Interlude: How many “fashion dolls” or “playscale” dolls are out there?

Today I received my first doll from the Fresh Dolls line. Her name is Jacqueline and she is a lot curvier than a Barbie doll. The Fresh Dolls are “black” dolls, made to more closely resemble African American women than the typical Barbie doll. Here’s Jacqueline, whose description states that she is “mixed,” which I interpret as resembling a woman of both European and African ancestry.  She will, of course, be joining the West Enders!

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Jacqueline’s arrival made me wonder how many different “playscale” doll types I actually have among the West Enders. Almost all of my dolls are Mattel’s Barbie, friends, and family.

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This version of Barbie is a reproduction of the doll I had as a child, the first Barbie ever produced, in 1959. Barbie will always be a brunette to me. As a child, she represented the adult world of my mother, who had dark brunette hair.

In my other universe, I am a biological anthropologist, and one of the things we concern ourselves with is human diversity. It’s been very important to me to reflect human diversity in my miniature universe; not just skin colour and geographic origin, but body shape as well. Barbie has been accused of promoting a negative body image for girls. As a person who has gone from being an excruciatingly thin young woman to a fat old lady, I definitely want to include that in my mini-universe. One of my favourite dolls is this one from the second film version of Hairspray. I love her because she is built like me.

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One of the first “plus-size” fashion dolls was Dasia, one of the Big Beautiful Dolls created by Audrey Bell Kearney and Georgette Taylor. Nobody ever parts with these dolls and I was extraordinarily lucky to buy one of the 18th anniversary dolls. She’s stunning.

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Another doll created to counter Barbie’s unrealistic physique is Lammily. There are three dolls, and I have been one of those who participated in the crowd funding for all of them. Lammily dolls are based on the proportions of average 18 year old Americans. The main issue with the dolls is that they are difficult to dress. Barbie’s body was actually designed the way to facilitate getting her clothes on and off rather than to reflect an actual human being! Here’s my favourite Lammily doll, and I think the most beautiful of all of them, who regular readers of the blog will know as Emma.

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Venturing beyond the American doll market, there are a number of playscale fashion dolls. Here is Steffi, who readers of the West Enders will also recognise. Steffi is a Barbie clone produced by the German company Simba Toys. She is very similar to Barbie, with a male companion and a number of small children. There are clothes and lots of fun accessories for this doll line and the West Enders include quite a few of them.

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Barbie is known around the world, but in China, Japan, and South Korea, playscale fashion dolls have been produced that reflect the cultural values of those countries far better than Barbie. (I might add here that I sadly do not own any of the quintessentially British Sindy dolls.) The Asian fashion dolls reflect the popularity of manga and anime. Kurhn is a Chinese fashion doll and is indescribably cute. Regular readers of the blog will recognise her as a central character in the West Enders.

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There are several wonderful Japanese fashion dolls. Takara Tomy produces both Jenny and Licca-chan and her family and several of these dolls play roles in the West Enders. Here’s the very cute Jenny.

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My favourite Japanese fashion doll is Momoko. These dolls are stunning, have amazing clothes, but are also very delicate – and very expensive! I have four now and I love all of them. Here’s the latest addition to the West Enders, the lovely Himari.

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Pullip dolls come from South Korea and are part of a group of dolls with very large heads and big eyes. I just can’t find any enthusiasm for them. But Pullip bodies are used in J-Dolls, one of which is a character from the West Enders, our young Jazmin.

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Another recent purchase of mine is a South African doll, Maisha from Malaville Dolls. This is another company dedicated to providing young black children with dolls that look like them rather than the ubiquitous “white” dolls available. Maisha is so cute and has very dark skin. She’s a delight to behold. I should mention that I love it when “black” dolls have natural hair like this. Maisha and Emma are both good examples.

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Here’s another new arrival with marvellous hair. I don’t know who actually makes these dolls. I saw her in a Facebook group and hunted her down. There are a number of these available on Amazon, but they seem to come from different sellers. All I know is that they are produced in China and have articulated bodies and fabulous hair.

 

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Many collectors adore Integrity Toys’ various dolls, which come in 12.5 inch and 16 inch versions. I have to say that they are not my favourites. Their faces are sullen and unpleasant and I do not understand how collectors find them attractive. To each his or her own! I decided that I wanted to own one so that I could say my collection included this particular variety of playscale doll. I’m a story teller more than I am a collector, but yes, there’s a bit of “collector” in there as well! This is Liu Liu Ling and she has one of the least offensive faces among the Integrity family of dolls, in my opinion. I do hope to add some of their male dolls as one or two of them don’t look like they’ve been sucking on lemons all day!

