Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Revisiting Paola Reina's Las Amigas...and a knockoff

Today's review grew out of two different things that have been kicking around in my head recently.  First of all, Paola Reina added new joints to some of their Las Amigas dolls and, as you can imagine, I got really excited about this development.  As soon as I heard the news, I purchased a beautiful-looking redheaded Las Amigas doll with the new articulation.  However, I ended up being disappointed by that doll, so I did a quick review on Patreon and then sold her.  The upside is that in the process of researching that doll, I discovered about six other traditional Las Amigas girls that I love!  I bought two of those six, and they'll appear in this post. 

The second thing that happened was that my friend Arin drew my attention to a collection of Las Amigas lookalikes that are being sold on Amazon.  For some reason I'm always fascinated by knockoffs, even though I should probably be offended by them.  I was eager to see what these imposters look like up close, and so I purchased one...and then purchased another authentic Las Amigas doll who I thought would offer a good comparison.  Both of these girls will appear in this review, too.

I've written about Paola Reina dolls many times before (including a review of a Ruth Treffeisen doll who is equivalent to a Las Amigas), but I couldn't resist the chance to revisit this charming brand.  And there's even more going on in the Paola Reina world than I have time or resources to write about today.  For example, there are now 8-inch Mini Amigas that are completely adorable and will have to make an appearance here at some point in the future, and also a lot of boy characters who melt my heart.  For now, though, let's start with this standard-size Las Amigas girl, Dasha, and her gorgeously freckled face:

Las Amigas Dasha by Paola Reina, $71.
Before I get back to Dasha, I want to take a second to show you the redhead with the enhanced articulation that I bought several months ago.  Her name is Cristi and I found her at Dolls and Dolls for 37.15 (plus €27.60 shipping from Spain) so about $66.  Other sellers tend to charge a lot more for this doll; I've seen her on eBay and on Etsy for $85-$95.

At first glance, Cristi is a nearly-perfect doll, with bright red hair, green eyes, tons of freckles, and a lovely long-sleeved dress with printed foxes on it:

Paola Reina articulated Cristi doll, $66.
The back of her hair was messy right out of the box, and the style didn't make a lot of sense to me, but I wasn't too concerned about that; hairstyles can be brushed and changed.


I love her face and hair color so much!


Here's a close-up of one of her eyes.  The color is really pretty, but this doll has some glue dripped on her eyebrow and eyelid, and some of the eyelashes were stuck in the glue:


One of the things that really bothered me about this doll is that when I brushed and re-braided her hair to tidy the messy parts, I realized that she has an oddly high hairline:


I suspect the hair was rooted like this to accommodate the criss-crossed style of the hair in front, but I don't think one hairstyle should dictate the rooting pattern in a $70 doll.  That seriously limits the versatility of the hair.

The added articulation is nice, though.  Most Las Amigas have only neck, shoulder, and hip joints, but Cristi has additional elbow, waist, and knee articulation.  

The elbows are rotating hinges, so they can bend nicely (to about 90 degrees):


And the arms can also rotate at the elbow:


The knees can bend and rotate, too, but they don't bend very much:

That's about the extent of it.
Cristi struggles to sit in a chair with these knees, but she can sit on the ground:


She also has a joint at the waist that allows her upper body to spin around:

That just makes her look upwards even more.
Her head articulation is limited, though.  Her head can't tip from side to side nor can it bend up and down, so she's always looking up.  And the more her head is spun to either side, the more she looks up.  This made her hard to work with.


Overall, I had mixed feelings about Cristi.  She's a gorgeous doll to look at, but the glue defect on her face was a disappointment, and the high hairline reduces the number of hairstyles that look good on her.  Also, while the added articulation is sturdy, some of the joints are less flexible than I had hoped.  Last, I feel pretty sure that this doll's head tips upwards more than the traditional Las Amigas.  All of the dolls have this issue to some extent, but with Cristi it was really striking.


But having Cristi in the house definitely re-ignited my enthusiasm for the Las Amigas in general.  I found myself missing Zoey, the redheaded Cristi Blue doll that I reviewed back in 2014.

So, I went on a nostalgia-driven tour of the currently-available Las Amigas.  Unfortunately, the Paola Reina America online shop that I was so excited about during my earlier reviews no longer exists, so I had to search the inventory of various international online shops.  My favorite stores are Dolls and Dolls in Spain (they have the best prices) and an Etsy shop called Paolka Store, which is in Poland.  The nice thing about the Etsy shop is that they will split dolls and outfits so that you can mix and match to make your own creations...and shipping is fast and reasonably priced.

