Thursday, September 21, 2017

American Girl Create Your Own Clothing

As many of you know, I'm waiting for the arrival of my redheaded Create Your Own American Girl doll, Eliza.  I expect her to ship sometime in mid-November.  When I ordered Eliza back in late August, I also ordered a few custom outfits for her, just to see what the quality is like.  These items all arrived at the beginning of this week and I thought I would quickly show you what they look like in person.

Since Eliza herself can't model these clothes yet, I've asked Keira and Melody to step in and help out:

Design Your Own clothing by American Girl.
Before I show you the clothing, though, I want to express my sadness at the news that Toys R Us has declared bankruptcy.  I have to say that seeing the underwhelming downsized version of this store in Times Square last month did not fill me with hope.

I do love the message in their windows, though:

That should be the motto of my life.
With all of the "field research" that I do for this blog, Toys R Us has always been my favorite place to visit.  I hope that the stores will stay open for a while and that the company will find the solution they need to move forward.

Poor Geoffrey.
I used to assume that the addition of American Girl items to Toys R Us stores would help both businesses, but whenever I visit my favorite Toys R Us branch, the American Girl section is devoid of customers.  On reflection, it makes sense: one corner of a big box store can't possibly offer the same shopping experience as a full-fledged American Girl store, and American Girl items are too expensive for this type of retail venue.  As exciting as the merger seemed at first, I wouldn't be surprised if it hurt American Girl and Toys R Us more than it helped.

Similarly, American Girl's decision to offer custom items on their website is surely a good move in the short term, but it's difficult to predict how lucrative the idea will be over time.  The quality of the custom-made products will certainly play a big role in that outcome, which is why I was so eager to investigate!

The clothing comes in very flat, economical (personalized!) bags:


The first outfit that Keira is holding is a tunic and leggings set ($32).  Part of the custom personality I chose for Eliza is that she loves dogs, so I decided to design this outfit (and all of her other outfits, too) using the Animals theme.  

I chose a peach-colored tunic and black leggings:

Then, I decorated these pieces with the little Coconut dog graphic.  I tried to keep my design simple, and I didn't use any of the "fashion details," for fear that they'd look two-dimensional and cheap.

Each outfit I designed has a dog, a dog footprint, and Eliza's name somewhere:

Once an outfit is in the shopping cart, it's possible to choose a name for the interior tag (I could only fit the initials TBP here) and a recipient name for the bag label:

If the designer and recipient are different people, there are other options to select for the bag label--for example, instead of saying "designed by," it could say "happy birthday" or something like that.

Let's see how the actual outfit looks!

American Girl Create Your Own tunic and leggings set ($32).
The color match of the tunic shirt is very good.  It looks almost exactly the way it looked on the computer screen.

The shirt is made out of a white knit fabric and the peach color is printed on.  The problem with this is that the color does not go all of the way to the edges of each piece of fabric.  You can see this clearly along the velcro seam:

In fact, there is white visible along all of the seams in this shirt.  

These areas look fine when the shirt is laying flat on a table, but once any kind of tension is applied to the seam, the white becomes more obvious:

The shirt is well-sewn, though, with solid, tidy finishing throughout:

The designer label is printed inside of the shirt, at the back:

I'll look more at the graphics on this shirt once Keira is wearing it.

Meanwhile, the leggings are not exactly what I expected.  First of all, they're made out of a shiny, stretchy, synthetic knit that's very different from the fabric of the tunic.  

Also, they're grey--not black:


Here's Keira modeling the leggings on their own:

The graphics look great, and are right where I wanted them to be:


Good boy!
But again, the grey color of these leggings is only printed onto the outside of the fabric, so the inseam shows a lot of white:

In general, dark background colors are going to accentuate this problem.

The shiny fabric feels silky, but it looks a little cheesy.  It seems more like athletic wear (or lingerie) than everyday wear.  I was hoping for a matte knit that would resemble a cotton blend--like the leggings I wear.

Here's Keira wearing the full outfit:

American Girl Create Your Own tunic and leggings set.
Eliza's name is printed in grey.  I assumed that this text would be black, but I'm glad that the color matches the leggings.

For the shirt design, I gave Coconut a purple knit hat that matches his fur shading and the paw print:

The sequins on this paw print are not three dimensional--just printed:

The lower right hand side of the shirt has a small American Girl label:

In that last picture it's possible to see that the lines of white are especially obvious along the side seams of this tunic.

