Monday, June 26, 2017

First and Most Recent Norah Wellings Dolls

Circa 1930s 14-inch Norah Wellings Islander

Norah Wellings began making dolls in 1919 as the chief doll designer for Chad Valley Dolls of England.  She formed her own company in 1926 (Victoria Toy Works) where she continued making dolls along the style of Chad Valley dolls, made of cloth (velvet, velveteen, plush and felt) with mask faces or molded faces underneath.  Many of her dolls were sold as souvenirs for the tourist industry.  Her dolls were also sold on cruise ships.

Close-up of 14-inch Norah Wellings Islander illustrates her expressive face and glass eyes, which seem to look through you.
I acquired my first Norah Wellings doll during the late 1990s/early 2000s from a local antiques dealer.  It is a 14-inch doll made of stuffed velveteen with molded facial features, glass eyes, smiling mouth, and painted teeth.  This circa 1930s doll represents a native islander and wears only a wheat-colored and orange grass skirt and one orange arm bracelet.  The doll's left leg has orange and wheat-colored grass tied around the calf.  There is a dark area in the same location on the right leg where the same material had been tied around that leg.

Hand made scarf (by me) to cover this doll's missing hair
Some of the black mohair used for her hair is missing from the crown of her head.   I had great intentions of replacing the missing hair, but never did.  Instead, I made her a head scarf using a piece of a brown and gold cotton scarf.

I have always wanted at least one additional Norah Wellings doll to upgrade the first one shown in the above photos.  That opportunity presented itself with the eBay purchase of my most recent Norah Wellings doll.  (Thanks again DS for sharing the link.)

14-inch Norah Wellings Nassau souvenir doll

She has such a lovely face!
Except for the usual cheek and nose rubs to the velveteen, the newest-to-me Norah Wellings doll is in excellent condition.  She still has all her original jewelry and has both her original black cloth tags.

Cloth tag on right side of neck reads "Nassau."

Many Norah Wellings dolls found today no longer contain the cloth tag that identifies them as Wellings dolls.  My doll's identifying tag remains intact on the bottom of her right foot.

The tag sewn to the right side of her neck reads:  Nassau.  Her right foot tag reads:  Made in England by Norah Wellings.  Her sewn-on gold dress, made of velveteen, has two felt orange circles on the front of the skirt and two on the back of the skirt.  Her short curly brown hair almost matches her complexion.  This circa 1950s doll was probably sold as a souvenir doll on the S. S. Nassau cruise ship, which sailed under this name from 1951 through 1961 before the name was changed to the S. S. Acapulco.

Both are delightfully lovely dolls.  Their smiles make me smile.
The Nassau and Islander display well together.
Links of Interest
Norah Wellings Dolls 1930s to 1960s by Denise Van Patten
See more Wellings dolls here.
See a rare, 36-inch doll here.
Allwin and Chad Valley Dolls

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Article, Video: New Kens with Dad Bods and Man Buns

Some of the new Barbie Fashionistas for 2017 include a variety of Kens with new bodies, hairstyles and a variety of complexions.

L-R:  Doll #13 Distressed Denim, Broad has a man bun and Doll #10 Classic Cool has cornrowed hair.

Ken bodies are now described as broad, slim, and original.  Distressed Denim, as noted in the above caption, has a broad body.  Classic Cool appears to be on the original Ken body.

Here's a link to an article published on Yahoo! Style on June 20, 2017, about the new Kens with "dad bods" and "man buns."  Photos of the guys and gals in the new line are included in the article along with a video from the dolls' debut on Good Morning America yesterday.  Here also is a direct link to the GMA video.

Here is yet another link to a cute stop-motion video.

Ten of the 15 new dolls were supposedly available in stores yesterday.  Preordering is now available at where, for a limited time, free shipping is offered on all Fashionistas.

#86 Glam Boho is curvy with more stylish-appearing shoes than the other curvy girls. The extra boho ensemble is included.

Glam Boho can be preordered at ShopMattel for $14.99.  Most of the others are $9.99.  All have non-articulated bodies, but I wonder if Glam Boho's complexion is comparable to The Barbie Look (TBL) doll's skin tone.  Maybe she can borrow TBL doll's body and enjoy a little more movement.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

The Barbie Look Review

The initial photos of my boxed dolls with cellophane or see-through fronts, are always taken in their unopened boxes, (the states they arrive in from the manufacturer).  No exception to this rule was made with The Barbie Look Barbie; she remains in the NRFB-state in this photo.  

I was so excited about this doll that I ordered two. Both arrived this past Friday. The plan was to debox one and to keep the other in the box indefinitely. Unfortunately, I am returning the one I deboxed first because she has a dark smudge on the side of her face. I did not see this imperfection until I had taken several photographs, which are the first ones shown below.   Please examine your dolls for unsightly imperfections.