The first doll I bought from Paolka Store is the Dasha from the first photo.  I chose her because she has the most similar coloring to the knockoff I want to show you later:


The Las Amigas boxes are very simple, and are mostly cardboard with a thin plastic window on the front.

The back of the box is all text (which is mostly a bunch of warnings in different languages):


There's also a statement at the bottom of the box saying that the vinyl is phthalate-free, and a small tag identifying the doll as Dasha:


Dasha made the trip from Poland safely, and was still secured inside the box with rubber bands around her feet and neck:


The object hanging on the left side of the box is a collapsible brush.  It's pretty great:


Dasha's hair was kept under control by a simple plastic band around her forehead:


It's refreshing to see such simple, low-waste packaging, and important to note that it worked well to protect this doll even with a trip across the Atlantic.

Here's Dasha right out of the box:


She had two hang tags around her left wrist, but these don't have much information on them:


Dasha made a wonderful first impression on me for several reasons.  First of all, she balances really well on her own and--like all Paola Reina dolls--she smells fantastic.  I love the familiar vanilla scent.  Also, her sunflower dress makes me really happy:

I really wish the internet supported scratch and sniff.
Perhaps best of all, her head doesn't tip upwards as much as the articulated Cristi I just showed you, so I could actually get her to look at me!


Dasha has the same face mold as Cristi, with a small button nose, full lips, and plump cheeks:


Her hair is a beautiful strawberry brown color, and it's parted on the left side so that it falls over her face a bit on the right:


The hair is thick and shiny and feels wonderful.  Other Paola Reina dolls that I've reviewed have high-quality nylon hair, so I'm assuming that's what this fiber is, too.  It has a different feel from kanekalon, but I find it to be just as nice.

Dasha's lips are painted with an opaque natural coral color that looks pretty: 


And her cheeks and nose are dotted with the Las Amigas' signature asymmetric, realistic freckles.  They look great:


She has short painted eyebrows with five lines of hair:


In profile, Dasha's prominent upper lip stands out, and you can see that her hairline looks normal (not unusually high like Cristi's):


Here are Dasha and Cristi's profiles side by side, so that you can see the difference in the hairline:


I don't want to diss high hairlines in general.  Plenty of women sport them with style (and they were highly desirable in the Middle Ages!) but I don't love the look on a child-like doll.

Dasha has a very realistic ear mold, which is an interesting detail because--as we'll see--not all of the Las Amigas have the same ears:


She's such a bright and cheerful little doll!  Her sunflower dress has a simple design, but it adds a lot to her sunny persona:


The dress has little velvet ribbons that tie in back, and an underlying velcro closure:


Underneath the skirt, there's a bright green tulle petticoat that adds volume and shows a peek of color every now and then:


Here's the petticoat on its own--it's very simple:


And here's the dress:


One of the two yellow velvet ribbons is attached backwards, so that the fuzzy side is facing inwards, which I assume is a factory flaw.


There are a few loose threads here and there, but overall the construction is solid, with finished edges and neat stitching:


Dasha's bright yellow shoes have an elastic bow accent and velcro straps.  They're very easy to put on and take off:


Underneath her clothing, Dasha's body is the same as the Ruth Treffeisen Cristi Blue that I reviewed in 2014.  It has only five points of simple articulation (neck, shoulders, hips):


Like so many dolls with simple neck joints, Dasha's head tips more and more upwards as it spins around:


She doesn't have too many posing options, but her body is solid and well-balanced.


My doll has a dark blemish in the vinyl just below her molded belly button--like a birthmark:


Since I'll be looking at a knockoff doll later in the review, I'll also point out Dasha's factory marks.  She has the name Paola Reina molded into her neck:


And a patent mark behind her right ear:


For those who are not familiar with the Las Amigas, here's a quick size comparison shot with my Barbie assistant, Lena:

Las Amigas Dasha next to Barbie Lena.
At first I thought that it would be enough to only buy Dasha, since she's the doll who most closely resembles the knockoff.  However, there's such a nice range of face molds in the Las Amigas line these days, I really wanted to include a few of those in this review, too.

So, I made another purchase from Paolka Store.  This time I chose a dressed doll, an undressed doll, and two extra outfits.  Both dolls and one of the outfits came squished inside one doll box:

Cramped quarters!
The dressed doll is named Cleo, and I love her because she has a happy face and pink hair!


Based on photos from the Paola Reina catalogue, I think this particular Cleo was cobbled together from various other dolls.  The reference sticker on her box is from a completely different doll.

Her dress belongs to a brunette named Carol:


And I think her head is from the articulated Cleo who comes in a green pinafore(?).  I'm not sure about this, but the hair rooting looks similar:


In any case, I know she's a Cleo doll (because of her face mold) and I love how she looks.