Overall, I'm fairly happy with this outfit.  It looks almost exactly like the picture, except for the fact that the leggings are a tiny bit lighter than I expected.  The biggest problem is that I'm not thrilled with the shiny fabric of the leggings.  The white seams are a distraction, too, but it's hard to think of a better way for the company to handle so many custom fabric colors--or how to mix those colors with the wide assortment of graphics.

I loved this outfit when I placed it in my cart.  In reality, the tunic is great and the leggings are not so great.

Next, here's Melody with one of the two dresses ($32 each) that I ordered:


For this dress, I started with a lovely plum background color:

And I added a Boston terrier with glasses:

This dress, like everything else that I designed, also has Eliza's name and a paw print.

Incidentally, because I have an American Girl account, all of the clothing that I've created is saved:

Unfortunately, none of the clothes can be edited after they're saved, which is why I have several slightly different versions of each outfit.

The Boston terrier dress is a pinkish-purple in real life.  It's also made out of the shiny, slinky knit fabric that the leggings are made out of--not the matte knit of the tunic:

American Girl Create Your Own dress ($32).
Once again, the color is printed onto the fabric, and this dress has some color smudges along the velcro seam in back:

Also, after unfastening the velcro seam one time, there's already a snag in the fabric from the scratchy side of the velcro:

The snag is especially visible because it disrupts the thin layer of color on the fabric.

The dress is well-sewn, though, and has a nice label on the inside:

Here's Melody wearing the dress:

Melody Ellison modeling a Create Your Own dress.
The dog graphic is set a little too low (my fault) and is a bit too big.  The dress is also longer than I expected it to be:


This doesn't strike me as a particularly fashionable length.

I love the graphics, though.  The design looks really cute, and the glasses don't get lost in the dog's similar coloring:

I placed the glasses a little crooked on the dog's nose, though.  I was worried that this might happen since it's impossible to zoom in while you're creating a design on the website (or at least I haven't figured out how to do it yet!).

This dress is not exactly the color I thought it would be, nor is the fabric what I expected.  The fabric is more of a disappointment to me than the color.  The slinky knit is highly prone to snags, and it looks like a nightgown or a swimsuit.

I take full responsibility for the problems with the print placement and size.  There's a bit of a learning curve involved.

Here are my girls modeling the first two outfits:

Melody and Keira modeling Create Your Own outfits.
I like how everything coordinates here.  I could pair the dress with the grey leggings and it would look great.  I don't think that a dress should cost the same as a tunic and legging set, though.  To me, the tunic and legging set is worth more.  The dresses would be more reasonable at $20.  They're essentially just long (shiny) tee shirts.

For the next design, I wanted to try the sports outfit ($34).  This option is the most expensive, but also comes with the most pieces (a headband, a shirt, shorts...and socks!).

I started by choosing a red shirt and white socks (the color of the shorts cannot be changed):

Notice that this shirt can be flipped around.  It's possible to place text on the back side!

I used the Coconut graphic again (love that dog!), but this time with sunglasses instead of a hat.

It's even possible to put little designs on the socks, which is awesome!

Here's how my outfit looked when I added it to the cart:

Maybe it's easier to see against a white background?

In real life, the colors of this outfit are not what I expected:

American Girl Create Your Own sports outfit ($34).
The shirt is a dark coral pink while the shorts are light grey--definitely not black!

The shorts are really nice, though:

They're very well made and have real piping all along the edges.  There's even an embroidered star on the bottom:


The headband is not so great.  It's a thin band of plain white elastic that closes with a small square of velcro:

The velcro does not hold this headband together very well, so I had a really hard time getting it around Keira's head.  If the elastic is being stretched, the velcro will not hold together at all.  

Eventually, I figured out that if I hold the velcro closed with my fingers while I'm positioning the headband, and then release my fingers gently once everything's in place, the headband will stay on.  What a pain, though.

Here's Keira wearing the full outfit: 

Keira modeling the Create Your Own sports outfit.
I made Coconut too big, but otherwise I really like how this outfit looks!


The graphics all look clear, despite the textured surface of the jersey:

This jersey shows off a benefit to printing the background color onto the shirt (as opposed to using dyed background fabric): Coconut did not have to be printed on top of a coral color.  He's just printed on the original white fabric, with coral printed all around him.  His coat is perfectly white.

