- This article is about anatomy for Historical/BeForever Characters, Best Friend Characters, American Girl (of) Today, Just Like You, My American Girl, or Truly Me (modern dolls), Girls of the Year, Contemporary Characters, and One of a Kind dolls. Bitty Baby, Bitty Twins, and WellieWishers doll anatomy are each discussed on their respective pages.
Basic Doll Anatomy here 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 closely matching cloth body. Slight variations in tone exist due to the different factories and vinyl used over time, but there are for the most part three main vinyl colors used and "marked" by AG: Dark, Medium, and Light. Variations include:
- Blue-Black Dark (such as that of Addy, Just Like You 1, and Just Like You 18)
- Golden Dark (Such as that of Sonali, Cécile, and Just Like You 58)
- Dark Medium (example being Kaya or Josefina)
- Light Medium (examples being JLY #26 or Lea)
- Light (examples being Samantha, Ivy, and Just Like You 12 or Just Like You 60)
- Asian (obsolete under Mattel)
- Grey-tinted (defect)
In Pleasant Company days, JLY #4 had a more "golden" skin tone to reflect her East Asian origin; under Mattel, she had the "light" skintone.
Some older 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 and more golden/red toned than the initial blue-undertoned Dark skin.
While named charaters are given characterization--and thus race and ethnicity--modern dolls such as Truly Me 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. Some dolls come with their limbs covered in thin clear plastic to avoid vinyl staining in storage.
The head and limbs are made of vinyl that are made using rotational molding, 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 have been nine face molds. Three so far--the Asian Mold, Marie-Grace Mold, and Nanea Mold--have only been used once; the Kaya Mold was previously exclusive to Kaya'aton'my until the release of the Logan Everett doll.
The head has a flared base that holds the head to the cloth body when the neck strings or zip tie are tied. Dolls intended to have hair have a rim on the back center of the head and a fine seam around the hairline.
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"; or a lower "© American Girl" near the neckline. this is dependent on when the face mold was created, not necessarily when the doll debuted. Notably, Kaya and Kit are often found with Pleasant Company markings, but were never available under that name and so cannot be found as Pre-Mattel/Pleasant Company dolls.
The dolls have light blushing on each cheek, eyebrows (which can either be straight lines or feathered; most dolls nowadays are given 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; Mattel dolls have more prominent face paint.
Each doll has sleep eyes that close when the doll is laid down or tilted backwards.
The eyes are made of three parts. The main eye is a half circle of molded plastic with attached lashes; there are two small pegs to allow rotation. The main eye is encased in two parts. The back is a plastic half-dome that the hinges rest in, with a stop so the eye cannot rotate back too far. Originally the plastic was black but is now a lighter white. Over the front is a metal case with oval shaping.
The eyes have internal decals or painting that give the iris color. Eyes are either "pinwheel" style with faint lines behind the coloring or "decal" with a solid base. During the Pleasant Company years, each doll generally had soft eyelashes that closely matched their hair color. Mattel replaced this with black plastic eyelashes for all characters.
Eyes can rust around the metal rim or stick if they get moisture or glue inside in places.
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 shade 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. There have been variant batches of the Hazel eyes over the years, with some more yellow/green and others more brown.
- 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.
- Aquamarine: first used on Caroline Abbott. No other doll currently has this eye color.
- Turquoise: first used on Saige. No other doll currently has this eye color.
- Dark Hazel: first used on Maryellen Larkin. It is darker than the standard hazel and more emphasizes the brown, though this may be due to batch differences.
Sometime the decals can peel away internally, making the eyes look silver spotted or turn silver altogether, a condition called silver eye. This mostly happens in older dolls. The company considers this a manufacturing defect and will fix this for free through the American Girl Hospital.
Eyes can be swapped between dolls; however, most other brands of sleep eyes are not sized properly, so it is generally recommended to use eyes that came from other American Girl dolls.
The hair of every American Girl doll is a wig made of high-quality Kanekalon fibers sewn to a mesh wig cap that 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 with a part 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" interwoven in the back of the wig cap among the longer hairs. When the hair is parted into ponytails or braids, these hairs remain loose and partially cover the mesh wig cap making for a more realistic looking hairstyle.
Textured hair is a coarser Kanekalon hair designed to simulate African straightened hair and has exclusively been used on dolls that are visually directed as "black" (though two classic molded dolls have had textured hair, they were also given tanned skin.)
