably should be!).

      This is a good time to get Molly! She was one of the dolls at the American Girl store that was cuter in person than I expected her to be. She's great, and after this year, she might get a lot more expensive...

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  19. I'm the person who wrote that I thought her eyebrows looked "playline." I have to add that I'm completely fascinated by her hair rooting! Her hair looks really natural from the back in that picture where you've braided her hair. It looks SO CUTE. Really, the eyebrows are the only negative I can find about this girl, because the rest of her looks wonderful.

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    1. I'm with you about the eyebrows! You're absolutely right. It's strange because the eyelashes are so nicely painted. I might consider trying to either add to her eyebrows, smudge them, or remove them and start over. I used to do that with Lee Middleton dolls to make them more realistic. Since Sydney already has a defect in her head, I don't worry as much about altering her factory face. I should mention, though, that the eyebrows don't seem quite as glaringly simple when I'm looking directly at the doll (as opposed to pictures of her). I think the zoomed-in pictures make some things look worse than they are!

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  20. I think this doll is beautiful!! If I get one it will be the brown haired brown eyed one. I love the expression on her face. Hey JulietXD good to see you on here !!!!!!

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    1. Hi Cindy, I love those brown eyes, too! Some brown doll eyes can be flat and dull, but these look really nice in the pictures. :)

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  21. I'd heard of these dolls before, but I was really put off by the website's clunkiness. (I use a javascript killer and have to allow sites, and if I have to allow too much I get way annoyed.) But this review might let me give them a second chance at some point. The natural looking rooting pattern is what sold me--I can get past ugly clothes. Unfortunately, the one that appeals to me in any capacity--Ashleigh--is completely out of stock. Well, pants.

    I certainly get the drive of advertizing a doll with actual styling hair for children, who are often warned that doll hair can be wrecked by heat and products--plastic will melt and melt fast when heated too high. I do worry how they get the human hair after seeing the documentary Good Hair by Chris Rock, but it's probably less that. (There's a lot of politics around human hair that bother me.) I've personally used standard heating products on my AG doll without any issue. Then again, I'm an adult and I'm cautious the whole way--high heat isn't good for anyone! If you're not sure you won't cause damage, I wouldn't recommend it.

    I really don't care for the Vanange girls--they've been on my no want radar for years. Mostly the boring outfit they come in, the poor web design, and that the dolls seem kind of shell shocked in the face--as if they've seen the end and no one was spared. May I ask specifically what made you dislike Luz?

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    1. Hi Nethilia, I should check out that documentary. I have to admit that I'd never given a second thought to human hair wigs and the behind-the-scenes details. Recently our community had a Locks of Love hair drive, though, so it's raised awareness.

      There's really nothing like the rooting pattern on these dolls It could be a little denser, as I mentioned, but it's pretty great as it is. I had always wanted to see a hand-rooted doll with human hair, but they tend to be one of a kind and very expensive. This is a nice alternative.

      I know that Vanange dolls come with some propaganda that can upset people or take them by surprise, but I was aware of that when I bought Luz and had decided to keep an open mind. I actually never fully de-boxed her or read her book or pamphlet or whatever she came with, so that wasn't what turned me off...although it might have bugged me if I'd read it, depending on the message and how heavy-handed it is. It was a couple of things about the doll herself that turned me off. Many of the reviews I read said she was "much nicer than her pictures," and I thought the opposite was true. I assumed her dress (while plain) would be made out of high-quality fabric, but it's very synthetic and thin. I thought her face looked friendly and cute in the pics, but I can't relate to it in person. Her hair didn't feel great and her eyes were not three dimensional or expressive. The presentation was bad, too, with the doll's hair all over the place and little bits of cut hair stuck to her face. I didn't feel like I was getting a $100 doll, but I don't like the idea of writing a negative review for a doll from a small company. My last reason is lame: I had just spent too much on 18" dolls and Luz was by far my least favorite of the three dolls.

