I'm happy to welcome the newest member of my doll collection-Cécile Rey!
She's an early anniversary gift from my husband-I'm sure the buying of her was extremely stressful for him since he had to go to eBay. He hates buying American Girl things as a surprise off eBay-since he doesn't know what to look for, he thinks he'll be taken for a ride. He'd rather go to the American Girl site and buy a new item. But I wanted Cécile and I have for a while.
This involves some history on my part. When I first got into American Girl collecting, all I knew was that I wanted Josefina. I had wanted her as a child and I finally had money of my own so I said, "I'm an adult, and adults with their own money don't care what other people think!" And I purchased her and she came and I loved her so much. That was when I decided to start a collection.
But who to buy next? Much to my disappointment, Samantha, Felicity, and Kirsten were all gone. But Addy and Kaya and Kit and Molly were still there, and...oh wow, they made an Emily doll! And who were these new characters? They were so pretty! And what was a Girl of the Year anyways?
I was so overcome with shinies that I didn't bother to decide how to focus my collection. I wanted it ALL!
Molly and Emily were about to retire and so I went ahead and got Molly, Emily was given to me as a gift from my grandmother, and then I decided that I wanted Saige. It was only later on that I realized I had no interest in additional modern dolls. I won't buy anymore-unless they come out with a DOC for GOTY, in which case I'll put my money where my mouth is and buy her. But for now, Saige is my beloved modern doll, the other doll given to me by my grandmother, who passed away a little over a year ago.
I kept on collecting, mostly getting the dolls from the books of my childhood. Soon Kirsten, Addy, and Samantha were added-I overcame my fear of buying off eBay. But it was (and is) my goal to eventually own all of the historical dolls-I just didn't think they would retire Ivy (managed to snag one of the last ones at the Atlanta store), Ruthie, Marie-Grace, and Cécile so soon-they were all practically brand new!-and so quickly. I missed out on all 4 except Ivy.
Later I realized I wanted Marie-Grace and Cécile very badly but it was too late. I found Marie Grace rather cheaply, but a Cécile in good condition was expensive on the second hand market. And I couldn't get any Cécile doll-I knew I'd never be able to fix her hair if she came all messed up. But then I felt kind of bad for having Marie-Grace but not Cécile in my collection-like I'd chosen the white doll over the black one, when I had always preferred Cécile. (I've since bonded with MG and so I now love them equally).
I had gotten so involved in the AG community that I was more aware of issues like the lack of DOC in the GOTY line up. I was no longer blinded by shinies. So I felt icky.
But now I have her and she's perfect. I'm going to go ahead and do a review of her meet outfit and accessories.
Cécile comes from a wealthy family-she is in fact wealthier than Marie-Grace, which makes me happy. There have been wealthy African Americans, just like there have been poor white people (not that Marie-Grace is poor). Cécile's clothes show her wealth-she is a pretty princess doll, kind of like Samantha.
Now before someone starts thinking this makes her a "better" African American doll than Addy, hear me out. We need both dolls, to show that there were a wide variety of lifestyles for African Americans in the past. Is Samantha better than Nellie? No! They're just from different socioeconomic backgrounds, showing that there were vast differences in lifestyle. Addy and Cécile complement each other, just as Sam and Nellie do.
The dress is made of a dark blue (the wiki entry is more specific and calls it cerulean) silk. The fabric is shiny, and most of the time, I hate shiny fabric (see Caroline's party dress Elsa knockoff monstrosity that was supposed to replace her lovely birthday dress). Most of the time, shiny fabric looks cheap. However, this dress has more of a sheen to it than an outright shine, probably due to the dark color. It looks nice.
The color also looks spectacular on Cécile. In my doll family, friends from the same time period share clothes (but no one else-my dolls do not time travel), but this is one case where I'll probably have to draw the line. I might try it, but I doubt this color will look nice on Marie Grace. To keep it fair, I won't have Cécile in Marie-Grace's meet-I've grown to love her too.
The dress reaches Cécile's calf-the proper length for a girl of Cécile's age. Want to do an experiment and learn something about children's fashion history? Line up the dolls in chronological order wearing dresses (excluding Kaya, because she was around before European influences on dress, and dress Josefina in one of her European inspired outfits like the Christmas dress) and see where their hems fall to.
This isn't a perfect example because I had this idea at the last minute and it doesn't include all my dolls but look. Felicity and Elizabeth's hems reach the floor. MG and CeCe's hems reach the midcalf area. Addy's dress is a bit below the knee and Sam 's is almost exactly at the knee. Yet for all the dolls, except Felicity and Elizabeth, their time periods would not have allowed adult women to dress in those fashions-check out CeCe's mom, Mrs. Walker, or Cornelia in the book illustrations to see what the expected adult fashions were. All of their hems hit the floor. This shows that adult fashions and children's fashions had diverged after the Revolution (Felicity would have dressed like a miniature Martha Merriman). All of these girls would have looked forward to the day when they could have lowered their skirts and be considered adult women.
