Thursday, July 23, 2015

Madame Alexander's 9.5-inch Doll Factory Dolls from the (Closed) Manhattan F.A.O. Schwarz

There's a pretty long title for this review, so let me explain.  My boys and I were in Manhattan last week to visit family, and of course I was eager to check up on Toys R Us or F.A.O. Schwarz--outings that were canceled during our last trip because of my broken leg.  As I was trying to decide between these two flagship stores, my mom mentioned that the F.A.O. Schwarz store was closing--or had already closed, she couldn't remember.  I need to pay more attention to the world because this sad news took me completely by surprise.  I panicked a little and immediately wanted to head uptown to see if the store was still open (and if there were any toys left in stock).

As a matter of fact, the Manhattan F.A.O. Schwarz store closed its doors on July 15, just two days after our visit.  F.A.O. Schwarz has had a store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for over 100 years (21 years at 303 Fifth Avenue, 55 years at 735 Fifth Avenue and 31 years across the street at 767 Fifth Avenue).  The location has become a beloved stop for me and my family over the last few decades--made even more appealing to my growing boys with the arrival of the Apple Store as a next-door neighbor in 2006.

My eldest son, my mom and I all went to pay the store our last respects.  I'll share a little bit of that visit with you, and I'll also review the two dolls that my mom bought for me while we were there.  Even before we arrived at the store, I knew which dolls I was hoping to find: the customizable 9.5-inch Doll Factory girls by Madame Alexander.  I have been eyeing these cuties for years and, as far as I know, they were only available at the F.A.O. Schwarz brick-and-mortar store.  This means that the dolls are--temporarily--no longer available.  Much to my relief, even though most of the doll brands were sold out by the time we arrived, the Doll Factory was still functional...kind of, and the smaller dolls were on sale for around $20.

9.5-inch Madame Alexander Doll Factory doll from F.A.O. Schwarz.
I was worried that the store would be mostly empty and unremarkable just two days before it was slated to close, but I was greatly relieved to see everything looking pretty normal--right down to the presence of an ever-friendly toy solider greeting people at the door:

There were just as many customers (of all ages) crowding through the doors, too, although most of them stopped to read or photograph the optimistically-worded sign posted in the window:

The sign suggests that F.A.O. Schwarz will re-open at another New York City location before too long.  In fact, recent news suggests that they are eyeing a large space in Times Square...and that the massive Toys R Us flagship store which is currently in Times Square will move elsewhere in early 2016.  Incidentally, F.A.O. Schwarz is owned by Toys R Us, so it makes sense that they'd coordinate these moves.

So, even though there will certainly be a period of upheaval and uncertainty for toy shoppers in the Big Apple, I don't see any evidence that either F.A.O. Schwarz or Toys R Us is leaving the scene for good.  Phew.

The ground floor of F.A.O. Schwarz was filled with stuffed animals--just like it always has been.  This was my son's favorite section when he was little.  He'd walk around trying to choose a new friend to bring home, somberly bidding farewell to all of the animals he couldn't adopt.  On this trip, he walked around chatting to a stuffed cockatoo perched on his shoulder (although I don't think he'd appreciate me putting that picture on the blog).

These two camels just happened to be posed together like this:

While this sheep seemed dangerously positioned under the gaze of the dinosaur mural...

I thought the most endearing stuffed animals were these brown critters by Hansa.  They were also posed on their shelf in a spontaneously interactive way:

Two of them appeared to be chatting while the other two watched the crowd of shoppers with a bit of apprehension:

The tags didn't identify what kind of creature these guys are.  We thought maybe they were prairie dogs, but some online searching at home revealed that they are, in fact, mongooses.

I have always wanted this spotted pony (who is about the size of a real-life miniature horse):

But something about the equivalently-sized flying horses makes them nowhere near as attractive:

I think it's the gaping mouth and visible teeth.

Maybe he knew it was Shark Week?
We all wanted to get a last look at the huge piano--made famous by the movie Big:

I skimmed through the rest of the second floor just to see what was still available--but of course I was mostly anxious to get to the dolls.

