Thursday, May 23, 2024

Girls of Many Lands from American Girl

I've always enjoyed vintage and discontinued dolls.  They can evoke tender feelings of nostalgia, a sense of wonder over the passage of time, or just seem hilariously funny in their outdated features.  I feel like I've gotten more interested in older dolls recently, perhaps because they remind me of the dolls that I had as a kid, or the brands that got me hooked on doll collecting as an adult.

Back in January I got a review recommendation from Rory involving older dolls.  Rory had recently found two nine-inch dolls in her parents' closet that she thought were from the early 2000s--around the time I started collecting dolls as an adult.  The dolls reminded her of Robert Tonner's aesthetic, which she knows I love.  She sent me a few photos of the dolls she found, and I was instantly intrigued.  They certainly resemble Tonner dolls, with their hand-painted faces, but they also looked distinctly like Helen Kish dolls to me.  And to deepen the intrigue, they're from the American Girl brand.  It should come as no surprise that within twenty four hours I'd purchased three of them.

Girls of Many Lands Isabel, by Pleasant Company (2002).

As it turns out, the dolls are from an American Girl secondary line called Girls of Many Lands that was launched in 2002.  The dolls were intended more for display than play, and were marketed towards an older audience than the 18-inch dolls.  Still, like traditional American Girls, these petite characters all come with a historical identity and an accompanying book.

There were five dolls released in 2002: Cécile, Isabel, Minuk, Neela, and Spring Pearl.  Three more characters were released the following year (Saba, Leyla, and Kathleen), but the dolls were not very popular, and so the line was discontinued in the fall of 2005.

Here are all eight dolls:

Cécile is from 1711 France.
Isabel is from 1592 England.
Minuk is from 1890 Alaska.
Spring Pearl is from 1857 China.
Neela is from 1939 India.
Saba is from 1846 Ethiopia.
Kathleen is from 1937 Ireland.
Leyla is from 1720 Turkey.

The original prices varied slightly from doll to doll, but were all close to $50.  Most of the characters can be found for less than that on the secondary market these days, even new-in-box.  The exceptions are Kathleen, Saba, and Layla.  Kathleen is the most expensive of these three, and tends to cost in the $150-$170 range.

I initially wanted red-headed Kathleen the most (because of course I did), but I couldn't find her new-in-box for less than $160.  So I decided to feature Isabel in this review instead.  Her in-box price was only $25, and I've since seen her sell for around $10, which is bonkers.

The dolls all come in cardboard boxes with a simplified, starry-skied landscape and the Girls of Many Lands logo:

The front of the box has a hinge opening that's held closed by a yellow ribbon that wraps around a cardboard button:

The box has a slightly domed front, and some company information on the bottom:

The front of the box opens to reveal the doll displayed behind a plastic window:

And the cover of the book is visible behind a plastic window on the opposite side:

The presentation is very nice, and the weight of the book makes the whole box feel satisfyingly heavy.

In order to get the book out, I had to open a flap on the bottom of the box cover:

I pulled out a cardboard shelf that holds the book securely in place:

Isabel's story is called Isabel: Taking Wing, and is written by Annie Dalton, who is known for her Agent Angel series of children's books.  The cover art is lovely:

And the back of the book has a plot synopsis:

I enjoyed this book.  It's fast paced and easy to read, and the plot is not as cliché or predictable as you might expect from a doll-related publication.  But American Girl has a good reputation in this respect, so I shouldn't be surprised.

And, frankly, this is the only book I've been able to finish in the last six months.  I tend to be exhausted at the end of the day, and usually fall asleep within moments of crawling into bed.  A sophisticated or complex book has no prayer of keeping my attention.  But for some reason I found this book manageable.  Maybe I should read more young adult fiction.

Isabel was attached to a plain cardboard backdrop that pulled out of the main box:

Her face is beautiful and familiar.  She was definitely sculpted by Helen Kish:

For those not acquainted with Ms. Kish's work, here's a book cover showing her distinctive style:

Some of my Kish dolls have made an appearance on the blog over the years, but I've never done a proper review.  Perhaps I should?

