Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Review of Stardoll Fashion Dolls by Mattel

I was not even aware of Stardoll until February, when I saw the Mattel Stardoll fashion dolls on the Angelic Dreamz website (back when I was picking my birthday doll).  At that time, the "Bonjour Bizou" doll caught my attention with her red hair and orange ruched skirt.  But let me back up for a second in case you haven't heard of Stardoll, either.

Stardoll is a Swedish-based company with a virtual paper doll website.  The company was started in 2004 and has since rocketed to significant popularity.  Stardoll boasts over 100 million unique users on their site to date.  Back in 2004, Stardoll was called Paperdoll Heaven.  PaperdollHeaven.com is still a functioning website that is separate from the main Stardoll site.   It is pretty fun, although I can't personally say how it compares to the original 2004 site.  On this website, you can dress a huge number of dolls (including celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Justin Bieber and Milla Jovovich) or even brush and dress an animated virtual horse (my personal favorite).  There's a page where you can design your own birthday cake...and this is awesome, too, but it makes me hungry.

The Stardoll website has some of the same dressing games as Paperdoll Heaven, but also has many additional features, including social clubs, shops and games that allow you to design your own clothing for the virtual dolls.  I'll talk a little more about the Stardoll site in a bit.

Late last year, Mattel and Stardoll joined forces and Mattel released a line of Barbie-sized dolls modeled after the Stardoll concept.  These dolls come with virtual money that can be spent on the Stardoll website.  Here's the "Fallen Angel" Mattel doll:

Fallen Angel Stardoll
On the back of the box, you can see the virtual versions of the other available dolls:

The dolls come with a gold card that has a code redeemable for 50 Stardoll dollars, exclusive online content, and a one-week Superstar Stardoll membership.  Of course I had no idea what these things meant when I plunked down the $21 necessary to purchase one of the dolls.

I'll show you the doll first, and then tell you a bit about my online experience at Stardoll.com.  The packaging is about half plastic on the outside with a cardboard insert on the inside:

It's very shiny and hard to photograph.
 The cardboard inside the box has a background that looks like the Stardoll website:

So, wait, I need to explain why I have this doll and not the Bonjour Bizou doll that first grabbed my attention.  Bizou was my clear favorite after looking at promotional pictures, but I found the doll somewhat off-putting in real life.  There were some issues with bad face paint and smudges on many of the dolls, so this certainly played a role in my choice, but it was also simply that I didn't care for Bizou's face.  I think it looks quite different from the promos.  In contrast, I didn't look twice at the Fallen Angel doll's promo pictures, but was very impressed by her in real life.  By the way, the names of the different dolls are from the names of the fashion collection they are wearing.  

I found my doll at Target.  She comes with a clear stand and a small heart-shaped plastic black purse.

She's held onto the cardboard with just a few of those clear rubber bands.  It's very easy to stretch and snip those.  She has the inevitable plastic ties in her head. Grr.  There a small plastic shell attached to the cardboard that helps keep her posed in the box.  Here's the cardboard with the doll removed so you can see the design better:

I like the Stardoll graphics.
I was drawn to this particular doll because I have always enjoyed the contrast between black and red or black and burgundy-type colors.  I think it looks fantastic.  The fact that the color of her dress is mirrored in her lipstick and her hair highlights makes it even better.

It gets a little too repetitive with the black belt, black gloves and black purse, but I do like the shoes and I love the slightly opaque leopard pattern of the tights...except that the seam in the back is gigantic:

Is that a style statement?
The doll does not stand on her own very easily, but she can balance for a few seconds with a little persistence:

Her hair is rooted and is very soft and manageable.  She has gorgeous grey-ish eyes and a subtle smile.  She has eyelashes!


This particular doll has perfect face paint:

That black speck in her eye is just dust or something.
The purse is a useless accessory.  It is very cheaply made and the design is uninspired:

It looks like it should open, but that's only because it is coming apart at the middle seam.  Furthermore, there's some funny whitish gunge on the back side:

Purse?  Meet garbage can.
The little black and white gloves are another unfortunate choice, I think:

The white looks out of place and the lace is way too big for the doll and the glove.  Maybe the gloves without the lace trim would have been ok?  I could just clip off the lace, I guess, but they're not that well made and so it doesn't seem worth it.

There's just a little cut in the fabric to accommodate her thumb:

One of the reasons the doll doesn't stand very well on her own is that one of the feet seems to be in an odd position:

Look at the foot on the left hand side of the picture above--doesn't it look like it is bent out incorrectly?  I mean, if she were just pointing her toe out as part of her pose, the sole of her shoe would still be on the ground, right?

