Looking for a 15" African-American doll
November 26, 2009 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Alternatives to American Girl dolls that are also realistic-looking but less expensive? Extra-challenge: I want African-American.

I am looking for a 15" doll with some outfits for my 2 1/2 year old daughter. I don't want a baby doll, but I don't want anything too Bratz-y or fashion-doll-y either. I don't want a 100% cloth doll. I don't want exaggerated features. I want an African-American doll, but not one with dark but straight hair. Those criteria rule out most of the dolls I can find.

However, these American Girl dolls are just about exactly what I want: cute, more-or-less realistic looking, good-quality, realistic textured hair. My hesitation is that this particular doll only comes in "twins," at $95 for the pair, which is more than I'd ideally like to spend. Also, additional American Girl outfits cost more than I usually spend on my kids' actual clothes.

Any recommendations for alternatives?

I should add that I'm not virulently anti-American Girls like some people; just hadn't expected to spend $100 on dolls. I have heard they are very high quality, so if that's the right choice, I'm open to it. I'd just like to know if there are alternatives first.
posted by not that girl to Shopping (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen The Pattycake Doll site?

From there:
Tiny baby

I'm not really sure about the hair on some of them, but maybe there's a starting point for you.

I found another pair of twins, but one has straight hair.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:36 AM on November 26, 2009

How about this Target "Our Generation Doll"? It looks really similar to the American Girl ones, at a much lower price. I'm not sure how 'not-poseable' it is. There are poseable ones too, but at a quick glance I think they're all white.

As far as American Girl... you can usually find homemade clothes online, or used clothes on ebay, or buy similar doll clothes (like ones made for the above Target doll) for less expensive.

If you bought the twin set, I'm sure you could always try to sell the boy on ebay. Or save it for a future present.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2009

As someone who reluctantly has gone over the the dark side, I mean has become a patron of the American Girl franchise, I can say that they really are far higher quality than lower-priced 18" dolls. (The "big girl" dolls are 18", the Bitty Babies are smaller but about as expensive.)

In my experience/observation, the biggest noticeable difference to the kids is the hair. The Our Generation dolls' hair gets blown out and ratty very easily, the AG dolls' is much better and can stay nice for years. The Target line has lots of much more affordably priced clothes and accessories that work just great for the 18" AG dolls.

When my kid was first starting to get interested in these dolls, I found a hobbiests' page that had very detailed and extensive reviews of various makes and models of dolls...let me see if I can rustle it up and post it here. Stay tuned...
posted by Sublimity at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing that the American Girl dolls are a much higher quality. The clothes can be found really anywhere, you only need to buy the American Girl brand clothes if you want the outfit for your daughter that matches. I'd go with the 18" if you can, the clothes and accessories are easier to find than the 15" size.

Since your daughter is so young, and will arguably be interested in dolls for a very long time, this might be a good 'investment' for her. The American Girl doll will outlast her loving much better than a lower priced doll. I bought my daughter a cheaper doll, and it was not worth it. She stopped playing with it after a few weeks because the hair became a horrible tangled mess.

I think that especially since you want a very particular looking doll that you should go with the American Girl. Maybe you could make it her big Christmas present.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:05 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here it is:


Tons of info, though it looks like it hasn't been updated in a few years. But if you want to get schooled about different dolls, it's a great source.

Here's hoping you find just the right doll!
posted by Sublimity at 9:11 AM on November 26, 2009

Looks like you can buy a single *used* one on eBay for a good amount. So I'd definitely suggest getting the twins and splitting them up, or yeah, having two of them around for her doll to have a friend :-)

Or if you know a friend with a kid who would like one, ask if they'd be willing to share the cost with you.
posted by barnone at 9:16 AM on November 26, 2009

If you did want to go with the American Girl doll, this one is 18", not 15", but could transition to an older age, meaning it could end up being a better value. It's one of the ones you can customize, and this one has curly hair, though not as curly as on the twins.
I had an American Girl doll when I was a kid, and they really are durable. My sister took hers everywhere and it didn't wear out like her other toys/dolls she dragged around with her. Getting clothes/accessories from another company is definitely the way to go, though.
posted by ishotjr at 9:39 AM on November 26, 2009

There seems to be more of a second-hand and handmade market for the 18" clothing too. Ahem.
posted by barnone at 9:41 AM on November 26, 2009

Oh, the one barnone posted is the same one as what I posted, but way cheaper.
posted by ishotjr at 9:44 AM on November 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone who has answered so far; it's been really helpful. I'd be happy to hear more if folks have more to say.

Sublimity, that link to justmagicdolls.com led me to this doll from Karito Kids which I love...Hadn't planned to spend $100 on a doll, but I am willing to pay for quality, and this may end up being her big Xmas present. justmagicdolls did a review of the Karito Kids dolls that was very positive.
posted by not that girl at 9:47 AM on November 26, 2009

The wife and I (and our daughter) like the "Groovy Girls".

posted by lowfi at 10:48 AM on November 26, 2009

I really liked my "My Friend" dolls, and they have held up extremely well -- they are nice dollies -- and it looks like you can get My Friend Nicky new, in box, for $56 -- a steal, really. There are a lot of patterns for their clothes...
posted by kmennie at 11:16 AM on November 26, 2009

Groovy Girls are all fabric.

We got our daughter a "Just Like Me" American Girl doll, and while not cheap, it was less expensive than the character dolls. That doll has been all over the US and overseas with us and she looks as good as the day she arrived at our house. It's an investment.

You can buy clothes on EBay and Etsy, and they don't have to be American Girl clothes as long as they're sized for the doll.

On preview: I didn't see at first that your daughter is 2 1/2. I'm not sure I would have bought an American Girl doll for my daughter at that age. We got hers for her 6th birthday. I'm sure the doll would last just fine, but small children, especially girls, have a reputation for things like cutting dolls' hair and drawing "makeup" on them with permanent markers. You may want to go the cheaper route unless you can provide constant supervision when she's playing with the doll to make sure accidents don't happen.
posted by cooker girl at 11:36 AM on November 26, 2009

It doesn't seem that way from the catalog at first, but you can buy two Bitty Girl twins - it would be easier to sell the extra on ebay if it's a girl. Also, I was shocked when my stepmother bought my daughter that outrageously priced Kit doll from American Girl, but the quality (especially the hair) was way better than the Target "Our Generation" dolls. The "our Generation" one had an unbrushable rat's nest for hair in no time at all, the Kit doll (and now Julie) look perfect and brand new. Also, the clothes are made way better than any of my clothes.
posted by artychoke at 8:50 PM on November 26, 2009

The American Girl dolls are wonderful, but the ones you linked to much more suitable for children about six and up, not for toddlers like yours. Just look at the clothing in the pictures on your link--they require much more advanced small motor skills than a 2 1/2 year old has. Find a simple baby doll for now that she can enjoy feeding, dressing, and pushing about in her stroller. Save the AG dress up dolls for later when you can read the related books together.
posted by Elsie at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2009

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