In 2008 the texture was made less thick and prominent for the modern doll line, and can be rather hard to distinguish from older textured hair by sight and touch, being more similar to "straight" hair than that of older dolls.
Starting in 2012, bald dolls--those without hair-- were made available, to represent children without hair. These dolls are sold wigless, and have smooth heads with no indication of a wig attachment applied or guide lines around the hairline.
American Girl does not recommend styling doll hair with plastic combs, plastic brushes (which will frizz the hair) 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 or mild shampoo after extended use or dirt exposure.
To comb or brush hair, a wig brush or doll brush should be purchased and used exclusively with dolls.
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.
The ears are molded on the side of the head and there are no openings. The wig is placed so that the ears are not covered. The Sonali Mold has less detailed ears.
Starting in 2008, any modern-line doll could get her ears pierced at purchase if ordered off the website. Otherwise the doll has to be taken to an American Girl Store and have the ears pierced at the salon, or sent in to the Doll Hospital. Any 18" doll may be pierced when sent in to the Hospital or at an American Girl place.
Isabelle Palmer was the first Girl of the Year to have any ear piercing offered at purchase; Grace was the first to have unique to her earrings offered. 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.
As of 2012, any 18" doll can have hearing aids placed in either the left, right, or both ears via the Hospital. These are placed so as not to block earrings, so a doll can have both.
The body is made of cloth and stuffed with polyester fiberfill. It is made to match the skin tone of the doll's vinyl. There are shaping darts across the bottom as well.
- 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 TagEarly Pleasant Company dolls had small body tags stating that they were made in Germany for Pleasant Company. These were phased out when the company shifted production to China.
Since Mattel's ownership, each doll has come with a body tag sewn onto the right side of their body. The text was originally as follows:
Made in China Exclusively for American Girl Middleton, WI 53562
For a while, several had typos that said "American Gril". While there was a number imprinted on the tags as well, it was a part number for the doll and not the year of manufacture (most say "2008").
Starting in 2014, dolls started to come with longer body tags; these have the American Girl Logo, the year, and a Registration number. They also state that the doll is made with all new content in China, stuffed with polyester fiber, and are surface washable (in English, Spanish, and French). The other side of the tag contains information about content and that the dolls are made in China; this is also repeated in French.
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 were originally 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, metal flanks have been removed and the elastic cord is simply knotted on both ends. This can result in limbs going floppier sooner.
Neck Strings and Zip TiesThe 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"; cutting these short can loosen the knot and lead to the head falling off.
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, which meant that heads could be attached with either neck strings or plastic zip ties.
The Lea Clark Doll was released with no neck strings; she has a zip tie attached head with the end opening over the tunnel sewn completely shut, limiting access to the tie. This was also done with the Melody doll, which implied (and was later confirmed) this will be the method for dolls going forward. The seam can be opened and the zip cut open, but it will then need to be replaced with either strings or a new zip tie.
In February 2017, American Girl announced on Facebook that bodies for the Truly Me dolls, as well as Maryellen, Melody, Julie, and Contemporary Character dolls would have permanent panties/underwear as part of their design. American Girl stated the change was to continue to provide quality products within price points, though there were concerns that expansion into conservative Middle Eastern countries was the motivation for the change and several people felt the quality in the bodies was diminished.
The permapanties were done by changing the torso design so that the lower half was made of pale pink fabric (the color of the vinyl joint cups in the hips did not change) and, to signify the "top" of the permanent underwear, a thin satin ribbon with the American Girl logo. This also resulted in the removal of shaping bottom darting, which could result in oddly shaped "bottoms" when stuffing was shifted, seams were uneven, or stuffing was packed differently or thinner.
However, following widespread negative customer feedback, American Girl made the decision to revert back to having dolls come with separate underwear in May 2017. Only the three BeForever dolls, some Truly Me, all initially released Z Yang Dolls, and some later Tenney dolls were affected.
Customers who previously purchased dolls with permanent panties are eligible for a one-time, free body exchange to have the dolls' bodies retrofitted with the conventional torsos (the entire body is swapped). Contemporary characters and modern dolls are returned with a pair of generic panties similar to those that came with the Lilac Dress, while the three BeForever Characters are returned with standard white panties.
Arms and HandsThe 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 to the torso 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.