I did find these odd little Tragic Toys from Tim Burton (which were also on sale at the Museum of Modern Art):

Those weren't the only creepy things, though: there was a full skeleton in the science section (although I'm still not sure if it was for sale, or just a display).  It's creepy, but really high quality!  Better than the ones I used to have at work:

There was still an active and bustling Build-A-Bear section, where I found Olaf and the Anna and Elsa bears from Frozen:

And also a bunch of cute Minions from the recently-released movie:

Some sections were eerily empty, though, like this Wild Republic aisle:

My mom and I finally worked our way over to the doll section (while my son ran off to visit the stuffed animals again...).  The first dolls I saw were these unusual Beatles figures:

I have never seen these before, but the price was pretty daunting.  The dolls weren't displayed very carefully and were tucked behind an awkward counter, so I only took the one picture.

There were also a few A Girl for All Time dolls left--both Amelia and Matilda.  I really wanted to buy Matilda (she's my favorite from this company and her book is wonderful) but I knew I wouldn't be able to easily fit her big box on the train.

Some day you'll come home with me, Matilda!

I'll wait for you, Emily!
There was also a single display of 17-inch Mademoiselle Corolle dolls:

There were a lot of dolls stacked up, but they were all the same Paris Party Astrid character:

Corolle Astrid, $129.99.
One of my favorite things to see were two large resin dolls from the movie Avatar.  These two are made by Robert Tonner and cost a hefty $800 each.  I first heard about this pair when I visited Angelic Dreams back in 2012, but I never thought I would see them in person.

The glare on all of the cabinets was really bad, but my mom blocked as much of the light as she could and I was able to get a few good close-ups of Neytiri's face:

The dolls make a visually striking pair, but they wouldn't tempt me out of $1,600.  It's clear that the female doll is meant to be Neytiri, but she doesn't look enough like her movie self for my picky taste:

The Jake doll is more accurate in my opinion:

However, with both dolls, the face painting (clearly done by hand) looks just like that: face painting.  The streaks and marks are meant to be part of the Na'vi's faces--not paint.

Those are niggling criticisms, for sure, but with a $1,600 pair of dolls...I think it's ok to be picky.

A more affordable option still remaining in the store was this trio of 16-inch Madame Alexander fashion dolls.  While most of the Madame Alexander collection was marked down in price, these three were still a whopping $200 each:

Isaac Mizrahi doll and Steampunk Dorothy and Glinda ($199 each).
I was tempted by the Steampunk Dorothy and Glinda dolls:

I was also amused by this smaller Madame Alexander Wicked Witch and her band of flying monkeys:

But I think that was mostly because we all went to see Wicked on this trip and really loved it.

Most of the dolls remaining in the store were by Madame Alexander.  There were tons of these 18-inch Disney Princesses:

Disney Princesses, $74.99 each.
And also a bunch of the regular 18-inch play dolls, of which this girl was my favorite:

Wild About Leopard, $69.99.
There was another selection of 18-inch Madame Alexander dolls in the Doll Factory, too.  These girls are customizable, and there were a lot of them left.  However, I have never liked the texture of the hair on Madame Alexander dolls in this scale (or most of the faces) so I was not at all tempted.

The dolls that I wanted were these little 9.5-inch cuties.  I immediately fell in love with the two on display:

I don't actually know what the regular retail price is for these smaller dolls, but they were on sale for just over $20 each.  That seemed like an incredible bargain to me, so I splurged and picked out two...and then my mom insisted on paying.  She's awesome.

I should back up and explain that the Madame Alexander Doll Factory at F.A.O. Schwarz is a leftover from when Madame Alexander had their own doll factory in Harlem.  I wish I had known about this place before it closed in 2012.  At the original Doll Factory, guests could tour the actual factory and watch dolls being made, admit a well-loved doll friend to the hospital, visit the gift shop, or assemble a custom doll to take home.  Sounds fun, right?

I didn't get the full F.A.O. Schwarz Doll Factory experience during my visit...but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience I did get.  Two lively, hysterically funny young men helped me customize my dolls.  Under ordinary circumstances, kids will pick out a doll's skin tone and eye color from the display cabinet, and then a disassembled version of that doll will be discretely pulled from the drawers behind the counter.  Next, the child will make a wish on a small cloth heart (just like at Build-A-Bear) before their doll goes "to the salon" to get her heart implanted and her legs attached (not my typical salon experience--but maybe it's a New York thing?).  After the doll is assembled, children select a wig and watch as their new friend comes to life.