This shirt does not have Eliza's name on the front...because I put it on the back instead:

The text looks pretty good overall, but the "i" is mildly obscured by the velcro seam:

It was really fun to decorate the socks, but again, I couldn't zoom in as I was designing, so the placement of the text and paw print is different on each side:


This outfit may not have come in the colors I expected, but I like the actual colors.  I especially like the grey shorts.  The oversized Coconut is partly my fault, but I also think that the shirt in this set is not perfectly represented online.  

When I go back and compare my screenshot to the actual product, I think Cocount's size looked fine during the design phase:

My advice is to make all of the graphics a little smaller than what you initially think they should be.

The next outfit I'll show you is my second dress.  For this dress, I wanted to include something from the fashion details page so that I could see if any of these extras are three dimensional...and if the designs continue onto the back of the garment.

The fashion details I chose are a quilted skirt and a black belt:

Then (of course) I had to add a dog, a paw print, and Eliza's name:

This dress turned out almost exactly how I expected:

American Girl Create Your Own dress ($32).
All of the colors are accurate and the graphics are right where I wanted them to be.  I think the position of that belt helped me to get everything lined up well.

It's hard to tell in photographs, but the quilted skirt is not actually quilted--it's just a printed design.  It's a very realistic printed design, though!  If you look at the paw print, you can see that there's no actual stitching in the underlying fabric:

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fashion details--even the belt--continue onto the back of the dress:

Here's a peek at the inside of the dress:

It's well-sewn and extremely simple.

Melody wanted to model this dress:

Melody modeling a Create Your Own dress.
I have to say, the fashion details look better than I thought they would.


The dog is super-cute, too, but his little body just kind-of fades away on the left side of the design:

The belt is my least favorite part of the dress.  It's pretty fake-looking.  I wish it had been a simple ribbon design and not this complicated loop:

Here's the dress from the back:

As we saw on the other dress, the back seam has several patches of missing color that don't look great:

This dress is almost exactly what I thought it would's just not my favorite item of clothing.  It has the slinky fabric, for one, and I also don't love the design.  If I purchase more of this clothing in the future, I will not choose any "fashion details," even though some of the prints are impressively realistic.

The last piece of clothing that I ordered is a tee shirt ($14.99).  A shirt like this comes free with every custom doll order, but the code for the free shirt arrives with the doll, so I don't have my code yet.  

I wanted to be able to show you a tee shirt design in this review, so I ordered an extra shirt.

The background color here only applies to a rectangle in the middle of the shirt.  Most of the shirt will remain white.  I chose a black rectangle...which I realize now is actually grey:

I added the adorable pug dog to this rectangle (with a dapper green bow tie!), along with Eliza's name and the signature paw print:

Keira is wearing the shirt with items from the sports outfit:

Create Your Own sports outfit with tee shirt instead of jersey.
I love this shirt.  It's made out of soft (not shiny) knit, and it looks exactly how I hoped it would look:


I'm especially excited that the rectangle in the middle of the shirt isn't shiny.  For some reason I thought that perhaps the printable part of the shirt would have a different texture.  I probably had one too many iron-on shirts back in the 80s.

And that's it!  For some reason, it seems like a small amount of clothing when I'm looking at it here in front of me.  Especially given that the whole wardrobe cost $154--almost as much as Eliza herself (gasp--that cannot be true!  I shouldn't have added it up).  Gulp.

So, what's the bottom line?  First of all, I had a really fun time designing these clothes.  I felt like I was on Project Runway, putting together my own mini collection.  It was a blast!  I've been back to the site several times since I placed my original orders, playing around with the design tools and just having fun.  That's definitely worth something.

In terms of the actual clothing, I'm happier with some of the outfits than I am with others.  I thought that the dresses would be my favorites, but I actually ended up liking them the least.  The shiny fabric and frumpy length are not what I expected, and both of my dresses have color defects along the back seam.  The other piece of clothing that I'm not wild about is the leggings.  These are also made out of silky stretch knit.  To me, the tight fit, shiny texture, and highly visible inseams make the leggings look cheap.

In contrast, I'm happily surprised by the sports outfit.  This was the last thing I decided to buy (I'm not a particularly sports-oriented person...) and the colors are different from what I anticipated, but I really like the outfit in person.  The grey shorts are very well-made and the fabric of the jersey is a happy medium between the overly shiny dress fabric and the plain knit of the tee.  I also like that graphics can be added to the socks, and that text can be placed on the back of the shirt.  The only disappointment with this set is the plain elastic headband with its super-flimsy velcro closure.  

