Vinyl dolls?

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Vinyl dolls were created to solve the fragility of porcelain, bisque, composition, and hard plastic dolls. They were popularized during the rise of fashion dolls and were more durable and flexible for young children to play with. The rooted hair of vinyl dolls made them more appropriate for “beautician” play. Today, many modern dolls and toys are still made from vinyl due to its durability and ability to respond to market demands.

While it seems like a defiance of common sense, when vinyl was first used as a material for making children’s toys, dolls already had a long history of fragility. Vinyl dolls have solved this problem. They didn’t break easily, as porcelain and bisque dolls did; they have not exhibited crazing or chipping over time like composition dolls have; and they didn’t snap or split at the seams, like with hard plastic dolls. Vinyl dolls also made rooted hair possible in dolls, replacing the glued-in wigs of hard plastic and composition dolls.

Of course, the early vinyl dolls still had their problems. Hard vinyl tended to lose its color over time—these days, many vintage vinyl dolls have arms, legs, and torsos a different shade, making them look pretty faded from the neck down. Similarly, even soft vinyl sometimes discolors, darkens, or turns orange or yellow with age.

Vinyl became popular as a material for making dolls at a time when fashion dolls were also becoming very popular. As a result, many vintage fashion dolls are made from vinyl. Although at the time, baby dolls — dolls that take the form of a toddler or young child — had been phased out, even the few companies that continued to make them began converting to vinyl dolls. Vinyl was also a good material for dolls, as it is flexible and durable enough to withstand play by young children.

Rooted hair was a huge incentive behind the switch to vinyl dolls. While saran wigs could be washed, combed, and curled, they were also more likely to lose hair with repeated combing, among other problems. The rooted hair of the vinyl dolls was much more appropriate for “beautician” play, as it tended to be more resistant. As a result, when companies transitioned to vinyl dolls, it was usually first a hard plastic body with a vinyl head. Such dolls began to appear as early as the first half of the fifties.

Baby dolls, on the other hand, typically had a hard plastic head and a soft vinyl body; vinyl, a much softer and more pliable material, is more realistic like baby’s skin and more snug for young children. Later dolls were made entirely of soft vinyl, some with rooted, baby-like hair. These vinyl dolls sometimes had drinking and wetting devices, which allowed them to pass water, fed by bottle through a hole in their mouth, through another hole in their diapers. Sometimes vinyl dolls also had voice boxes or “plants.”

Although today’s vinyl dolls are very different from the first ones that appeared on the market, many modern dolls and toys are still made from vinyl. Vinyl has proven to be a durable material, not only in its ability to withstand playwear, but also in its ability to respond to the demands of the toy market.

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