Saturday, November 20, 1999

Picnic Set - A Gene Doll Outfit Review

I got the Picnic Set outfit and the little basket and LOVE THEM! It is an absolutely adorable set with the cutest little  accessories ever. I usually like the ball gowns and formals, but this set is possibly my favorite yet.

The shoes are a little hard to fasten, but they are so cute and NO RIBBONS! The little bracelet with the tiny cherries matches the pin and the trim on the little hat -- very, very cute. Of course it comes with a picnic basket which contains tiny flatware, four plates which look like bone china, and four exquisite linen napkins. The red gingham lining the basket matches the red gingham trim of Gene's outfit.  I give this one an A+

Thursday, November 11, 1999

Millennium Girl Tyler by Tonner

by Kathryn E. Darden    
As a new millennium dawns, one doll steps out of the vinyl throng to possess the spotlight and launch a new era; that doll is Robert Tonner’s Tyler.
     Robert Tonner has become a household name among doll aficionados for his award winning dolls and fashions. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, Tonner’s career took off when he became the head designer for legendary Bill Blass (who recently announced his pending retirement) and had the opportunity to hone his skills as a fashion designer.
     In 1991, Tonner combined his fashion experience with sculpting and design talents to produce the beautiful dolls which have brought him to the forefront of the doll collecting world. “The first dolls I did were 16" porcelain dolls, jointed; they were very expensive,” Tonner told me in a recent interview. “Then I came out with a larger porcelain fashion doll for around $300.” These exotic porcelain beauties soon catapulted Tonner to the attention of discerning doll connoisseurs everywhere.
     However, porcelain divas are not all that Tonner creates. The Robert Tonner Doll Company also captures the magic of classic childhood characters such as Orphan Annie, Betsy McCall, Superman, and Lois Lane. A doll collector himself, Tonner has his fingers on the pulse of the doll collecting world and sculpts and designs dolls ranging from high fashion models, to storybook fairies, to sweet little girl dolls. Tonner even has a line popular with Madame Alexander fans, the adorable Kripplebush Kids.
     In recent years, through an affiliation with the Knickerbocker company, Tonner designed a doll straight out of a Harlequin Romance, Julia. The concept was for a series of dolls based on a fictitious romance novel family composed of three lovely sisters, each with her own unique beauty, story and wardrobe from bygone days. Each doll was to have been part of the Kingston Chronicles, a romance novel packaged with each doll. Julia was created and marketed first, and at the writing of this article, there was a hold on any future dolls from the series. “They (Knickerbocker) are going through some changes and I don’t know where we are right now,” stated Tonner. “I am still interested in developing the Julia dolls.”
     Julia was greeted warmly by Gene collectors who appreciated Julia’s similar size and lines and more lifelike facial features, and like the first Genes, Julia had straight legs. The West Coast convention picked Julia for their convention doll in 1999 and Tonner partnered with Doris Mixon, a well-known doll fashion designer in her own right, to create a beautiful limited edition doll. “I chose Julia as the convention doll because I wanted to get a doll that I knew the public would want,” stated Doris Mixon who has been designing for fashion dolls since 1995.  “I always thought that Julia would look so much better in contemporary cloths than in the romantic era style that  she is portrayed in.  I chose the colors brown and beige to complement her eyes and hair.” Doris was correct about the contemporary look; Julia was breathtakingly lovely with an upswept braided coiffure and the champagne satin fitted sheath dress with matching belt and long opera coat of crushed brown velvet Doris designed for her -- a worthy harbinger of Tyler’s elegant mien.
     After the enthusiasm collectors showed for Julia, Tonner’s own manufacturing facility reached a point where he could pursue some of his dreams further. “I decided to do what I had always wanted to do, design a medium-sized fashion doll.  I wanted a doll with bendable legs and a hard plastic body. She just turned out to be 16". I was not trying to make her compatible or the same as any other doll. We were just at the point where I felt like we could step into the fashion doll arena and do it right.”
     And do it right they did. Tonner’s dream doll is Tyler, a 16" poseable vinyl doll with long rooted hair, bendable knees and a sophisticated look (somewhat reminiscent of Julia) much more proportionate than the large head and dominate eyes of Ashton-Drake’s popular Gene doll. She comes in blonde, brunette and redhead. Available for Tyler is an extensive wardrobe as well as a dress form and patterns to make designer outfits for her.
      I first had the opportunity to view two prototype Tyler's as well as meet the charming designer himself when Robert Tonner made the circuit of doll shows this years, bringing Tyler to a doll show in Nashville last spring. Tonner brought actual samples of the exquisitely detailed outfits as well as two doll prototypes: Party of the Season and a brunette Tyler. Needless to say, after seeing the resin prototypes up close and personal, I ordered my dolls immediately!  I was not the only one enthused.  “Before I went to the show I was beginning to think that I couldn't afford all of the outfits, but after I saw them in person, I knew I had to have them all!” exclaims Elaine Posanka who made the two-hour drive from Tullahoma to see the dolls. “I thought the fashions were stunning and was most excited to touch the beautiful fabrics on the costumes and learn they were the actual outfits, not prototypes.”
     “I think Tyler is a character doll that’s just starting to take off,” Tonner said. “I see friends, clothes, accessories. She is user friendly; that’s why I came out with patterns and a dress form for Tyler, and an extensive wardrobe for those of you who don’t sew. You are supposed to take her out of the box and play with her.”
