Friday, April 22, 2022

Ruby Red Fashion Friends

It's pretty safe to say that the one doll brand that's been recommended to me the most since I started writing reviews again is the Ruby Red Fashion Friends.  I wish I could individually acknowledge everyone who brought these little dolls to my attention, but my memory isn't that good.  Nevertheless, I'd like to express my gratitude to all of you who thought I might enjoy taking a closer look at the Fashion Friends.  You know me well.

The Fashion Friends are 14.5-inch vinyl dolls that were first released in 2019 and are still going strong.  The brand was founded by Ruby Ho, hence the Ruby Red part of the name.  Some of the face molds were sculpted by Ms. Ho herself, and some of them (including the dolls in this review) were sculpted by Dianna Effner.  All of the faces are beautiful.  I'm a big fan of Ms. Effner's work--as you might have gathered from my Maru and Friends, Mini Pal, and Little Darling reviews--and so I'm always excited to get my hands on another one of her creations.  Ms. Effner's death in 2020 was a huge blow to the doll world (as if 2020 wasn't bad enough) and it made me cherish my Effner dolls all the more.

I actually pre-ordered the dolls for this review back in October--before I'd even started blogging again. My brilliant idea was that by the time they were released (around Christmas) I'd have the blog up and running and I'd be able to present you with a review of two brand new releases!  That went well, didn't it?  Sigh.  Instead, I got distracted by a million other things and now find myself reviewing Christmas-themed dolls when it's 70 degrees outside, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing like they're in a freaking Disney movie.  I'm silly to have waited so long to write this review, but at least I'm finally here, sharing my Christmas girls with you.  First, let's meet Jennifer:

Ruby Red Fashion Friends limited edition doll, Jennifer, $169.99.

Jennifer will be the star of this review, but I'll also include some photos and analysis of her Christmas companion, Scarlett.  But first, a little background!

The original release of the Ruby Red Fashion Friends included only three dolls, Bella, Sara, and Hanna:

These three characters are available in an ongoing way and cost around $130 each.  Other characters have joined this core group over the years, including Maya, Stella, Kayla, and Alex (a boy!).

In 2021, the core line expanded even further to include smaller Siblies dolls, which I also have plans to review.  These are in scale to be little brothers and sisters to the original Fashion Friends, and they're absolutely adorable.  I saw some of them in person at FAO Schwarz before Christmas.

I bought this girl, Callie, at FAO.

One of the really exciting things about this brand is that they offer new special (limited) release dolls like Jennifer and Scarlett quite regularly, and these are always beautiful and fun to look at.  The most recent addition in this realm is a pair of special edition steampunk Siblies!

I got a little confused when I was ordering my dolls because there are two main websites for the Fashion Friends: rubyredfashionfriends.com and rubyredtoys.com.  Both sites are informative and legitimate, but rubyredfashionfriends.com is the place to go if you want to order a doll from within the United States.  The other site is the Hong Kong division, and that's where to go if you're shopping from Europe or Asia.

Anyway, my dolls arrived just in time for Christmas, and came packaged in attractive cardboard boxes:


This packaging is different from what you'd see with a regular edition Fashion Friend.  Here's a photo of the display at FAO Schwarz so you can see what the standard boxes look like:


There's no plastic window on Jennifer's box, but there is a small photograph of her face:


Jennifer and Scarlett were each limited to 200 pieces worldwide.  That's a pretty small edition, but many of the other special releases are limited to only 100.


The back of the box has a little bit of text, but is mostly patterned cardboard:


The claim that "outfits fit all 14" fashion dolls" feels a bit optimistic:

All of them??
The box hinges open on one side...


And this is not what I expected to find when I opened the box!


Unlike the regular edition dolls, Jennifer came in her underwear, with all of her accessories (including her wig) packaged separately!


One of the fun things about Jennifer and Scarlett is that they come with removable wigs.  Many of the more recent special editions have this feature.  The core Fashion Friends are also wigged, but those wigs are glued into place and so changing them requires a bit of effort--like it would with an American Girl or My Twinn doll.

Here are all of Jennifer's wrapped accessories spread out so that you can see:


Jennifer balanced nicely on her own right away, even though her legs were wrapped in protective plastic:


Since I often show the plastic waste for less expensive dolls like L.O.L. Surprise and Capsule Chix, I should do the same here.  There was quite a lot of plastic!


Because Jennifer was packaged without any clothes on, this review will have a slightly different structure than normal; I'll show you the body and articulation first, and then I'll take a look at the outfit and accessories.  She'll end up dressed eventually--I promise.

Jennifer's body is made entirely out of beautiful high-quality hard vinyl, and she has nine elastic-strung joints:


Her face is easily recognizable as an Effner mold, with a sweet smile and realistic features.  Effner's Fashion Friend molds are based on her Little Darling faces, and are named accordingly.  This smiling face is known as LD#3: 


Poppets and Posies is a great resource for keeping up-to-speed with the Ruby Red Fashion Friends faces--and with all of the new releases, too.

Jennifer's eyes are inset grey acrylic and are highlighted by both applied and painted lashes.  Her eyebrows are quite basic, and include about ten painted hair lines over a lighter blocked shape:


She has rosy blushing with no freckles, and her eyes are also rimmed in pink.  Her lips are darker than her blushing, and do not have any painted detail:


Here's a closer look at the inset eye and the surrounding makeup:


Jennifer's official description states that her eyes are "light purple," but they look grey to me--which I love.