I assured the two gentlemen helping me that they didn't need to put on their full act for my benefit (there were no small children watching).  Instead, my experience involved a lot of joking and laughing as I reluctantly bestowed one wish on two hearts and then watched as my dolls got heated (microwaved) so that their legs would fit on.  The best part was seeing these two guys try to dress the dolls at the end.  I think perhaps the Doll Factory was not their usual gig.  I stopped them before they tried to put on the wigs, finally convincing them that I would be able to do that part myself.  They were both so friendly and good-natured--it was a blast.

Here's how my two girls came home:

I think there are usually at least three skin tone options, three eye colors (brown, green and blue) and a large assortment of wig colors and styles.  When I was shopping, there were three skin tones, but no green-eyed dolls left and only two different styles of wig (both black).  I was able to get exactly the dolls I wanted with the exception of one wig (I had been hoping for a blue-eyed redhead).

I wanted to give these dolls names that had meaning, so I looked up the names of Frederick August Otto Schwarz's kids and other descendants.  He had three daughters (Anna, Ida and Emilie), so I named the blue-eyed girl Ida.  He also has a living great-great-granddaughter named Eliza, and this is one of my favorite names of all time, so my other girl is Eliza:

Eliza came wearing a simple pink cotton nightgown (dress?) and underpants.  As requested, she did not have her wig attached.

She has large inset brown eyes with painted eyebrows and lashes:

Her mouth is not perfectly symmetrical (or at least the paint is not perfectly symmetrical) and so it looks like she's smiling a little bit more on her right side:

Eliza's head has four rectangles of hooked velcro glued to it--to keep the wig in place:

The wig is fully lined with the fuzzy side of the velcro so that it can fit on in a number of different positions.

It's pretty easy to get the wig on, but the velcro on Eliza's head will easily grab the hair fibers, too, so I like to turn the wig inside-out before I put it on--just to protect the hair as much as possible:

Here she is with her wig in place:

I love the style of this wig.  It has a nice length and thickness.  The texture of the fiber is a little coarse, but it holds the ringlet shape well.

There are a lot of shorter hairs in this wig that tend to stick up or poke into Eliza's face.  I pulled many of these small strands out, but it was hard to make the wig look perfectly neat.

Here's a close-up of Eliza's left eye. There's a black swirly iris pattern with more subtle dark brown flecks behind it:

The level of detail is good for this size of doll.

I really like the color of her mouth, too--it's a gorgeous dark terra-cotta red with a bit of shimmer:

All of the dolls come wearing the same pink nightgown/dress.  I really like the simplicity of this outfit.  In fact, when I first saw the dolls in the display cabinet, I didn't realize that they came with any clothes, and so I was searching all over to see if I could find the pink dress to buy separately.

The dress is solidly made and opens part way down the back for easy dressing:

The dress is made out of a soft knit fabric with a delicate pattern:

Underneath the dress, Eliza is wearing simple white underpants.  The fit of these is pretty tight, making them a little hard to get on.

Eliza's is made out of vinyl and has five points of articulation:

Her back has a very simple "Alexander" mark for the Madame Alexander company:

Eliza's neck joint is elastic-strung and so she has wonderful head mobility.  She can look up and down...

...and can tilt her head to the side:

Her head holds all of these poses quite well, too.

Here's a peek at the neck joint:

Eliza's shoulders are also elastic-strung, and so she has arm mobility that is very similar to that of an American Girl doll.  The elastic in the arms is tighter than the elastic in the neck.  

Eliza can lift her arms away from her body (and hold them there):

And she can also spin her arms around.  She can almost touch her hands together in front of her body, but not quite:

Eliza has a lot of detail in her hands, including dark orange-red nail color that matches her lips:

She also has knuckle lines and some blushing on the backs of her hands:

The inside of Eliza's hands have even more detail:

Eliza's hip joints have only simple rotational movement.  I wish I had gotten a closer look at (or picture of) the legs when they were detached at the store.  I assume they connect with a simple flanged peg and that the microwave softens the vinyl so that the peg can fit through the leg hole.