She came with the same hang tags that Dasha had, but also a strange little felt accessory.  It's like a rabbit head with a bow...and then another rabbit head stuck to the side of the first rabbit's face:

Rabbit with parasite.
Cleo is adorable.  She came with her hair tied back, so it was easy to get a clear look at her face:


I like her closed-mouth smile and her flat, broad nose.  Her features are very different from Dasha's, but she's still clearly a Las Amigas doll. 


Cleo's hair is styled with a criss-crossing of strands right at the front of her head.  This reminded me of the articulated Cristi's hair, and so I was a bit worried that Cleo would have a similarly high hairline:


I took the hair down and it looks nicely-rooted.  The hairline is a tad high, but it's not as extreme as it was with Cristi.

Cleo tends to look upwards like Cristi, though:


So I had to photograph her from above looking down:


Her head angle is not as extreme as Cristi's, which is nice.

The pink hair is really fun, and it's cut into long layers that look pretty and hang nicely down Cleo's back:


Here's the hair from the side:


Behind the hair, the back of Cleo's dress is solid, with no fasteners or velcro:


The dress is a very simple cap-sleeved a-line with an elastic-gathered neck.  The pastel print on the fabric has little houses, trees, and birds:


The neckline of the dress has an oversized felt flower decoration:


I love how the pink in the dress coordinates with Cleo's hair.


And I like how the black parts of the printed pattern coordinate with Cleo's black laced shoes:


I normally dislike working with laced shoes (they can be really fiddly) but these are easy to put on.  The laces are thick and they look good even with a hastily-tied bow.


Let's take a closer look at Cleo's cute face:


She has grey-blue eyes with the same iris pattern as the Cristi Blue that I reviewed in 2014.  Her eyebrows are slightly thicker than Dasha's eyebrows, and they have four additional hair lines:


Cleo's smiling lips are painted a natural pink, and she has two shallow molded indentations (like dimples?) underneath the corners of her mouth:


Cleo's freckle pattern is a little odd.  She has realistic freckles scattered all over her face, but there's a line of especially dark and large freckles right over the bridge of her nose:

Like the Big Dipper of freckles.
You can see the prominent freckles a bit better in this shot:


I would have slightly preferred it if the freckles over Cleo's nose were smaller than the ones on her cheek, but the Las Amigas are hand-painted, and variation like this is to be expected.  I mean, it's not like all of my own freckles are tiny and delicate.

In profile, you can see that Cleo has a normal hairline.  She also has a flatter lip contour than Dasha, and her ear mold is different:

Whoa. Those are some big earlobes.
Cleo's factory markings are slightly different from Dasha's, too.  Her Paola Reina copyright is bolder and more three-dimensional:


And her patent mark has the number 20:


I can't remember if this face mold existed back in 2014 when I did my Cristi Blue review.  I scanned some of the Paola Reina Toy Fair pics that I posted then, and I don't see a smiling Las Amigas anywhere...but I might just have missed it.  Or maybe the patent mark means she was introduced in 2020?

Anyway, I think the face is a delightful addition to the lineup, and I especially like how it looks with pink hair.


The third doll that I bought was definitely cobbled together from different sets, and I know this because I put her together myself.  She's a basic doll in underwear (these tend to cost under $20 before shipping) paired with a floral dress and tights set ($13 before shipping):


The doll, who I think is named Liu, came in only a plastic bag.  She also had a strip of plastic around her head to control her hair:


Liu still arrived in great shape--probably because she was sharing Cleo's box.

I picked this watercolor dress for her because I thought it would go really well with her black hair...and it does!


The outfit included teal tights and a pink hair ribbon.  I lost the ribbon when I took these dolls on a trip with me--thinking I'd have time to photograph them outside (which I didn't).

Here's Liu in her dress and tights, borrowing Cleo's black lace-up shoes:


The dress has a lot of fullness in the skirt:


And this is because there's a tulle underskirt:


The underskirt matches the tights really well.  I love this color palette!