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Another recent addition to my playscale family is the WWE action figures. I don’t find them at all attractive but they make great evil enemies in my stories, like this one. I mean, face it, who wants to meet her in a dark alley?

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Before I leave my female dolls, I need to add the first doll I ever collected as an adult, this Marilyn Monroe doll. I think I bought her in the 1980s or 1990s. Her outfit, the white skirt from The Seven Year Itch, has disintegrated. Both hands have snapped off. She’s not attractive, bearing only a passing resemblance to Marilyn, but I just can’t abandon her.

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So those are my adult female dolls. What about the males? Trying to find male dolls is what inspired me to branch out beyond Mattel. The recent male dolls, Ken and his ilk, have horrible plastic hair and immovable limbs. They are awful, although one or two have reasonably attractive faces. I got very tired of trying to find male dolls for my ladies and in desperation, I turned to a group of dolls produced for girls who love boy bands. There are a large variety of them and I have quite a few. Here’s one as an example, a recent and quite good looking one, Max George from The Wanted. Who are The Wanted? I haven’t a clue. People, I’m 65 years old – boy bands are not my thing. I have no idea who any of my boy band dolls are in real life! They are shorter than Ken and make good partners for Momoko and Lammily dolls. IMG_6713.jpg

My quest for articulated male dolls with rooted hair took me in many directions. My absolute favourite, and a principle character in the West Enders, is our lad Sutton. He’s just so delightful. His romance with Merida has been a joy to write. I found him on eBay, “gently used,” which meant something very different to the seller than to me. I had to glue his waist articulation to keep him from flopping over completely, but I didn’t care. I love him!

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My blog is super heteronormative. I realise that and wish that I were a better writer and could branch out a bit. Unfortunately, all my characters are heterosexual, which doesn’t reflect human diversity at all. It is a failing. That said, let me introduce my High School Musical Doll, who I call Corbin. He’s Suttons’ opposite – short where Sutton is tall, but just as loveable in his own way. He reminds me of my role as the mother of a teenage son many years ago. He’s charming and completely irresponsible – and very cute.

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The lack of diversity in male dolls has been horrendously frustrating. I had no male Asian dolls – none. In desperation, after seeing a YouTube review, I turned to the World Peacekeeper series – cheap articulated 1:6 scale action figures. I’ve managed to find two “Asians” to add to my collection, the most notable of which is Tommy Lu, a major character in the West Enders.

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Next come the “big head” boys. In my desperation for articulated male dolls, I turned to the Ever After High dolls. Here’s Dexter, whose head is abnormally large. But his articulation is fabulous and he plays a mean guitar.

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An even more ridiculously sized head characterises poor Jake, from the Liv doll series. My husband constantly mocks him every time he comes into the doll room. Poor Jake! But like Dexter, his articulation is amazing.

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Then there are the “one off” male dolls, purchased purely to move my story forward. My husband told me my blog, with its focus on romance, was dull as a soap opera. I needed a villain. Who better to be a villain than the unmentionable POTUS? He even talks, but I don’t push that button very often. I mean, is this guy not the very embodiment of evil in dolly form? But this is where I feel my age creep up on me. The white cat – Ernst Stavros Blofeld anyone?

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And this character is even worse for making me feel old, even though I was beside myself when I found him. Illya Kuryakin, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. I googled it and I found him. I knew I needed a Russian spy…

But then my husband asked our grand-daughter-in-law if she knew who Illya Kuryakin was, the simple and straightforward answer was no. I feel so old.

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Now that I’ve covered the adult women and men in my dolly universe, I want to touch on the children very briefly. Both Mattel and Simba Toys have children, as does Takara Tomy. So what else is out there that works as a child for a playscale family?

First and foremost are Lottie dolls. They are meant to be around 9 years old, but relative to a Barbie doll they are a bit smaller than that. Mine are all meant to be around 8 years old. They are very cute and reminiscent of the Asian anime and manga inspired dolls.

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Another doll that playscale collectors might not recognise as perfect children is the Mini-American Girl doll, which recently evolved into the Lori Doll line.

IMG_7640.jpgThose are all the various types of dolls in my collection of playscale dolls. I know I am missing a few types of dolls like Sindy, plus all the 1:6 scale action figures. What do you collect? Please feel free to comment – I’d love to know how my fellow photo story bloggers deal with the lack of articulated male dolls with rooted hair, for example. Who else am I missing? I’d love to hear from all of you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The West Enders: Episode Twenty-Three, Season One Finale

IMG_3979It’s the August bank holiday weekend, and the Panenka-Puppe family are enjoying the sunshine and a barbecue. Amid the fun and chatter, Steffi stops for a minute to think about how happy she is. She can’t remember when she felt so contented.