Ok, dear friends, this is the part of the review where I admit to having done something extremely stupid.  Right after I wrote that paragraph, above, I thought, Hey!  I have a microwave here in my house.  I could soften Eliza's body and remove her legs to show everyone the joint!  Awesome!  

Actually, not so awesome.

I think the dolls are heated for 30 seconds at F.A.O. Schwarz (under what I assume are carefully-regulated conditions).  I tried that, but it wasn't enough and so I tried another 30 seconds...and that was way too much.  I melted poor Eliza's bottom.  But that actually wasn't the worst part.  The worst part was that the burned vinyl released some mega-strong, acrid fumes.  I physically recoiled from the smell.  I still tried to get the leg off and take some pictures, but eventually the smell was too much and I tossed the doll outside.  I figured maybe I should do some research to make sure the fumes weren't toxic.

As I was searching online (finding some good information...and also some pretty scary things about melted PVC and chlorine gas), I noticed that I felt a little funny, so I stood up.  Then my heart beat accelerated at a startling rate and it became a little tricky to breathe normally.  I opened all of the windows and headed outside for some fresh air.  Outside, my heart rate sped up even more and I got increasingly lightheaded.  I figured I was going to pass out, which hardly ever happens.  I think I was ten years old the last time I fainted--into a bowl of oatmeal, incidentally.  Anyway, I should have called 911, but I called my husband instead and stayed on the phone with him until my heart rate eventually slowed.  It was super-scary.  Maybe I was having a panic attack about the things I was reading online (the symptoms certainly fit...)?  But nothing like that has ever happened to me before and I panic about a lot of things.

So...let me offer this humble warning: don't microwave your dolls.  Boil them instead!  Seriously, though.  Hot water would have loosened Eliza's joints beautifully and safely.  Why on earth didn't I just do that??  I hope someone out there can benefit from my massive stupidity.

But here's the thing...before I started to lose it, I did manage to snap a few pictures of Eliza's (slightly burned) leg:

So...that's what the leg joints look like.  

Fortunately, I had already taken my pictures for this review before I ruined Eliza.  When the body cools off and I get up the courage to go near it again, I might see what I can do to sand or cut away the burned parts and try to salvage this sweet doll.  It's really sad to have lost her. :(

In any case, the original, fully-functional joints allowed Eliza to sit on the ground with her feet far apart:

A position that reveals the Madame Alexander mark on the bottom of the right foot:

That's the address of the corporate office--not the old doll factory.
Here's a close-up of the top of Eliza's foot, too:

The joints on these dolls also allow full front-to-back splits:

And Eliza can even balance on her own in a nice walking pose:

Before I do some size comparisons, let me take a minute to show you my other doll, Ida:

Ida came with the exact same outfit as Eliza, and the same four velcro strips on her head.

Ida has bright blue eyes and lips that are slightly paler than Eliza's:

Here's a close-up of an eye:

It has the same swirly iris pattern as the brown eyes, but the speckled background is a bit more obvious with this blue color.

Ida's smile is also a little lopsided, making me think that it is the shape of the mold, not the paint.  I really like her smile.

Ida also has blushing on her hands and a very pale pink nail color:

Eliza's curly wig was my favorite option, but I didn't want to get two of the same wig.  The only other choice was this black ponytail wig with bangs.  I don't usually like doll wigs with bangs, so I wasn't very optimistic about this choice:

Here's the wig on Ida:

The fiber is a little stiff and coarse, and so the large curls at the ends tend to stick out and prevent the rest of the hair from laying smoothly:

I moved the wig back a bit to get the bangs out of Ida's face, brushed the hair and then smoothed it with my fingers. This was the best I could get it to look:

More often, it looked like this, with the ends curling around Ida's body like strange squid arms:

The Kraken has been released.
I was eager to try a few other wigs on Ida and went for this red Moxie Teenz wig first:

Ida with a Moxie Teenz wig.
It fits pretty well, but the Moxie Teenz wigs have very obvious hairline rooting that's difficult to conceal:

This style (another Moxie Teenz wig) does a better job of hiding the rooting, but the length is a tad too long:

My Makie doll wig is way too big, but I love the look of this doll with pink hair!