First Photos of First Doll

The doll has been removed from the box but is still attached to the box liner.
The back of the box contains The Barbie Look description and illustrates the doll's accessories and a brunette from the collection.

Back of box description of The Barbie Look doll

Accessories include a compact with faux makeup, faux lipstick, gold tone metal purse, cell phone, and the gold strappy heels she arrived wearing. A doll stand and certificate of authenticity were also included.

Actual accessories

Illustration from the box of her big-bold gold ring

Close-up of her lovely face illustrates her light brown eyes and lip color that matches her complexion and her honey blonde hair. 

This is a close-up of the brocade pattern of the dress.
First pose after complete release from box (she still has hairnet in place).

Upon manipulating her knees, I immediately noticed joint discolorations (both dolls received have these white areas where the joint pegs are located at the inner knees).

Forward pose, with hairnet still on lower back of hair

Hairnet protects what I was hoping would be lovely curls.

Hope for lustrous curls was destroyed when I saw the poor condition of her hair; the ends of which look quite frizzy.

The dress has three snaps in back.  I removed it to examine her articulation, but first had to remove stitches between the second and third snap.  I suppose the stitching is one of Mattel's anti-theft measures, even though the doll  itself was secured to the box liner with several plastic fasteners.

Beyond the usual five points of articulation, the extra articulation extends to her elbows, wrists, and knees only.  She is not articulated under the breasts, at the waist, or ankles.

She sits nicely in a chair with her ankles almost crossed.  She cannot cross her legs fully at the knees (no photo captured of this attempt).

Photographing her curves from a side view is when I noticed the dark smudge on this side of the face.  My camera was unable to capture the smudge, but it is visible with the naked eye (or in my case, with my glasses on; she and everything else in sight would be a huge blur without wearing them).  This first doll was redressed, boxed up, and prepared for return to Mattel.  Deciding that one is enough, I do not want a replacement.
Complexion Comparisons
I continued using the imperfect doll to photograph with other dolls from my collection to compare complexions.  The Barbie Look Barbie is not a perfect match as a body donor for any of my dolls, but is a closer match to one than the others.  For the comparison Doll #1 put on temporary clothing.

City Chic Suit and Barbie Fashionista #32 lock arms with the new girl to compare their complexions.  I assumed The Barbie Look doll would be a perfect match for City Chic Suit; however, her dark caramel complexion is slightly darker than City Chic's and is even darker than Fashionista #32's with #32 being the lighter of these three dolls.

The complexion differences between City Chic, The Barbie Look Barbie, and Fashionista #32 are better outlined in the above photograph of their legs.
The final complexion comparison was done with Tropi-Cutie Barbie (also known here as Pam).  As seen in the above and next two photographs, their complexions are more compatible than the dolls illustrated above.
The Barbie Look doll's right arm (the one with the ringed finger) caught the camera's flash in this photo.  She is only slightly lighter than Pam (Tropi-Cutie). 
This photo of Pam and The Barbie Look's legs illustrates their true complexions, which are just slightly different.  If anyone wants to rebody their Tropi-Cutie onto a curvy articulated body, The Barbie Look Barbie will be a good body donor.

Doll #2
I examined Doll #2's face closely and was pleased to find there were no dark smudges or other imperfections.

I remained hopeful that the second doll's curls would be better than the first.

No such luck here.  While the ends are not as fried looking as the first doll's, they look quite deconditioned.

To remedy the deconditioned appearance, I wet the back of the hair, applied a generous amount of conditioner, and combed it through.  After rinsing out the conditioner, I twisted several small sections of hair and allowed it to dry until the next afternoon.
The twists were gently removed and nothing else done to the hair. The undone twists created soft curls. 

The Barbie Look Barbie strikes one final pose as she holds her golden clutch and stands on the doll stand that was included.  

At the time of publication, the doll remains available with free shipping at

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Mapalo: Blessings from Zambia

Mapalo, an 18-inch doll by M'simbi, arrived recently from Zambia in her beautifully designed box.

After becoming aware of the new M'simbi line of five Naturally Beautiful dolls, Mapalo was selected to emigrate from Zambia to America and where she has established a permanent residence.  I am as impressed with the packaging as I am with the doll.  Let's explore the box first:

The very top of Mapalo's box reads:  Naturally Beautiful
Dream, Believe, Achieve, Inspire
The lower box front has the same aspirations as well as the company's name, M'simbi, written in letters of African-design coloring.  This area of the box also includes an image of a kneeling African girl, who appears to be blowing a wish.

