What’re fashion dolls?

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Fashion dolls became popular in the late 1950s, replacing toddler and preteen dolls. Companies like Madame Alexander had been producing fashion dolls for years. Fashion dolls came in various sizes and materials, with jointed limbs and sleeper eyes. Knockoffs were made, but high-quality dolls from reputable companies are more valuable. Barbie eventually took over the market.

In the late 1950s, fashion dolls took the doll market by storm. The fashion dolls had high heels, the figure of a young woman and elegant clothes. These fashion dolls quickly replaced the toddler dolls and preteen-bodied dolls that had been popular up to that point.
Although fashion dolls didn’t become popular until the late 1950s, some forward-thinking companies had been producing fashion dolls for some time. One example is Cissy from the Madame Alexander Doll Company, a 21-inch full-length doll in elaborate formal wear and trendy street clothes. Madame Alexander began making Cissy in the early 1950s, at least five years before the fashion doll craze.

Many early fashion dolls were made entirely of hard plastic, with glued-on wigs for hair. Some hard plastic dolls had vinyl heads with rooted hair, and others had hard vinyl bodies. Most fashion dolls had sleeper eyes: weighted eyes that stay open when the doll is upright, but close when the doll is lying on her back. Many fashion dolls also had joints in the knees, waist and/or elbows.

By the end of the 1950s, nearly every major doll company was producing fashion dolls. The small fashion dolls, eight to ten inches tall, were very popular. Madame Alexander added Cissette, a nine-inch fashion doll, to her catalog in 1957. Cosmopolitan began producing her fashion dolls, Miss Ginger and Little Miss Ginger, in 1957 and 1958, respectively; similarly, Nancy Ann Storybook created Miss Nancy Ann and Little Miss Nancy Ann. Vogue implemented Ginny’s older sister Jill in 1957; around the same time, Ideal offered Little Miss Revlon.

Fashion dolls also come in a range of larger sizes. Madame Alexander’s Elise, which first became available in 1957, was a 16-inch fashion doll with unique jointed ankles that could hold three different poses; as a result, Elise was sold as a dancer as well as in typical formal outfits and street clothes. American Character Doll Company’s Sweet Sue grew to meet new market needs, as the company remade the preteen-bodied doll as a high-heeled fashion doll. Other major doll companies also had great fashion dolls, such as Ideal’s Miss Revlon and Horsman’s Cindy.

Just as with the children’s dolls of the early to mid-1950s, many lesser-known doll companies made knockoffs of the popular fashion dolls. These dolls were made more cheaply, often lacking the leg joints that made higher quality dolls so poseable. Even their dresses were made with less attention to detail and quality. Of course, another “knock-off” called Barbie eventually took over the fashion doll market, and the fashion dolls that had started it all weren’t able to match the popularity of this new doll.

As with other dolls, condition and the manufacturer determine a fashion doll’s current value. Fashion dolls manufactured by companies known for high quality generally command a higher price tag, while more economically manufactured fashion dolls hold a lower value. Also, the fewer play outfits a fashion doll displays, the more it’ll be worth, with the most valuable dolls being those that are “mint” or virtually untouched. Also, fashion dolls made before Barbie hit the market tend to be worth a little more.

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