Ida in a too-big Makie doll wig.
Because I liked the pink so much, next I tried a Liv wig that is blonde with pink streaks.  This wig is from the Liv in Wonderland Hayden doll:

Ida in a Liv wig.
Liv wigs have vinyl pegs in the top of the cap, which is why the wig is sitting so high on Ida's head.  

When I took this wig off, the velcro hooks on Ida's head snagged the hair and pulled it out of its factory style.  Slightly frustrating:

Since the original style was ruined, I decided to take the hair down and cut the peg out of the wig to see how well it would really fit Ida.  Pretty well:

However, each time I put on or removed this wig, big chunks of hair would get snagged on the velcro:

This wreaked havoc on the wig.  The velcro hooks pulled a lot of the hair strands part way out of their rooted holes--which you can see especially along the edge of the wig cap in the upper right hand corner of the picture, below:

I decided to just pull off the velcro strips on Ida's head so that she wouldn't ruin all of my wigs.

For anyone shopping for extra wigs for this doll, I'd start with the 5-6" size.  I have a 5-6" Monique wig that's a good fit.

Ida and Eliza are a wonderful, easy-to-manage size.  They're small enough that little kids could carry them around everywhere, but they're also big enough that their clothes are not fiddly and hard to play with.  I'm surprised that I don't have more dolls in this general size and scale range.  In fact, it was very difficult to find other dolls with equivalent proportions--the clothes-sharing options are extremely limited.  I'll show you a bunch of lineup pictures, though, just so you can get an idea of the relative size of these dolls.

To start off, here's Eliza with two of my other small Madame Alexander dolls: Travel Friends Ireland and an old Scotland doll that I have from my childhood:

Travel Friends, 9.5" Doll Factory, Scotland.
Eliza is a lot larger than both of these girls--which also means she's significantly bigger than dolls like the American Girl minis.

Here she is with my Makie doll, Effie:

9.5" Doll Factory, Makie doll.
These two are about the same size, but Effie's head is much bigger and her body is slimmer.

Here's Eliza with my Vi and Va doll, Viviana:

9.5" Doll Factory, Vi and Va's Viviana.
Again, Vi and Eliza are the same height, but Vi's body is much smaller.  As an aside, these dolls are already on a pretty hefty clearance at Target, making me wonder if the brand has already fizzled?  Must have been the elephant feet.

Zapf Little Princess, 9.5" Doll Factory, Effner Little Darling.
Cinderella and Rowan have similar body shapes, but they are much larger than Eliza.

Even though Eliza's head is about the same size as a Liv doll head, her body is shorter and wider:

9.5" Doll Factory, Liv Hayden.
This made me wonder if a slightly larger 12-inch fashion doll might have better luck being able to share clothes with Eliza.  I compared her to my Lammily doll, Mia:

9.5" Doll Factory, Lammily doll.
In the picture, above, Eliza is wearing the full Lammily outfit with some success.  The shorts are a little loose, but the shirt fits nicely.  Eliza can also wear the white Moxie Teenz tee shirt that Mia has adopted, but she can't wear most other Moxie Teenz clothing:

I always forget to compare smaller dolls to my Hearts for Hearts girls, so here's Eliza with Consuelo:

Hearts for Hearts Consuelo, 9.5" Doll Factory.
The bodies have a very similar shape, and they are not as far apart in size as I thought they would be.  Eliza still can't share clothes with Consuelo at all, though.

My 16-inch fashion dolls like Tonner's Cami and Penelope Brewster are too skinny to share clothes with Eliza, but I wondered if the Tonner child dolls might be a close match?  Here's Liza with Tonner's Alice (who has the Marley body):

9.5" Doll Factory, Tonner Alice.
Some shirts, skirts or shorts from Tonner's Marley-sized dolls might work on Eliza (the Wilde Imagination Patience dolls and smaller Tonner Harry Potter dolls also have similar bodies, too), but dresses are way too long...