      There are too many other good options out there that are worth the money--not the least of which is AG Rebecca, who I still need to buy some day. :)

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    2. I'd heard of the pamphlet, and that likely would have turned me off. Only one doll has been adorable enough to get me past the propaganda, and she was nearly half off at the time and I tossed almost everything about her from the company out of the window. The dress at a glance feels like what I call GeneriDress--barely shaped, not much variety, and looks like it was assembly lined. The only differences in the outfits among every girl is their personal color--honestly, that's a cop-out. Those all seem like very good reasons to me--after all, if you don't like a doll, there's no reason to keep her.

      A lot of companies are always trying to leap onto the AG wagon and get a bite of that pie, but it's like tracing a picture instead of drawing one--you can see the copying, or there's no reall drive other than to be the AG alternative. Most have either petered out or are limping along in a lot of cases. Honestly, if a doll line is going to cost as much as or compete with AG's ubiquity, it had better be worth it and very few have made it worth it. A lot have tried and failed for various reasons. I've seen lines come and often go, but they really can't offer the variety of the moddies or the background of the Historicals.

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    3. I had to do a web search to find out what kind of pamphlet you're talking about. Apparently the Vanange dolls come with a religious pamphlet?! You know, if they wanted to market a religious-themed doll, they should just come out and say that's what it is, instead of letting people buy one and then being surprised by getting religious propaganda along with the doll. That's a big turn-off for me. I'm glad I don't like the Vanange dolls anyway, because now I'll never buy one.

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    4. At least when "Life of Faith" dolls were being produced, you knew there was a religious theme involved. I loved them when they were produced but they were gone fairly quickly. I stopped collecting for several years and missed many, many dolls that came and then were gone. I love that there are articulated, jointed, 18" dolls now. So much more fun, but then, I never have jumped on the AG bandwagon. They aren't my cup of tea. :)

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  22. My daughter has many AG dolls (collector of sorts :) ) 2 Journey girls but I showed her this review which we both loved! We just ordered Jade my Salon doll as still on sale and cannot wait to see her. She is excited to wash & style her hair! Thanks for great review!

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    1. Oh yay! Jade looks SO beautiful! I like that name, too. Let me know what you think of her if you get a chance. I hope you and your daughter get a doll with nice long hair and no cracks...and have a wonderful time styling her hair!

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  23. Yay, new review! I so enjoy reading your reviews, I rush here for the latest post, and enjoy them all a lot, even when they, like now, are about something I'm personally not interested in.
    I'm not one for 18" dolls, and I wouldn't consider myself a doll collector (she said while writing a list of Monster High dolls she wants..), but I really enjoy the way you write, the pictures, and the throughness you put into every post. :)

    Hope you'll consider reviewing some of the new Monster High's when they're released, but really I'm looking forward to any review you write.

    Oh, and More animal facts please! ;)

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    1. Hi Panthera, thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I think it's great that you can appreciate dolls outside of your own collector's taste. I like to learn about dolls that I would never consider buying, too. I will certainly keep my eye on the new Monster High dolls. I actually have one here for a future review...and a Monster High guest review that I need to publish today, so there will be no shortage of ghoulish girls. ;)

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  24. Wow, I'm really intrigued by this doll! It doesn't hurt that the company is based just down the road from my house.. how cool is that?!? I tried to navigate through there website to see if they are in any local stores as I'd love to get my hands on one before investing, but it looks like they may only be available via mail order.

    I do have one concern though. Won't her hair eventually become super brittle and damaged with repeated heat styling? I know *my* hair does!! I just wonder how the hair will hold up after a year or two.

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    1. Arghh.. *their* website, not *there*. I can't believe I made that mistake.. it's one of my personal top pet peeves. HAH!

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    2. That's a good point about the hair, Steph! On the website, they talk about deep conditioning, and even leaving the hair in conditioner overnight. I don't know whether that's a solution that will keep working forever, though. It think eventually the hair will break down.