     As soon as photos of Tyler were posted on the Internet, the limited edition dolls and outfits began to sell out  before the doll ever appeared on shelves!  Party of the Season Limited was a limited edition 2,500 with a suggested retail price of $169.99, and Millennium Ball, a limited edition of 3,000 with a retail value of $124.99. The Tonner Company sold out of both LE’s almost immediately, months before the dolls were due to ship.
     While Tyler comes with her own story, following in the footsteps of Gene and Julia, Tyler is a modern sophisticate and her story is one that is relevant to today’s collectors. Designer, heiress, businesswoman, Tyler’s active and versatile lifestyle presents many opportunities for fabulous outfits.
     The pictures presented of the first offerings of her extensive wardrobe prompted the outfits to sell rapidly in preorders, much like the limited edition dolls. The original wardrobe consisted of: Signature Style, a white cotton shirt and belted black wool skirt. Black sheer stockings, black pumps, and a single strand of pearls finish off the look. Party of the Season presents a fitted strapless gown of sage green and gray striped silk shot with gold and topped with a French lace overlay with a removable shrug of the same French lace. Finishing touches include a pin that matches her rhinestone necklace and earrings along with  gold evening shoes. Cashmere Noir finds Tyler dressed in a long fitted and flared black cashmere coat with shawl collar and deep cuffs. Black boots and jewelry complete the outfit. Collection Premiere is a chic suit of velvet laminate with a sleeveless silk and metal shell in tones of pale taupe and cream. Nude stockings, suede pumps, a gold structured handbag and a gold bib necklace of crystals and beads complete the ensemble. Gallery Soiree is a vivid red silk shantung cocktail dress with a beaded boa, sandals, a beaded necklace, and a matching silk clutch. Fragrance Launch is Tyler’s black-and-white houndstooth suit featuring a fitted double-breasted suit jacket with velvet portrait collar and matching cuffs, over a tailored skirt. A black tam, dark stockings, black pumps and a bottle of Wentworth #1 Perfume compete this set. Wake Up Call finds Tyler relaxing in a silk charmeuse robe over her two-piece tailored matching pajamas with a cup of coffee, a bagel, and an issue of Fashion Design Weekly. Fashion Design Weekly Awards is Tyler’s beaded floor length French lace gown with matching charmeuse stole.
     After the successful presale of these first wardrobe offerings, the Robert Tonner Company came out with two more limited edition ensembles. Urban Sport boasts comfort and style in a jersey mockneck, leggings with her taupe boots, a drawstring vest and quilted 3/4 coat, and Central Park Benefit Luncheon is an embroidered celadon silk shantung suit with rhinestone buttons, accented by a perky hat.
     Tyler captured a great deal of attention at the Gene convention in Philadelphia in October. The long-legged beauty was displayed in all her incarnations including basic Tyler, Party of the Season,  Corbett’s exclusive, and Millennium Tyler to the delight of Gene lovers from all around the world, many of whom are making room for Tyler in their Gene collections. Robert and his right-hand-gal Miss Nancy were on hand to greet convention goers and show off Tonner’s other dolls as well as Tyler.
     Another indication of the prenatal success of Tyler is the first  Tyler Convention planned for 2000. Sue Nettleingham Roberts has reportedly been planning this event for two years with the Robert Tonner Doll Company, before the doll collecting world even knew Tyler was on the drawing boards!  The show boasts a breathtaking limited edition convention Tyler as well as her new spring collection and will take place on March 31- April 1, 2000 at Double Tree Hotel, Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon. Pictures of the exquisite convention doll began to circulate on the web the last week of October, much to the delight of potential collectors.
     Sue Roberts, who previously has worked for both Vogue and Effenbee, said in a recent phone conversation, “I always try to have these events be for the convention goers where collectors can afford the event and have fun.” Roberts reports the first-ever Tyler convention will boast dealers, competitions, displays and a stage all in one huge ballroom for the convenience of collectors. She revealed that in addition to the beautiful convention Tyler, attendees will receive two sets of limited Tyler jewelry including a dainty year 2,000 bracelet, a Tyler paper doll, a Margaret O’Brien paper doll, the ubiquitous canvas bag sporting Tyler’s image, a special pin and other goodies she is choosing to keep a surprise. I know one of them; my lips are sealed but it sounds wonderful! One additional Tyler event is already planned for the Santa Fe Doll Art 'Albuquerque Experience'.
     If Tyler and her fabulous wardrobe live up to the elegance of the prototypes and the success of the preorders, it boggles the mind to imagine what the future holds for Robert Tonner and Tyler.
     Robert Tonner is the immediate past president of the National Institute of American Doll Artists  (NIADA) and his dolls have been featured in national and international media including People magazine, CNN, the Barbara Walters Oscar Night Special, Entertainment Tonight, and British Vogue magazine. A recent, and very special, honor was having another of his creations added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts at the Louvre complex in Paris. He recently won the first Best of Show collectors choice award at the Walt Disney World Teddy  Bear and Doll show for his one of a kind auction piece - "A Century of Fashion," a ten-doll (porcelain)  piece showing the fashions through the century, each doll representing one decade.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Effenbee Brenda Starr Doll Review