Liu has a gorgeous face.  She has thick lips that are a lot like Dasha's, but she has almond-shaped eyes that are quite different:


Her eyebrows are also a bit more severe, with six hair lines:


I wish Liu's hair was slightly shorter so that it would curl under at her shoulders, but it's lovely regardless:


Here's a closer look at her face.  Those lips remind me a lot of the larger Las Reinas dolls:


Liu's profile reveals a third style of ear.  This one is more realistic than Cleo's, but with slightly less detail than Dasha's:


It's very hard for me to pick a favorite from this trio of Amigas, but Liu is certainly the most photogenic.  Here are a few more pictures of her:





The last thing that I bought for this review is a stand-alone ballet outfit--and you'll see why I chose this particular outfit in a sec:


The set cost about $20 and comes with a tutu, a flower garland, and a pair of bright pink tights:


The tutu has a stretchy metallic bodice and a dusty rose tulle skirt.  The waist is decorated with a garland of ribbon flowers and leaves:


The garland is stitched to the front of the tutu and ties in the back:


Underneath the tutu, there's a pink leotard bottom:


The set includes another garland for the head, but this piece has fabric flowers instead of ribbon flowers:


Here's a closer look at the flowers:


Unfortunately, when I tried to put the tutu and pink tights on Dasha, the outfit didn't fit!  It didn't even come close:

Wardrobe malfunction.
It felt like this outfit was made for a completely different kind of doll, so I double-checked the box to make sure that it was intended for the Las Amigas.  Sure enough, it says "Vestido AMIGA:" 


Update: kiwic1chick informed me in the comments section that the ill fit of this outfit is probably because it was made for the older Las Amigas body.  Apparently, the body has had several tweaks over the past eight years!

I dug up a body picture of Cristi Blue from my 2014 review so that we can compare:

Cristi Blue from my 2014 review.
Of course we can't see anything about height in this comparison, since I don't have the dolls together in real life, but it's clear that the body went through some changes!  The two are more different than I assumed:


Thank you, kiwic1chick for this information!  It's super-helpful.

Even though the outfit wasn't meant for Dasha, after I removed her underwear and the pink tights (and with a lot of stretching of the torso fabric) I was finally able to get the tutu on:

Somebody grew after the fitting!
It's an awkward fit, though.  The fabric in the torso looks too tight:

There's too much stress on those straps!
 And it doesn't close well in back:

It's gonna blow!
Fortunately, the flower garland partially covers the lumpy velcro:


Because the torso fabric is pulled so tightly, the tutu rides up in front:

Wheee!
Some tutus stick out like this on purpose, but because the tulle lays flat in the back, the shape of the front doesn't make a lot of sense.


Here are a few shots of Dasha posing in her very tight outfit:



So why did I choose this particular ballet outfit for Dasha?  Because it looks an awful lot like the outfit on the knockoff doll I bought:

It's like looking in a mirror!
This doll is from a company called QueBan and she cost me $32.99 with free shipping--so about half the price of most Las Amigas dolls.

QueBan Las Amigas knockoff, $32.99 on Amazon.
The doll comes in a white cardboard box decorated with purple trim and photographs of the doll:


The bottom of the box has some manufacturing and distribution information


And the top of the box says "Emily!"

Just for me!
Emily must be the name for this group of dolls, because it's not the name of the specific doll that I chose.  My doll is called NanNan:

Thank goodness she has 360 retation!
The back of the box has a huge photo of NanNan, and smaller pictures of the other dolls in this line:


Here's a closer look at the other dolls:

That's a nice variety of coloring and outfits!
However, that's false advertising because only one of the dolls on the box is available on Amazon.  The actual selection of dolls looks like this:

They're all clones.
Basically, they're all the exact same doll (same hair color, same eyes, same face), but each has a different outfit.

Each doll has a name, too, and the selections are interesting:


Most of the girls have names that start with "E."  Probably this is in reference to the Emily brand.  But then, randomly, two of the characters have completely different names: NanNan and HanHan.  And for some reason poor Elva's name isn't capitalized.

I get the sense that there wasn't much of an advertising budget for these dolls.  That suspicion is confirmed by the bizarre photoshopped promotional photos.  Take this one, for example:


That little girl looks like she's having a great time, to be sure, but she was having a good time with a completely different toy that's been photoshopped out.  Elva has totally been spliced into the picture...and made to look about ten inches taller than she actually is.

Reverse image searches are super-fun, because we can see that this same little girl loves lots of other toys!

It's Mommy Long Legs!
A stuffed animal seems more appropriate for this pose than a vinyl doll, but the editing here is really bad:

Total duck-up.
This next photo cracks me up, too, because the little girl is gazing lovingly at something, but it certainly isn't Ethel.


She gazes at a lot of other dolls on the internet, too...


But it's all fake because the original photo only has some blocks and a face-planted rag doll:

What is she looking at, then??
I'm also intrigued by this next photo, where the girl is excited about her Russian stethoscope Christmas present, but is completely ignoring Erin, who's just lurking there and staring into space:


Sometimes the dolls are inserted into random, dark-lit, artsy scenes like this one:


Or this one...with random information (in French) about a paper bag:

Une petite fausse poupée.
But the photos with real children are the most fun...or the most creepy.  I mean, in this one Elsie has grown to about three feet tall, and the girls' expressions are downright sinister:

Come play with us.  We dare you.
Is anyone else getting serious Grady twin vibes from all of these photos?  I certainly am.

