Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Couture Swallow Sybarite by Superdoll

Artists Desmond Lingard and Charles Fegen have been making haute couture for many different doll lines since the start of their fashion design company, Superfrock, Ltd, in 1999.  In 2005, Lingard and Fegen expanded their business to include Superdoll Collectibles, a doll-making operation that introduced the world to a new line of 17" resin ball jointed fashion dolls called the Sybarites.

Sybarite is such a cool and unique name for a doll line.  The online free dictionary tells me that a sybarite is, "a person devoted to pleasure and luxury, a voluptuary."  That first part is very helpful, but a voluptuary?  I have to say, I like that word, but I have never heard it before.  Merriam Webster says that a voluptuary is a person interested in luxury and, "the gratification of sensual appetites." Alrighty then.   That sounds like a good fit for these dolls.

I have the extremely good fortune of owning two Sybarite dolls.  One of them, "Raja," I got on clearance from the now-extinct Haute Doll magazine shop.  When I bought her, Raja was not very popular and was being let go for about $450.  My other Sybarite, who you will meet here, is also a Haute Doll magazine exclusive.  She was limited to 250 (a big edition for these dolls) and retailed for $725.  That's a hefty price for a 17" doll, but some collectors are willing to pay a lot more than that for these haughty fashion divas.

The best way to buy a Sybarite is to join the Superdoll mailing list and be really fast when the new dolls get posted.  Like 5 minutes fast.  If your fingers are fast enough, you'll be one of the lucky 50 or so people who get a new doll for around $500-600.  If you blink and miss the release, you can find Sybarites on eBay most days for around $1,000.  Superdoll actually has a basic doll named Talc still on sale on the website for about $530.

Are they worth the competitive stress and the big price tag?  You tell me.  Meet "Couture Swallow:"

Sybarite Couture Swallow by Superdoll.
WARNING: Before you take the jump, please be warned that this doll is much edgier than the other dolls I have discussed, both with and without her clothing.  Although I try to keep things tasteful and artistic, the photos are likely not work-appropriate and may not be to everyone's taste.
By the time I saw the feature article about Swallow in Haute Doll...

...I had already plunked down the money to pre-order her and was committed.  It's too bad Haute Doll stopped making their magazine, because I really loved all of the big, glossy pictures, the articles about new dolls and interesting collectors...and even the ads.  However, the article on Swallow was not giving away a ton of information, and since this was my first Sybarite purchase, I was hoping for a few more clues about what she would really be like. 

You see, when you have a beautiful doll like a Sybarite in front of your camera, the temptation is to take artsy pictures of her and not pictures that document all of the little details:

I will try to avoid that urge for just a sec so that I can re-create what it was like to see Swallow for the first time.  She came in a huge, glossy black box lined with padded pink satin:

FBR = "Fashion Beyond Reason"
The small black box in the upper left is for her shoes.
She came in an elaborate black two-layer dress:

The top layer has a leather strap corset and an iridescent overskirt accented with black plastic swallow silhouettes.

Imagine lacing up that corset with all of those tiny holes...
She has a bolero jacket loaded with black plastic hanging ornaments arranged to resemble bird feathers.  It is spectacular:

Her bright red wigged hair is tied back into a netted bun, which is adorned with the same plastic swallow silhouettes that decorate her skirt:

The swallows have yellow beaded eyes.
As I mentioned, the back of the leather strap corset laces up.  This is really hard to do, and you have to unlace the whole thing to get the dress off.  I am sure it doesn't look as nice in these pictures as it did when she first arrived!

She has scratches on her back, presumably from a swallow attack.  Very Hitchcock!

Swallow eyes a scrumptious piece of chocolate cake, "baked" by D-Lightful Designs:

This is the best piece of cake I have ever seen...real or not.
Underneath the leather-corseted overdress, Swallow has a tulle underdress that is exquisitely made:

The top is princess-seamed and
the bottom is gathered and hiked up on one side

I think I prefer the softer look of just the underdress with none of the leather straps.  It is very regal and flattering, but definitely not something you'd wear to the prom.

Underneath the tulle dress, you can start to get a sense for what a Sybarite body looks like.  She comes with leather-gartered underwear, thigh-high lace stockings, and lace-up leather stiletto boots:

I can't actually get those awesome boots all of the way on.  I am not sure if it is because I am too wimpy to push hard enough (what if I break her foot??!!) or if the boots just aren't engineered very well.  They sure look nice....

Her body is made of matte-finished fine resin strung with elastic.  The weight of a Sybarite doll in your hands is really something that is unrivaled by other dolls of this size.  She feels heavy and substantial.  She feels expensive.