I don't know.  Maybe it was meant to be like that.  Maybe my particular doll's ankle is just bent slightly too far out?  It doesn't actually look that bad, it's only that I wish she could stand on her own better.

The little black boots are nothing particularly special, but they go on and off easily and fit nicely with the style of the outfit.

One of the reasons I really wish the doll could stand on her own is that she can't do much else.  She has practically no articulation.  She has less articulation than a Barbie Basic doll.  She can bend at the neck and at the shoulders.  Three points of articulation.  Three.

Posing options are extremely limited.  Very few arm positions look natural:

But, as critical as this sounds, I do understand that the dolls are meant to be three dimensional paper dolls.  This is the whole concept behind Stardoll.  A paper doll is not articulated in any way.  From this perspective, the three points of articulation are three more points of articulation than we should expect.  

The other thing that is essential for a paper doll is that she should have gobs and gobs of awesome outfits that can be easily tried on and taken off.   So, let's look at the clothing.  This doll comes with a very nice-looking wine colored dress with an interesting design.  Here is the dress with the black plastic belt removed so you can see the construction:

It's stiff and crispy, but looks great and is well-made.
It is made out of a burgundy satin material.  The bubble skirt has a tulle overlay that drapes up and over one shoulder.

It opens down the back with black velcro:

Underneath the dress, the doll has very nicely painted pink underwear:

The out-turned foot looks fine without the shoes.  The toes are definitely still touching the ground.  I guess the shoe just makes that foot look a bit odd.

So, the dress is nice, but of course the first thing I want to know is if this doll can share clothes with Barbie.  That would open up a very exciting and extensive wardrobe.  Here she is modeling a few of the Barbie dresses I own:

Great fit.
Loose in the bodice--her bra is showing.
Nice fit--flower ornament and ribbon halter are a bit big for her fine features.
Again--this one doesn't quite work along the neckline.
The dresses I have that are made of stretch knit fabrics fit pretty well.  The more tailored dresses are too loose in the chest.  It's frustrating that she can't reliably share clothes with Barbie.  I mean, it says "Barbie" on this doll's box for goodness sake. 

Barbie shoes don't fit at all.  They're much too small:

Here's a foot comparison so that you can see how much smaller Barbie's feet are:

Stardoll clothes don't quite fit Barbie.  Barbie is wider across the chest and so at least with this dress, it is impossible to get it fully closed in back:

Looks great from the front!

The fit might be slightly better with the Barbie Basic dolls...or maybe I was just more determined to get the back closed:

Here are the bodies side-by-side:

The Stardoll body is really nicely sculpted, I think.
I also tried the Stardoll outfit on Katie:

It almost fits her perfectly:

But a Liv outfit on the Stardoll doesn't work as well.  With this dress, the bodice hangs open a bit and the patterned trim is out of scale:

I also tried the Stardoll dress on my Pullip Eternia:

It's a little bit too big for her, but close enough that I'd display her in it.

The Stardoll definitely wears it best:

Bottom line?  This is a very nice-looking doll.  Her overall appearance is wonderful, from her flirty burgundy bubble dress to the subtle matching highlights in her hair.   Her face is beautiful.  However, this doll has virtually no poseability.  It would be very difficult to play with her in a conventional way--she won't fit in Ken's car, she can't ride a horse, she can't sit down to dinner, she can't put her arms around someone...she can only strike about two unique poses.  

Presumably, the doll was designed to resemble a paper doll, and in this case it isn't necessary for her to be super-poseable.  We have had the Liv dolls for that.  What she should be is an easy-to-dress doll with an expansive wardrobe.  She is not.  She's pretty easy to dress--her stiff limbs make putting on pants and skirts a breeze, but putting her rigid arms through long sleeves is harder.  She can share clothes with Barbie to some extent, but it isn't reliable.  The doll itself only comes with one outfit.  There are Stardoll outfit packs on Amazon for $15, but I see a lot of accessories in these packs and only one new piece of clothing.  I'm not likely to spend $15 for one new dress and a few bags.  Some quick math tells me that a wardrobe containing a different outfit for each day of the week would cost a hundred bucks.  Gulp.

