Monday, June 1, 2015

Product Review: Caroline's Travel Outfit, Skiff, and Travel Basket

In honor of Caroline Abbott...
I know I haven't blogged in a while. I'm sorry-I've been really busy. My goal is to get back to one blog a week.
So we know that Caroline is retiring and of course you've heard the big news about Maryellen. I'm going to cover my thoughts on our upcoming 1950s girl after my review.

But, since Caroline is retiring, I'm going to review a few of the products I've gathered from her collection. Today, it'll be her travel outfit (including her spencer and hat), her travel basket, and her skiff.
So what is the background of this set, which I display as one collection in my apartment?
In book one, Caroline's father is arrested because Britain and the US are at war. He is being held in prison. Later, in Caroline's Secret Message, Caroline and her mother travel to British Canada to try and convince the British to release him.
Unsurprisingly, they refuse. Mr. Abbott is a master shipbuilder and they do not want him building ships for the Americans. In addition, it seems that Mr. Abbott will be moved from his prison to another one on the East Coast. He could escape when they move him, but it will be dangerous-many of the people Mr. Abbott would normally trust are loyal to George III and will turn him in if he turns to them for help.
Caroline embroiders him a map of the areas surrounding Lake Ontario and shows him who to avoid. That is why he is able to come home later in the series.
Travel Outfit
Caroline wears this outfit when she travels to Canada. It's a deep pink dress with a grape print, a darker pink waist band, puffy sleeves, and gathering on the bodice.

Puffy sleeves were fairly expensive-the gathering required to make them means that extra fabric is used. 

Here's the dark pink trim along the waist.
She wears matching pink boots in the same shade as the trim.

A better look at the fabric. I really like the pattern. I really like the dress, but the fabric feels kind of scratchy-cost cuts?
Hat and Spencer Jacket
To guard against the chill on Lake Ontario, Caroline tops her dress with a spencer jacket. The jacket is short as all spencer jackets are (Josefina has one as well in black). It has three nonfunctional buttons along the front (it velcros along the front, under the buttons). It's made of a thick material and has shoulder flaps.
The hat is also pink. This picture is awful but it has a wide brim and a large ribbon trim.
The Travel Basket


First we see five gingerbread cakes. Unfortunately, Papa never received them-they were destroyed when Caroline's basket was searched. They have sugar frosting on the top.

Caroline also carries two apples.

She carries a plain napkin.

Most importantly, she carries her map of Lake Ontario. I love looking at this-it's a beautiful piece.

She carries it all in this basket, which is way too big in my opinion for doll scale. However, the apples and gingerbread cakes were also HUGE so I guess it has to be to carry the food. Are all the doll accessories like this? Because I noticed the same thing with Rebecca's summer souvenirs. I guess it makes it harder for children to lose the little pieces of the set.

It all fits neatly in the basket.
The Skiff
This is not technically the skiff Caroline uses in Caroline's Secret Message. This is the Miss Caroline, which Papa gives her as a gift when she proves how steady and responsible she was while he was gone. I guess it is, in a sense, the same skiff-the skiff was destroyed earlier in the series and Papa brings it up and renames it the Miss Caroline. However, for this skiff to match Caroline's Secret Message, it would have this name. Still, I like the extra detail.

The sail moves, just like it does with a real skiff.

The skiff comes with two oars just in case the wind dies down.
All together, this is what the set looks like:

Overall, I really like this set. It has a great display value and I believe that the skiff is very central to Caroline's series-she wants to be the captain of her own ship one day, despite the gender restrictions placed on her. The map is gorgeous and the outfit is very pretty. I would highly recommend buying it.
A few precautions: the fabric of the dress is very cheap and the travel basket set is oversized. Still, I wouldn't let that stop me from buying this set.
* * *
Meet Maryellen Larkin! 
Of course, I wasn't going to end without a quick mention of Maryellen, the girl from 1954. Here's some shots of her book covers-these are probably official. The first cover certainly is-American Girl released it on their Facebook page. I believe Maryellen is going to debut in August.
As many have noted from looking on the American Girl publishing site, the story synopses seem very...fluffy. I hope this won't carry over to the books. I wrote on my Tumblr page that Maryellen seems like a Girl of the Year with an historical flavor, and I stand by my statement. Just based on what I read, it really does seem that way.
There's a lot they could do with a 1954 story line, despite the tendency to romanticize that era. It wasn't all June Cleaver home with the kids and dad having an office job. For a lot of people-women, liberals, African Americans, other minorities-it was a trying time. I hope Valerie Tripp does not disappoint me by glossing over the real historical plights of many individuals in that era. We'll see.

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