Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Black Crissy Grow-Hair Family


Black Ideal Crissy Family, L-R:  Beautiful Crissy, Tressy, Velvet, Tara, Cinnamon

In 2009, I wrote an article, entitled "Ideal's Black Crissy Family," which was published in the December 2009, Issue 22 of Doll Showcase Magazine.  Recently, after rephotographing some of my Crissy and family dolls, I realized I had not blogged much about them.  This post serves to rectify this and will include excerpts from the aforementioned article (actually almost all of it) with a few minor additions.

The Crissy grow-hair family is one of my favorite mod-era doll collections.  They include Beautiful Crissy, Tressy, Velvet, Tara and Cinnamon (shown above in the first photo).  Crissy and Tressy are 18in/46cm while Velvet and Tara are 15-1/2in/39cm.  Cinnamon, the cutest (in my opinion) and smallest family member, is 12in/30.5cm.  Each doll has a center grow-hair mechanism, which is activated by twisting a knob or pulling a string in its back to shorten its center ponytail and depressing a button on its stomach to lengthen it.  A few years after my adult doll search commenced, I was fortunate to find mint or near mint Crissy family dolls dressed in their original or authentic extra fashions.  

Ideal made several versions of the Crissy doll.  These include:


  • 1969 Beautiful Crissy with hair that grows to the floor, also referred to as “Hair-to-Floor” Crissy, wears an apple green lace dress with matching panties and apple green shoes.
  • 1970 Beautiful Crissy wears the 1969 outfit but her hair only grows to just below her bottom.
  • 1971 Movin' Groovin' Crissy has a swivel waist and wears an orange midi-length dress with brown and orange rope belt, orange panties made of the same fabric as the dress, orange boots with mock laces.
  • 1972 Look Around Crissy wears a long green plaid taffeta dress, matching panties, and green shoes.  Appropriately named, when her pull string is extended, she turns from side to side and “looks around.”
  • 1973 Swirla Curla Crissy is dressed in an orange and white plaid dress, white panties, and orange Mary Jane shoes.
  • 1974 Twirly Beads Crissy wears a pink gingham, full-length dress, white panties, and white Mary Jane shoes.
  • 1977 Magic Hair Crissy has Velcro hair attachments instead of a grow-hair mechanism.  Her original outfit is a white camisole, pink sateen skirt, and white mules.
  • 1982 Country Fashion Crissy, at 15 inches tall, shrank 3 inches and her face changed!  Perhaps in an attempt to exhaust remaining quantities, Ideal used the Velvet face mold and body for this Crissy. The doll wears a pink gingham dress, white socks and shoes, and straw hat.  Instead of a tummy button and knob, the grow hair operates with a pull string.
  • 1982-1983 Beautiful Crissy returned with the Velvet face and body dressed in a white, lace-trimmed dress and white shoes.  Unlike Velvet, this Crissy has brown eyes with pupils.
  • 1983 Country Fashion Crissy reappeared wearing a lavender gingham dress, straw hat, white socks and shoes.  The Velvet face and body molds were used once again, but the brown vinyl complexion noticeably darkened.
1969 Beautiful Crissy with hair that extends to her bottom (this one is not the hair-to-floor version.)
1971 Movin' Groovin' Crissy is shown with another Crissy doll that wears the White doll's orange lace dress and orange shoes.
These are two preloved Crissy dolls purchased prior to finding the NRFB Beautiful Crissy.  The one on the left wears a Look-Around Crissy dress with blue Crissy shoes.  The doll on the right wears a handmade off-white dress with attached lace apron.


Magic Hair Crissy is not a true grow-hair doll; as indicated previously, she has hair pieces that attach with Velcro.

Magic Hair Crissy in original box is for sale on Etsy, in case anyone is interested.