This is one of my favorite personal Kish photos:

Tiny Tink from the Riley's World Peter and Tiny Tink set.
Anyway, the flip side of the backdrop had a plastic stand taped to it:

The stand is unusual, with a circular base and two clear (yellowing) leg grips sticking up:

There's a small logo on the front.  

Here's another view:

Isabel was attached to the backdrop with a wire around her waist and lots of threads holding the outfit in place.  Some of the threads are transparent and were very hard to see--like this one securing the bauble at the end of the girdle belt:

I managed to find and snip all of the threads and free Isabel from her box.

She is not able to balance on her own, but the stand works well to hold her upright:

Isabel looked beautiful right out of the box.  There were some threads here and there left over from the packaging, and the dress was a little rumpled in back, but overall she made a wonderful first impression.  

I especially love the style of her face.  I've always admired Helen Kish's work:

She has soft, hand-painted features, with sage green eyes and rosy lips.  The only thing I don't like is that her eyebrows are a light reddish color that doesn't really go with her brown hair:

I like that the eyebrows have hair line detail, but the brush strokes are very big for the size of Isabel's head.  The overall effect is fine, though.  

The hint of blue on Isabel's eyelids is nice, and the darker line delineating the edges of her lips looks pretty:

True to the Tudor style, Isabel wears a beaded headband with an attached hairnet, called a snood:

The headband itself is red, and the hairnet is a golden mesh.

The front edge of the headband is lined with tiny little pearls secured by gold metal prongs:

And Isabel has matching pearl earrings:

She also has a delicate pearl necklace with a red gemstone pendant:

The necklace has a clasp in back and can be removed:

The jewelry is all gorgeous, especially for its size.  Keep in mind that this doll is only about nine inches tall.  It's been a while since I've seen a doll with such beautiful accessories.

And Isabel's outfit is no less beautiful:

Her gown is made out of burgundy velvet, with both gold and white lace trim.

There's a girdle belt around Isabel's waist that's made out of rhinestones:

The belt tends to hang on Isabel's left side, but most girdle belts that I've seen online hang straight down the middle of the skirt, more like this:

The promotional photos have the chain hanging to the left side, so maybe any configuration is fine.

Unlike the rest of the outfit, the girdle belt is clearly not meant to be removed.   The metal loops at the front are both closed and have no clasp:

I pried one of the metal loops open so that I could get a better look at all of the accessories that are attached to the chain:

Because Tudor dresses didn't have pockets, women would wear girdle belts like this to hold some of their personal belongings.

Isabel carries a mirror with her:

The back of the mirror has a lot of molded detail, with a blank gold area in the center that looks like a defect:

That area might look like a defect, but I scoured the internet for other photos of Isabel and found this shot where the back of the mirror clearly has the same design:

So it's not a defect, but I'm not sure what the design is supposed to be.

Isabel also has a few keys on her belt:

And a ball-shaped item at the very end of the chain that's decorated with more red gemstones:

I believe this is a pomander, which is a small container that women would fill with perfume and herbs.  They did this in part to smell nice, but also to ward off infectious diseases.

I said to myself as I was inspecting Isabel's pomander, okay, if the pomander actually opens, I'm officially in love with this doll.

I'm officially in love with this doll:

And also free of disease.
Before I removed Isabel's gown, I had to take off the hand tag on her left wrist.  This displays her name and the date and country that she represents:

The back has a small logo with a (naked?) woman riding on a flying swallow:

Like a flying Lady Godiva.
This logo is very familiar to me, so I assumed it was the Pleasant Company logo, but I don't think that's true.  Here's the Pleasant Company logo:

I did a reverse image search on the bird logo and nothing matched.  So I guess it's just the Girls of Many Lands logo?  I have no idea why it looks so familiar to me.

In any case, here's Isabel with her girdle belt, necklace, and hand tag removed:

The bodice is especially intricate, with an embroidered panel in the front and a ruffled peplum at the waist:

The bottom of the dress is also very nice, with a red silk jacquard underskirt, or kirtle, peeking out from between the edges of the velvet gown:

The kirtle matches the snood.
And the gown is lined in gold satin:

From the side, it looks like the dress has a bustle:

And here it is from the back:

The bodice closes with a series of small metal hooks:

I think it would be more historically accurate to have the dress close with laces, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with laces.