In profile, Jennifer has a large head atop a thin frame.  She also has a bit of a square-shaped bottom:


Her head has an unusual shape in profile.  The top of the head slopes upwards quite significantly.  This is not very common in the doll world, and I mention it because it has some ramifications with wig usage:

She has pierced ears!
Compare Jennifer's head shape to something like my Smart Doll, Monday:


Monday's head is rounded in a more gradual and consistent way.  Here's the silhouette of a real child's proportions for comparison:


This silhouette looks somewhere in between Jennifer and Monday's head shapes.

Here's Jennifer from the back:


The back of the head has a few molded alphanumeric markings, but it's mostly bare:


Jennifer's head is an elastic-strung ball joint, and so it has outstanding movement.  She can look way up and way down:


And tip her head from side to side:


She can basically strike any head pose that I can think of.


The head also holds most positions perfectly, although when Jennifer is tipped backwards, her head tends to snap back, too.


Jennifer's shoulders have great mobility, but she can't hold her arms in every single position; the elastic occasionally wants to pull the joint back into its resting state.  

She can hold her arms up near the level of her shoulders:


And the joint can also be rotated outwards: 


She can spin her arms all of the way around, too:


Although the fit of the joint in some of these positions is not perfect:


Jennifer's elbows are strung, and so they can spin and bend, but they hold their position less and less well the more the arm is bent.  This means that even though the joint can bend to ninety degrees, it can't stay in that position on its own.  This is as much as it will stay bent without me intervening:


Jennifer has elegant, long fingers with red nail polish.  Three of her fingers are connected, and her pointer finger and thumb are separate.


On her right hand, the pinkie finger and thumb are separate.

The palm of the hand has a few molded line details:


Despite her elastic-strung hips, Jennifer's side-to-side split action is not very impressive:


I removed her underwear so that I could get a better look at the hip joints and see what was preventing full splits:


The top part of each front leg has a large indentation that helps with leg movement.

While I have the underwear off, here's the back side of Jennifer's torso, too:


The shape reminds me a lot of the Maru and Friends dolls!

If Jennifer's legs remain unrotated, the shape of her upper legs prevents her from achieving a full side-to-side split:


However, if the legs are rotated, the indentations at the tops of her legs allow for a very full split.  Strangely, this works best when Jennifer's legs are rotated behind her body, like this:


She can also do a full split with her legs rotated forwards, but they have to be rotated really far forwards--so that her feet are pointing backwards:


The strangeness of that pose is easily rectified by rotating her lower legs around so that they face upwards:


Jennifer's front-to-back splits are excellent, although her flat feet get in the way a little at the back:


She sits on the floor nicely:


But can't quite sit cross-legged:


She's excellent at sitting in a chair:


Even though her knee joints don't look great when they're bent:


I like how she looks sitting with her ankles crossed!


Jennifer's knees don't bend enough for her to kneel--either on one knee or on two:


There's no articulation at the ankles, which I think is a good thing.  Elastic-strung dolls with jointed ankles are too prone to instability.

Jennifer has cute little monkey toes, with tiny creases on the joints and even some red nail polish!


The big toe is separate from the other toes, suggesting that maybe Jennifer could wear thong sandals?

My doll has a mild leg defect that's difficult to photograph.  Her left leg has an area along the shin, near the knee, where the vinyl is more pale than normal.  I'm not sure what might have caused this.  Perhaps it's an internal anomaly in the vinyl, or an area that experienced some stress?


The defect doesn't worry me at all, and it's really hard to see.

Overall, Jennifer is a well-strung doll.  Her joints are not loose and floppy, so she can stand on her own in many positions:


The joints are also not so tight that they constantly snap back into their resting positions.  Her legs, in particular, can hold almost any pose I put them in.

No camera trickery here--she's balancing on her own!
Jennifer has way more flexibility than a Mini Pal or even one of the pricey Little Darlings.  She can strike some great poses!


...Although the strung joints allow her limbs to move into some unnatural ways, too.


At 14.5 inches tall, Jennifer is about three inches taller than a standard Barbie doll like Lena:

A Ruby Red Fashion Friend next to a grumpy Barbie.
She's also an inch or so taller than my Maru and Friends Mini Pal, Raven.  This was a pretty big surprise.  I expected the Fashion Friends to be the same size as the Mini Pals:

A Ruby Red Fashion Friend doll (left) and a Maru and Friends Mini Pal (right).
The dolls are in scale enough with each other to make cute siblings or friends, though.

The worst thing about this size difference is that clothes sharing is unlikely between the Fashion Friends and the Mini Pals.  Raven's dress is way too tight on Jennifer:

It almost fits, but the sleeves are way too tight.
And Raven's shoes are really small:


I don't have many other 14-inch dolls in the house right now, but I cheated a bit and opened a Glitter Girl that I purchased for an upcoming review--just so we could see how this scale compares to Jennifer:

Glitter Girl Hallie (left) and Fashion Friend Jennifer (right).
Jennifer is slightly taller than the Glitter Girl, Hallie, but their torsos are about the same size.

Two things about the previous picture: first, that's a pretty good representation of Jennifer's true skin tone.  Second, the comparison makes me realize how gorgeous Jennifer's vinyl is!