Come play with us, Danny.
But let's take a closer look at the real NanNan.  She was held inside of the box with a few clear rubber bands and was very easy to remove.


The first thing I noticed about NanNan is that she does not have the lovely vanilla scent that all real Paola Reina dolls have.  She has only a faint, unpleasant chemical smell.

Also, her balance is not as good as the authentic Las Amigas; she tends to tilt to her left and is more likely to fall down.


Her face mold is exactly the same as Dasha's, and is clearly a copy.  It's an adorable face, though, so I can see why these dolls get good reviews on Amazon:


NanNan looks downward much more than Dasha, which is an interesting contrast since I'm always complaining about how these dolls look upwards:


Looking down isn't much better, though, because poor NanNan often appears to be depressed or dejected.


Without holding an authentic Las Amigas doll and this doll side-by-side, it might be hard to appreciate the little differences between the two.  NanNan's face paint is done well for the most part, with delicate, natural-looking freckles, and the exact same eyebrow pattern that Dasha has:


NanNan's vinyl is a different color, though.  It has a lot more red in it and does not have the same luminance.

NanNan's mouth is not as well-painted as Dasha's either.  If you look closely, you can see that the paint has pooled into the creases of the lips and is more opaque in those areas.


Here's a reminder of what Dasha's lips look like:


NanNan's brown eyes are nice, but they don't have quite as much depth as Dasha's eyes:


Here's a reminder of what Dasha's eyes look like:


Not surprisingly, both dolls have the exact same ear mold.  But you can see in these next two pictures how much NanNan's head is tilted downwards.

Dasha.
Also, NanNan's hair is rooted really high in the back.  There's a clear line where the hair should start, and the actual hair starts about a quarter of an inch higher than that.

NanNan.
Not surprisingly, NanNan does not have any marks on the back of her neck:


Nor does she have a patent mark behind her ear:


I removed Nannan's flower headdress so that I could take a closer look at her hair.  Here's the headdress on its own:


It's made out of a loop of pink ribbon lace and is decorated with pink gauze flowers.


NanNan's hair came tied back into a single ponytail.  The ponytail was held in place with a yellowing, crumbling rubber band:

Yuck.
I took the hair down and tried to brush it out, although it really wanted to stay in a ponytail shape:


The hair fibers don't feel anywhere near as nice as the Las Amigas' high-quality nylon.  The hair feels synthetic and coarse at the ends.

This is how NanNan's hair looks now, after several days of relaxing:


It's pretty scruffy.


And here it is with the headdress added back:


The hair looks fine in may of these pictures, but it's nowhere near as nice as the Las Amigas hair.  Not in the same league at all.

The biggest problem, other than the lower-quality hair fiber, is that the rooting is not very dense.  Here's a peek at NanNan's rooted scalp:

NanNan's hair.
And now contrast that with an equivalent place on Dasha's scalp:

Dasha's hair.
I compared the section right next to the rooted part, too.  Here's NanNan:

NanNan's hair.
And here's Dasha:

Dasha's hair.
While the Las Amigas have some of the nicest pay doll hair I've seen, NanNan has some of the worst (although not the absolute worst).

NanNan's outfit is much simpler than the Las Amigas ballet outfit that I bought, but at least it fits well!

It has a shimmery pink top and a thin rose-colored tutu:


The waist decoration doesn't tie in back like Dasha's, it just ends with the seam of the bodice:


Here's the dress on its own:


The waist decoration consists of thin green vine-shaped trim and a single ribbon flower:


The back has a velcro closure:


The tutu looks well-constructed, with tiny seams and no flaws. There's no leotard bottom under the skirt, but maybe that's a good thing!


Because the tulle skirt is see-through, NanNan really needs to wear tights under this outfit.  Unfortunately, the tights have caused some staining on her waist:


And on her feet:


Also, the tights came with several little holes and snags--presumably from the rough side of the velcro on the tutu:


NanNan's body is very similar to Dasha's, with five points of simple articulation:



The joints behave similarly to Dasha's, although the connections are slightly stiffer, so it's harder to move some of NanNan's limbs.


Here are the two dolls side by side:

Las Amigas Dasha (left) and knockoff NanNan (right).
Overall, it's very hard to tell that there are any differences between the two bodies, but NanNan's legs are a bit longer, and her body is more slender overall.