      It's really neat that you live so close! I'd call them up--they seem super nice. You can check out Jade for me. ;D

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    3. There, there, it's ok--I didn't even see your there there! :)

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    4. I ordered Bailey. I'm so weak. ;) I was too chicken to call (I hate the phone) so I just ordered online. She will be here tomorrow! I'll let you know what I think. I was very tempted by Jade's red hair, but prefer Bailey's outfit. Thanks for the great review, but I have to unsub now because you're costing me too much money. Just kidding. :D

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    5. Oh for pete's sake... Apparently commenting without typos or double posts is an issue for me this week. XD

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    6. What double post? ;D

      I really hope you like Bailey! Please let me know what you think (and how long her hair is). After a wash and some styling, I bet you'll be hooked. If not, just email me and I'll buy her from you. She's lovely. ;)

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    7. I love her!! She really is beautiful in person. I think Bailey's hair may be just a tad longer then Sydney's. It does have some slight layering though, so it's hard to tell. The longest strands fall just below her fingertips when I pull them straight. I took a couple of quick pics of her this evening after I curled her hair a little:

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/73675677@N06/sets/72157636705878153/

      I am most pleased that she works very well with my Kidz n Cats doll Mike! She's a tiny bit taller, but otherwise I think their scale is fairly similar. Thanks again for your awesome review!!!

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    8. Oh, and Bailey's eyebrows are a little different then Sydney's! They are less sparse (have more drawn lines). Hopefully you can see that in my pictures.

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  25. Hi Emily, I am really enjoying your reviews of these larger dolls. I wasn't interested before but now I quite like the potential for hairstyling and perhaps being able to put my daughters outgrown clothes on them. Do you think they would fit any real clothes? If so what sort of age group? I have some lovely dresses and cardigans that my daughter had as a baby and I would hate to part with them. I like Sydney's face and I would have the best time styling her hair with hair tongs.... BUT I am totally freaked out by the idea of it being real human hair. I don't think that I could cope with it. I am really curious about the history of their hair too :p I mean, who sells their beautiful long hair, under what circumstances and for how much? I'm off to google this...

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    1. I think newborn baby clothes will fit 18" dolls, but sometimes the newborn clothes are too wide for the dolls (since the body proportions are different). It depends on the clothing.

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    2. I can't think of any real human clothes that would fit these dolls. Maybe preemie clothes, but the styles would be wrong. I agree with Anonymous, above, that the width would be the biggest problem.

      You need some baby dolls, my friend. :) That's one of the reasons I started collecting babies (and toddlers) years ago--they're all wearing those treasured baby outfits that I couldn't part with! Have you ever looked at Monika Levenig's MasterPiece dolls? They're life-sized, I think, at various ages. Some of the faces are not for me, but some are adorable. I have been considering a review, but they're SO big...

      It's funny, the human hair doesn't bother me at all, but I see that it's an issue for a lot of collectors. It feels so nice! I think it might be one of those cases where the less I know, the better--but I'd still love to learn what you discover in your searching!

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  26. Thank you for such a thorough review. I don't think I like the expression the doll has enough to get her. Like the AG dolls' looks much more, but the hair makes it tempting. I wish you would review a Kidz and Katz doll. I am struck by how pretty they are, and they so look like little girls. Sydnie looks like an older girl to me. Much as I agree that the BFC doll is not good quality, that she does have a pretty face as those dolls tend to do so. That's what puts me off from Clementine and those dolls, and the Maplelea dolls. I don't like their faces and expressions. Question" why keep the low quality BFC and other such dolls but return the Vanage doll? Was she THAT bad?

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    1. Hi Catherine, I will review a Kidz 'n' Cats doll--soon, I hope! I actually don't know why it has taken me this long. I worked on the review with my niece over the summer!! :-O They seem like great dolls for testing horses, which is my obsession right now.