Clothes sharing is much better between these two dolls.  Hallie can wear Jennifer's dress:


Although the velcro doesn't quite fasten fully at the very top:


So maybe the Fashion Friends clothing really does fit all 14-inch fashion dolls?  I still find that hard to believe, but there will certainly be some clothes-sharing that's possible between these dolls and brands like Glitter Girls, Hearts for Hearts, and Wellie Wishers.

Hallie's clothes fit Jennifer well, too--and she looks really cute in a hat!


The shoes can't be shared between these two brands, though.  The Glitter Girl feet are too broad.

The last doll I want to compare to Jennifer is her Christmas companion, Scarlett.  Shield your eyes because...


Blam!  That girl is pale.  Her vinyl color is white.  Like pure, un-pigmented white.  Or that's what it looks like, anyway.  The comparison is nice, though, because it highlights Jennifer's skin tone, which is warm and natural, and can look paler in some of my photographs than it actually is.

Here's Scarlett's box:


Look closely at the picture of her on the front of the box:


Her face is so red that it looks like she's feverish or horribly embarrassed.  All of the promotional photos look like this, although some aren't quite as bad as the picture on the box.  Here's a snippet from a different photo:

Scarlett fever?
The blushing in real life is not very attractive.  Part of the problem is that there's simply too much blush, but the other problem is that the blush contrasts too much with the stark whiteness of the skin.  I looked at these promotional photos and I noticed the blushing, but I guess some naive part of my brain just assumed that the doll would look different (better) in real life.  She does not.

None of the other Fashion Friends are blushed this heavily, so it was an odd decision for the company.  I wonder if maybe because the character comes wearing a bright red dress, it was thought that she needed more color to balance the boldness of that dress?  I can understand that.

But when she's naked, the blushing is very bizarre:


Scarlett also has the LD#3 face mold.  This seems to be the most common face in the Ruby Red Fashion Friends collection.

In any case, I really like Scarlett's natural green eyes and delicately lined lips:


I'll show you more of Scarlett a little later in the review, but for now let's get back to Jennifer.

Jennifer's outfit is as pale as Scarlett's skin.  The whole ensemble is white with gold accents:


The outfit centers around a long-sleeved party dress with a tulle crinoline:


Many of the Ruby Red Fashion Friends outfits have modern, trendy designs, but this dress is a bit more traditional.  It's made out of a white satiny fabric and has a delicate tulle overlay decorated with metallic golden dots and stars:


The dress has a velcro seam down the back:


There are some nice accents, like this golden ribbon at the neckline:


And the large forward-facing bow at the waist, which has the look of expensive shantung silk:


The gold tones in the bow at the neckline and the bow at the waist don't match, which is a little distracting to me, but overall I think the dress is very pretty.

It feels special and well-made, with impeccable stitching and carefully finished edges:


The outfit also includes this white imitation fur coat:


The front of the coat is accented with a small gold ribbon bow.  The bow has a small plastic star in the center:


The plastic star on my doll's outfit has a line of missing paint down the middle, but this is difficult to see under normal circumstances.  I'm not wild about this accent.

The inside of the coat is fully-lined and looks smooth and neat:


Elements from the dress and the coat are combined in Jennifer's white winter boots:


The boots have white fur trim at the top, and a line of golden bows down the front.


They open in the back with a velcro seam, and so they're pretty easy to put on and take off:


The outfit also includes a pair of sheer white stockings:


These stocking fit well, but they occasionally get stuck in Jennifer's knee joints.

Here's Jennifer wearing the dress, crinoline, and tights:


The style of this dress, especially the length and puffiness of the skirt, make Jennifer look younger than many of the other Fashion Friends characters.


Here she is with the boots added to the outfit.  These help a little with her balance:



And last, here's the outfit with the coat:


It can sometimes be difficult to dress dolls when they're wearing long sleeves paired with a coat.  However, the sleek lining on this coat and the well-fitted sleeves of the dress make it easy to slide the coat on.


I would have preferred Jennifer's coat if it was missing the gold bow accent on the left side.  That detail clutters the look and takes attention away from the beautiful dress.  But otherwise I think it's a really attractive, well-made outfit

It's about time that Jennifer got some hair, don't you think?  She has a really cool wig, with a pile of ringlets tied back into a thick ponytail:


The hair is mostly black, but it has some chestnut brown (almost red) highlights:


I wasn't wild about the highlights at first--even though they're red.  They seem like the kind of thing a teenager would have in her hair, and yet Jennifer is dressed like a much younger child.  There's a bit of a disconnect.  However, I like the originality of the added color, rather than the wig being pure black, and so the highlights grew on me over time.

The really interesting thing about this wig is that the wig cap is lined with silicone!  I've never seen anything like this before.  The silicone came covered with plastic:


I removed the plastic and inverted the wig to get a better look at the coating:

That's pretty gross to look at.
I was a bit skeptical about how this wig would work, but it's great!  It's easy to put on, and then it stays in place:


I wasn't sure if the wig was styled into a ponytail just for protection in the box, or whether it was meant to be left that way.  The hair was only held in position by a single loose-fitting clear rubber band.   

So, the first thing I did was take the ponytail down to see how the hair looked that way: 

Well...
I'm sure it'd be possible to smooth and rearrange the hair to make it look good down, but the placement of the ringlets, especially those in back, make it seem like the wig was not intended to be worn this way.


So I put the rubber band back where I found it:


Jennifer came with some smaller accessories, too:


There's a pair of golden star earrings that match the star decoration on the jacket:


These are pretty, but the gold paint is unevenly distributed.