Tressy, on left, wears Swirla Curla Crissy's dress with white shoes.  Tressy, on right, wears her original dress, a replica of her original headband, and black shoes.
Black Tressy was added to the Crissy family in 1971 having been preceded by her White counterpart a year earlier.  Black Tressy was a 1971 Sears Wish Book exclusive, sold only as a Black doll.  A White doll was featured in the Sears Wish Book as Posin' Tressy.  Black Tressy wears an orange and white geometric-print dress and headband and black shoes.  Because she was a catalogue-exclusive, Black Tressy is much harder to find today than Black Crissy and usually commands a higher price.

While Crissy has black pupil-less eyes, Tressy's eyes are brown with visible black pupils as illustrated in the next head shot photo of Crissy and Tressy.

Crissy and Tressy eye comparison

Black Velvet, Crissy's cousin, debuted in 1970 wearing a lavender dress and lavender shoes.  The doll is often found wearing the White version’s purple corduroy dress.  

Velvet wears a replica of her original lavender corduroy dress with original white lace-up mules.  Velvet on the right wears the Ideal tagged fashion, Ruffled Up.

There were several versions of Black Velvet.  The first two dolls mentioned below, have the same functionality as the Crissy dolls of the same name.

  • 1971 Movin' Groovin’ Velvet wears a pink party dress, matching panties and purple shoes.
  • 1972 Look Around Velvet is dressed in a plaid taffeta dress similar to Look Around Crissy’s dress, matching panties, and white shoes.
  • 1973 Beauty Braider Velvet wears a pale lavender dress with matching velvet sash, matching panties, and lavender shoes.
  • 1974 Swirly Daisies Velvet’s attire consists of a purple/lavender/pink/white plaid dress with white bodice, matching panties, and lavender shoes. 
  • 1981 Velvet, the final issue, wears a white lace-trimmed dress with pink ribbon at waist and white shoes.  This doll has a pull string instead of a belly button and knob.
I featured the 1981 reissue of Velvet in my first book along with the Magic Hair Crissy I am selling. A scan of that entry is shown next.
Scan of page 148, Definitive Guide to Collecting Black Dolls

In 1976 Tara, promoted as “The Authentic Black Doll with Hair That Grows!” made her debut.  Tara is the only doll in the Ideal grow-hair family that did not share a face mold with any other member, Black or White.  Her facial features were described as “authentic” or ethnically correct.
 
1976 Tara with original box
Tara wears a yellow gingham pants set and yellow shoes.  One side of her colorful box features a beautiful African-American girl holding a Tara doll.   It is reported that some collectors do not consider Tara an “authentic” Ideal Crissy family member, while others feel her grow-hair mechanism and size give her Crissy family rights.  Family member or not, Tara ranks as one of the most difficult Black grow-hair dolls to find.  Because of her rarity, a mint condition doll usually commands top dollar, even in a fledgling economy.

1973 Cinnamon, Velvet's little sister

Cinnamon, Velvet's little sister, debuted in 1973, a year after the White doll’s debut.   Her original outfit is an orange polka-dot short set with a white lace-trimmed collar and orange shoes.  In 1974, Curly Ribbons Cinnamon joined the family.  This doll wears the same outfit from the prior year and has an extra denim short coverall with yellow gingham blouse.  Black Cinnamon is also an elusive Crissy family member, which inflates her value.

My all-original Cinnamon is redressed in this photo in peach overalls, peach headband with orange knit top and orange knit shoulder bag with chain shoulder strap.  She wears her original shoes.  The doll on the right wears a cute homemade overall fashion with yellow shoes.  Cinnamon has painted eyes whereas all other Black Crissy family members have stationary, acrylic eyes.

Baby Crissy, the original 1973 doll and the reissued 1981 version

Baby Crissy, while not as popular as the other girls, is also a member of the Crissy grow-hair family.  She made her debut in 1973 and resurfaced in 1981.  Except for the clothing and slight difference in vinyl color and texture, it is difficult to tell the two versions apart.  They are both 24in/61cm.   The original doll wears a mauve, two-piece, baby-doll outfit; the latter version wears a white romper trimmed in either green or yellow gingham.   The 1973 version has reddish brown vinyl which has a rubber-type consistency.   The 1981 doll’s firmer vinyl does not have the red tinge. 