She has 17 points of articulation, and the most interesting joints are in her hips and her torso.  All of the joints are lined with suede, but certain areas, like her knees, elbows and especially her wrists, seem like they are flirting with resin-on-resin scraping or even chipping when you flex them.  I am downright terrified of moving her wrists.

I cannot easily pose her standing up with her own stand (her feet don't touch the base!) nor can I get the AvantGuard stand to work well.  That is very frustrating...especially with a heavy doll.  She wants to pitch forward right off the stand, and that would be bad.  So, she sits down a lot.

She has no trouble working a chair...

Her nails are painted in yellow with red tips...

There is nice detail in the hands, but the finger positioning is not very expressive:

I am holding her hand in that position.
Swallow can share some clothing with regular-busted Tonner dolls.  Her hips and bottom are large, and so some pants and tighter skirts do not work very well...especially if she wants to sit down.  Tonner Tyler's "Casino Jade" dress fits her perfectly...and perfectly matches her electric green eyes:

I think Swallow has a split personality.  Look at the picture above.  She looks fierce.  Scary-fierce.  Now, look at her profile, below (and this only works with the left profile):

Sweet and innocent, right?  Or at least more sweet and innocent than front-on staring into your soul Swallow.  

Bottom line?  Every fashion doll collector should try to at least hold a Sybarite at some point.  They are fascinating works of art.  Furthermore, they have become the gold standard by which all other fashion dolls are measured.  I can't even think of reviewing any other fashion BJDs until I have at least mentioned the Sybarites.  

The face sculpts are frequently repeated (Swallow is a "Clone 777" head), and so I don't feel the urgent need to have any more of these dolls in my collection, but I have to say that the face painting is often so unique and creative that I can't even recognize what face sculpt is underneath.  I also find that, as with other types of art, I am fairly content to just look, not necessarily to own.  Sybarites transform any person into a fashion photographer and any camera into a vessel for artistic expression, so there are countless gorgeous pictures of Sybarites all over the web for me to enjoy from afar.

Without knowing much about the human fashion scene at all, I get the sense that the Sybarite collections come very close to paralleling the innovation and cutting edge risk-taking of the full-size fashion world.  Each collection presents a new concept or fantasy that pushes boundaries, challenges minds and introduces facinating new fashion elements and details that keep collectors riveted.  One set of dolls came with gas masks.  Another came with the tiniest (working) safety pin accents I have ever seen.  The latest collection showcased the Little Red Riding Hood tale...but not any way you've ever seen it before.

In the end, it is creativity that captivates me.  Time and time again, the Sybarite collections radiate the creativity of their designers.  What's even better is that they bring out little sparks of creativity that are hidden away inside of me.  That's all I have ever asked of any doll.

Here are a few more pictures of Swallow that I took in 2023 before I sold her:


  1. WOW!!! She is STUNNING!!! (BTW tell Swallow the cake is fat-free, she can indulge without risking her gorgeous figure!)
    Thanks for the link to my shop too! =D

    1. Well, I've already advised her that certain cakes are worth risking your figure! ;)
      I am just so impressed by the details--the texture of the cake, the way the frosting drips a bit at the edges and the teensy tinsy crumbs. Even the plate is a wonderful miniature. For what it's worth my kids (12 and 14-year-old boys) were also pretty impressed! My youngest said, "Wow...it looks perfect!"
      Now my mini Blythes are pestering me for a cake that they can sell in their bakery...

  2. The Casino Jade looks like it was made for her, stunning!!

    1. I know, right? Poor Tyler really never got to wear that dress before Swallow claimed it permanently. That's the dress I have her displayed in...she looks much more comfortable in that than in her leather! I also love red hair with anything green.
      Thank you for commenting on it. :)

  3. Such a great review, I enjoyed it very much! At the moment I'm only dreaming of a Sybarite, they are so over my doll budget :D

    1. Thank you so much, Alice! They are pricey, aren't they? It is made worse by the fact that they are often inflated on the secondary market because they are in such small editions and highly sought after. I will talk about some less expensive alternatives to the Sybs at some point, because there are a few other resin fashion BJDs out there that are very nice and less expensive.

  4. Beautifully written and photographed review. I enjoyed reading this!

  5. OMG how inspirational! I think I'm going to use her design as inspiration for a future doll as my budget for dolls is very limited, I hope to make something like this myself.

    I envy your doll collection! Swallow is BEAUTIFUL! *swoon*

  6. I think that Swallow is one of the most beautiful dolls ever created. Good choice!

  7. I respect your point of view, but I don't think that everybody that considers a doll collectionist should own a doll of that brand, not because they're just pricey but because I think most of the times these dolls fall in the "king is naked" category.

    Christabella R.