There are golden stars accenting the white headband, too.  Each star sits in the middle of a series of white tulle bows:


The last accessory is a white imitation fur purse with a pearl chain strap:


The purse is nicely made and pretty (the pearl strap is especially nice!) but again--it's hard to tell what age range this doll is meant to represent.  There are a lot of conflicting signals.

Here's Jennifer with her entire outfit and all of her accessories:


I think she's a gorgeous little doll, and she would look perfect in a Christmas or winter display.


I love the contrast between the white outfit and the dark hair.


I'd love to see what she'd look like with her hair streaked in gold instead of red!

I'll let Jennifer pose and enjoy her outfit for a while:


I like the outfit best without the coat.  The dress has such a pretty shape:




She's such a cutie, and very fun to photograph.  Although I promise you she looks even better in person!  My grey background made her complexion difficult to capture accurately.


She's nowhere near as difficult to photograph as pale Scarlett, though!

Speaking of Scarlett, since I have her in the house, I figured I should take some photos of her, too, so that we can compare her to Jennifer.

Here's Scarlett with all of her clothing and accessories:


There are a lot of parallels between Jennifer and Scarlett's outfits.  The most obvious is that they both have the same imitation fur bag and the same type of boots.  The only difference here is that Scarlett's boots have white bows, not gold:


Scarlett also has the exact same stockings and crinoline as Jennifer:


Scarlett's dress is very similar in style to Jennifer's, too.  It also has a prominent bow at the waist, long sleeves, and tulle accents:


Scarlett's dress is made out of red lace, though, and has a high neck with a satin collar.

The dress is fully-lined and closes down the back with metal snaps:

Snaps?  Jennifer's dress had velcro.
There's even a slip-like lining to the skirt.  This is good because all of that bright red fabric makes me worry about stains on the vinyl!


The detail that stands out to me is that Jennifer's dress closes in back with velcro, but Scarlett's dress has snaps.  Snaps are by far the more preferable closure, at least in my eyes, especially when an outfit comes with delicate stockings.  It's way too easy to snag the stockings with the rough side of the velcro.  

Why, then, did Scarlett get the nice closure and Jennifer did not?  Especially when everything else about their dresses is so similar?  It's weird.

Scarlett's outfit also includes this beautiful red beret:

Not the kind you'd find in a second-hand store.
The beret feels like it's made out of wool, and is decorated with some red lace and a big red bow.

It's also fully-lined, and has a small metal bobby pin in the front to help keep it in place:


The beret is beautiful and well made.  I like it even more than I like Scarlett's dress!  I wish she had a red wool coat to match.

Instead of a fur jacket, Scarlett has this short cape:


The cape closes in front with a metal hook that's covered by a white satin bow.

Not only does Scarlett have earrings, but she also has an elaborate pearl and rhinestone necklace:


The earrings are large red resin hearts with gold glitter inside.  

The necklace has double strands of pearls on each side that join around an intricate gold and rhinestone pendant:


I think the necklace is a bit too ornate for a child's outfit.  It's like something Scarlett borrowed from her mother's jewelry box.   Maybe she's playing dress-up?

The big question for me, though, is why does Scarlett have more pieces in her ensemble?  Let's compare:

Jennifer

Scarlett

Fur purse

Fur purse

Boots

Boots

Stockings

Stockings

Crinoline

Crinoline

Fur coat

Fur cape

Dress (with velcro)

Dress (with snaps)

Earrings

Bigger earrings

Headband

Beautiful wool beret

???

Ornate necklace


I could argue that Jennifer's dress is more elaborate.  It has more tailoring in the sleeves and more layering in the skirt.  I could also argue that her fur coat is more complex than a fur cape.  These things might explain Scarlett's extra jewelry, nicer headwear, and snaps.  However, as a parent who's spent the past twenty years or so trying to keep things "fair" between two kids, something about this doesn't sit right with me.

For what it's worth, I think Jennifer got a much more interesting wig than Scarlett.  Scarlett's wig is brown with light blonde highlights, and so overall it looks like a streaked dirty blonde color:


This is the kind of color that looks elegant on women who've had their hair highlighted, but I don't associate the look with children.  It's not very natural.  On the other hand, it reminds me of many of the gold tones in Jennifer's ensemble, and so it adds a cohesiveness to the pair of dolls that I appreciate.

Here's Scarlett in her full outfit:



I couldn't get the beret to slide any further onto Scarlett's head without disrupting the gathered hair at the back of her wig.  It looked strange perched on her head like that, so I took it off.

Here she is without the hat:


Le me start by saying that Scarlett looks so much better when she's fully dressed and has hair!  

The blushing in her face isn't nearly as shocking.  And I can see why the blush might have been added as a way to keep her face from being washed out by the brightness of the dress.  I was starting to like her at this point:


I'm still not crazy about the wig, though.  The color doesn't quite compliment Scarlett or her outfit, and the style is problematic.  The little ponytail in back looks nice, but it doesn't work with the beret:


Also, the little curls that frame Scarlett's face tend to block her pretty green eyes and cast shadows on her cheeks.



Here are Jennifer and Scarlett together:


I really love Jennifer, but my goodness Scarlett is pale.


The girls wanted to swap outfits for a minute, and I thought this sounded like a good idea!  