I got a little desperate trying to find dolls of a similar size, and even tried this unopened Dora and Friends Kate doll that I want to review someday:

Also not a good match.
I only found about three pieces of clothing in my house that Eliza and Ida can wear.  Fortunately, the Doll Factory offers a selection of outfits for their 9.5-inch dolls.  Unfortunately, the selection was extremely limited at the F.A.O. Schwarz store...and the clothes do not seem to be offered online.

There were four sets available in the store when we went.  I got a jeans outfit, a pink dress, and a pair of sweatpants:

None of the outfits come with shoes and there were no shoes available at the store.

I thought the pink dress was a great match for Liza and her pretty ringlets:

The dress has a cute embroidered daisy chain along the neckline and a cheery pink polka-dotted ribbon belt:

FAO Schwarz

The pink dress is not quite as good a match for Ida--at least not when she's wearing the blonde and pink Liv wig.  The pink in the hair does not match any of the pinks in the dress:

The dress works slightly better with the black Doll Factory wig, but I really don't like this wig.

I thought the jeans might look good on Ida, but I couldn't pull them on over her feet.  I tried and tried, but they would not fit.  I checked to see if maybe I had bought some clothes for another kind of doll by mistake, but the packaging definitely says "Doll Factory" on it, and the clothes certainly aren't for the 18-inch Doll Factory dolls.

In contrast, the sweatpants fit like a dream.  Furthermore, they feel so soft and wonderful that I want a pair for myself:

Sadly, I don't have many tops that can go along with these sweatpants, and neither does Ida.  The jeans outfit comes with a simple white tank top, but this doesn't go well with the light pink (almost white) waist of the sweatpants:

FAO Schwarz

The red jacket looks cute on Ida (especially when she's wearing the black wig) but it also doesn't coordinate with the pale peachy-pink waistline of the sweats:

FAO Schwarz

One of my Tonner City Girls shirts actually works kind-of well as a dress for Ida...

...and looks great with her blue eyes:

But the dress was a bit too baggy and didn't fit very well around the shoulders and neck.  It would be a good beach dress, I guess.

I finally decided to dress Ida in a flowery Liv dress (from the Hayden' House set).  This dress does not close in back, but it looks fine from the front for pictures.  I paired this dress with a simple platinum blonde Liv wig that hangs nicely and flatters Ida's face and coloring:

Here are a few more pictures of this lovely girl:

I think Madame Alexander should scale this head mold up to make their 18-inch play doll line.  That change (paired with better quality hair) would result in a really nice doll.

And here are a few more pictures of my Eliza.  I had a lot of fun playing with her hair.  The ringlets can be tied back like this...

FAO Schwarz

...left completely free to frame her face...

...or pulled all of the way back into a ponytail with just a few loose curls hanging down:

She's enchanting no matter what.

Right before I ruined her leg, I gave Eliza my stuffed F.A.O. Schwarz bear to play with:

The two of them can swap stories about how fun the old Fifth Avenue F.A.O. Schwarz was.

I also love how these two look together:

They share the exact same mold, but their contrasting coloring somehow brings two different personalities to that mold.  I had been hoping to find Ida the perfect dress and display these girls as a pair, but perhaps Ida will just inherit Eliza's dress and be displayed on her own now.  Sigh.

Ida and Eliza really looked like they were going to be the best of friends.  I hope I can get them back to this point again some day:

FAO Schwarz

Bottom line?  These dolls are adorable.  In fact, I think they are my favorite Madame Alexander dolls of all time.  The face mold has a friendly, slightly lopsided smile that is very different from the pinch-lipped pucker of the traditional dolls.  They may not have the best wigs (although Eliza's ringlets are much better than Ida's black squid-arm curls) but it's easy to find other wigs that fit.  In fact, even Liv doll wigs (with the pegs cut out) look good and can be found on eBay for under $10.  While the velcro on the dolls' heads certainly keeps the Doll Factory wigs in place really well, I actually removed this velcro because it was snagging the hair fibers and ruining some of my other wigs.  Both dolls have bright, pretty, inset eyes and sturdy, articulated, easy-to-dress bodies.  My only complaint with the bodies is that clothing is extremely hard to find and shoes seem practically nonexistent.  I don't know exactly how much these dolls cost under ordinary circumstances, but to get both of them for around $50 was a wonderful deal.

