So why didn't I review this doll when I first got her? Well, first of all, I didn't have a great ordering experience with the company. I'll assume they've improved their customer service over the last few years and leave it at that. But, more importantly, when Vivienne arrived, I immediately took her out of the box to inspect her face...and discovered that she had terrible staining all around her neck from her dark scarf. So, I popped her back into her box and pondered what to do next. As a general rule, I don't like to review dolls that I know I'll dislike, especially when I'm dealing with a small start-up company. So, I tucked Vivienne away in a corner and procrastinated over the review...for two and a half years.
When I discovered Vivienne in her corner the other day, I figured it was time for her to come out of hiding and earn her keep. Another thing that prompted me to finally write this review is the fact that (from what I can tell) very few people have reviewed the Global Girls over the past few years, and most of those reviews come from sites that were given a doll for free. You know how I feel about that. So, for better or for worse, here's Miss Vivienne:
|"Vivienne" by Global Girl, $89.99.|
There are six Global Girl characters: Vivienne (from France), Marcela (from Argentina), Mei Ling (from China), Tiffany (from the United States), Tatiana (from Russia), and Amahle (from South Africa). I chose Vivienne primarily because of her outfit. I also purchased Vivienne's book, Vivienne in France, for an extra $9.99. My total bill was $113 (with shipping).
As I mentioned, the Global Girl brand was designed to make kids curious about other countries and cultures. I love this idea, but I have to take issue with one statement on the Global Girl website. It says: "After much research, we realized that there was no doll brand or book collection that focused on different countries and cultures in a meaningful, inspirational and empowering way." Seriously? What about Karito Kids? Hearts 4 Hearts? BFC Ink Pen Pals? All of these dolls were around well before Global Girl. Heck, Madame Alexander has been making country-themed dolls since I was an infant. I mean, technically some of these brands were discontinued by the time Global Girl came around, but the dolls still exist--and they absolutely focus on different countries and cultures in a meaningful way. So, the theme is great, but it's not new or unique.
Moving on. Here's Vivienne with her book:
Vivienne comes in a cardboard box with minimal decoration and a large plastic window. The Global Girls logo is on the front of the box, accompanied by the unpunctuated line, "A World of Fun Inspiring Stylish Girls:"
The side of the box says "Inspire. Empower. Believe. Dream."
Those words apply to the stories in this line. Each girl has a book associated with her character, and each book has a plot that's meant to be inspiring and empowering.
For example, Vivienne's story is about how she enters a cooking competition to help her grandfather (her papoun) sell more vegetables at his stand. She works hard, makes a new friend, overcomes some mild adversity, and (spoilers!) wins the prize.
|Très bien, Vivienne!|
Do you notice a similarity in design to the American Girl books?
The brand name, Global Girl, is also an obvious play on American Girl. These are really small infractions, I know, but copying still bugs me.
Anyway, Vivienne in France is a cute story with some fun details about France intertwined (a bit clumsily at times) throughout the plot. There's also a whole section at the back of the book that introduces some basic facts and trivia about France.
This part reminds me of Maplea Saila's beautiful journal.
The illustrations (by Rebecca Evans) are the best part of the book, I think. I like Ms. Evans' style:
Ok, Papoun looks a little funny in that picture, but Vivienne's face is so joyful and full of life. She looks like a happy, sweet, nine-year-old kid:
Let's see if the doll can measure up to the lively paintings in the book.
Vivienne came tied to the back of the box with white satin ribbons:
She was packaged with her purse slung over her right arm:
She also came with a black hairnet keeping her long blonde hair under control:
This doll stands really well on her own, but it looks odd to me that she's not wearing socks. I usually wear socks when I'm wearing a coat. Usually--but not always.
The thing is, the shoes look like they were fitted to accommodate socks. They're a bit too big to be worn barefoot:
I took the hairnet off and played around with Vivienne's thick wig:
This doll has a lot of hair, and it's a bit unruly.