Jennifer looks beautiful in Scarlett's red dress:


Her dark hair and olive skin look just as nice with the red outfit as they did with the white:


The beret won't work with Jennifer's hair, but at least she got to try on the ornate necklace:



The white fur cape is really easy to use, and it breaks up the abundance of red nicely:


It was extremely hard to photograph Scarlett in Jennifer's clothes (so much white!!) but this might be an improvement over her original outfit:


It's a bit monochromatic, but at least the hair makes sense with this dress:


Here she is with the fur coat:


The blush looks more out-of-place with this outfit than it did with the bright red, but I can imagine that Scarlett has just come in from an afternoon of playing in the snow.


It's become very easy to customize the Ruby Red Fashion Friends, thanks to a plentiful supply of extra wigs and outfits available at a variety of vendors.  Because of this, even though I had some little disappointments with Scarlett, I didn't regret purchasing her in the slightest.  I knew that I could play around with her appearance until I found a combination that made me happy.   

The Ruby Red Fashion Friends stores have plenty of extra outfit sets for sale (for $49.99 each), but they don't offer extra wigs at this point (I wish they would!).  Luckily, Etsy is overrun with custom wig options, and there are a lot of beautiful handmade outfits to be found there, too.

These dolls take the same 8-9" wig as the My Twinn Cuddly Sisters, so I had a few options in my stash to try on Jennifer.  First here's a medium brown wig:


This is a pretty wig, but it was really hard to get it to stay on Jennifer's head.  You'll notice in the previous picture that the hairline is low on the forehead.  It's low like that because it was the only position where the wig didn't slip back on the sloped head.

After brushing the hair lightly, the hairline slipped back...


Then it slipped back some more...


And then the wig slipped all of the way back and eventually fell off.


The tight fit of the wig, combined with Jennifer's sloping head, makes it really hard to get the wig on and keep it in place.

I purchased a silicone wig cap to see if it would help.  These cost about $13:


However, I couldn't even get the wig on Jennifer's head with this cap in place.  It was way too tight and felt impossible to manipulate.

I had better luck with a black wig from Doll of a Kind.  This fit over the silicone wig cap and looks okay:


The new hair completely changes Jennifer's personality, doesn't it?  I think she looks like a different doll.

I paired the hair with this gorgeous handmade ensemble from an Etsy shop (For Dolls From Sasha) that is no longer in business.  The outfit cost $31, which is about $20 less than the official Ruby Red Fashion Friend outfits:


It's really fun to see how a new wig and a new outfit create a different character!


One thing I really like about this outfit is that it makes Jennifer believable as an older character--perhaps a ten or twelve-year-old.

I wrestled with the brown wig and the silicone wig cap again because I thought this hair color might go well with the earthy tones of the outfit:


I've wrangled a lot of wigs in my time, and this is by far the most frustrating fit I've ever faced.  It wasn't much fun at all to use this wig.

I did finally get it into place, although it's riding a bit high on Jennifer's forehead and the part is off-center:



The hat from this outfit helps cover the slipping hairline:


And she looks like yet another different character!  It's really fun to play around with wigs on these dolls.

However, I think in Jennifer's case, the original wig is so great that nothing is going to top it.


This wig is also super-easy to use, and it stays in place well.  It's a very clever design.


I really love Jennifer in this more casual outfit--and the streaks in her hair make some sense:


The layers in the skirt are so playful:


And the delicately-knitted sweater that's underneath the brown blazer is beautiful:


The stretchy knitted hat in this outfit matches the sweater and accommodates Jennifer's curls nicely:


I think she looks adorable in a hat:



I chose the brown outfit specifically for Jennifer, and I think it suits her well.  However, I bought another outfit from this shop for Scarlett, so I figured I would let Jennifer try that on quickly, too:


This cute set includes an ice-blue lace tank top and a multi-layered, tulle-accented skirt.  I've paired the outfit with Scarlett's original white boots.


The blue in the shirt brings out the hint of blue in Jennifer's eyes:


This set also has a hand-knitted sweater and hat, but the hat wouldn't fit over Jennifer's hair.



If I give Jennifer the straight black wig, then the hat will fit:


She looks really nice like this, I think:


As much as I like Jennifer in the blue outfit, I think the brown ensemble--with her original wig--is the best look for her.


Next, it was Scarlett's turn to see if any combination of wigs and outfits could bring out her best self.

The brown outfit completely washes out her pale face:


I thought that the original wig might look better with the browns and yellows in this set, but I actually don't think it works at all:


I tried the frustrating brown wig with this outfit, too, but it's still not right:


Dark hair overpowers Scarlett's white face way too much.


So, I embraced the paleness and ordered Scarlett a platinum wig:


This is better!


I'm still not loving how Scarlett's complexion pairs with the brown outfit, but the wig is a step in the right direction.



The outfit works slightly better without the brown jacket:



Light colored clothing was definitely working better for Scarlett than dark, so I was optimistic about the blue and white ensemble that I chose for her--especially with the new platinum wig.

Here's that combination:




Suddenly, I was starting to love this girl!  But that blushing is really intense.

The original outfit with it's bright red dress did a pretty good job of balancing out the heavy blush, and so I decided to put Scarlett back into those clothes--with the platinum wig.

I think we have a winner:


As an added bonus, the beret pulls down over Scarlett's head when she's wearing this simpler wig:



I think she's so beautiful now!


I had been contemplating the idea of repainting Scarlett's face (I still might do that) but suddenly it doesn't feel urgent.


She's lovely.