Las Amigas Dasha (left) and knockoff NanNan (right).
It's easier to see the difference in body shape when the dolls are turned to the side.  Here you can see that NanNan's hip joint is a bit higher than Dasha's, and her waist and bottom are narrower:

Las Amigas Dasha (left) and knockoff NanNan (right).
Both dolls look upwards more as they spin their heads towards the back, but while this movement leaves Dasha looking into the sky, it allows NanNan to actually look at the camera!

Las Amigas Dasha (left) and knockoff NanNan (right).
I can't tell any difference between the two head molds:

Las Amigas Dasha (left) and knockoff NanNan (right).
The hands and feet have the exact same size and shape, but the definition is not as good on NanNan.  For example, you can see here that the spaces between NanNan's molded fingers are not as sharp and precise as the same area on Dasha's hand:

Knockoff NanNan's hand (left) and Las Amigas hand (right).
Here's Dasha's hand up-close:

Las Amigas hand.
And here's NanNan's:

She has webbed fingers!
Another tiny difference is that while Dasha has a belly button:


NanNan does not:


The two bodies are similar enough that they can easily share clothing.  Unfortunately, that means the Las Amigas tutu doesn't fit NanNan any better than it fits Dasha!



NanNan's tutu looks great on Dasha, although I should have put the tights on, too.  It's quite transparent! 


And the two dolls can share shoes easily, too:

Dasha wearing NanNan's shoes.
Here are two final photos of Dasha dancing around in her ballet outfit:



And here's NanNan dancing around:



I wanted to get a shot of the two girls together in their tutus, but it was a hard shot to finagle because NanNan is always looking down and Dasha is always looking up!

Focus, girls!
This is the best I could do:

Knockoff NanNan (left) and Las Amigas Dasha (right).
I find that when I'm looking at photos of NanNan on her own, she looks very nice.  However, when she's right next to Dasha, the difference in quality is striking.

Knockoff NanNan (left) and Las Amigas Dasha (right).
During one of the rare days recently when it wasn't 95 and humid here in New Jersey, I took all of these girls outside so that you could appreciate how they look in the natural light of my backyard.

Here's NanNan first:


Her hair is such a pretty color in the sunlight!  Too bad it's thinly rooted and doesn't feel very good.


There are fewer shadows on NanNan's face when she's posed against this tree:



Next, here's Liu against the same tree:



But I think Liu's colorful dress looks better against the greenery:




I also thought Liu's dress might look nice against my baby maple, but the red leaves aren't quite red enough to match her dress:



Here's little Cleo:


I never feel like Cleo is looking straight at the camera, but she's adorable in half profile:



Her coloring shows up a little bit better against the tree:



I thought the little berries on my St. John's wort plant might match Cleo's pink hair (and they do!) but she's backlit here:



Last but not least, here's Dasha in her original sunflower outfit:


She really loved looking around in the yard, but was disappointed that I don't have any sunflowers to match her dress.

You're not in Kansas anymore, Dash.
I love all of the Las Amigas face molds, but I have to admit that this one has a special place in my heart.



Towards the end of our time outside, Dasha finally found a flower!  While it isn't a sunflower, it's definitely yellow:


Dasha wanted to pose next to this flower in a million different ways, and then she kept begging me to let her pick it to keep forever.  


I thought perhaps we should leave the flowers alone, but Dasha eventually won me over with those entreating brown eyes.  I allowed her to pick one of the smaller, slightly wilted blooms.


And I have to admit, it makes a perfect hair accessory for her!


Bottom line?  I loved my Ruth Treffeisen Zoey doll back in 2014, and I love these newer Las Amigas dolls just as much.  Zoey's outfit was more detailed and intricate than any of the Las Amigas outfits I bought, but otherwise the dolls are very similar.  It was fun to get an up-close look at two of the newer face molds in this review, but I'm hard-pressed to pick a favorite among them.  I find Dasha and Liu's serious expressions and Cleo's happy face equally appealing.  The dolls are very well made, with high-quality vinyl, gorgeous thick hair, amazing freckles, and adorable little outfits.  They feel nice in my hands (I can't stop myself from constantly playing with their hair!) and they're a great size for travel, play, or display.  These girls are nearly perfect play dolls in my eyes, and while I'm always hoping for better articulation, I'm not sure that the newer, better-articulated (often more expensive) Amigas offer significantly more value than their simpler predecessors--especially if the enhanced articulation comes with a more upwards-glancing head.