Vivienne's bangs are long, so when I comb them straight down, they block her eyes:
|Où sont ses yeux?|
The bangs are meant to be swept off to the side:
This girl has scary-intense blue eyes. When I re-opened her this past week, the eyes were even more intense than I remember from that first encounter in 2014. The eyes look like they've faded and clouded up a bit over the years--just like the low-quality eyes on the newer My Twinn dolls. However, this doll did have unusually bright blue eyes to start with.
Vivienne looks nice with her black scarf tied in place, but I knew what was hiding under that scarf:
I decided to take the scarf off and deal with the stains right up front. I was curious to see if the marks were as bad as I remember.
What could be hiding under there??
It's like a Sunday Surprise, but it's not Sunday and this isn't gonna be a good surprise.
Yeah...the stains are pretty bad:
The stains do not come off with Magic Eraser. I could try the benzoyl peroxide treatment, I suppose, but I'm not sure if I want to turn this doll into a project.
Luckily the scarf also makes a great hair tie, so I used it to get Vivienne's long hair out of the way:
Here's her face up-close:
This doll scares me a little. She's angry-looking and kinda spooky.
I've gotten used to Vivienne over the past week (occupational hazard), but she's still intimidating. Her eyes are really unnatural. The ghostly blue color is unrealistic and the irises are way too big for her face--there's practically no white showing at the edges of her eyes. All of this gives her a bit of a supernatural appearance.
She is a far cry from Ms. Evans' joyful portrait, that's for sure:
I actually think that Vivienne has a decent face mold. She's super-grumpy, sure, but if you look at her mouth in isolation of her eyes, it's not so bad. In fact, it's quite pretty:
She also has a nice profile:
Ok, so her chin is a little fierce, but it's mostly good.
I think that the eyes are the biggest problem with this face. If I ever summon enough energy to peroxide the stains, I might attempt an eye-swap, too. We'll see.
Let's take a closer look at those eyes:
It might help to pull off the lower lashes. They're too heavy and wide:
The irises are strange, too. From far away it looks like there's an intentional pattern etched on the irises. Up close, though, it looks more like the irises are peeling or damaged in some way:
The eyeball is also cloudy--again suggesting that the eyes have degraded over time. There's no question that Vivienne is an excellent eye-swap candidate.
Eyes are such a critical part of a doll's personality. When I think about my favorite dolls (both artist dolls and play dolls) most of them have remarkable eyes. To be clear, remarkable eyes can be expensive mouth-blown German glass eyes, yes, but they can also be well-placed acrylic eyes or beautifully-done painted or applied eyes. Global Girl clearly took a shortcut with their eye selection and eye fitting steps. That was a mistake.
Vivienne has pierced ears that can hold real earrings:
This is an interesting feature that I haven't seen before on a play doll. It's actually surprising to me that more dolls don't have this capability.
I assume that kids could wear Vivienne's earrings and swap their own earrings with her? That sounds fun, but I don't have pierced ears so I'm not really sure about the possible contraindications for doing this. Would the earrings get too dirty, perhaps?
The only downside I can see is that the earrings would have to be removed before giving Vivienne to a younger kid.
Vivienne comes wearing a nice-looking, multi-piece outfit featuring a long red dress coat with black velour details. This coat is the reason I chose Vivienne over the other Global Girl dolls:
She carries a matching velour purse that opens in front with a small square of velcro:
The coat itself is lightweight, but the fabric has a mild roughness that imitates wool quite well:
There are three massively oversized velour-covered buttons on the front:
These buttons are just for decoration.
The collar and cuffs are all carefully done in black velour, too:
The black cuffs and collar of the coat have left faint stains on Vivienne's wrists and neck, but the red wool-like fabric does not appear to cause any staining.
The coat opens down the front with a long strip of velcro.
