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Basic Doll Anatomy

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This article is about anatomy for Historical Characters, Best Friend Characters, American Girl of Today, Just Like You, My American Girl, and Girls of the Year. Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins anatomy is discussed on their respective pages.
Dollanatomy

The basic body of an American Girl Doll, as shown with Kit.

Basic Doll Anatomy is a summary of the features of the American Girl 18" Dolls. While each specific American Girl doll has a unique combination of eye color, hair color and style, skin tone, and face mold, there is a basic anatomy shared among the dolls. This allows every doll to wear any other doll's clothing fairly well and means that a person is not limited to only buying clothing designed for his or her specific doll.

Overall Anatomy and Skin Tones

Dolls are approximately 18" tall from top of head to base of feet. Each doll is given a specific "skin tone" that matches the vinyl limbs and head to a matching cloth body. Slight variations in "skin" tone exist because of the different factories used over time, but there are for the most part three main vinyl colors used:

In Pre-Mattel days, JLY #4 had a more "golden" skin tone to reflect her East Asian origin; under Mattel, she had the "light" skintone. Some dolls have "grey" or "green" tinted vinyl due to factory issues during the 2000-2002 period. If a "grey-vinyl" doll is sent to American Girl for limb replacement, the entire doll is replaced with limbs of the vinyl tone she was designed to have.

In recent years, the Dark skin tone has become lighter.

While Historical Characters and Girls of the Year are given characterization--and thus race and ethnicity--My American Girl dolls are not tagged racially, so as to allow a purchaser to decide for themselves the doll's race and/or ethnicity.

The vinyl can easily stain from dark clothing or shoes. Any doll stained by an American Girl product can be sent in to the American Girl Hospital at no cost.

Head

The head is made of vinyl. It (and the limbs) are spun cast, leaving no seams or marks externally. The faces have a general overall look of a young, prepubescent girl with wide eyes and soft, childish features. The face mold varies per doll; there are eight face molds. Three--the Kaya Mold, Asian Mold, and Marie-Grace Mold--have only been used once. The head has a flared base that holds the head to the cloth body when the neck strings are tied.

Head markings

Some dolls have small "artist" markings behind one ear. These are assumed to be from the early production, but cannot be relied on to give a definitive age of the doll. Near the neck is a copyright stamp; older dolls have "© Pleasant Co" and some have the year. Recently, most dolls say "© American Girl, LLC"; this is dependent on when the face mold was created, not necessarily when the doll debuted.

Face paint

The dolls have light blushing on each cheek, eyebrows (which can either be straight lines or feathered), lip color, and the displayed front teeth (with the noted exception of the Kaya Mold) painted to add color to the doll. Pre-Mattel dolls have very light face paint; when Mattel took over the face paint became a bit more prominent. Some dolls have freckles across the bridge of the nose and under the eyes. Two types of freckling exist; the one first used on the Kit doll and the one used on the Mia doll.

Eyes

Each doll has sleeping eyes that fall closed when the doll is laid down or tilted backwards.

The eyes have internal decals that give the iris color. Sometime the decals can peel away, making the eyes look silver spotted. This is called silver eye and mostly happens in older dolls. The company considers this a manufacturing defect and will fix this for free through the American Girl Hospital.

When Pleasant Company was in charge, each doll had soft eyelashes that closely matched their hair color. Since Mattel took over, all eyelashes have been of a somewhat rougher black plastic.

Eyes can rust or stick if they get moisture inside and are not dried out in some matter.

American Girl has released many different eye colors throughout the years. These include:

  • Light Blue: first used on Kirsten.
  • Decal Brown/Grey: first used on Samantha but later marketed as grey on Ivy.
  • Grey: first used on Molly; all grey-eyed dolls except Molly were discontinued during the early 2000s because they were very prone to silver eyes.
  • Green: first used on Felicity. Mattel green is much brighter than the Pleasant Company version, which has caused it to be intensively critiqued by collectors. In 2009, the Green was toned down significantly.
  • Dark Brown/Black: first used on Addy. It is much darker than the other eye colors and has almost exclusively been used on the dolls of color.
  • Brown/Light Brown: first used in the American Girl of Today line. It is the most commonly used shade of brown.
  • Dark Blue/Sapphire: first used on Kit.
  • Hazel/Green: first used on JLY #21. Was marketed as "green" on Mia.
  • Amber/Olive/Light Brown: first used on JLY #26. It was first called "amber", then "light brown", and is now referred to as "brown" by the company. No other doll currently has this eye color.
  • Aquamarine: first used on Caroline Abbott. No other doll currently has this eye color.

Hair

The hair of every American Girl doll is a wig made of high-quality Kanekalon sewn into a mesh wig cap. This is then glued onto the head. Any streaks or highlights are created by adding variant colors into the hair before sewing it to the wig cap. Some dolls have flesh-colored "parts" of vinyl to add realism to their hair styles; other have sewn or woven parts. Most dolls have silky straight hair with a slight to moderate curl at the end. Some dolls are given moderately curly hair which is a looser curl. Spiral curls such as the ones on #26 are made from heat set straight hair. Any doll's hair can be temporarily curled using rollers and a wet set; more permanent curls can be put in with heat setting. Recently, some dolls have been released with straight hair that has no curl at the end.