While I own both versions of Baby Crissy, my favorites remain the core family members:  Black Crissy, Tressy, Velvet, Tara, and Cinnamon.  These mod dolls and their psychedelic colored fashions mimic fashions from my youth (dresses and skirts with lengths from one extreme to the other, bell-bottom pants, lace-up clogs, mules, floral and bold patterned fabrics, and other hippie-style attire).  They are reminiscent of a period in my life when dolls and doll play were a long forgotten pastime… when happiness, independence, and entering adulthood were my main objectives.  Now that I am a rather happy, independent, adult, dolls are my favorite diversion from adult responsibilities.


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19 comments:

  1. i really like that crissy doll... fABULOUS!

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    1. Thank you AiS Toys Museum. I should have shared photos of how the grow hair mechanism works or at least photos of their hair short and long. Maybe at another time. In the meantime, there is a great website devoted to Crissy dolls. Check it out if you get a chance. http://crissyandbeth.com/Main.html Link to it here.

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  2. I love the Crissy dolls. I actually owned a Beautiful Crissy in the 70's that was sadly given away. I was lucky to find one recently in great shape on eBay.

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    1. I am happy for you that you found a replacement. The prices of the dolls have dropped considerably.

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  3. Crissy is on my wish list. You have such an awesome collection of dolls!! Thanks for sharing them with us.

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  4. It's great seeing all your different versions of Crissy. Of course my favorite is, and always will be 1973 Baby Chrissy. She is the one I received for my 8th birthday in 1976. She changed my life. I still have her, although I need to give her a little love and attention.

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    1. I remember you writing that Baby Crissy was one of your favorite childhood dolls and that you still own her. I don't think you ever shared how she changed your life. I'd like to know if it's not too personal.

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    2. Maybe I was being a little over dramatic about her changing my life. However, she is the only doll I have vivid memories about ever receiving. It's the only doll I ever remember me and my mom bonding over. My mom bought loads of real baby clothes at least 3 months before I received the doll for Christmas. So every day I would get out the trash bag of clothes and play with the clothes as though I already had the doll. That Christmas was extra special because it was the only Christmas I remember my dad being there right after we opened our gifts. My dad lived with me my whole life, but he wasn't much of a talker and he always seemed to disappear on celebratory days. So to have him there and have him talking to me was a real treat. Of course at 8 yrs old, I didn't realize how infrequent those moments would be. So baby Chrissy didn't change my life, but when I see her I am reminded of how special that Christmas was.

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    3. What a touching memory, Vanessa. I now understand what you meant by Baby Crissy changing your life. She helped you bond more with both your parents and even encouraged your father to become more vocal with you. She truly is a special doll who deserves some attention.

      Thanks for sharing this.

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  5. Thanks so much for showing us your Crissy family dolls. They're so lovely and have such stylish outfits. I had no idea there were black versions of them except for Tressy. I was looking for a playscale black Tressy and saw this bigger doll in my results.I learn so much from your posts, thank-you!
    I loved Crissy when I was little- I love long hair and she sure had some of the longest ever:-) but the one I had originally had atrocious hair after a while- her ponytail was OK but the scalp hair was impossible and thinning. I wish there'd been the option to re-root then.
    I found a Crissy redhead a couple of years ago with the softest wavy hair that never dries out and breaks off.
    How do you keep your dolls' hair all looking so good? Or did they get better hair quality?

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    1. Hi Maricha,

      It's good to know you enjoyed this post and learned about the existence of the Black Crissy family. They are really nice dolls. Ideal made a Diana Ross doll that uses the Crissy body. Ross's hair doesn't grow and she only favors her slightly in my opinion. She's been featured in a blog post. If you use the search box to search "Diana Ross," you should be able to locate the post. The Ideal Ross doll should not be confused with the Mego playscale Diana Ross. I have a post that features the Mego doll too.