The dress is actually in two parts.  Here is the bodice on its own:

It's beautifully made and fully lined:

Under the bodice, there's a separate garment to support the lace at the neck:

This ties in back:

When I removed the skirt, the structured undergarment (or farthingale) came off, too:

The skirt and underskirt are sewn as all one piece, and all of the velvet areas are lined with gold satin:

The farthingale has some boned structure to it, and a small slit at the back for easy dressing and undressing:

Here's Isabel wearing just the farthingale:

It's a little crooked, and sticks up in back, which is what caused the bustled effect that we saw earlier:

Underneath the farthingale, Isabel is wearing yellow stockings and black shoes:

The stockings come up to just above her knees:

And the shoes are made out of imitation leather, with a shiny black button holding the straps in place:

Isabel's entire body is made out of very hard vinyl that is reminiscent of resin:

There are some beautifully sculpted details in the body, like Isabel's delicate collar bone area, and the line down her spine:

She also has a lovely hand mold, with tiny creases and fingernails:

Her feet are nice, too, with well-delineated toes:

The bottom of Isabel's left foot has Helen Kish's signature...which is a little hard to see here:

The only other molded mark is a 2002 Pleasant Company copyright on Isabel's neck:

Isabel is elastic-strung, which you can see by pulling her leg away from the hip joint:

It's very hard to pull the leg out of place, which is a good indication that the elastic is still robust after all of these years.

Isabel has five joints (neck, shoulders, hips) with limited movement.  She can turn her head from side to side:

But, like many dolls, as she turns her head, it swivels upwards.  This gives her a quizzical expression when she's looking a little bit to one side:

But when she's looking all of the way to the back, her head is tipped up significantly:

Her arms can spin around:

And they can move away from her body a little bit:

More so when they are elevated:

Her legs can also move away from her body a little, but she can't do side-to-side splits:

She can do nice front-to-back splits, though:

And she can sit upright on the ground:

With the help of the leg grips on the stand, Isabel can strike a rudimentary walking or running pose:

Isabel's 9.25 inch height looks very small in person, but she's still larger than Helen Kish's Riley dolls:

Helen Kish Riley (left) and Girls of Many Lands Isabel (right).
That Raggedy Riley doll has popped up in several of my reviews.  She's from 2005, so around the time the Girls of Many Lands were discontinued.  I still treasure her and love that cute face:

Isabel is very close in size to my Creatable World doll, who, coincidentally, is also named Riley:

Girls of Many Lands Isabel (left) and Creatable World doll (right).
Isabel has a narrower waist and hips than Riley, but she can still wear Creatable World clothing reasonably well, which opens up a ton of possibilities!

Girls of Many Lands Isabel wearing Creatable World clothing (and snood).
I especially like this combination on her...although the snood is out of place:

Isabel is designed to represent a girl who is about twelve years old, and I'd say her proportions fit pretty well in the sixth scale world.  To prove my point, here's Isabel next to Lena:

Girls of Many Lands Isabel (left) and Signature Looks Barbie (right).
In Lena's world, Isabel would be around 4.6 feet tall, which is the low average height for a twelve-year-old girl.

Okay, so I left Isabel's snood on for all of this time because I was afraid that if I took it off, it wouldn't go back on again.  I also wasn't sure what the hair situation under the net would be.  

What's hiding under there?
There were lots of short hairs poking out at various places around the net, and so I worried that the hair was not meant to be exposed.

The snood was held in place by clear thread that I had to find and cut.  This was delicate work.

I finally got the headband free, and started to pull the whole thing off:

The hair is certainly short!

Here's the snood on its own:

It's a really beautiful piece:

The underlaying hair is not so beautiful:

Windswept, shall we say?
And it was held in place by a rubber band that had completely disintegrated:

The hair fiber isn't great, but the haircut is better than I feared.  I smoothed everything down the best I could:

Her face looks so different with the hair down!
Here's the hair from the back:

I'd really like to see what Isabel looks like with a higher-quality wig, and perhaps one that matches her eyebrow shade better.  I ordered a new (red) wig from Etsy in size 3-4, but it didn't come in time for this review.  Maybe I'll update once it arrives and I've given it a try.