Brenda Starr
© 1999 by Kathryn E. Darden and Marianne Smith.
If you have not ordered Brenda Starr yet, my advice is DON'T order the expensive LE. While the LE has a beautiful face, lovely hair and an intriguing gown, the vinyl did not have the porcelain appearance of Gene's  (it reminds me of a baby doll's vinyl), her limbs are not tight enough, and her arms and hands make her look ape like to me -- they are not dainty like Gene's. Her fingers made me think of stuffed sausages! For that reason, I put her black gloves on to hide those big hands. The gloves do help, but I am afraid they will stain. Of course, her cheaper vinyl may not absorb the dyes like Gene's would.
Brenda's shoes are beautiful to behold but they won't stay on her feet -- even with the NASTY STICKY STUFF they put inside the shoes to hold them on!
Then I put her on her stand. It is a fairly nice stand of a similar design to Julia's, but whereas Julia's stand holds her in place, Brenda looks awkward on hers and does not pose well. This is where tighter limbs might have helped, but Brenda just sort of hangs there.
All things considered, in my opinion the LE is NOT worth the money, perhaps not even worth the price of a new Gene. She is pretty with the gloves and hat, I do like the gown, her face and hair, and she is certainly not an ugly doll. I just think the price does not  reflect the quality I expected from Effenbee.