I also like the tee shirt and the tunic, since both are made out of normal knit fabric.  Of these two, the tee shirt is a better deal because it can be purchased on its own.  I don't think it's worth paying $32 for the tunic and leggings set just to get the tunic.  In fact, while we're on the subject, the prices of these outfits seem off to me.  If we take the tee shirt as a set point ($15), I'd value the other items as follows:
Dress: $20 (it's just a glorified tee shirt)
Tunic and leggings: $25 (the price of a tee shirt plus $10 for the leggings)
Sports outfit: $30 (you get a lot with this set)
This means--at least by my estimation--that only the tee shirt and sports outfit are worth their price.

I'll end by reiterating a few of the things I've learned throughout this process:
1. If you don't like shiny knits, avoid the dresses and leggings.
2. Be careful with the velcro.  It'll damage the shiny clothes in seconds.
3. In general, try to make your graphics slightly smaller (and place them slightly higher) than what seems correct initially.
4. Avoid the fashion detail page--or be aware that all of these details are two-dimensional.
5. Dark colors may be lighter in reality than they appear on screen.
6. Don't be afraid of putting light graphics on top of dark backgrounds: because the background color is printed around the graphics, everything works out beautifully.
7. Dark background colors will accentuate the white that's visible in all of the seams.
8. Beware the cumulative cost of buying multiple outfits!  Geez.
9. The tee shirt and sports outfit are the best deals...and they can even be worn together.

And last of all...have fun and take your time with the design process!  For me, that's the biggest draw with this new line.  In the future, if I buy one tee shirt for every ten that I design, I'll consider my money well spent.

Here's Eliza's review, now that she's arrived!

Keira and Melody modeling Create Your Own outfits!


  1. i like the shorts a lot, and my dolls could always use more basic clothes- maybe i'll cave. $200 is Too Many Money for me, though, even if it does mean i get to make my ideal doll.
    also, this is probably the third comment in which i've asked about this, but are you planning to look at the star wars forces of destiny dolls? they look great except that all of them but endor leia have molded-on clothes. :( i'll probably put sabine on a made to move barbie body if i get her

    1. Jules, your comments have definitely not gone unnoticed! I have four of the Forces of Destiny dolls in the house, ready for review--including the Leia who has real clothes! :D I'm anxious to take a closer look at them! I hope it will be soon. Thank you very much for the excellent suggestion!!

  2. Great review, Emily! I can't wait for meet Eliza :)

    I'm waiting a China Girl doll, I read your review of her years ago and wanted one so bad... and I finally found her!

    I have a small American Girl collection because of you too. After you got your Keira I wanted my own, but in Europe we only can buy the minis (I got some on clearance when the old great designs will be disappear) and one day I found in the secondary market a new full size AG with a extra outfit for only 10€, for everything! I got her at mail on my bithrday and was my best birthday since I was a kid.
    She is the classic mold and after I found a Josefina for a really good deal too. Untill now I can't believe my good luck.

    But read your blog always make me happy, because I really really love learn about any doll or toys... So thank you so much for your hard work here, you are the best blogger ever!

    Have a great day.

  3. Please, please, please do a Patreon so I can give you money every month. I LOVE your reviews and I know they take a lot of time and money to do. Thank you!

  4. Great review!
    I love how all Eliza's outfits coordinate into a cohesive collection. I especially like the sports outfit and the
    t-shirt. Since the leggings are of shiny fabric they might look great with the sports shirt or t-shirt. Eliza would be ready to work out in colder weather.

  5. As always, EXCELLENT review and observations! Your blog is such an inspiration. I love the amount of detail and layers of critique you offer here.

    Perhaps the computer monitor is distorting some of the colors, but the screenshots in this review look exactly like the finished garments. The "bright red" of the sports shirt doesn't look red at all in the design pic, and none of the images of garments that are supposed to be black look black to me. The pink silky dress does look ever-so-slightly darker in the design image, but it's very slight. I assume that it's some sort of digital witchery afoot. But still... I would never have known that the shirt in the sports picture was supposed to look red to me until you said so. (internet shrug)

    Personal opinion: the larger graphics look great on your shirts! I really like the super-size coconut on the sports shirt in particular. The larger proportion looks adorable on the dolls, and it's a bit unusual. Feels more custom.