I need to reiterate, though, that I ran across several manufacturing defects with the items I purchased.  First of all, Dasha has an area of vinyl discoloration on her belly, and one side of her dress sash is attached backwards.  Cleo has some freckles in the middle of her nose that are distractingly large.  The worst problem is that the ballet outfit that I bought for Dasha barely even fits her; the velcro is stretched to the max in back, and the tutu is hiked up in front.  And I wasn't able to get the outfit on at all when Dasha was wearing the accompanying tights.  Apparently this is not a factory flaw, though, but rather that the older clothes are not compatible with the newer dolls.  That's unfortunate, because the quality of the older outfit is very nice!

Still, I'd happily take any of the above flaws rather than settle for a knockoff doll like NanNan.  While NanNan's face mold is identical to Dasha's, and her freckles are very well done, her lip paint is uneven, her eyes are dull, her vinyl isn't luminous or high-quality, her hair is thin and coarse at the ends, her joints are stiff, her balance is off, her downward glance makes her seem sad and detached...and of course she's being made in violation of copyright.  To top it all off, she smells like chemicals, not vanilla.  The Las Amigas are expensive, especially now that they can't be purchased directly in the United States anymore, so I understand the pull of a bargain-priced doll like NanNan.  It's hard to get an authentic Las Amigas for under $65 and the fakes cost around $30, so you could buy two imitations for the price of one authentic doll.  However, all of the knockoffs look the same, so why would you want two of them?  I'm also not sure how I'd feel about giving these imitation dolls to a child, since I have no idea what's in the cheap vinyl.  I'm betting it's not phthalate-free.

Sometimes imitation dolls have their own appeal, separate from the original concept.  Imitation Blythe dolls are a good example of this.  And I totally understand how cheaper versions of a beautiful product are more compelling now than ever, with prices rising and luxuries seeming further out of reach.  But with the Las Amigas, the contrast between the original and the knockoff is big enough that I don't think the fake offers a good alternative.  I wish that Paola Reina could have continued to make their products easily accessible and affordable to the United States market, but even without that perk, Dasha, Cleo, and Liu are worth the effort and patience required to add them to a child's life...or to an adult's treasured collection.  I know it will be hard for me to let any of these Amigas go.

18 comments:

  1. Oh wow, the knockoff is more similar than I thought it would be! Definitely doesn't have the same delicacy and appeal as the Las Amigas, though. As for the ballet outfit, are you certain that it isn't meant for the Las Miniamigas? I'm not sure exactly what scale they are, so the outfit may actually be too big, but that's the only thing I can think of for why the size would be so off.

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  2. I really love Paola Reina dolls, I bought one for myself as model to sew and two for my nieces. Mine and one belonging to older niece i bought from budget line in pyjamas and they were sold in bags. They both had straight hair with middle part and bangs. Mine is blonde and Lilka's had dark hair. Lately i bought one for Oliwia on polish Amazon with outfit and shoes. I wanted dolls that had visual resemblance to my nieces and this was easy with Paolas.Mine can't stand totally straight because she was squeezed in packaging a bit to much but still is good quality doll. I hope to have Liu in my collection someday.

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  3. Hi Emily, wonderful review! I have a Las Amigas dress that is too tight too. I hardly can close it, it's ill fitted. But I do love my three girls, they're adorable. I have one articulated doll, and I thought that she would be more flexible, it seems to me that the separate bodies that were/are for sale on Ebay are better. Great comparison of the knock-off with the original. Lots of greetings from Belgium, Linda

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  4. Thank you for this thorough review! I love reading about larger play dolls like these, there's something very charming about the scale and appearance. You mention Blythe recasts and it reminded me of when I dipped my toe briefly into that online community - the attitude towards recasts were very different over there! I think for my opinion, everyone deserves a doll. If the difference in quality doesn't bother you and you can better afford a reproduction, then why not? The doll makes you happy, and that's the whole point. The differences were fewer than I thought between the ones you featured. The ballet costumes had the most! I love Paola Reina dolls and I agree, I wish they were easier to acquire in America.

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  5. Hi Emily, your ballet outfit doesn't fit not because of quality control, but because it's one of the older Las Amigas outfits. The Las Amigas dolls have been through a few body revisions over time, and the current body they are using has a wider waist/shoulders than previous. It makes for a much more flattering and realistic look, but does prohibit clothes-sharing. If you put your old photos of Cristi Blue side-by-side with a newer doll you should be able to see the change in proportions. Hope this helps!

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    1. That's amazingly helpful, kiwic1chick! Thank you so much! I never would have figured that out, but I'll go back and correct the review, and maybe add in another comparison photo with Cristi Blue? Many thanks again. :)

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  6. Lovely review as always! These dolls aren't necessarily my cup of tea, but I always find it especially interesting when you revisit a doll brand throughout the years and are able to appreciate and judge the changes to the brand that way. I can definitely see the appeal in these dolls. I think my favorite face mold is Liu's, but I adore all of their outfits. The prints on the dresses are just so cute and colorful. I also liked the ballet outfit; shame it wasn't a right fit for the newer dolls.