In the meantime, I tied the hair back into a ponytail with a new rubber band:

And was able to get the snood back in place:

The headband sits up away from the hair a bit more than it used to, but it stays in place surprisingly well.  It's certainly adequate for display:

With that sorted out, I put Isabel back into her gown, this time without the lace ruffle at the neck--just to see what it would look like:

The dress looks nice this way, and exposes the graceful neck mold:

But I think the lace ruffle adds wonderful flare, so I put it back on:

It frames her face beautifully:

Here she is again with all of her jewelry:

This outfit makes me think of my La Belle de Chenonceau doll from Robert Tonner, so I had to get a photo of Isabel with her:

Girls of Many Lands Isabel (left) and La Belle de Chenonceau by Robert Tonner (right).
The scales of these two dolls do not go well together, but they both have exceptionally beautiful gowns.

There wasn't much I could do in terms of posing Isabel, but I did have a wonderful time viewing her from different angles and with different accessories.

She doesn't seem like a vain girl from the story I read, but I guess it never hurts to have a mirror on hand:

I love Isabel's pensive half profile.  It looks like she's always thinking and dreaming about a more exciting life:

And front-on, she looks determined to get that life!

I had originally intended to only feature Isabel in this review, but the prices on these dolls are so reasonable, I couldn't stop looking at eBay!  In fact, I'm still tracking a few of the dolls to see if I can find good prices.  Just yesterday I found Saba for under $40, which is amazing.

Anyway, right after I bought Isabel, I hunted around for a Neela doll in good shape.  I rarely get the chance to review an Indian doll (maybe not since Hearts 4 Hearts Nahji?) so I was excited for the opportunity.

I found Neela for around $30, which is great, especially because she came with her box and book:

Neela wasn't attached to the box anymore, but that was fine because I knew I had Isabel for the complete de-boxing experience.

Here are Neela and her book, Neela: Victory Song:

Girls of Many Lands Neela (2002).
I haven't read all of this book yet, but the synopsis is compelling:

From what I understand, the plots of these books tend to be darker and more realistic than the typical American Girl books.  And each appears to be written by a different author.

Victory Song's author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, is not known for being a children's book author, but rather has a good number of adult novels to her credit.  Many of these stories showcase the Indian experience or the lives of South Asian immigrants.  Two of her novels (Sister of my Heart and The Mistress of Spices) were made into movies.

Neela herself is gorgeous, with a bright orange sari and lots of gold jewelry:

Here she is from the back, where you can see her long braid:

And from the sides:

The drape of the silk chiffon sari is really wonderful.

Neela has a captivating face, too, with a different mold than what we saw on Isabel:

Her necklaces came tied to her outfit with clear thread, and her sari came sewn to her left shoulder.

After I cut the thread at the shoulder, I was pleased to see that there's a metal snap underneath for easy dressing and undressing:

With the snap undone, I was able to remove the pallu, or back part of the sari, so that you can see the overall design better:

The orange chiffon is really lovely, with lots of intricate silver embroidery at the edges:

Underneath the draped fabric, Neela is wearing a silk blouse:

She has two gold necklaces that hang over the blouse: a long chain and a shorter choker with a pendant:

Both of these pieces of jewelry are referenced in the book, which is fun.

Neela also has gold hoop earrings, and you can see some green discoloration at the point where the metal of the earring touches the vinyl ear:

Neela's face is still easily recognizable as a Helen Kish sculpture, but it's quite different from Isabel's face:

She has large eyes, a broad nose, and full lips.  Here's a GIF so that you can see the differences between the two faces:

Both faces are beautiful, but I slightly prefer Neela's.  I think she has a nice profile, too, with a graceful nose and a slight overbite:

Neela has a faint red bindi on her forehead, and I feel like the size and color of her eyebrow hairs match her face better than Isabel's do:

I love Neela's wide, brown eyes.  The dark around her eyes is meant to be kajal, an ancient type of eyeliner:

Neela's jewelry was banging around as I manipulated her, so I took it off for a closer look:

The chain has a traditional clasp in the back, but the choker necklace has to be bent slightly in order to fit over the neck.