This coat is unlined, but very nicely constructed:
Underneath the coat, Vivienne is wearing a black and white striped tee shirt over black stretch leggings:
This striped shirt seems like such a French cliché. I feel like all she's missing is a beret and a mustache. However...I did a small amount of reading online and discovered that these striped "Breton" shirts are actually quite popular in France...so it's a good choice.
I think Vivienne also would have looked great in a replica of the little blue dress that's on the cover of her book:
The tee shirt opens all of the way down the back with a long strip of velcro:
And under the tee shirt...
Vivienne is wearing an ill-fitting knit camisole:
Does the camisole look familiar to you?
We'll get back to that in a sec.
I had to remove Vivienne's shoes and leggings in order to get a better look at her underwear.
The loose-fitting shoes are made out of imitation leather. They have cardboard-like soles and a simple velcro strap:
Ok, here's a better look at Vivienne's underwear:
Oh, wait a minute--look at her legs!
Yikes. I should have guessed that these would be badly stained, too.
A little research into bleeding fabrics and vinyl could have prevented this. It's really sad to see, especially after the above-and-beyond attention that I know Maru and Friends gives to this kind of detail.
I should mention that I did not inspect Vivienne's legs in 2014 on the day she arrived. I looked at her neck and then immediately put her away. That means it's possible that the leg stains occurred sometime during the last few years. Perhaps if I had purchased her and then immediately removed her leggings, these stains would not have happened. Hard to know for sure. The neck stains have been there for two and a half years, though. That's a fact.
Back to the underwear! The underpants match the camisole:
They also match the My Twinn signature camisole and underwear:
|Global Girl underwear, My Twinn underwear.|
Things get copied all of the time. That's life, I suppose. But this drives me nuts. Design your own freaking underwear. It can't be that hard.
Global Girl could have left out the underwear completely (it's a pain to get these pieces on and off anyway) or they could have designed something fun and new that actually makes their dolls distinct.
Also, whenever I see blatant copying like this, it puts me on high alert. What else has been copied, I wonder? I suppose this is the teacher part of me waging the war against plagiarism. Sigh.
Anyway, the underwear is stained on both sides because of the dark stripes in the shirt:
At least this underwear protected the body from more staining...I guess. But there's so much staining on the neck and legs already, this doesn't offer much consolation.
Can you tell I'm crabby? Sorry. I'll try to get over it.
Vivienne has a body that's like a hybrid between My Twinn and Karito Kids (or Journey Girls):
She has a vinyl chest with elastic-strung head and arms, but then she has a cloth body from the ribcage down to mid-thigh level. The cloth part of the body has an internal segmented armature just like My Twinn dolls.
For the record, even though the lower part of Vivienne's body has clearly been inspired by My Twinn, it doesn't bother me. I don't see this as mindless copying--it's taking the best ideas from different doll designs and mixing them together to create something new. And, as a whole, this body is definitely something new. And it's great.
There is one small flaw, though. My doll has a defect in her left arm: the vinyl that should be holding one part of the joint disc is missing:
|The left arm.|
This is what it's supposed to look like:
|The right arm.|
And here's a better look at the defective side:
|The left arm again.|
The little rim of vinyl is missing in one spot--so the whole arm is at risk of popping off. I was very careful with this arm throughout the review.
But Vivienne can strike all kinds of poses. She's one of the best-posing 18-21 inch doll that I own--perhaps only rivaled by her cousin, My Twinn.
Darn those stains, though. They're really bad:
She can do any kind of split:
She can sit on the ground (with her legs crossed!):
And even do a bridge:
She balances on her own in most poses, too:
There are no photography tricks here--she's just balanced like this!
The way Vivienne's body looks and moves is really special and unexpected. She's soft enough to be cuddly, her neckline looks great in tee shirts, and she can pose like a champ. I'm a huge fan of this body. I just wish it wasn't stained.
So, let's take a look at Vivienne next to some of the dolls that appear to have inspired her.
Here she is with a My Twinn doll (Ariel from The My Twinn Project):
|Global Girl doll, My Twinn doll.|
These two differ slightly in scale, and they have very different upper bodies, but they way they move is similar.