While I find this particular doll very nice to look at and photograph, she's not a collector quality doll and so it isn't enough to just look at her.  I expect her to have some value as a play doll.  She is basically an expensive mannequin...but, I have to say, it's hard to diss that pretty face:

I may not buy any more Stardoll dolls, but I am nowhere near ready to quit my Stardoll online membership.  The website is a total blast.

You can create a free account even if you don't have a doll.  The first thing you get to do is customize the look of your character--your personal "paper" doll.  This is so much fun!  It reminds me of the customization in the newer Sims games.  Here's my character:

She looks absolutely nothing like me.
I love that there are also some goofy choices that can be made with the doll's features, not just the classic looks.  Here's what my character could have looked like:

So, you have a character and some basic clothes to start with:

The character comes in a two-room apartment that you can also change to suit your taste.  The apartment has unlimited storage space for all of the things that you buy for your doll.  To purchase things for your doll like new clothes, furniture, makeup and other accessories, you can visit the Stardoll shops.  Some of the items in the shops cost Stardoll dollars.  I got 50 of these when I purchased my doll.  You can also buy Stardoll dollars directly from the website (for real dollars--at an exchange rate of 1200/$5.95).  Some items can be purchased with Stardoll coins.  These can be earned by visiting the site and they can also be changed into Stardoll dollars.  It's all a bit confusing, but for me there was plenty of currency to do what I wanted.

Although it is certainly tempting to pour some cash into the site so that you can go on shopping sprees, it is nice that there's quite a bit of fun to be had for free.

Here's what one of the clothing shops looks like:

You can pull things off the mannequins to try on your character.
At this particular store, you can buy fantasy outfits.  You can see the prices in the upper right hand corner.  Pieces can be purchased separately for unbounded mixing and matching.

Here are some items form another shop with a very different design theme.  Prices in purple are Stardoll coins, the yellow things are Stardoll dollars.

Mrs. Claus goes to the Big Apple.
Notice, by the way, that you can buy a POODLE.  He can actually be purchased--like an accessory.

So, I took my character shopping...

Princess Leia meets Lady Gaga.
Made some fashion blunders....

Hot air balloon ride, anyone?
I tried my hand at designing an outfit...with truly hideous results:

The shoes!  The shoes!  I am blinded by the shoes!
And I made a huge mess in the apartment until I figured out how to open the closet and hang things up:

After a few days, I got my act together and my character now has some cute outfits and a newly-painted apartment.

And see?  Now she's smiling.
Best of all, I discovered the pet shop, and filled my apartment with adorable pets.

I got a pony!
The pets come in these amazing big boxes.  It's like a birthday party!

Look at the laughing kitten--he cracks me up.
And because a lot is never enough, my apartment is now overrun.  Much like my house in real life.

And you know I got that white poodle, too, he's just in the other room.
So, although I am not crazy about the doll, I am very impressed by the website.  It is a fun, creative place to go, even for an adult.  I found it a relaxing diversion for a full week and never spent a penny beyond what I paid for the doll.  I didn't even look at the social elements of the site, but I suppose that would be appealing to teens and tweens who could join Stardoll with their friends from school.  I appreciate the doll more because she introduced me to the Stardoll website.

I might do a body swap to try and salvage the head on this doll, but I am not sure what else I'll do with her.  Perhaps if I was a seamstress, this doll would be a perfect mannequin to display my work.  I can see her being a wonderful muse for a creative young clothing designer.

If the dolls had more in common with the fun elements of the website, they could be a big hit.  To me, the best part of the website (aside from the pets) is the huge variety of fashion, the freedom to create unique looks by mixing separates, and the fashion designing software.  So, maybe if the dolls were very basic and cost less and then there was a huge variety of mix and match fashion for sale (with the pieces sold individually or in very small, inexpensive sets), that would be tempting.  Or,  Mattel could have gone a more Harumika route and developed a doll that served as a mannequin for fashion design play.  I don't know.  There's a lot of potential here, but to me the doll falls short of being anything particularly special or unique.  I have to say it--she's just another pretty face.

Age Level
6 and up
Overpriced at $21
There were some issues with face paint smudging and ill-set eyes in the dolls at the store, but the doll I bought has nice face paint, soft hair and a well-constructed outfit.  Purse is a throw away.
Visually pleasing and fairly compact, with graphics from the Stardoll website, but mostly plastic with a lot of garbage.
No.  This is a play doll.
Her lack of articulation dramatically limits her uses.  She makes a beautiful mannequin for displaying outfits, and can share some clothes with Barbie, but the Stardoll wardrobe is limited at this point.
Not recommended...unless you're looking for a beautiful mannequin.