      I am excited to see Clementine's face (tomorrow!!). I see what you mean that her face looks different from other dolls, and I am very curious (nervous, too!) about how it looks up close and personal. I have heard a lot of positive reactions, so my hopes are high. We'll see!

      I'm willing to keep BFC Kaitlin around because she was inexpensive ($15) and I get questions about her body size. I also agree with you that she has a pretty face. She rides horses well, too. ;) But poor Luz was too much money given my "meh" reaction to her and given that there were other dolls I liked better (Sydney and Clementine). There's something about Luz's face and large head that I can't relate to. She's out of proportion with my other 18" dolls and ends up looking like an oversized toddler or something. She's not terrible at all, but I was expecting a lovely cotton dress and sparkling bright eyes and silky hair...and she didn't have those things. I try to avoid doing big negative reviews, too--especially when it's a small company.

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  27. Hey Emily! Thanks for the great review! I just have one quick question... I am a teenage girl and i want an
    18" doll to practice hairstyling and sewing on. Which doll would you recommend for me? Thanks again for the amazing review!

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    1. Hi Lindsey, well, I am definitely not a seamstress, but I know that Nethilia said in her guest review that she enjoys sewing for the Hearts 4 Hearts girls, and I can confirm that they have gorgeous rooted hair! That might be a good pick for under $50. They are shorter than 18", though, and don't share clothes with dolls like American Girl.

      From my limited experience, I think a good decision to think about is probably wigged hair vs. rooted hair. Wigged dolls (like American Girl, Carpatina, Karito Kids, Magic Attic, Kidz 'n' Cats) seem to be more expensive ($100 range), but also tend to have thick, nice hair. When styling, you have to contend with wig stitching rows, a visible wig cap and hair that can't get wet. My wigged dolls are all pretty comparable in terms of hair play. The longer-haired dolls are best and I might put Kidz 'n' Cats at the bottom of the list because their hair can get frizzy and they have a lot of articulation (which I understand isn't great for sewing).

      Rooted dolls (like Our Generation, Hearts 4 Hearts, BFC Ink, My Life As) tend to be less expensive, but can have low-quality hair (as with My Life As and BFC Ink). You have to deal with rooting rows (which could be sparse or uneven) and a visible scalp. Rooted hair can usually get wet, though. I think Hearts 4 Hearts have the best hair in the rooted group, but Our Generation dolls have pretty good hair for dolls under $20, and some of the new OG dolls have long hair designed for styling. Those might be a good lower price option.

      If you can go for a higher-priced doll, though, it's really hard to beat the My Salon Doll hair experience. Getting to use hairspray, gel, shampoo and a curling iron (oh--and a hair dryer!) was all pretty amazing. :)

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    2. As a seamstress, I'd recommend an 18" AG styled doll--it doesn't have to be an AG, but you want that style and size. Off the shelf patterns for 18" dolls are widespread and good to learn with, and you can find them at places like Joann's or Wal-Mart. Just try to avoid Simplicity cause sometimes their patterns don't make sense.

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  28. That head crack creeps the crap out of me,

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    1. It does kind-of look like a real wound, doesn't it? No blood, though. Thank goodness. )

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  29. The face is gorgeous, she has such a sweet expression. I love how this doll looks. Thanks for the tip about being careful with the elastic, I just found a vintage doll with elastic in it, and I wanted to give her a good bath, but I will clean her with a cloth now, I don't want molded elastic in this doll :-).

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  30. I found a televised interview with the creator of the My Salon Dolls. There is a video of it here: http://studio5.ksl.com/?nid=71&sid=13386598. She seems like an absolutely charming lady. The hair is the biggest seller, to me, but the faces are quite cute, too. Thanks for your great review. I really want one, now!

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  31. I abousultly LOVE this doll! Her face is so sweet.


    Liz.

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  32. She's pretty, but not my type of doll; even so, I always enjoy reading your thoughts about toys.