IMG_3980She’s surrounded by her sisters…

IMG_3984Another tiny Panenka has entered the world…

IMG_3982Even Kevin seems happy and content. He’s even accepted Olly as one of the family at last.

IMG_3977She knows he worries about Alistair, who keeps to himself almost all of the time. She hopes that he’ll find some new friends when school starts again in September.

SG209217And best of all, her children are happy and thriving in the new beach cottage. Just look at them… Wait a minute!

IMG_4018“Gretchen! Stop feeding your hot dog to Honey!”

SG209225Down the road, their neighbours, the Ekpo-Holmes family are also having a barbecue. Marvin is grilling up a storm. Everyone loves his barbecued ribs. Unfortunately, a little drama is about to unfold in the kitchen.

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Emma is speaking to Corbin.

“Corbin, I thought I told you that today was family only. We’ve had so much partying over the summer, I thought it would be nice if we just spent some time together today.”

IMG_4040“Well, it is just family,” says Corbin, trying to wield his normal charm. “You must be referring to Jazz. She IS family now.”

IMG_4041“What do you mean, she’s family? Have you two gone and got married without telling us!” Emma is incredulous.

IMG_4042“No, of course not. It’s just that she’s living here now.”

Emma is almost speechless. “What?”

“Her student accommodation was getting really expensive and since I’m living at home now to save money, I told her to move in too. She’s been here for about a month. Haven’t you noticed?”

SG209221Emma has had enough. This is the last straw. She completely loses it.

“How dare you move your girlfriend into our house, Marvin’s house, my house, without our permission or even telling us! I’m fed up with your complete disrespect for me, Corbin Holmes. I am not running a B&B or a hotel service!”

“I’m sorry, Emma,” Corbin stammers. “I hope you’re not going to make her leave. She doesn’t have anywhere to go.”

“No, I won’t make her leave! Now get out of my sight before I explode!”

Corbin has never seen Emma so angry.

IMG_3761Emma rushes upstairs and says a prayer. “Please, Lord, grant me patience. Grant me a peaceful heart. I can’t take any more!”

IMG_3900Suddenly Marvin appears.

“Emma, darling, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. I thought I was seeing more of Jazmin lately. She and Corbin always seem to be eating their breakfast together when I get home from work but I didn’t realise that she was living here.”

Marvin has a morning talk show at the local television station and is up and out the door before anybody in the house. He gets home in the early afternoon, around the time Corbin and Jazmin are getting out of bed.

SG209231“It’s okay, Marvin. I’m calm now. It’s just that we bought this house thinking we’d have a little more time together and we’re bursting at the seams with our relatives. I can’t turn them away.”

“I know, darling,” says Marvin. “Maybe we need to go out on a date!”

“There is one thing you could do, Marvin, that would mean the world to me.”

“Anything, sweetheart. What is it?”

“Kick Aunt Lavinia out of our bedroom!”

“Anything for you, love,” says Marvin. “Although I expect to hear a lot of whinging!”

SG209226Out in the garden, Roberta, Erika, Aunt Lavinia, and Jazmin are enjoying the barbecue. Although they heard the row in the kitchen, Jazmin seems completely unfazed and sips her margarita as if she hasn’t got a care in the world. Suddenly Erika, who is looking at her phone, lets out a loud gasp.

“Why are you staring at that phone, Erika?” asks Lavinia grumpily. “This is a family meal, you shouldn’t be looking at that thing.”

“What’s wrong?” asks Roberta, seeing the look of shock on Erika’s face.

“Someone’s tagged some pictures of Sutton on Facebook!” says Erika angrily.

“Let’s see,” says Roberta calmly.

SG209227“Oh, come on, Erika, it’s just a selfie with a couple of women in the pub. Sutton practically lives in that place. Don’t get your knickers in a twist over nothing.”

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“Not that picture,” Erika barks. “The one before it. And it isn’t just two women in the pub, it’s that tart Merida MacDonald he used to crawl all over, according to Blessing.”

SG209229Roberta gasps. “Oh, THAT picture,” is all she can say.

IMG_3969Uh oh.

That’s it for Season 1 of the West Enders. We’ll be back in September for Season 2. Don’t miss the drama, the fun, and the dolls!

The West Enders: Episode Sixteen, the Bank Holiday Music Festival

The first May bank holiday brings beautiful weather and a music festival at the university. Luna and the Dolls are backing up the Ladies in Black, who will have a special guest; none other than our own Nicole Bernstein! The crowd begins to gather in the university gardens outside the Student Union, where the concert will be held.