The limb molds are similar, too, though not identical:
|Global Girl hand (left), My Twinn hand (right).|
I think it's interesting that the hands are the same size--despite the difference in the doll's height and torso size.
|My Twinn hand (left), Global Girl hand (right).|
The feet are pretty different. There's some similarity in the shape and placement of the big toe, but nothing else stands out to me:
|Global Girl foot (left), My Twinn foot (right).|
I'd say that the Global Girl limb shape was probably based to some degree on the My Twinn limb shape, but it's nowhere near as obvious as the way My Twinn used the exact same limb shapes as American Girl for their 18-inch dolls.
Vivienne's size and upper body design are more like that of a Karito Kid. Here's Vivienne with my Karito Kid Piper (the character from Australia):
|Global Girl Vivienne, Karito Kid Piper.|
Other than wishing that Piper had Vivienne's lower body articulation, there's no comparison between these two dolls. Piper is amazing. She has blissfully silky hair, a distinctive (happy) face, and gorgeous (realistic) green eyes. She feels heavy and impeccably-made in my hands. I adore Piper.
|Global Girl Vivienne, Karito Kid Piper.|
Let's just bask in Piper's awesomeness for a sec:
I even let Piper wear Vivienne's lovely coat and hat--but only for a minute because I was afraid of stains.
Vivienne's upper body also bears a mild resemblance to the Journey Girls:
|Global Girl Vivienne, Journey Girl Kelsey.|
And although there's not much in common between Vivienne and American Girl dolls (besides the name and the book covers), here's a shot of Viv with Keira, just for reference:
|Global Girl Vivienne, American Girl #29.|
I haven't said much about Vivienne's wigged hair yet. I guess I was so distracted by the eyes, body stains, and awesome articulation that I let it slip.
Vivienne's wig has a mix of very pale blonde hair fibers. The fibers feel ok, but not great. The hair is not super-silky, and it needs to be brushed out a lot. Every time I brush it, it seems to immediately find a way to get mussed at the ends. It's difficult to describe--not bad, but definitely high-maintenance.
Unfortunately, there's a large, rigid fold in my doll's wig that snags the bristles of my brush:
One nice thing is that there are shorter strands of hair near the cap of this wig (like we saw most recently with the WellieWishers)--but the strands are well-balanced and do not look funny or stick out:
The wig can even be braided into pigtails and still look good:
The bangs on this wig are too heavy, though. I pulled them back with the black scarf to see what Vivienne would look like without oppressive bangs:
I think her face looks slightly less angular, but her eyes are even more soul-piercing:
In fact, now I'm noticing that Vivienne's right eye is angled so that the inner corner tips downward. This might be contributing to her angry appearance.
Here are her profile and half-profile with the bangs lifted:
I am starting to really like Vivienne in profile. I think it's partly because I can't see her full eyes from this angle, but it's also a nice mold.
That picture, above, really makes me want to see this doll with some better eyes.
Using my lame photo-editing skills, here's a rough idea of how Vivienne might look with darker eyes:
|Global Girl Vivienne with her eyes digitally re-colored.|
Better, I think, but I don't have a trick to make the irises smaller, so I can't completely eliminate Vivienne's alien-eye appearance.
She looks cute with this headband, but of course I can't leave it on for very long or it'll stain her forehead.
I let Vivienne's bangs down and brushed them to the side--the way they were intended to be worn:
She looks like an angry young man from the 18th century.
And here she is with her hair down and her bangs swept to the side:
I had a hard time arranging this wig in a way that looked good to me. It's so bulky and long and the bangs are simply too heavy.
I think the red hat helps make Vivienne's hair look better. I especially like how she looks with the tee shirt and hat--no coat. The pop of red with those electric blue eyes is quite dramatic:
Also, the hat helps minimize the bangs:
I borrowed some My Twinn socks to use with Vivienne's shoes, and got her dressed in her full outfit so I could take a few more pictures.