    I know real hair on dolls creeps out and/or concerns some people, but, provided it was obtained in an ethical and voluntary manner, I don't have a problem with it. In the past, I've used my own hair, as well as fur from our cats and (now deceased for some time) poodle (no harm was done to any of the animals in acquiring it; the dog hair came from his regular haircuts, and the cats' from their shedding and/or the process of removing matted fur), to give papier mache figures hair, but those were just glued-on jobs, not rooted.

    It's obviously too late now, but maybe this might be helpful in the future sometime: When I need to get super glue into small/tight areas, like the fissure you experienced on Sydni's head, what I do is put a drop of the glue on the end of a metal sewing needle and use that to apply it into the tight space, rather than the glue nozzle itself, which gives you a lot more precision and reduces the chances of getting the glue where you don't want it. Of course, you have to be careful not to let the needle adhere to whatever you're gluing together, but, as long as you're fairly quick with the application, it isn't a problem.

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  33. Hello,Emily!
    I'm Camila,I secretly stalk your blog,I would love to do a guest review of I <3 Fashion Frankie Stein :3

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  34. I also found the My Salon Doll Pinterest group, with lots of good photos: http://www.pinterest.com/mysalondoll/my-salon-doll/
    :) (No, I don't work for them. I'm just finding these dolls very interesting right now and was doing some Google searches.)

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  35. Wow, I was surprised at the negative comments about the Vanange dolls. I own 3 of them (Luz not being one of them) and do think some of their features are better than American girl dolls. The greater amount of vinyl being one. The clothing is of good quality cloth and carefully sewn as are the accessories (I have the school outfit and floral dress) and I happen to really like their faces. They might seem shell shocked on the web site but in person to me at least have a sweet, serene old fashioned innocence that makes me think of Anne of Green Gables, even Disney to some degree. In contrast Sydni's squared jaw strikes me as typical of a more mature face, and while pretty is for that reason not so appealing. I too found her arms too short. Another feature of the Vanange dolls is the time that was put into the books that do try to teach about what it's like to live in another part of the world. While not at the level of AG, these dolls have aspects that I thought both Nethilia and Emily would appreciate for their interest respectively in companion doll books, respect for multiculturalism, and the type of wholesomeness that Disney attempts to market. Then again Vannuzza is a much, much smaller, much more humble operation so my expectations were lower perhaps. I felt I got a lot. The dolls have an elegant look that I especially appreciate in this age where dolls are too often sexualized and still set up as role models for children. While they cost as much as an AG doll, you can, if you are patient get them as Emily did for as little as $68. I own a lot of dolls, some bjds that cost a lot of money and the Vanange dolls will not be leaving my collection anytime soon that I can foresee even with some of their less than perfect aspects. The quality of the eye mechanism has raised some doubts with me, for e.g., and I do concede the simplicity of the white dresses they come in is perhaps a bit too plain, but the heart behind the production of these dolls is also clear to see, and the faults are not enough to make me love them any less. I hope to post pics of these of my own sometime soon so they can have a fairer shot at the light. I think it's a real pity both Emily and Nethilia chose to overlook them as quickly as they did. A little odd also since there are other dolls that haven't been quite so expensive or of such good quality that Emily has reviewed and that she appreciates nonetheless. I guess beauty really is in the eye of the beholder as they say. I am saving my money for Clementine, and Wilde Imagination's Patience but a Salon doll is unlikely to enter my collection.

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    1. I certainly didn't give Luz a chance to grow on me (like I often do) and I hope I didn't make a mistake by judging her so hastily. Since I usually look at dolls pretty thoroughly, and I didn't do that with Luz, it might have been best to keep my thoughts about her quiet. I did have a bad first reaction to her, though. It's tough, because I can't buy every single doll out there, and sometimes I get that sinking feeling that I've made an expensive mistake and bought I doll I won't enjoy, or a doll that I am not excited to write about. If I can recognize that soon enough, I can get the money back and try again. I might have felt differently about Luz at the end of the review--you're right, but it seemed risky at a time when I had to be careful.