      For years I wanted the American Character Black Tressy, but her price has always been cost prohibitive for me. I opted for the next best thing by dyeing a White Tressy brown. There is a post about her too. I am using a device that makes it difficult to share links; otherwise, I would share.

      In answer to your question regarding Crissy dolls' hair, Ideal didn't use the best quality hair to withstand the amount of doll play the dolls received. All of my dolls were purchased on the secondary market from adult collectors who kept them in mint to near mint condition with the exception of one of the Velvets (not shown in this post), Cinnamon in the blue overall shorts, and Crissy in the off-white dress (her hair is rough!). These three (and some of the others) were purchased from an adult collector, but they had been played with probably when she purchased them. This Cinnamon has a replaced ponytail and it no longer grows. Their previous owner rescued dolls from thrift stores and when necessary made new clothes for them.

      Except for brushing it occasionally, I don't bother any of the dolls' hair, which has helped the hair of the mint to near mint ones maintain the original silkiness and sheen.

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  6. Was Magic Hair Crissy supposed to be competition for the 18-inch Mego Candi and SuperSize Barbie and Christie? I would love to see all four of those dolls out of the box together for comparison!

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    1. Hi Skippercollector,

      I am not sure if Ideal's plan for Magic Hair Crissy was to be a competitor for Super Size Barbie/Christie and/or Mego's Candi. I don't recall the release year of SS Barbie/Christie, but I can tell you their bodies are different than MH Crissy's. MH Crissy uses the same body as the other grow-hair dolls her size. I don't have Mego's Candi, but I do have SS Christie. If I get a chance, I will do a comparison of the two.

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  7. Wow!!! They are spectacular examples of the Crissy family dolls. I went through a Crissy phase because I always wanted one as I loved the grow hair function. I'm going to admit to ignorance because many of the Crissy collector pages don't have the AA dolls in their range of dolls so this is a first seeing the full offering of a black dolls. Reading the other comments I'm realising I'm not alone in not being aware of the variant offering, which is a bit of a shane as they're lovely!! Does anyone remember if the black dolls were featured in print or TV campaigns at all...and if not how did a little girl know where to find an AA Crissy or family doll? I gave my one Caucasian Crissy away to a friend, I do love your collection...and I agree Tara is GORGEOUS!!! 😍

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    1. Hi Julius,

      I appreciate and enjoy your enthusiasm over discovering the existence of Black Crissy family members.

      I don't ever recall seeing black dolls advertised on TV during the 1960s and well into the '70s. Even today, the black doll, if shown in commercials, is usually in the background or is given a brief view near the end of the commercial. Black dolls have never been promoted on the same level as their white counterparts, which is a shame and inexcusable.

      In the past girls had to rely on Sears Wishbook and Montgomery Wards catalogs to see black dolls, and even in those publications, often the black doll was not pictured. The text for the featured white doll might indicate: Also available as a black doll.

      Lack of advertising, buyers not stocking black dolls on shelves, and other oversights are reasons I and many of my peers didn't own black dolls as a child. We didn't know the few that were made existed.

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    2. Crazy to think an entire generation of children went without their own dolls...especially heartbreaking when in some cases they actually existed?! However when you consider that toy companies only now seem to be making an effort to represent a multi cultural world and its 2016...perhaps sadly not that surprising.

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  8. I never owned a Crissy doll so to see this variety is amazing. I do remember going through the "Wish Books" looking to see what was new the Barbie world. Now that I reflect on what you stated, if the doll was not shown as a black doll than I didn't want it.

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    1. I enjoyed looking through and circling the things I wanted in the Sears Wish Book. Unfortunately, there weren't very many black dolls in it that I recall.

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Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!