All wigs default as a center part; side parts are made by turning the wig sideways before gluing. Straight hair is generally evened out so as to appear straight at the edge; curly hair may or may not be.

Some dolls have small "short hairs" woven in the back of the wig cap among the longer hairs. When the hair is parted into ponytails or braids, these hairs cover the mesh wig cap making for a more realistic looking hairstyle.

Textured Hair

Textured hair is a coarser Kanekalon hair designed to simulate African hair and has exclusively been used on dolls that are visually directed as "black". In 2008 the texture was made a little less prominent for the My American Girl line.

Hair Care

American Girl does not recommend styling doll hair with plastic combs, plastic brushes, or any comb that has been in human hair (due to human hair oils). Hair should be dampened before combing or styling every time to prevent damage. This can be done with braid spray, water, or a light leave in spray conditioner. The hair should never need to be washed with proper care; however, some dolls may need a light wash with wig conditioner after extended use.

The hair can be damaged or dried out by improper care; braid spray can prevent this. Extreme cases may call for a downy dunk. Severe damage such as hair cuts and massive breakage can only be fixed with rewigging or sending the doll to the American Girl Hospital for a new head.

Ears

The ears are molded on the side of the head and there is no opening. The wig is placed so that the ears are not covered.

Most dolls have non-pierced ears as a default. Addy Walker was the first doll to have earrings consisting of permanent gold loops in each ear; Elizabeth Cole was the first to have removable earrings. As of 2008, any My American Girl doll can get her ears pierced--if ordered off the website, this can be done at purchase. Otherwise the doll must be taken to an American Girl Store or sent in to the Hospital. The holes are sized for American Girl earrings and so are bigger than standard human posts. Some collectors prefer to pierce a doll's ears themselves so they are not limited to American Girl earrings only. Additionally, as of 2012, any My American Girl doll can have hearing aids placed in either the left, right, or both ears via the Hospital.

The Sonali Mold has less detailed ears.

Body

The body is made of cloth and stuffed with polyester fiberfill. It is made to match the skin tone of the doll's vinyl.

White Body

See also: White-Bodied Doll

When the first three dolls--Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten--debuted, the bodies were made of white cloth and the clothes designed for them covered the cloth bodies completely. With the debut of Felicity, the body tone had to be changed as colonial fashions were somewhat low cut. This resulted in the body cloth being made in colors that matched the vinyl of the limbs and head so as not to stand out.

Body Tag

Bodytag

Body tag.

Since Mattel's ownership, each doll has a body tag sewn onto the right side of their body. The text is as follows:

Made in China Exclusively for American Girl Middleton, WI 53562

For a while, several had typos that said "American Gril". While there is a year imprinted on the tags as well, it generally has nothing to do with the doll's manufacturing (most say "2008").

Joints

The joint cups for the arms and legs are made of vinyl and sewn into the body tightly. This allows for free movement of the joints.

The joints are attached to the body by means of tightly pulled elastic cords. Inside each limb and the internal body are small white semi-circle caps that are then clamped tight with metal flanks. This allows the dolls limbs to turn and hold positions without moving and stand freely. When the elastic cord starts to lose its elasticity, the arms and legs will no longer hold position and may result in the doll being unable to stand or sit. The doll is then considered to be "floppy" and in need of restringing. This can either be done through the American Girl Hospital or by various people who have learned to do it themselves.

As of 2009, the metal flanks have been removed; the elastic cord is simply knotted on both ends.

Neck Strings and Zip Ties

Neckstrings

Neck Strings.

The heads were originally attached to the cloth body by means of a thin tunnel which cotton cord is run through and then knotted. The ends of the cord which are left to dangle down are referred to as "neck strings". Many collectors prefer these be uncut.

For a while heads were being attached with plastic zip ties after returning from the American Girl Hospital; after protest, the company went back to neck strings for a while. As of 2010, heads may be attached with either neck strings or plastic zip ties.

Arms and Hands

Dollhand

Hands of American Girl Dolls

The arms and hands are made of vinyl. The hands have small nails and defined lines to simulate the folds where finger joints are naturally. The thumb and fingers are curled in slightly; the fingers are splayed, with the ring and middle finger fused and the pointer finger slightly fused to the middle. The pinky is separate. There are two lines on the palm. The curled fingers allow the dolls to "hold" various items.

Legs and Feet

The legs are attached the same way as the arms. The toes are defined with small nails and the soles of the feet are flat.

Pre-Mattel vs. Mattel

The bodies were slimmed down overall in the Mattel era in the bodies, arms, and legs. The clothing was redesigned to fit the newer doll body shape. This means that newer outfits may fit tighter on older dolls.

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