Scarlett seriously threatened to steal the show there for a minute, didn't she?  But this is Jennifer's review, so I'll end by sharing a few photos of Jennifer outside in natural light.

Because Jennifer is a special girl, I wanted to take her on a really great outing for her photo shoot.  I ventured out to a nearby nature preserve that has some gorgeous, wooded areas.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that these little dolls are quite difficult to photograph outside--especially in the bright sunlight.  


Jennifer's beautiful vinyl is almost translucent in some light situations, and while it makes her look glowing and happy sometimes...


...it can also make her look transparent!  Notice how the light filters through her arm and fingers in this shot:


But she's an adventurous one, this girl!  There were a lot of downed trees in the woods, and Jennifer wanted nothing more than to climb on every single one of them!


Nothing I told her about the cost of her beautiful Etsy outfit could dissuade her from jumping onto and between every log.


This dramatic tangle of branches, vines, and fallen trees looked especially treacherous to me, but of course it quickly became Jennifer's favorite spot to explore:



Jennifer thought that this old tree was covered in green slime (which didn't bother her at all), but I explained it's actually lichen--a fungus and an algae living together in symbiotic harmony.


She declared that this specific shade of green was her new favorite color!


After taking a lot of washed-out or backlit pictures that didn't capture Jennifer's appearance accurately enough, I gave up and we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring and playing games of hide-and-seek:


A few days later, when the sun wasn't as bright, I took Jennifer out into my scruffy backyard for a few more pictures.  These give a better idea of what she actually looks like.



It was extremely windy while we were out, so Jennifer stuck close to one of our larger trees, taking shelter on the downwind side.


When the wind relented for a few moments, Jennifer shed her jacket and decoupled herself from the tree.


She explored around just long enough to discover one of the gadziliion sweetgum tree seeds that litter our yard:


Jennifer will be the first to tell you that, contrary to their tempting name, sweetgum seeds don't taste very good.  Don't ask me how she knows that.

Unfortunately, the winds kicked up again a few moments later, which was fun at first...


But as the intensity increased, Jennifer was forced back against the safety of her tree.



Bottom line?  It's always obvious when I really like a doll line, isn't it?  There won't be a lot of surprises in this summary.  The Ruby Red Fashion Friends are beautiful, versatile dolls that are clearly made with a lot of creativity and a strong commitment to quality.  The Dianna Effner face mold that is shared by Jennifer and Scarlett is sweet and friendly, with just the right amount of smile.  The vinyl is smooth and translucent.  The clothing is expertly made and feels special.  In a perfect world, I would have gotten my hands on one of the simpler, more modern outfits that are typical of this brand, but the fancy Christmas dresses that came with this pair are a treat.  

I was particularly impressed by the wig design on these special edition dolls.  Both Jennifer and Scarlett have removable wigs, which is not a feature of the core Fashion Friends.  The wigs have a silicone coating on the inside of the wig cap that allows a good connection to the doll's head without requiring any adhesive.  The wigs are also really easy to put on--much much easier than wrestling the tight-fitting wigs and wig caps that can be found on Etsy.  Standard wigs do not seem to pair well with the sloped heads of the Fashion Friends.  It would be wonderful to see a variety of silicone-backed wigs for sale in the Ruby Red Fashion Friends store.  I suspect they'd be very popular.

The biggest critique I have with this pair of dolls is that some of the design decisions don't mesh with my particular taste.  For example, Scarlett's skin tone and facial coloring were a disappointment.  Her white vinyl is simply too stark to be realistic (she'd be an amazing fairy or elf, though!) and her blushing was overdone to the point that it looks unnatural--even sickly.  The red face detracts from all of the beautiful things about Scarlett.  I'm also not very happy with Scarlett's wig.  The color doesn't seem quite right for a child, and it doesn't add anything to the overall aesthetic of the doll.  In addition, the hairstyle caused some problems; the little curls around Scarlett's face look scraggly and get in the way of her pretty green eyes, and the ponytail detail at the back prohibits the beret hat from being worn securely.

In contrast, I love almost all of Jennifer's design details.  Her exuberant dark hair, natural warm skin tone, and unusual eyes make for a striking combination.  Pairing these features with an all-white outfit was a good choice; the white offers a neutral-but-elegant backdrop for her more notable features.  As well-suited as Jennifer is to her original outfit, she is also one of those fortunate dolls who looks good in everything she wears.  It was hard for me to pick a favorite of all of the different clothes I tried on her.

The really great thing about the Fashion Friends, though, is that even if you end up with a doll who doesn't initially live up to all of your expectations, it hardly matters.  Wig and outfit changes can totally transform these dolls into a myriad of different characters.  For me, all it took was a new wig to make Scarlett go from "meh" to magnificent.  I may still decide to repaint her face (it'd be an interesting challenge) but it no longer feels like a necessity.

I've owned many similar dolls over the years--notably several Maru and Friends Mini Pals and even one of Dianna Effner's limited vinyl Little Darlings.  All of these dolls are wonderful, but the Ruby Red Fashion Friends strike a magical balance; they have all the charm of a Dianna Effner sculpture, they sit comfortably in between the Mini Pals and Little Darlings in terms of price, they have fantastic outfits and coloring variations, and they have four extra points of articulation!  Furthermore, the brand keeps expanding to offer more editions, outfits, innovations--and even siblings.  In this little corner of the doll world, I think I've found a new favorite.