      You see these dolls in a different light, which I understand and respect. I have felt the desire to defend a doll I love from criticism, too. I would be more than happy to post a guest review of your pictures and thoughts here (however long or short) to level the balance. Just let me know! Maybe if I had gotten the little redheaded Vanange girl, I would have been hooked? ;)

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    2. Thanks, Emily. I appreciate your replying and the offer. I must try to make that happen in the midst of my crazy schedule with the help of my sister who takes great doll photos. I do own Analisa, the little redheaded Vanange girl, as you endearingly refer to her. She has a beautiful, rich copper color to her hair. I have Kristelle and Vannah too and change my mind from time to time which one I like the best.

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    3. To be perfectly honest, I'm not a fan of Disney style "wholesomeness." Things like that as an selling point is a huge warning or worry for me, and a doll has to be very special or unique for me to overlook messages that come with them. I don't feel that from the Vanange dolls. Only one doll has been done well enough for me to bite down even with a distaste in my mouth--and in that case, I was personally pleased that the money didn't go to the company that made the doll as it was after they folded. Diversity for me has to be more than just beyond the surface, and I don't feel that from the Vanange dolls. I have internal views that are a barrier to any purchase.

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  36. She's a pretty cute doll, i like her face it's very sweet and i like that she has eyelashes. I'm not a big fan of her hair, i think it looks too thin for a 18' doll of this kind compared to other 18' play dolls. The outfit she comes with pretty cute, i liked her shoes the best. Have you looked in to getting the Disney Store Animator princess toddler dolls? i think they're 16' not quite 18' but they're so darn cute. Maybe a future review perhaps? Also, have you seen the Journey girls at TRU? they're a TRU exclusive brand, some of their outfits are really cute and similar to modern fashion of today.

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  37. I love My Salon Dolls, I really want Jade! I'm thinking about getting one.....but there's also Clementine. I love the A Girl for All Time company, their books look really interesting, as well as their dolls. I can't wait for your review of Clementine!

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  38. Wow she has a lovely face, and her hair colour is so unusual. I think the pink and white outfit looks best on her. Sadly she would not even be a doll I would consider buying - no stocks in our country and I am trying to buy locally available dolls (to avoid postage costs and reduce my carbon footprint). Meg

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  39. Wow! I want one of these dolls so badly! I'm thinking of getting the Brynn doll. I'm so happy i found this review because I've wanted one of these dolls for a while, but I was hesitant because I didn't know anyone who had one, so I didn't know what to expect. Thank you so much Emily!

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  40. Hi thank you so much for the review i've been dying for somebody to review these dolls, I love love love the concept of being able to style the dolls hair like real human hair styles but the part that kept putting me off buying them is the poor quality of images on the website you can't see the faces clearly and i've not found any reviews at this point other than yours... I had contacted the company previously about releasing darker skin dolls of African American appearance and i was told Alexus would be released before christmas, i keep checking the website but no such luck, Kendrey appears to be the darkest skin tone available to date.

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    1. PS i forgot to mention i'm not sure if you've encountered these as yet in your doll collecting but i've purchased my daughters A My London Girl doll each for christmas and they are of amazing quality i am very happy with them, and the hair is super lush and thick.

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  41. I recently bought a My Salon Doll and I love it! The rooting is very realistic but I was disappointed with the length. It seems like the models they use for their catalog and videos do have considerably longer hair. That would be my only complaint.

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  42. In my opinion, her hair should be thicker, and the hole in her torso should be bigger. or perhaps she should be made water-tight? The hair is beautiful, but my question is, why are her eyes crooked-looking? And her hair.... it just doesn't seem to have that "blonde" look that I want. And I am not a fan of her eyebrows.
    - Anonymous A.

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  43. thanks for this review, you answered all my questions about this doll. I can now purchase a doll and feel confident that my daughter will love her, Much appreciated.