SG208669Marcelo and Audrey arrive early. As the Dolls manager, Marcelo wants to make sure everything is set up and ready to go.

SG208680The crowd begins to gather. There are some new faces here, whom we will get to know better in the autumn when the university term begins. For now, pay attention to the handsome lad in the middle, Corbin’s friend Deangelo Davis. We’ll be seeing more of him at the next bank holiday, when Emma hosts her match making barbecue party.

SG208677Another important new face is this man, Jamal Jones. His sister Michelle is one of the Ladies in Black, and he has brought his other sister, her twin Chrisandra, to see the concert. Jamal is a Senior Lecturer in Biology at the university and was recently seen having coffee with Monique and Bonnie on the day Monique came to discuss the technician job.

IMG_2860.jpgMonique was quite impressed with him – quite the different man from Sutton! She’s planning on inviting him to the barbecue and Emma can do her matchmaking elsewhere.

SG208673Yuki has come along with Corbin and Jazmin and Corbin’s pal Zayn. Zayn is quite taken with Yuki. To her horror, however, she sees Pierre standing directly behind her, alone. Then she remembers that Nicole is the guest star. She tries not to look as perturbed as she feels. At least there’s no sign of Nick – that would be unbearable.

SG208684Mira has come with Tommy and is also feeling a bit perturbed. He has brought along his “personal assistant,” Lilli Akana, who we saw with him in the pub. Mira is starting to wonder about her relationship with Tommy. They’ve been together for almost six months and the romance seems to be completely stalled. They go out, they chat, but no sparks fly, no passion builds, nothing. And what man brings his PA on a date? Tommy claims that as he is in the music management business, this is work as well as play and he trusts Lilli’s musical judgement. Mira is not impressed.

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Inside, the Ladies in Black use the coffee shop as their backstage area while Luna and the  Dolls perform.

SG208639The Dolls are rocking down the house, as usual. But there are some surprises in store for their fans.

SG208641Jake is on piano…

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And Dexter is on guitar! And he’s wearing Jake’s guitar necklace. When Luna introduces the band, it’s the first thing Jenny notices from the audience and she is not happy. That’s the necklace she gave Jake for Christmas!

SG208644Dexter has been replaced by a new bass player, whom Luna introduces as Gwenhwyfar Hughes. Robin is still on the drums and he and Luna are the only two who aren’t a surprise. The fans don’t mind, though – the addition of the piano is fantastic and Dexter is a fabulous guitarist. Gwen and Robin are also great together and the Dolls have never sounded better.

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During the break, it’s the Doll’s turn to gather in the “backstage” coffee shop. Suddenly, Jenny and Kurhn burst in. Kurhn is looking very distraught and Jenny – she doesn’t even say hello!

“Why is Dexter wearing that necklace?” she demands.

SG208656“Whoa, Jenny, what’s going on here?” Jake responds. “I gave it to him. It’s a guitar. He’s the guitarist. I’m the piano player. It looks good on him.”

“You can have it back,” Dexter says. “I didn’t realise there was an issue.”

“There isn’t an issue,” Jake says.

SG208657“That’s it, Jake Blake! I’ve had enough!” Jenny shouts. ” We’re through. I gave you that because I cared about YOU, and you don’t care enough about me to even keep it! You never spend any time with me anymore, you’re always rehearsing, or hanging around with Dexter. You treat me like dirt, and I’m not going to take it any more!” With that, Jenny bursts into tears and runs out of the shop.

SG208659Kurhn doesn’t know what to do. Obviously she wants to run after her best friend and comfort her, but her voice teacher is about to perform! She’s hoping that Nicole will put in a good word for her so that she too can some day sing as a guest with the Ladies in Black. Finally, it’s too much for her, and she mumbles, “I need to see this performance,” and heads out the door as well.

SG208660“I want to catch this too,” says Luna, and heads out after Kurhn.

SG208662“So, Jakey boy, trouble with the lass, eh?” says Robin, laughing. “Not to worry, kid, it’s not every woman who can be with a musician. It takes a special sort, someone who’s happy to be in the audience and dance, or another musician. Or just somebody with a passion of their own.”

SG208665“How about your bass player, Robby,” says Gwen playfully. “Is she good enough for a lad like you?”

“Way too good for the likes o’ me, Gwen,” laughs Robin. He and Gwenhwyfar seem to have hit it off from day one.

SG208661“Wow, Jake, I’m really sorry,” says Dexter.

“It’s not your fault, Dex. I suppose I have neglected Jenny. It just seemed logical for you to have the necklace. It looks great on you and I want you to keep it. Maybe Robin’s right – Kurhn has her own musical career to think about so she doesn’t care about you rehearsing. I’m not sure what to do about Jenny. I do care for her – a lot.”