I'm not sure why these particular dolls aren't offered online or why their clothing is so hard to find.  I think they're so much more appealing than the larger Madame Alexander play dolls.  Perhaps the 10-inch size is just too obscure.  It certainly doesn't have the cross-brand diversity that 18-inch dolls enjoy.  I just hope it isn't so obscure that it disappears completely.

There was a bittersweet feel throughout the entire process of writing this review.  Going to F.A.O. Schwarz with my mom and my son was a wonderful outing, and I'm so happy to finally have one of these Doll Factory gems in my collection.  On the other hand, seeing that iconic toy store in its familiar location for the last time caused a definite pang of sadness.  I know the store hasn't gone away for good, but there's an ache that tends to hit me when well-known things change or move on.  And then of course, ruining beautiful Eliza was a very sad adventure...but at least I survived it.  I'm sure that as time goes on, the positive parts of this story will live on while the negative things fade away.  Probably the new F.A.O. Schwarz will be even better than the old.  Maybe I'll repair Eliza, or find her a brand new body on eBay.  I just hope that when F.A.O. Schwarz re-opens its doors--wherever those doors may be--these sweet girls will be behind them to greet everyone once again.

FAO Schwarz


  1. What fun ! I'm a doll collector to,in fact I'm into most girl toys,esp.lately in My senior Years.There was a FAO store in L.A. Years ago now it's an American Girl. I just took one of My Granddaughters out there to buy Her one for Her 9th birthday. I enjoyed all Your dolls-Thank You Denise

  2. I had never seen these or overlooked them (we haven't been up to NYC in a couple years). I love that face! So sorry to hear about the leg issue. We're rooting for you!

  3. These two are adorable. I love this face mold better than the other Madame Alexander molds. I'm glad to hear that the store is relocating and not closing for good, apparently American Girl is moving into that location. I'm sorry to hear about Eliza but hopefully you can replace or restore her. Thanks again for another wonderful review.

  4. What a great review and what an awesome experience you must have had going to the iconic FAO Schwarz store. I loved the story about the 2 guys helping you build your dolls! However, I still cannot believe you put your Eliza in the microwave! I was almost laughing, but the affect of those fumes were pretty serious! I hope you can salvage the doll because she is absolutely adorable. I have some shoes that I think might work for these dolls. They are for some of the larger ball jointed dolls, and seeing your dolls next to Lammily and Liv, makes me think these shoes would work. If you let me know the length and width of the feet, I will measure to see if they would fit! Them I could send you some pictures and we could work something out! They are, BTW, brand new and I didn't realize how big they were until I got them. They are quite cute and would be appropriate for these dolls if the fit them!

  5. Nice review, although you had ME panicking a bit reading about your microwave experience! That sounds scary! I'm glad you're all right. Hope your doll can be rescued - she is sooo cute. Both these dolls are adorable, and I love that you can switch the wigs around. Clothes-wise, I'm thinking the clothes from 4-Ever Best Friends dolls might fit. I have several and they are the same height and they look to have about the same body proportions. They've been discontinued for awhile but I find them in thrift stores fairly frequently and there are some on eBay as well. Wish these little MA cuties were available more readily, they seem like they'd be very popular.

  6. I'd never heard of this size coming from Madame Alexander, but I wish I'd been on the lookout for them - they're gorgeous! That they don't have that classic MA-pout-face is such a nice surprise.

    This might be an odd request, but when the microwave trauma wears off, I wonder if you'd be willing to take some photos of the damage? I'm curious about how the melting warped the doll. I'm glad it didn't turn out to cause any permanent health issues for you - I can imagine how scary that would have been!

  7. These doll's faces are beautiful. I always imagined them to be bigger when I saw them online. Did you manage to get any pictures of the 18 inch doll factory dolls? Do they have the same face as their regular line? I collect 18 inch Madame Alexander dolls. I have like 10 of them so that's why I'm wondering.