    1. Same color observations here except for one. The pinky dress looks lighter than the design image. :)

  6. Thanks for another stellar review :)

    While this is a nice gimmick for AG, that's all it really feels like. If you think of it in terms of buying fabric and iron on transfers, you could affordably make these clothes two or three times over for their cost. The shiny knits remind me of the thin, cheap Barbie clothes that came out in the 80s and don't last. They fray, catch, pill ... :(

  7. I like the clothes you designed. My favorite is the white & green dress. I like that one a lot.

    I have to say that Toys R Us had a good run, even after conspiring and succeeding to run Kiddie City out of the market years ago. Their biggest problem is their pricing. They over price dolls I can easily find for $3-5 dollars less at Walmart or Target. They are not being competitive. I was just in a store the other day and some of the items they have had in the store for a year are still the same price. After a year of having the same stock in inventory, do they really think it will sell at full price?

    I understand Mattel's motive in helping them, but Mattel should really focus on other avenues to sell which will help their own brand.

    I will be looking to see your thoughts on Eliza when she arrives.

    1. I hadn't thought about it, but yeah, it does seem like they take a while to get rid of stuff. Only just recently have they put the MH Fierce Rockers set on sale, and, while it's good for collectors who want a chance at finding relatively older products, it's a poor business move. I haven't noticed stuff being more expensive than other retailers, but they don't seem to grasp the period of demand as well. I do hope they stay around, though, and find a way to keep going.

    2. TRU price-matches, even up to a week after purchase! . When I go to TRU, hen I find something, I check the other stores, and then have them price-match. For Amazon, it has to be a Prime item though, which isn't a big deal. TRU is the only company to price-match so many other stores. Always, always check.

  8. Thank you for this fun review! I think for the quality you get in most of these pieces that the prices should be considerably lower than what AG charges for their usual clothing. The experience is definitely worth something, but the quality, yikes. I do think the shorts are very cute, in part because they're realistic as I expect them to be from AG. I'm really looking forward to your Eliza review!

  9. Much of that fabric (just by looking!) reminds me of something you'd see in a doll line for girls in space. Adjusting the styles and colors, you could probably get some cool sci-fi looks from it.

    Being able to edit the socks is a pretty neat thing!

  10. These clothes look very nice and durable. I like the white t-shirt best! Ptinted colo is actually a plus - the clothes definitely won't stain the doll. Velcro is a strange choice for an elastic headband though, A plain piece of elastic would be much better.

  11. I would say I like the second dress the best, second is the T-shirt, I just don't like that it is only a rectangle. The leggings make sense, you know those leggings, usually for kids, that are printed? They are exactly like the leggings.

  12. I think the price of the design your own clothes should be lower. You get a better quality outfit if you get the ready made clothes. You could get about 2 or 3 pieces of the mix and match clothes (including shoes), and you would still pay less. The mix and match clothes are high quality. I was hoping the dress would be cotton instead of the fabric they used. I think if the price was lower I would order at least 1 dress, I have a few designed, and 2 of them I really like a lot, but not for $32 each.

  13. Apparently, a curvy Made to Move Barbie will be coming out soon, so maybe that would be the best plus-size doll around, and worth looking at?

  14. Well I certainly enjoyed that review and understand why they print the colours on white fabric, because it's extremely difficult to print white on coloured fabric. You have stated a great reason for my dislike of Velcro, it also is a pain in the butt when dressing or undressing a doll with long hair!

    Although the clothes generally look quite cute, and I imagine would be so much fun to design on the computer screen, I doubt if I would bother purchasing any of them. I am very fussy and would go nuts seeing the white showing in the seams every time I dressed a doll.

    I also wondered if the Toys'R'Us stores in Oz will be closing too???

  15. A few notes: The leggings look grey to me in the screencap. The bright pink around it might be playing a trick on your eyes. Also colors on screen often appear different than in person. I'm a seamstress and get to deal with this a lot. I wish I could share a screencap of how the leggings and shorts look on my screen. The colors are very, very close to the colors your actual pieces appear.

    But AG does need to state the fabric (though the leggings look like they're made from what my dance leggings are made of), and they really can stock each of those pieces in each color offered. There are opaque transfer options.

    If you're on a MacBook, you can zoom your entire screen in by putting two fingers on the track pad, and spreading them apart. I think there's a PC option too, but I'm not sure what that might be.

  16. Wow! Thank you for this review it is extremely helpful. I have only visited the create your own doll portion at this time. I was confused by the create your own clothing thinking it was for girls not dolls.

  17. Thank you for this review of the Create Your Own line, especially the clothes! As of today, it seems to be the only article on the internet actually SHOWING what the finished clothing designs look like. I never would have guessed the shiny fabric! This is going to help a LOT of people who are deciding whether to shell out $$$ or not.