I did a mini-example above.
From Felicity, who basically wore a copy of an adult ensemble, to Maryellen, whose poodle skirt would have been too full for an adult and so was inherently a children's/adolescent's style, you can see that times have changed. Children no longer dress exactly like their parents. Every doll's hem is a bit shorter then the doll from the period before her's. I think that's really cool, because I'm a history geek.
It's also cool to do with underwear but I digress.
Back to Cécile's dress. It has black velvet trim around the skirt and in a V on the bodice. I love velvet trims in darker colors-like a light blue dress with a darker blue trim on the hem sounds gorgeous to me. It's no different here, and the velvet emphasizes her wealth. Clothes back then (and today) were meant to send a message, and her clothes do it successfully.
The velvet continues on the back of the dress, which is good. I HATE when American Girl ends the pattern or decoration on the back of an outfit. If I'm paying $30 for a doll outfit (how much material could it possibly use up?!?) the trim should certainly continue!
There is a rosette on the front, which emphasizes the color nicely, and the V neck part of the bodice is white.
The dress is detailed and perfect-I love it.
Here are her pantallettes. They are not the same as the pair worn by Marie-Grace, which have elastic around the ankles and lace trim. These instead have eyelet trim, and you can see them poking beneath her dress (another thing that an adult woman would never have done).
The boots are a versatile black with four nonfunctional gold buttons along the side. I strongly prefer these to Marie-Grace's black and white boots. These will go with most if not all the outfits she has-I already have her special dress and her parlor dress, so she has a bit of a wardrobe already. They velcro up the back. In this shot you can also see the eyelet detailing.
Under her boots, she wear cream ribbed stockings. Again, these will go with everything.
Her hair is tied off her face with two white silk ribbons. Let's take a moment to admire her mane of curls.
She really has the prettiest hair. I'm terrified of it, but I'll just try not to touch it. And if I do, I'll take her butt right up to the store to have her hair done. Out of all my dolls, she has one of the prettiest hair styles (other contenders are Josefina, Rebecca, Kaya, Caroline, and Felicity-in my opinion of course).
On to the accessories! As a later doll, she only has three items in her accessory set-a hat, a pair of gloves, and a necklace.
I hate doll gloves-they look like oven mitts. If you don't look too closely, they're fine. But, upon closer examination, they look really dumb. If I had my way, she would have had a blue and black fan like her friend (Marie-Grace had a cream and pink fan). I love doll fans. Oh well.
Oh no, semi-naked doll! Who cares? Cécile doesn't.
At least she has a better necklace than Marie-Grace does (MG has a gold locket), and again this showcases her greater wealth. It is a rather large (for doll scale) pearl on a gold necklace. Very pretty.
I saved the best accessory for last. Her hat. Hats were very important back then-they were seen as indispensable when outdoors. The more ornate the hat during this time period, the better. A milliner or hatter who could make a nice hat would do a brisk business. Remember how excited Kirsten was about her straw hat from her summer story? While Marie Grace has a rather plain hat furnished only with a pink ribbon, Cécile has a much nicer piece.
That's a vertical view. It's a sculpted round hat. The hat is made of felt material that matches her dress. Felt is made by compressing fibers together-according to Christian legend, fleeing Christians made felt by lining their sandals with wool to cushion their feet. At the end of the journey, the materials had matted from pressure and sweat into felt. Doesn't that sound gross?
The person who made her this felt hat might have contracted Mad Hatter Disease (I'm not sure which kind of fibers the hat is supposed to simulate, but if it is meant to be an animal fiber then almost certainly), which comes from making hats, yes, but specifically from making felt hats because of the mercury used in processing it. The process was called carroting (because material that was too thin or near the edges would turn orange when exposed to the mercury compound), and it is no longer in use today. I'm not sure this applies here because of the color of the hat (though surely they could have dyed it) and also because American Girl doesn't use animal products (though they do simulate them-see Kaya's dress). Still, the hatter would have worked with animal fibers so he (or she) would probably have gotten the disease at some point. That is where the phrase "mad as a hatter" comes from and why the hatter acts like he does in Alice in Wonderland.
I just think that's an interesting historical tidbit.
You can see the black ribbon trim around the brim. It is further accented with a pretty floral detail on the side, which matches the rosette on her dress.
The hat has a large silky red ribbon tied in a bow at the back.
I adore this hat. I wish I could wear it myself. Why did hats as everyday attire have to go out of style? You know I love living during this period since I can vote and work and because more people have civil rights and because of things like air conditioning and modern medical science...but man, the way they dressed back then!
Here is a close up of Cécile with her hat on. You can also see her eyes, which are hazel. I know American Girl has been overusing the hazel recently, but the color looks really nice and unique on Cécile.
So Cécile and Marie-Grace are finally reunited! Welcome to the circle Cécile!