From what I can tell, the other jewelry cannot be removed.  This includes golden bangles on Neela's wrists:

And silver anklets on her ankles:

Let's go back to looking at the sari:

Here it is from the back:

The blouse laces up in back and ties with a large bow.  You can also see in the back that there's a metal snap at the waist:

The snap allows the entire chiffon layer to be removed, leaving behind the blouse and a matching silk taffeta skirt:

I love the iridescent shimmer to these pieces!

I also like the white gardenia that adorns the back of Neela's head:

I won't try to remove that.
The rubber band holding her braid in place has disintegrated, so it will need to be replaced:

I put Neela back into her full outfit for a few more pictures:

She is beautiful to look at:

And I love the color and drape of her sari.

Here are Neela and Isabel together:

Grill of Many Lands Neela (left) and Isabel (right).
I didn't think Neela's outfit could compare to the velvet opulence of Isabel's gown, but it's actually hard to choose a favorite here.  Both dolls are lovely, and both outfits exceeded my expectations.

I slightly prefer Neela because of her lovely face, though:

I tried for a while to find a new-in-box Kathleen to add to this review, but in the end the price tag was too much to justify.  I can get at least 4 of the less expensive characters for the price of a new Kathleen.

However, I couldn't resist her redheaded freckledness completely, so I found a used, out-of-box doll on eBay for a more reasonable price ($60, I think).  Here she is:

This doll did not come with a book, so I can't learn as much about her character as I would like.  Judging by the description on Amazon, the book is called Kathleen: The Celtic Knot and the cover looks like this:

Yet again, this book has a unique author: Siobhán Parkinson.  Siobhán is an Irish author who seems to specialize in children's books.

Amazon's description of this book is very simple:

"Twelve-year-old Dubliner Kathleen Delaney is given the chance to take Irish dancing lessons in 1937 and discovers she has a talent for it."

So, at least we know that Kathleen is an Irish dancer.  I suspect that's why the doll is so popular.  I've noticed that other Irish dancing doll items (like the outfit for 18" American Girls) sell extremely well.

Kathleen is wearing an intricate outfit, complete with a feathered hat and dramatic cape:

The outfit is made almost entirely out of fine green wool, but there are gold accents throughout.

The cape has embroidered Celtic knot designs on either side:

Kathleen has her own face mold, distinct from both Isabel and Neela.  She also has a third, paler skin tone:

Here's a GIF so you can see all three faces and skin tones together:

Kathleen has a more rectangular head mold than the other two.  Her skin tone is also more opaque and not as luminescent as Isabel or Neela's complexions.

Kathleen has bright green side-glancing eyes, which makes it slightly hard for her to look at the camera:

She has slanted red eyebrows with some hair line detail, and a wonderful smattering of freckles all over her nose and cheeks:

The slant in her eyebrows gives her a slightly severe or sly expression, and I don't really like the orange color of her lips:

It's great that there's such diversity in the head molds of these dolls.  I think they're all different, save for Minuk and Spring Pearl, who share a face.

As much as I adore Kathleen's red hair, green eyes, and freckles, she has my least favorite face mold of the bunch.  Let's see how her outfit measures up, though.  

To top it all off, she has a cute beret-style hat with an extremely small and delicate real feather mounted into a golden metal holder.  The metal holder probably has a special name, but I don't have Kathleen's book, so I'm not sure what that name is.  Let's call it a dinglehopper:

The rest of the outfit includes a long-sleeved green dress with a pleated skirt, accompanied by a matching cape:

The dress has an embroidered Celtic knot design on the bodice which coordinates with, but does not exactly match, the knot design on the cape:

The waist of the dress has three silver medals that hang down (somewhat asymmetrically) over the skirt:

I think Kathleen was also supposed to have a medal to hang around her neck, from winning a competition, but my doll was missing that accessory.

My doll was not missing her shoes, but they came in really rough shape, so I left them off:

Kathleen is also wearing black tights (with a little toe hole) and came with a very dirty stand:

The cape can be unsnapped from the shoulders of the dress:

The two tabs that hang over the shoulders are adorned with gold dinglehoppers that match the hat:

The entire back of the cape is lined with gold silk:

Here's Kathleen without the cape:

The dress is nicely tailored and closes in back with metal snaps:

Both the dress and the tights are easy to remove, and the tights did not leave behind any dark staining--even after 22 years:

Another nice little detail is that the sleeves of the dress are lined in gold silk.  This makes the dress really easy to slide on, and also leaves some gold peeking out at the cuffs, which looks great:

Here's Kathleen back in her full outfit (minus shoes) for a few more photos:

She certainly can't strike any convincing dance poses, but she can, um...hail a taxi?