Here she is in her coat and hat with her hair pulled back:
And with her hair down:
I was hesitant to put that scarf back on Vivienne's neck, but it covers the stains and makes the outfit look very polished:
The scarf also looks very nice with the underlying tee shirt and leggings:
I just couldn't get used to the hair, though. The length and bulk made it look messy and shapeless most of the time.
If I keep this doll (and try to remove her stains and replace her eyes...) I will also buy her a new wig. There's very little about the current wig that I like.
Because I had nothing to lose, I decided to give the bangs a little trim.
Here's a before picture:
I got out the awesome razor comb that I bought for The Saskia Project:
|Be careful, Emily!!|
And then I just combed the bangs until I could see Viv's eyes:
But of course I never know when to stop, and so I continued to razor-comb the wig, making some angled layers near Vivienne's face...and hacking off most of the length in back:
|Vivienne with a haircut.|
I think this haircut makes Vivienne look even more severe (and more like a teenager), but she also looks stylish and modern...and the hair is way easier to manage.
For some reason the hair fiber feels better to me in this short length. I think it's because I can run my fingers through the hair and they don't get caught up on snags at the ends.
I'm not sure I did the right thing by hacking up this wig, but I've always had a hard time resisting a doll haircut.
Here's Vivienne back in her full outfit--with her new hairstyle:
I did grow accustomed to Vivienne's intense appearance throughout the course of this review--or maybe it's just that I started to focus on the nice things about her, like her profile and her mouth. She definitely has the potential to be quite pretty. However, I'm still not very attached to her. She's challenging to photograph and she doesn't elicit much affection from me.
She's like a moody teenaged model, not a nine-year-old French girl who loves cooking with her grandpa:
I think one of the issues I'm having with Vivienne is that I've spent the last few months thinking about the Maru and Friends dolls (both the full-sized girls and the Mini Pals). There are a lot of superficial similarities between these two lines: they're both made by small companies, they both have ethnic diversity in their characters, they're a similar scale, and they sell for a similar price. But Global Girls got a lot of critical things wrong...while Maru and Friends got almost everything right.
Let's take a quick look at Maru and Friends' Raven character as a reminder.
Raven comes in a lovely chiffon dress with pink satin accents:
|Raven by Maru and Friends.|
Her face--sculpted by the amazing Dianna Effner--is appealing, childlike and friendly.
The peachy color of her lips doesn't photograph very well, but it looks fine in real life.
Raven's dress is not exactly my style (and this is true of several of the Maru outfits), but there's no denying that it's beautifully-made. It even has a tulle-lined underskirt:
The dress is accompanied by pink imitation leather sandals that fit Raven's feet perfectly and have some nice little details:
Raven's wig is soft, smooth and wonderful to play with. The hair fiber is authentically different in texture from the Asian, Latina and Caucasian characters.
The wig also comes with two tiny braids running down the left side of Raven's face.
There's a red winter dress coat in the Maru and Friends collection that's similar to Vivienne's coat...although it has to be purchased separately ($25.99). Raven looks wonderful in this coat:
The coat feels like it's made out of wool. It's slightly scratchy and has a nice weight. The coat is fully lined in pink satin:
The coat closes with tiny metal snaps and has a row of paired (well-scaled) buttons running down the front:
The bottom of the coat is a little wrinkled because I had it stored in the box with Raven--my bad.
The coat is expertly tailored through the waist and has a button detail at the back:
Raven is made out of heavy, smooth vinyl in a lovely dark shade. Her face is warm and engaging, and the quality of her clothing is hard to beat.
I feel a lot of affection towards this girl.
Raven has the same light brown tiger eyes that we saw on the Tanya Mini Pal. This is not my favorite color of doll eye, but the eyes are bright and lively with nice depth and realistic detail.
Another thing I like about the Maru and Friends products is that--from what I can tell--they have not copied anything from any other doll company. The faces and bodies of these dolls were sculpted especially for this line. The clothing styles are all unique. Even the name of the company and its resilient Latina heroine are refreshingly authentic.