“I know you do,” Dexter replies. “Why not let it rest for now, mate, and see what happens.”

SG208646The Ladies in Black are fabulous as always.

SG208648Sandra has replaced Jake at the piano.

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“And now,” announces Amy. “I’m sure many of you are familiar with the amazing duet between Luciano Pavarotti and James Brown doing ‘It’s a Man’s World.’ Well, today I have a chance to do my own version, with the one and only Nicole Bernstein!”

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Amy and Nicole are incredible! The crowd loves it and among them, Pierre’s heart swells with love for this amazing woman. He feels like the luckiest many in the world. Kurhn too is beside herself with joy – her teacher! She’s the luckiest girl in the world.

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After the concert, the crowd leaves in high spirits.

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Among the last to go are Steven and Sutton.

“What did you think of our old friends’ performance?” says Steven. “They never come round to the George anymore. Sandra has never responded to a phone call or a text since Valentine’s Day. Seeing her makes me care not at all – she’s lost weight and she’s way too thin for me. I like a woman with some meat on her bones. Your old friend Merida looked as juicy as ever, though.”

Sutton doesn’t know what to say. Merida looked better than he’s ever seen her. Confident, sexy, oozing sensuality. Erika Holmes has invited him to a family barbecue on the next bank holiday and he’s really torn. Monique will be there, of course, and how embarrassing will that be? He really likes Erika and her sweet girl next door air – but Merida! He’s not going to think about her. That possibility is over, forever. Time to move on.

Stay tuned to the next episode! Before we find out what happens at the barbecue, we need to look in on Nick, who has passed his PhD viva with flying colours and now has a job interview at the university coming up.

Interlude: A J-Doll Disaster

Not too long ago, I had budgeted for a new doll and was thinking of going for a Ruruko by Petworks. I really wanted the recently released Ruruko of the Gables. But then I came across one of Groove’s J-Dolls on eBay with a Type 4 Pullip body. I now buy dolls if they will become part of the West Enders and this doll, Andrassy Ave., seemed perfect. When she arrived, it was love at first sight, and of course, she has already taken a role in the West Enders as Corbin’s girlfriend, Jazmin Szalay.

IMG_2620Here she is in full Andrassy Avenue regalia – very cute. And they make a very cute couple.

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And she’s a great model to play with.

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But springtime approaches and I decided she needed something a little brighter to wear so I bought her a couple of outfits from FabriMagoDolls on Etsy. Yesterday I decided to undress her for the first time so she could model her new outfits for my review of them (I love them and gave them 5 stars each.) That’s when the trouble began. It was quite daunting to get all the bits and bobs of her outfit off her body but I managed. Then I tried to get her fabulous little boots and her socks off. Disaster.

I tried wriggling the boots around a bit but nothing budged. I had read recently about putting the new Silkstone Barbie (Amy Roberts in the blog) with immovable boots in hot water to get hers off but I didn’t really want to stick Jazmin’s feet into boiling water while she was wearing those fabulous socks. So I used a hairdryer and they did start to wiggle a bit. And then I heard a crack and one boot came off with the foot in it. I prayed that it had simply disarticulated, but no, I had managed to snap it off just above the articulation. (It is now glued back on and articulation still functions.)

You would think (at least I did) that the darn foot would now just slide out. No. That foot was never coming out of that boot, so finally, reluctantly, I sliced down the back of those beautiful boots. Even then, I had to use a tiny screwdriver to remove the foot, still in the sock of course. I didn’t bother any other technique with the other foot – just slit the boot and pried out the foot. While I was doing that, Jazmin’s leg came off at the knee. Argh! At least that was at the articulation so I just popped it back on. That foot had terrible clothing stains, but that I can cope with.

Then she was ready to model her new clothes.

IMG_2767Gorgeous! Various colours in the dress match both her eyes and her hair. Wearing colour transforms her – she’s far more gorgeous in these new clothes than she was in original outfit, in my opinion.

IMG_2768She’ll be getting Momoko and Yuki to go clubbing soon – I can’t see Nick joining them however.

Many of you will have been doing this longer than I have and I welcome your thoughts, advice and comments. It is as if these dolls were not intended to ever have their clothes changed. I know many collectors don’t even take their dolls out of the boxes, and some simply display them, but for me, dolls are to play with. I definitely will not be buying another J-Doll, no matter how cute.

Now I have to save up for the next Ruruko I really love.  Ruruko of the Gables sold out quickly at the Petworks shop and will next reappear in various places for an exorbitant price, way out of my range. Oh, well.