Take me to the dance competition!
And she's also very good at just standing still and serving some attitude:

I will win the dance competition.

Here are Neela and Kathleen together:

Girls of Many Lands Neela (left) and Kathleen (right).
I think these two make a striking pair, with their contrasting skin tones and outfits.

And here are all three girls together:

Girls of Many Lands, from left: Neela, Isabel, and Kathleen.
I'm delighted with all of them.  Isabel's dress is breathtaking, but the other two outfits hold their own.  There's so much thought put into all of the details, and I love that even though the dolls are intended for display, their outfits are easy to take off and put back on again--with the exception of Kathleen's hat, which I didn't dare remove.

And I love all the faces, too, although here it's easier to pick a hierarchy: I like Neela's face mold the best, then Isabel, then Kathleen.  And the quality of the hair goes almost in that order, with Neela on top, then Kathleen (whose banana curls are easy to mess up) and Isabel last, with her coarse, short hair that's meant to stay hidden under a snood.

These dolls definitely felt deserving of an outdoor photo shoot, and with my garden still in its spring bloom, I headed out to the yard for some more portraits.

Isabel was the first to step outside, and she was eager to scan the garden for plants that might have medicinal properties.

Let's see what I can find.
She asked me if we had any frankincense or myrrh, which are apparently good at protecting against the plague.

I told her that we didn't, so she kept searching for other remedies.

Apparently, rosewater helps in bringing down a fever, so she asked if she could pick some of the roses.

These are really big roses.
She found another red-flowered plant, a Weigela, and got excited!

This one has anti-inflammatory properties!
And while the beautiful white-flowered rhododendron has anti-inflammatory elements, too, Isabel seemed to forget her mission for a moment and just enjoy the beauty of the plant.

Neela was nervous about entering the garden, mostly because it was her very first time wearing a sari, and she didn't want to mess it up.

She couldn't help but be curious about her surroundings, though.

A big heath plant was particularly interesting to Neela because it's not a common species in India:

And it makes her orange sari look especially bright!

Neela walked through a shady path towards where she saw a glimpse of something bright and orange:

It's a barberry bush:

All of the orange colors in the leaves of the barberry reminded Neela of the turmeric water at her sister's wedding.

The last girl to visit the garden was spunky Kathleen.  She ran through the paths in her stockinged feet without much interest in the plants:

But when I mentioned that her green dress blended with the scenery too much for me to get a good shot, she stopped to pay more attention.

These leaves kinda match my hair, too.
Kathleen wanted her portrait to be just as good as Isabel and Neela's, so she helped me by trying out several different locations.

The Japanese maple didn't offer enough contrast to her dress:

And the green of the heath clashed with her outfit!

She felt washed out by the yellow-green spirea:

But then, just as we were both about to give up, Kathleen spotted a mountain laurel:

Its white and pink flowers offered a wonderful backdrop:

And Kathleen finally got her portrait:

Bottom line?  I'm very thankful to Rory for bringing these dolls to my attention.  I have no idea how I missed them.  Perhaps it's because they weren't super popular back in 2002, and were discontinued relatively quickly.  There's speculation that the $50 price was off-putting to collectors, but I consider it a steal.  It's hard to think of current dolls with the same level of quality for an equivalent price, and it's mind-boggling to me that some of these dolls are selling on the secondary market, new-in-box, for as low as $10.  

The most striking thing to me about the dolls is their faces.  With one exception, all of the characters in this line have their own face mold, sculpted by an important artist.  And each face is hand-painted with details like lip liner, eyebrow hair, and realistic freckles.  I like some of the faces better than others, but they're all appealing and they all have the distinct charm of a Helen Kish doll.