Kathryn, I disagree with you about this doll.  Yes, she is different from Gene.  Yes, her head is slightly too large for her body (not that much).  But I feel she is an absolutely beautiful doll.  Looking at her body undressed, it is quite evident that her sculptor, Sandra Bilotto, has a masters degree in Medical Sculpture from NYU's Medical School.  I certainly don't claim to be an expert, but I have never seen a doll as realistically sculpted as Brenda.  Looking at her back, I felt like I was looking at an actual woman's back in miniature.
She is virtually the same size as FM Diana, and, therefore, probably Julia as well.  I tried Diana's blue suit on her last night and it fit great, although I think Brenda's waist is a little smaller than Diana's.  Recently I read online that Tyler's dimensions are going to be the same as Julia's.  This would make a lot of dolls that could share clothes: Tyler, Julia, Diana, and Brenda.  Maybe Gene will end up the odd doll out.  All the other fashion dolls seem to be headed to 16" rather than 15.5" and with beautiful, but more realistic bodies than Gene, whose body is more of a fantasy body.  This really makes me anxious to see what Madame Alexander comes up with next year in a 16" fashion doll.
I do agree with you about the doll stand, though.  Brenda has the same type of stand as Julia.  These stands ruin the line of fitted clothes and make the dolls stand funny.  I intend to buy waist cincher stands for both Brenda and Julia.

Monday, November 8, 1999

Daisy Milkmaid Wedding Review

Daisy Milkmaid Wedding
by guest blogger Pam Albrycht

I was highly impressed with the doll's wigs, and facial painting. The quality of the outfits, fit and detailing and accessories is amazing for the cost. Knickerbocker really outdid themselves. I ended up keeping Milkmaid Daisy doll and her outfit , and the outfits for Trafalgar Square Daisy and Autumn Willow and selling the nude  Trafalgar Square Daisy and Autumn
Willow dolls. I have to limit the number of dolls I keep of each kind, as I am running out of room, even with the two curios. Daisy is my favorite of the two dolls. Her skin tone is super and her face paint really enhances the color of her skin. They did a terrific job on her eyes in particular. The tiny fake eyelashes add a lot. I took off Daisy's Milkmaid cloak as I can see her better without it. She is lovely. I will wait a few days before I put on the other outfits. If they offer a doll later with different wigs, I think that would be wonderful. I have Daisy Milkmaid # 181 of 1500.
Daisy Milkmaid Wedding has on a body suit in a sheer fabric that is lace trimmed, her net stockings have a lacy elastic top to hold them up. Her white cloth shoes are very nicely done and fit perfectly. Her white net gloves match her stockings. The milk pail is clear plastic, but is trimmed with beads and stuffed with white rosebuds. The bucket is tied up nicely with a sheer organza orange ribbon, which matches the sash around her waist. The bucket is tied onto her wrist with a white ribbon that is crisscrossed and ties in a bow. There are separate lace flowers that are sewn onto the lace fabric of the dress. Each flower has orange and silvery pearl beads in the center. She has on a sheer net underslip with lace trim. Her earrings are crystal and clear bead drops. The clothing definitely is the equal or superior to Tonner's Julia. I would say the detailing of the accessories and  costumes exceeds Gene's. The jewelry and shoes and purses are way better than Gene's.
The only drawback is that the doll's bodies lack definition. However, since they are going to be clothed, that's no problem. The bodies are nice and slim and perfect for dressing. The vinyl quality is not as nice as Gene's or the FM vinyls.
I had no doubt that I would keep Daisy when I saw her-- she didn't have to grow on me. I could rave on and on, but get a Daisy or a Willow  yourself and some outfits and you'll find out what a nice job Knickerbocker did on these dolls and clothes. The packaging for the outfits is nicely done also and is not too large like the Julia outfits.