For the Comments discussion: here are some shoe observations.  Thanks to all of the suggestions about what might fit whom!

Stardoll shoes on MH feet...look fine from the side if a bit loose.
Heels sticking out the back a teeny bit.
Stardoll trying to wear Ghoulia's shoe.  Fail.
Stardoll wearing MH boot.  It's just a bit open in the back, but otherwise good.
Looks great from the front.
Now you can guess who I am reviewing next, I bet. ;)


  1. I agree with everything you've said about the Stardolls. These realy had great potential to bring Mattel and Barbie back into the limelight as true fashion dolls. But I think they fell flat. :-( Fallen Angel has a gorgeous face and she is probably my favorite! (As a side note...the Stardoll shoes, fit the Monster High gals pretty well, well enough that I have bought a couple of fashion packs simply for more shoe options for the MH ghouls!)

    1. No way! That is so great--I never would have thought to try the shoes on the Monster High dolls. So glad you mentioned it. Does it work the other way, too? I'll have to go play some more...

      I haven't seen any of the accessory packs in real life, so I probably shouldn't have passed judgement, but the purse was so --blah-- that I was turned off to the idea of more plastic accessories in general.

      Thanks for the great tip!!

  2. I actually re-bodied and re-rooted this doll and LOVE her. You can see her here: http://thedollaffinity.blogspot.com/2012/02/fallen-angel-stardoll-re-root.html

    Plus, the Stardoll shoes fit Liv doll bodies as well. My Barbie "Kiko" was re-bodied on a Liv doll with VERY limited shoe options, but the Stardoll shoes have been awesome! (^_^)

    1. Oh, wow! Look at how gorgeous your Evangeline is!! That makes me feel a lot better. I am optimistic about fixing this doll up. I don't usually do that kind of thing, but her face is too good to loose.

      It's funny because this doll's original hair didn't bother me. It seems so much better than regular Barbie doll hair (at least in my very limited experience). Now I'm thinking I need to adjust my standards because the hair on your doll looks incredible.

      Thanks for another great tip, Cat! :)

  3. This is the one Stardoll I've been tempted to purchase, I love everything about her. It's fun to see her dress on other dolls, thanks! The Stardoll shoes fit MH best if they're open toe (that's what I've read) but it may have to do with the style of the closed toe shoes, maybe some fit Monster High better than others. In the photo I saw the MH feet were pushing out the back of the Stardoll closed-toe shoe but they fit perfectly in a pair of open toe shoes.

  4. Here's that photo I mentioned:


    The Fallen Angel shoe is a different style, does it fit better?

    1. Oh yeah--I see what you mean! I haven't tested this yet, but I'll go and do it now and post some pics for you, above.

      Be right back! :)

  5. Would have loved this doll more if she were articulated. Keep an eye out at Wal-Mart. My Wal-Mart had the accessory packs 50% off about a month ago. Also certain StarDolls were 50% off.

    1. Me, too, Frannie. I'll definitely watch Walmart, though. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of the accessory packs, just to see how the quality compares to that purse. Thank you for the shopping tip!

      I wish I'd gotten my Fallen Angel 50% off...then she'd be a pretty good deal!

  6. Even if she is supposed to resemble a paper doll, you don't think it would be too hard to make her legs articulate just a little bit so she could sit. You're right, the faces are very pretty, but I'm glad I haven't fallen in love with the Stardolls at the store since they seem a little over priced.

    1. Yeah, they're definitely over priced--even if you add in the Stardoll currency. Fortunately, they seem to be going on sale in several places.

      I can appreciate Mattel trying to be true to the look of the online Stardolls (which have that same trademark pose all of the time), but on the other hand, they made a exception by giving the shoulder and neck joints some mobility, so why not the legs, too? Mystifying. Perhaps they thought the dolls would loose that "Stardoll look" if they could change their pose too much? I like the Stardoll look a lot, but I'd rather have a doll who can sit!

  7. I'm with Molly--if she could just sit down! Even the Model Muse dolls can sit (even if not very well). Paper dolls may not be articulated, but I know mine always had folds at the butt (or at the waist when I was young) so they could sit down.

    1. You had paper dolls that could sit? That's so cool. I didn't realize they could do that. I don't remember having any paper dolls as a kid...just Colorforms. Those were awesome.

      Anyway--I'm not trying to make excuses for the poor articulation, but I like to try and understand what the thought process might have been behind the development of such an inflexible doll.