For those who've read my enthusiastic review of Maru and Friends' Savannah, I love Raven just as much. She's a treasure.
I'll admit that it's strange to stick a mini review of another doll into this review. But I did that for two reasons: first, I wanted to photograph something beautiful. Mainly, though, I wanted all of us to get used to looking at another doll for a little while...and then snap back and look at Vivienne again. I think this offers an interesting perspective.
Here are Vivienne and Raven together:
|Global Girl's Vivienne and Maru and Friends' Raven.|
To me, that picture says it all.
This is Vivienne's review, though, so I'll end by showing you two more pictures of just her:
Bottom line? First, a disclaimer: remember that I purchased this doll two and a half years ago. I don't know if the company is still selling their first editions or whether there have been updates and improvements. The website looks exactly the same as it looked back in 2014, and, up until a few months ago, there had been no activity on the Facebook page since October of 2014. I actually assumed that Global Girl had gone out of business, so their recent revival might herald an upgrade in doll quality. I hope so, but who knows. All I can do is share my experience.
To me, Vivienne has a grumpy--almost angry--countenance. She's off-puttingly intense and has nothing of her book character's enthusiastic charm. The thing is, I suspect that Vivienne's underlying face mold might be quite lovely, it's just been obscured by ghastly blue eyes and an overpowering wig. Vivienne's eyes were an electric blue to begin with, but it looks like they've also faded and clouded over the past few years. This is a similar problem to what the My Twinn company encountered when they switched to low-quality eyes. The blonde wig is generously thick and long, but the texture of the hair fiber makes the length feel cumbersome, not luxurious. I like how the wig feels and behaves a little better now that I've given it a serious trim. Beautiful eyes help people relate to dolls, and premium hair makes dolls really fun to play with. If I were designing a $90 doll, the last things I would skimp on would be the quality of the eyes and hair.
Vivienne's underwear set is directly copied from My Twinn. I find this kind of blatant copying to be lazy and uninspiring. If I dismiss the underwear, though, Vivienne's multi-piece outfit is attractive and easy to use. The coat, in particular, is well-made and stylish. I'd love to be able to share it around among my other dolls. I also like the striped tee shirt, especially now that I know some background behind the French cliché. The shoes are lightweight and simple. They look like they were designed to be worn with socks, but no socks came with this doll. The black chiffon scarf is a lovely finishing touch on the whole ensemble. But no matter how nice the clothes look or how well they're sewn, none of the items can be worn without permanently staining everything underneath them. It's hard to get past that. It's frustrating how a little research could have spared Global Girl this mishap.
The best thing about Vivienne is her body design. The armatured style of a My Twinn's lower body has been combined with an elastic-strung vinyl chest plate. The result is a highly-flexible, well-balanced body that poses better than any other doll I own in this scale. Vivienne also looks good in the low-neckline clothing that is so awkward on cloth-torsoed dolls. And, Vivienne's partially-stuffed body makes her soft enough to cuddle. It's a really nice body. As with other elements of Vivienne, though, I worry that the quality of construction is not reliable. There's a defect in Vivienne's left arm joint that makes me think her whole arm could pop off.
This doll has some bad flaws, no doubt, but there's also a lot of potential here. If Vivienne had been given realistic eyes, better hair, and clothing that didn't stain, I would probably have been quite happy with her.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to my affection for the Global Girl dolls is that I'm still under the spell of Maru and Friends. I can't help but draw parallels between these two small companies: Maru and Friends had a unique idea inspired by a personal story about a real Latina child. They brought their idea to life using their own vision, a master doll artist, high-quality materials, and impressive attention to detail. Global Girl seems to have taken a well-worn idea that they thought was unique and brought it to the market using a great body design, some good ideas...and a lot of shortcuts. Sadly, those shortcuts have taken a serious toll on poor Vivienne.