Each of these dolls also has an extraordinary outfit.  Isabel's Tudor gown steals the show, with its impressive silhouette and velvet opulence.  Isabel's accessories are also wonderful, from her tiny beaded necklace to her rhinestone-covered girdle belt with its working mirror and pomander.  Because I looked at Isabel's outfit first, I wondered if Neela and Kathleen's costumes would feel bland in comparison, but they most definitely do not.  Neela's orange sari might actually be my favorite outfit in the bunch.  I love the delicate embroidery on the pallu and the iridescent sheen of the taffeta blouse and skirt.  Kathleen's outfit impresses with its Celtic embroidery, silk-lined cape, and metal accents.  And I appreciate that all of the dolls' clothing has robust metal closures that make dressing and undressing a breeze.

The articulation on these dolls is not very impressive.  They only have five strung joints.  The most disappointing of these joints is the neck, which doesn't allow for much head movement at all.  It's a good thing that the girls have engaging faces, because the articulation isn't adding much to their characters.  That said, the joints have not loosened over time, which is rare for strung dolls.  Also, the bodies feel solid and heavy in my hands, and the sculpted details are lovely.  And I really like the size of these dolls, especially because they work fairly well as twelve-year-olds in a one sixth scale.

The icing on the cake with this line is the well-written and historically interesting stories that come with each doll.  I've only read Isabel's book and part of Neela's so far, but I've enjoyed everything I read.  I liked learning little details about Tudor England and India's rich wedding traditions.  And the girls in the stories both have appealing personalities that add a new dimension to my enjoyment of the dolls.  I often read books just because they're relevant to a review that I'm in the process of writing, but in this case I'll keep reading even after the review is published.

All things told, I only have two complaints about the Girls of Many Lands dolls--aside from the fact that they have such limited articulation.  My first complaint is that only eight characters were made, and my second is that I don't have all eight in my collection.  Thankfully, one of those two problems is easy to fix.


  1. As a child in 2002, I never owned any of the dolls, but I did read all of the books and i really enjoyed them! If you can get your hands on Kathleen’s book it’s definitely worth a read. What a wonderful surprise to see a review for these lovely dolls. Thank you so much. I never owned one as a child because well, they really aren’t that suitable for play! For a collector they are incredible!

  2. These are so beautiful! And how fortunate that they are in 1:6 scale. They would make great siblings to some DOTW Barbies.

  3. Well it's time I pull the trigger and get Isabel. I love the time period.

    So glad you found new loves!!! Hope the new job is going well and you get some time for self care soon. -Micah

  4. They really don't make dolls like this anymore. It's such a shame - that level of detailing in the clothing is to die for.

  5. I own Kathleen and have read her book. Your description of her being free-spirited is not far off the mark. She's not out-and-out rebellious, but she does have a fair amount of spunk and determination. The book also helps describe some parts of her green dress, so it's definitely worth a read. I had no idea these dolls could be completely undressed; I never dared try it with my Kathleen. I think it's kinda clever that your doll has a hole in her stocking, by the way; the book explains that in a "blink and you'll miss it" sort of way. Great review, as always. And PLEASE do review a Riley doll! I like Helen Kish dolls too!

  6. wow these are SUPER cute, I might be scouring ebay right now haha

  7. I would love a full Kish review! I have a Tiny Riley that I adore. Kish dolls are just beautiful!

  8. I especially enjoyed this review as these are some of my favorite dolls. I have all of them except Leyla and Kathleen. Some of them came to me nude from a friend who wanted their clothes. I like to redress them, so that was OK with me. A quick search on showed that four of the books are available to read for free there: Cecile, Kathleen, Isabel and Minuk. You just need to sign up for a free account.

    And yes, to reading young adult fiction. It's a go-to for me.

  9. Oh, I hope you'll get a few more of these gals and review them!
    I believe the girdle-belt was also called a chatelaine.

  10. Not to nitpick, but I was just looking on American Girl Wiki, and apparently Kathleen's last name isn't Delany, but Murphy.