      I'd like to see a Stardoll with those internal ratchet knee joints like the older Barbies used to have!

  8. I have heard that pivotal Barbies can wear Stardoll clothes.

    1. I had to educate myself on pivotal Barbie [embarassed], but now I know what they are--very interesting! I might try to find one and test the clothing options (and maybe do a body swap??). I'll report back if I decide to do this.
      Thank you for telling me about a kind of doll I wasn't aware of! :)

    2. I have three Pivotal body swaps, one using a barbie basics head and another with a long hair barbie head, and the stardoll clothes fit them perfectly with one exception.. the Pivotal legs seem to be smaller than even the standard barbie and many of the shoes are a bit loose. Not a big deal when on a stand though.

  9. I like the StarDoll heads and some of the clothes. I would have preferred articulate bodies, but that wasn't in line for this series. So, we get to have the fun of finding replacement bodies.

    1. Absolutely! Someone suggested pivotal Barbie, and I have been looking for one of those, but in the mean time, I tried an Obitsu body. They are kinda pricey, but work well!

  10. Emily, if you're still interested in the online Stardoll game (I know I am, I'm a huge child haha) here's something you might find interesting. http://how-to-get-free.blogspot.com/ :)

    1. Thank you for the link, Alrunia! I definitely still love that site. I find it very relaxing. Free pets would be the best thing for me, and I see a free cat right there at the top of the page! Perfect. :)

  11. Emily! Great post! I too have a stardoll and have been a member since 2006!:) amazing doll reviews! I greatly enjoyed reading many of them! My name on stardoll is Gurlshollywood! You may add me :))

  12. Hi Emily!
    My first comment on your blog :D I'm reading all your blog posts so far and was planning on placing a long comment with suggestions on your latest blog post but I couldn't resist commenting on this post.
    I'm on stardoll for a while now (since 2010) and I just wanted to let you know that's there is (or was) a hidden shop on stardoll called doll space. (Stardoll has many hidden shops)
    If you click(ed) on the link to the shop you'd get all kinds of great clothes for your doll, at the same time another hidden shop was released with mannequins dressed like the dolls in real life, you could buy them to put them in your suite but they were 25 stardollars a piece, really expensive. I don't know if these shops still exist but I think it's really fun that you can buy these doll in real life and on stardoll, to pose in your suite.

  13. I have two Stardolls, the one you posted and one other at Target on sale bogo ($15 for both) I was a little upset they don't move much but they do make a good 'look at me i'm pretty' doll for display. Fallen Angel can hardly hold her heart purse. I don't plan on buying any more because I find lots of flaws on the other dolls (messed up eyelashes, strange paint, awful outfits) but I am satisfied with the two I've gotten

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  15. Thanks very much for this well written review. You saved me from buying a Stardoll that I would have been really annoyed and disappointed with because it wouldn't fit Barbie clothes much and the shoes at all. Like you say, don't call it Barbie if it's not really a Barbie.

  16. I know this is an old review so I don't know if you'll get to read this, but I wanted to tell you I am now addicted to that stardoll website and it's all your fault! It's so much fun!

    As for the doll, I'm glad I never got one. The fact that her legs don't move really disturbs me. I'm so glad I found your blog to warn me of these things

  17. Came across this post and laughed out loud at some of your Stardoll review comments like "Purse? Meet garbage can" and "must ... find ... brains."

    I got this doll and a few others because I liked their faces, but I am still looking for better bodies for them. Their head openings are smaller than regular Barbies ... grrr! Bad Mattel!

    Thanks again for this and all of your fun, informative, and amusing posts.

  18. I have a Stardoll but she is oddly posed in my dollhouse because of her lack of articulation, but you can swap her body either with an Obitsu body from Amazon or with a Liv doll body so the doll can have maximum articulation :D Also, you should check out MyFroggyStuff, she makes amazing DIYs for your doll like Doll-sized food, doll sized clothing and even doll sized furniture and custom houses! :D

  19. I removed the feet by cutting off the vinyl joint sew some bjd wire elastic to vinyl feet and knot it inside the pelvis plastic through the cylinders inside the pelvis so now at least the pelvis thigh joints work and so now at least she can sit ....

    1. I 'll post a tutorial online into the next days hopefully

  20. You are hilarious. I stumbled across this article while researching what a Stardoll was. Great writing, informative and so funny :)

  21. I love her clothes and body sculpt bit I really dislike the stiffness due to non-articulation.