  8. These little girls are great, I really like them....but am very sad for you that one of them got ruined. Hopefully at some point in the future you'll be able to fix her with a new body.
    I too am saddened to hear that FAO has gone from that location, I've visited there a couple of times on trips to NYC and if I ever visit again, I sure hope that they have a new location that is easily accessible. I just love big toy shops like that!!!
    Thanks again for another great review.
    Hugs Sharon in Spain x

  9. These doll's faces are beautiful. I always imagined them to be bigger when I saw them online. Did you manage to get any pictures of the 18 inch doll factory dolls? Do they have the same face as their regular line? I collect 18 inch Madame Alexander dolls. I have like 10 of them so that's why I'm wondering.

  10. Oh my goodness those dolls are precious! Eliza reminds me so much of a character from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, Hazel Levesque. (Though Hazel's hair is typically described as a gold or caramel color) I'm so sad about the microwaving incident, but I'm glad that you're okay. :) At the start of this review the whole 9" thing didn't really hit me, so I thought they were WAY bigger than they actually are. :P When you showed the picture with the two other mini dolls I was like: Woah! They're LITTLE! :P Best of luck finding clothing and a wig for Ida, though she does look cute in the pink and blonde Liv wig. I hope Eliza is okay. Maybe one day I'll get to visit New York and maybe bring home one of these! :D
    best wishes!

  11. They're really cute! I don't think you'd have to out the one with the melted leg though. Maybe you could epoxy over the socket so it'd look like an amputation (or just hide it). And if you search on eBay for a while you may find a wheelchair in the right scale. These doll are so cute, it'd be a shame to get rid of them.

  12. I've seen those Beetles dolls at Tuesday Morning for much much cheaper. Though now a days, the only one I see left on the shelves is Ringo.

  13. I loved the shopping trip and the great review!

  14. I'm glad you took pictures of your new doll with an MA Travel Friend. I was thinking about those dolls right away and wondering how they matched up. I wonder if your new MA Doll Factory Dolls are related to the discontinued Hannah Pepper line. If they are, that would be another source for clothes, even if you'd have to get them second hand.

  15. These two are cute. I love the Avatar dolls but the price is definitely too high and I agree about the paint looking too paint-y.

    I saw these the other day and thought of you as you're a big science advocate for young girls :D from what I can tell they're made by the same company as Bratz. I don't know if they're available in the US yet but I did come across an expired eBay listing

  16. Hi, my name is Megan. I've been following the Toy Box Philosopher for a while now, and I want to thank you for your dedication to quality reviews. I enjoy reading your opinions and personal experiences/knowledge. Your background as a biology teacher adds a unique touch.

    The microwave incident sounds absolutely terrifying, especially when you fainted. I sincerely hope that you're okay.

  17. How bad is the damage? If it's just warped, some boiling water should be able to fix it.
    Plastics and vinyls have a 'shape memory' that can fix warping caused by heat with... well, heat. Sounds a bit counter-intuitive, I know. If there's some burning, you could say that it's a birthmark? There should be a way you can fix her! Don't lose hope : )

  18. Cute dolls! You might want to try clothing from the 10" Patsy dolls by Tonner on them. (The newer Patsys, not the vintage Patsys.)

  19. Hi Emily,
    This post is what first brought me to your blog. I have 8 of the Doll Factory dolls that I found on Ebay over the last few years. The were released under the title "Create your own Best Friend" and "Take Along Friend" I love the faces on them also,they are just sweet young faces. It is a smaller version of the Hanna Pepper Dolls,but the clothes for Hannah are too big for these dolls. I have had lots of difficulty finding clothing for them too,except for what the dolls I purchased on Ebay came in,which is why I have so many of them.
    If you ever do a "photo Mission" of these dolls I can contribute. I love to take photos of my dolls,all of them.
    Again, I am so glad that I happened upon your blog. I loved reading your "about me" section,you put into words so beautifully how I feel about my dolls and collecting.
    Mary in Ohio

  20. MADAME ALEXANDER~FAO SCHWARZ 10" What is this dolls name? tx.

  21. hi can I ask how much did you buy those fao Schwarz dolls?

  22. Were you ever able to get Eliza fixed up?

  23. Thanks so much for your review! I just stumbled upon it after finding a 9" MA doll at the thrift store and searching high and low for info about her. If I know how to upload photos, I would, but I can describe her instead: tan skin tone, green eyes, shoulder-length blond wig with bangs, pink top and skirt, no shoes.
    I appreciate all your info and thorough details.