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  44. I made the mistake of ordering one of these dolls, and they sent me one with wonky eyes. (Really badly wonky, not just slightly off.) I've been asking them for a month if I could make an exchange or get a refund, and they won't even answer my e-mails. They have absolutely terrible customer service. It's a shame, because the doll is nice besides the wonky eyes.

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    1. Oh, no! That's not good. It says they'll accept returns, and that manufacturing defects are fixed for free, but I'd be nervous about shipping a doll back without talking to the company first! Did you email them directly or use the form on their website? When I had some questions for this review, I used that online contact form and they wrote back to me within hours!

      I should go back and add something about this into the review so that others are warned--especially if they never fix the problem for you. If you send me a picture of the eyes, I can add that into my review, too. Just email it to toyboxphilosopher@gmail.com. Also email me if you're interested in my Sydney as a replacement. She's not perfect, either, though!

      I am so sorry you had a bad experience. :(

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  45. I have just purchased SYDNI for my daughter for Christmas.I cannot wait for her to open it on Christmas morning! I do hope she doesn't have a crack in her head though. Return shipping will be quiet expensive for us as we are in Australia. The customer service was fantastic! Any email.I sent was replied to within 12hrs. I am already looking at our next purchase and I think it maybe HAILEY or BRITTANY

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  46. I just ordered Kendrey and Maycee and cannot wait for them to arrive! I am a bit concerned though, because on their facebook page there are people who ordered dolls and are saying they got their confirmation emails but no shipping emails and no dolls yet. The company has not responded to them either. The dolls I bought are in stock and they are only one state away from me. I would expect them fairly quickly since their shipping estimate says 5-9 days. I have not gotten an email from them about shipping but I did get the confirmation email of my order.

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    1. Just an update, I did receive my dolls. They sent me an Ashleigh instead of Kendrey though. I called and she said that they are the same doll with different outfits and sent me a free outfit because of the mistake. I have to say I love both of these dolls! They are very well made, the hair is wonderful and the customer service is amazing!

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  47. I have been looking for a doll for my daughter we bought her a our generation doll at Christmas and even with her taking very good care of it the hair is horrible so I've been looking for a doll with great hair, I'm very hesitant because I could not find much on the internet about these dolls so this review helped me a lot! We had already said it we can't find something else we'd get an American girl, but my daughter isn't really into the clothes and accessories she loves doing the hair so to be able to do so much more with this dolls hair is awesome! I will post again after we order

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  48. I found your review and it struck me to see how others felt about Sydney too. I bought Sydney about 4 or 5 years ago for our daughter. I live in Utah and happened to go to a boutique/showing. We got to actually play with them and watched our girls fall in love with them.

    We ended up buying each of our girls (my sis and I) one and gave them for Christmas.

    It's now been many years and she still looks like she was fresh from the store (no cracks or anything)! Our daughter is now 10 and she still absolutely loves playing with her!

    Btw, at one point her elastic came apart and they were the sweetest family to work with. I just brought her to them and they repaired her free of charge. We even bought a few more outfits for her while we were there.

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  49. I found your review and it struck me to see how others felt about Sydney too. I bought Sydney about 4 or 5 years ago for our daughter. I live in Utah and happened to go to a boutique/showing. We got to actually play with them and watched our girls fall in love with them.

    We ended up buying each of our girls (my sis and I) one and gave them for Christmas.

    It's now been many years and she still looks like she was fresh from the store (no cracks or anything)! Our daughter is now 10 and she still absolutely loves playing with her!

    Btw, at one point her elastic came apart and they were the sweetest family to work with. I just brought her to them and they repaired her free of charge. We even bought a few more outfits for her while we were there.

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  50. She looks pretty cute in that last picture.

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  51. The website says that they are all vinyl but the ropes are elastic and if they get wet they will eventually rot and fall apart, right?

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I value and welcome all opinions, but comments with abusive or offensive language will be deleted.