32 comments:

  1. Oh yay! It was so fun to read your review of these! I think they’re lovey, though yes, some coloring I wouldn’t agree with or like as much, but I truly enjoy looking at these little dolls and also seeing so many amazing outfits for them!

    -RebeccaT

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  2. These dolls look so Sweet and good natured, don’t they? Fascinating study and problem solving with skin tones here; I could really see how problematic Scarlett’s fair skin could be. I have a couple of the RRFF and I absolutely love the nature and translucency of the vinyl. Their clothing is pricy, but very well made.It was obvious that you were totally taken by them by your loving photographs.
    You brought up an issue I’ve run into of late—trying to figure out the appropriate age of some dolls—including some “BL-the” (Brand-that-shall-not-be-named)*. dolls, which can really look like little girls, but have breasts. I guess it gives us more options???
    *read the comments from the previous Doll review for some fun and aggravation 😑

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  3. Jennifer in red reminds me of Dolores from Disney's Encanto! I love that movie

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  4. These dolls remind me of old-fashioned porcelain dolls. The ones that had child faces but elaborate hair with ringlets and sophisticated outfits, including bride dresses. I like them more than your Little Darling, in no small part because of the outfits and Jennifer's hair. I think Scarlett looks best in the platinum wig and either of her outfits. The blushing is unfortunate, but the thing is, that is how much ANY blushing bothers me... it's just as jarring to me on Jennifer and countless other dolls, including artist faceups. Be careful if you want to remove it though - I sanded blush on some jdolls and there was bright yellow staining underneath, so it all had to go, including the very subtle one around the eyes. Maybe these dolls aren't stained, but it's a possibility.

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    1. Come to think of it, they do have a similar face to “Nancy”, a giant porcelain doll who lived in my room during middle and high school as a decoration piece!

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  5. I love your wonderful review (your pictures are amazing, especially the outdoor ones !) and I LOVE these dolls. A lot of special editions aren't available outise of US ( or with a e very high price)...
    I just want to warn you about an issue recently seen because of the removable wigs : the silicone seeps after some time and leaves unremovable stains on the head (where the wigs are placed). It might be better to NOT keep the wig on the doll !

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    1. Yikes! Thank you so much for the heads-up about the wigs! I will go back and add that to the review so that people are aware. I noticed some clear residue from the wig, but that's it so far.

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  6. Thanks for another great review! The RRFF are such great dolls. And those Etsy outfits are amazing! Especially the tiny knitwear.
    I haven't found the right one yet to get me to purchase. Normally I go for redheads, but I don't love Stella or Bella as they originally come. The newest regular doll Freya is a surprise contender, though.
    The lady behind the Poppets and Posies blog, Laura Isabella, sadly passed away last fall. She was involved in the AG message boards as well.

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  7. I love Jennifer's face, she looks so sweet !! And Scarlett looks great in that blue and white ensemble with the blonde wig, it makes such a big difference. Thank you for this review !

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  8. Wonderful review! I love looking at the Fashion Friends, and have a Siblie (as my starter Fashion Friend, LOL).
    I love Scarlett in the blonde wig and blue and white outfit. And Jennifer looked amazing when you tried the red outfit on her.

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  9. I absolutely adore Jennifer in that yellow/autumn outfit. So so adorable 🥰 I was tempted to get her too, but it looks like Ruby Red stopped selling the dolls through European retailers, and the exclusive ones are always US only (that‘s why I missed beutiful Perihelia).
    My favorite of the girls is Hanna, she‘s so adorable. And I got two customs from Wixana‘s dollhouse. She‘s the artist behind the new Josephine doll Ruby Red released recently ❤️

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  10. A heads-up! I'm behind with my selling in the Virtual Garage Sale (sorry!) but Jennifer will be for sale in an hour or two (still deciding if I should repaint Scarlett...) in addition to a few others like Nendoroid Link (the real one), imitation Blythe Florie (with modifications) and a few others. :D

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    1. Aww, I figured you liked Jennifer so much you'd keep her. XDX But you probably don't want to end up swimming in dolls again...

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    2. Exactly! ;) SO tempting to keep her, though. She's gorgeous.

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    3. Who am I kidding? I'll never have time to repaint Scarlett. She's going into the shop, too!

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  11. Such sweet-looking dolls! Their faces are really pretty. I think you made some great Etsy purchases for this review. Though I like both of their Christmas-themed outfits (the snaps vs. velcro thing is strange for sure!), the Etsy clothes truly transform both dolls. For some reason, Scarlett in the blue and white outfit and blonde wig reminds me of typical Dutch girls from a couple of decades ago. Perhaps because I've seen a picture of my older sister wearing such an ensemble when she was little :)

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  12. I have Hanna and I love her to pieces. I'm very tempted by the upcoming crossover release with Ruby Red Galleria, let me tell you.

    Wonderful review and photos as always, Emily!

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  13. Great review.
    I have way too many of these dolls.
    Eleven or twelve.
    My Maru mini pal’s dress fits them, so some of the Maru outfits fit.
    And the one Paola Reina Amigas dress I have fits too.
    The core line dolls have a little more simplistic style of face paint, I think.
    Jennifer is stunning.
    I think Scarlett’s blushing is supposed to look like she’s been stung red by the cold air, but it just looks like she has rosacea.
    I have rosacea and II considered buying her and trying to cure her with some acetone.
    But I never did.