    You really had me cracking up at all of those edited pictures of the dolls. Sellers really find the silliest ways to promote their knock-off dolls, but at least it provides us with a good laugh.

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  7. the amigas are lovely! large dolls are not my thing, but these definitely strike me as wonderful, enduring gifts. cleo is my favorite, i think it's fun to see more fantasy hair colors for child dolls nowadays.

    but oh man, the stock photo round-up was definitely a highlight! chinese knockoff listings are a huge rabbit hole I could spend hours exploring. the dolls themselves can be questionable but some of the clothes from sites like aliexpress are a huge bang for your buck!

    now that i think about it, a tbp knockoff review retrospective might not be a bad idea ;)

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  8. I love these comparison posts. Personally, I am not going to buy a Paola Reina, real or fake, but it was interesting to see how the fake held up. She looked pretty good, but some things just can't be judged from photos alone.

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  9. I just got a new Paola Reina Las Amigas doll (my third one) off of the Dolls and Dolls website and with shipping I think it was about $40 for the basic doll, which is not bad. I prefer to replace the body with a third party articulated body off of etsy. They pose great and seem much better quality than the body on the new articulated PR bodies, plus they also have wrist joints, which make for more expressive posing. The one I like is from etsy seller icuklatinyhouse, they are about $60 and ship for free. If you do a search on etsy for Paola Reina articulated body there will be a number of listings (some are for the actual Paola Reina new body, so make sure to look for one with wrist joints). So the total doll, original body plus new body, is about $100. In my opinion worth it and still a lovely, high-quality doll worth the price.

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  10. Those photoshopped stock pictures are hilarious. Too bad the knockoff didn't live up otherwise. All three official girls are beautiful and I'm especially tempted by Dasha. I didn't care for the face mold back when you did your original review (which was the first time I'd heard of these dolls), but it's grown on me a lot.

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  11. Minnesota girl (it isn't automatically pulling up my name) here--I had to find my Paola Reina doll and had forgotten just how delightful she is. As usual, your review has a certain amount of hilarity, lightening my day--I'm coming down with something and fingers crossed it isn't Covid.
    Oh--I scored a couple of WellieWisher outfits on clearance at B&N; the dresses are okay if a little loose on PR, but the shoes are huge. I don't know if they aren't going to carry the line anymore, but for those fans it might be worth checking out.
    Anyway, of course I had to go over to Etsy and snag one of the smiling Cleo versions (Thanks, Emily). In the 14" world, I checked out Ruby Red and Maru lines--a lot of not much is happening there. You think these are just supply chain issues or???

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  12. Ok, Dasha really got me. What a special little doll, she‘s really adorable ❤️

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  13. Its your fault I have this little guy coming to my house! And its your fault I went back for clothes and shoes. lol https://www.etsy.com/listing/1047116181/paola-reina-32cm-125-inch-doll-in-pajama?click_key=4b257a80a1d66d677674fd76eb38aa8fb9534901%3A1047116181&click_sum=e8d0aade&ref=shop_home_active_33&pro=1

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    1. Oops! Haha. Sorry! I have a very similar redhead on the way to me, so we're in it together, lol. ;) That face is completely irresistible.

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    2. I saw the red head, but the dino pajamas got me. I just saw him as ready for bed after a day of looking for tadpoles and other outdoor stuff. That sculpt is quintessential little boy. I have to crochet a toy for night time. It looks like that is all he's missing.

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    3. Emily, I love the comparison! I agree--I have what I assume is a knockoff Paradise Galleries reborn (same face mold), and although she was fine at first glance, once I got a genuine PG, the difference in quality was obvious.
      You might have to change your name to "Emily the Enabler"--I see by the comments that I am not the only reader who falls into the dolly rabbit hole after reading one of your reviews! That said, I absolutely adore your little Cleo--I love dolls with pink hair, and her face sculpt is irresistible! I am having a hysterectomy on Monday, so Cleo might be my present to me. Hee! Just call me Beth the Rationalizer.

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  14. Cleo is actually a celebrity doll, and originally the head sculpt had round white dome earrings like the child singer Cleopatra Stratan she is based on. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY1vv7hQQCg
    There are so many stunning custom dolls being made of Paola Reina dolls, many from artists in S. Korea and Russia. A quick search on Etsy will make you want to spend all your money on custom dolls, hand made leather shoes and made-for-Paola jointed bodies

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