  11. I'm not surprised you missed these dolls when they first came out; I tend to forget they existed, and I spent hours paging through American Girl catalogs as a kid. The concept didn't make a lot of sense to me (after all, this was AMERICAN Girl), but the dolls are gorgeous. I love the Tudor outfit. AG has had a lot of secondary lines come and go over the decades; the 18-inch dolls (obviously) and Bitty Baby are the only ones that have been around forever. Let me see...Hopscotch Hill dolls, Angelina Ballerina (?), Bitty Twins, these Girls of Many Lands, AG Minis (those were little rooms you could set up with miniature furniture and accessories), etc. I still have a pile of AG catalogs going back to 1999 I look through every once in a while. Personally I don't like the way the company has turned away from the emphasis on history AG started with; to me the golden years were the '90s and 2000s. Oops, didn't plan on starting in on one of my pet peeves! Thanks for another great post!


  12. I also remember coveting these beauties in the American Girl catalog in the early 00s. I remember the premise of the Chinese girl’s story involved her being bullied by peers for not having bound feet!

    Very impressed with all the layers of Isabel’s outfit, especially the farthingale cage! And Neela’s face sculpt is simply swoon-worthy. I think the last Indian inspired doll you reviewed was the Rainbow High girl with the switchable high heel feet. Definitely an underutilized US doll market in my opinion.

  13. The details of their outfits are magnificent! Their face sculpts and painting are very nice too. I actually like how Isabel looks with the Tonner doll very much. The scale may be a bit off, but they make a lovely display. I'm most impressed by the accessories of all three dolls you looked at in this review. Very detailed and lovely.

  14. My family couldn't afford American Girl dolls when I was a kid, but I was obsessed with the books and catalogues. I had aged out of interest in them by the time this line was introduced, so what a shock to see a beautiful historical and book line I never even knew existed! I'm not sure I want to open the Pandora's box of collecting dolls myself, but I need to track down these books for sure.

  15. Very enjoyable and informative review. Thank you!

  16. I absolutely adore these little dolls. I came across them a while back while simply scrolling the dolly side of the internet, and was instantly enamored. As a trained historian, I love all the work that went into their outfits and hairstyles, as well as the books providing context for all of that. They also remind me a bit of the Dolls of the World Barbies, which have peaked my collecting interest numerous times throughout the years. All the intricate details of these dolls in such a tiny scale kinda blow Barbie out of the water, though. And the hand-painted face-up styles are a lot more charming to me. Of the three dolls in your review, I actually think Kathleen has my favorite face. And of the entire line, I think Cécile has my favorite outfit, and Minuk my favorite face. It's really a crime some of these dolls sell for so little on the second-hand market. They truly offer something unique.

  17. LOL, they won't be cheap for long - now that people will see this review, I predict a surge in popularity. I've read half of the books (Isabelle, Spring Pearl, Kathleen, and Leyla) and they were all so good that I've thought about buying the ones I got from the library so I have the whole set. People have already shared Kathleen's plot, I see, so you already know that sassy expression is appropriate - I have a great weakness for side-glancing eyes so I like her mold better than Isabelle's tbh. If you do end up getting the rest in the collection, it would be lovely if you shared pictures of them so we can see their faces up-close. *puppy eyes* pretty please? even if just for the patreon folks?

  18. Elizabeth Lefavour ClarkJune 2, 2024 at 1:29 AM

    I found an Isabelle and Leyla new in their boxes at an estate sale and then had to get a Spring Pearl, too, since I spent most of my adult life living in Asia. I couldn’t bring myself to take the, out of their boxes, though, so I got an unboxed Isabel missing her shoes on-line at a reasonable price and dressed her up in a Kruseling outfit and boots, and she’s lived as a modern girl ever since. I have quite a few more expensive Helen Kish dolls and it’s surprising how well these little American Girl dolls stack up compared to the more collector dolls.

  19. I got Neela last year after randomly coming across her on ebay and thinking she might be the prettiest doll I'd ever seen. I ordered Isabel a few hours after Neela arrived.

  20. I think I agree with your assessment of Neeka as the best overall, what a distinct little face she has. It's a testament to the line that you started the review with an outfit as opulent as that gown- and the rest simply rose to meet it. What a clear amount of thought and care was taken here!

  21. Im so happy you have kept up with this blog even after 10 years! I found your site via the blythe doll post in 2012, thank you so much for being apart of my doll collecting journey :)

  22. I love this post! I've always wanted one of these dolls (I like the French one - or I like the French one's dress) but shipping costs have always put me off getting one.
    I didn't realise how small they are!