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  14. I'm super curious to see what Jennifer would look like in Scarlett's wig (I'm surprised you didn't swap their wigs right away, just to see what they'd look like :P ) but I must say, she does look gorgeous in both outfits. (The platinum wig on Scarlett and that blue outfit look really lovely. It's amazing what a difference that wig makes.) Do the Fashion Friends dresses fit the Mini Pals, or are they too big?

    Also, the overdone blushing on Scarlett reminds me of a question you might know the answer to. If you have a doll whose face paint is too bright like that, is there a way to take off some of the paint but not all of it without ruining it? Like... to tone it down a bit? I ask because I have several dolls with overbright makeup (like, oh, the I'm A Girly dolls I bought after your other review...) but I can't paint to save my life and every time I've attempted any kind of doll makeover, it has ended in terrific disaster. Any tips? Or is the only solution to erase everything and start from scratch?

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    1. I do best when I erase everything and start over. In theory you could rub some of the paint off, but when I've tried that I always get a blotchy result. Maybe somebody else has a better suggestion?

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    2. ...yeah, that's about what I guessed. >_< ah, well.

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  15. Thanks for this review. ☺️

    What adorable dolls. For my godchildren and little cousins I've mostly been partial to Corolle's Les Chéries but I really like these because of the articulation.
    Jennifer is lovely as is but
    I think the problem with Scarlett's blush is really the extra dose on her forehead. I wonder if that can be toned down or just removed, not with 100% alcohol, but a lesser percentage that's easier to control?

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  16. I've wanted a Ruby Red Fashion Friend for a while now, but the cost put me off. I finally pulled the trigger and bought the steampunk twins. Right before they are due to be shipped you beat me to the punch with a review! But the twins are siblies sized, so at least they are a little different. I'm not sure I'm going to to like the girl, but if the pictures are accurate, I'm already in love with the boy! I love both of yours. I still say, that pale skin can be realistic. My daughter Ivy is probably that white!

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  17. I’m so happy to see these girls reviewed. I’ve been eyeing Hanna for quite some time, but her price is a bit hefty for a substitute teacher at the moment. Still, I have a birthday coming up, and I AM scheduled to teach three classes at my college this summer…

    I’m glad to see such a thorough review, which I think has really sold me. I’m betting that my Gingerbrook Hollow Johannah’s outfits would fit, and they may look cute together! Shola from Hearts 4 Hearts could also use a display buddy… and now I’m off to save up for one, haha!

    Scarlett in her final photos looks very much like she could be related to Duchess Camilla, somehow. I think it’s the combination of the hair color and style that makes me think about her. There’s something very upper class British about her, but she also exudes so much joy and life in general!

    I do love Jennifer’s hair a lot! She looks more like a “regular” girl getting dressed up for a special occasion in that gorgeous starry dress. Since she’s got a holiday theme, maybe she’s going to see the Nutcracker, or to church or a family party! They both look so friendly and fun, and seeing them in the other outfits and looks really shows off the variety of personalities they can reflect!

    I have the feeling you’ve just helped me talk myself into Hanna. Maybe someday soon, “Punky” (because she reminds me SO much of Soliel Moon Frye) will be coming home to me!

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  18. I have ordered quite a few of the Ruby Red Fashion Dolls and their Siblings. I am waiting for the set of twins to arrive at this point. They are so beautiful. My only complaint is that Jennifer's wig does not stay on. Not that she is allowed to be played with nor touched, but when I move her around the wig pops off and it just does not sit right to me. Will I keep her? Yes. I am thinking if I should just glue the wig in place. I am kind of iffy on that because I like to keep most of my dolls they way they arrived. Beautiful packaging for her. I enjoyed every minute it took me to open her and to dress her. Will I get another RRF, yes I like them!

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  19. Hey Emily! I’ve missed your My Twinn Project Shop posts. Unrelated, but what size eyes do you use for My Way Kids dolls?

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    1. Sorry about that! I'm really struggling to do reviews and doll makeovers at the same time. :( The Kids use 20mm oval eyes.

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  20. Françoise MoreauMay 10, 2022 at 2:24 PM

    I really appreciate your specific criticisms on the dolls and I really liked everything you wrote about Fashion Friends.
    I just have a small remark on the photos: no human and no doll is gaining in full sun, the contrasts are too strong and the shadows too hard. You have experienced it and the photos with the veiled sun are then better.

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  21. As a pale Finn myself, I actually really appreciate the paleness of Scarlett. With the red cheeks she really does look like she's out in the freezing Finnish winter! I'm really glad you paired her with a light blonde wig! I wish she had come with pale blue or gray eyes, to really represent the Nordic stereotype.

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  22. What a great and honest review! It's funny, I'm constantly talking about the choice of facial coloring on their supah dupah white vinyl, it just doesn't make sense because at the very least, it should be more of pink, not the orangy coralish one they use on all their dolls. I first noticed it on Sweetheart Hannah, the doll from their Valentine's day release. Very beautiful mold, love the fullness of the lips and eyebrows, also super pale, but then you get to the blush on the cheeks and it just looks odd. For that reason, I've started just removing it myself and starting from scratch. Jennifer and Freida are both my favorites, and if I'm being honest, it's been their coloring works against the skin tone. Anyways, love the review, very entertaining and felt like you were in my head to a certain degree lol

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  23. This post inspired me to get my own little friend, Hanna! She's super cute and I love her clothes. The only thing is that I notice a strange plastic-y smell coming off of her. I assume it's because she's brand new. Did you experience this too?

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