Both left and right side box panels contain an African design.  On the bottom of one panel is a different drawing of the same beautiful African girl that kneels on the box front.  
About Mapalo

Mapalo, which means blessings, is an 18-inch, all-vinyl, very well-constructed doll, made for children ages 4+.  (I am in the plus bracket.)  The vinyl is quite sturdy, which enables her to stand without the assistance of  a doll stand.  She wears a very colorful dress, the bodice of which is yellow with center pocket of black and white African design.  The dress skirt is a brightly colored print of blue, yellow, fuchsia, and black. She arrived with bare feet.

Mapalo has two hang tags.  The front of one tag reads:  Thank you for choosing M'simbi.  The company's contact information is on the back of the "Thank you" tag.  The other tag contains Mapalo's affirmation which reads:  I am not trying to fit in because I was born to stand out.  Below that is the company's tagline for girls:  Naturally Beautiful/Dream, Believe, Achieve, Inspire.

Her rooted auburn hair is beau-ti-ful!
Not a white doll colored brown, Mapalo has authentic African facial features along with thick and beautiful, natural-textured auburn hair that can be styled in a variety of ways just by using your hands and fingers -- no combs required.  Her brown eyes are stationary with upper eyelashes.

I love this hair... the texture is quite similar to mine when no products are applied to it.

In addition to her colorful dress, which has been removed in the above photo to illustrate her all-vinyl sturdy construct, Mapalo wears a pair of removable undies.

In bold black letters, the M'simbi Naturally Beautiful logo appears in the center of Mapalo's back.

Each earlobe has a preplaced area where an adult can complete the ear piercing, if desired. (Keep reading to see what I used to do this.)

Size Comparison With Other 18-inch Dolls
Two of my 18-inch dolls volunteered to compare their body sizes with Mapalo's.  The first body comparison was done with Honey by Curly Girls United.

After removing their clothing, Mapalo's hair was pulled up and held with a rubber band to create an Afro puff ponytail.  As illustrated above, Honey has thinner arms and legs than Mapalo.  Honey's mid body is cloth where Mapalo is all vinyl. Honey's head and body are more proportional.  Little girls probably won't notice Mapalo's head/body size variance.  

American Girl Addy and Mapalo's arms and legs are about the same circumference but shaped differently.  Their head and body proportions differ as well.  Addy's body is all cloth, which limits her to wearing clothes with high necklines.  Mapalo does not have that dressing limitation.  

Next, Addy and Mapalo compared their feet.

Addy's foot (on the left) has a smooth plantar surface.  The bottom of Mapalo's feet have ridges and grooves like real people.  Addy's foot is slightly wider than Mapalo's.  Because of their similar foot size, Mapalo will be able to wear most shoes made for American Girl and other 18-inch dolls.

What other clothes can she wear?
As illustrated here, Mapalo can comfortably wear Addy's Christmas dress.  A pair of black shoes designed to fit 18-inch dolls, worn without socks, are slightly lose on her feet.  They fit Addy's foot perfectly.  With socks, the fit will be much better on Mapalo.

Ear Piercing
Before seeing the other clothing she tried on, Mapalo's ear piercing is illustrated next.

Using a push pin, the earlobe was completely pierced.  A little force had to be applied because the vinyl is quite firm.

A gold tone, straight-post hoop was inserted into each newly pierced earlobe.

Honey, the Curly Girl's United doll, allowed Mapalo to try on American Girl Julie's casual '70's-inspired fashion that she had been wearing.  It fits Mapalo well as do the boots.

A little hair play took place next.  I created this faux hawk by pulling the lower portion of Mapalo's Afro puff ponytail out of the rubber band, leaving only the top portion loosely banded.  Next, finger fluffing shaped the ends.  I think Mapalo welcomed this change, but it was short lived.

Before returning the American Girl fashion and boots to Honey, the rubber band was removed from Mapalo's hair to return it to the naturally beautiful loose way it was worn upon arrival.

Here, Mapalo wears a "What a Doll" tagged dress, which is made for 18-inch dolls.  The fit is nice on her. She wears this dress with a pair of black patent-leather flats that were purchased in the 18-inch doll clothing section at Michael's several years ago.  Without socks, the fit is snug, but a thin pair of socks should not compromise the shoe fit.

Mapalo enjoyed trying on different clothes, but she prefers wearing her original dress.  She decided to keep her feet covered with her new black shoes, however.


At only a third the cost of an American Girl doll ($34 plus shipping*), M'simbi dolls are an excellent buy for children or for the adult collector of 18-inch dolls.  They are well made, have ethnically correct facial features, and beautiful natural-textured hair that is closely rooted.  The dolls' accompanying empowering messages of self-love and encouragement are welcome features. *Shipping to America is $29 using EMS, which usually takes 7-10 days.

About M'simbi Dolls
To learn more about the complete doll line, where to purchase, and other details, navigate here to Ebony-Essence of Dolls in Black and read my recent interview with the founder of M'simbi.

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