Again, happy holidays everyone! I'm back to give you one more seasonally appropriate post before preparing for Christmas (pretty much everything on my wish list was AG or book related) and heading out of state to spend time with my family.
Many of you know that I am a military wife, and I feel really lucky that I have never missed a Christmas with my husband. If I ever do miss a Christmas with him, it won't be because of the military either-this is his last year. By Christmas 2016, I'll be back in my hometown with the rest of our family, ready to start my own career and help him with college. Maybe we'll have children then-I'm not sure. I have mixed feelings about him getting out-on the one hand, I'm ready for the next stage. On the other hand-I love this life, and I love being a military wife.
But I have been very lucky in terms of his service. He has never been in danger, and the most I've gone without him is a month and a half or so. I have put my own aspirations on hold, and I have spent a lot of time away from my family and friends, who I was very close to. Yet I've looked at the bright side-the time away from a job that wasn't just there to keep me busy and buy extra stuff gave me time to focus on my creative writing, and the time apart from everyone else we cared about other than two cats taught us how self sufficient we really are, and brought us closer together.
But many military families are not so lucky. Their service member is in danger, and they often spend holidays away from their family. That reminds me of Molly and Emily, two girls who suffered horribly because of WWII. They were both away from people they loved-Molly was away from her father who was serving as a doctor in England (and in the mysteries it is later revealed that he is suffering from some form of PTSD) and Emily, who had to leave behind her entire family and her home because of the bombing of London.
The challenges military families face today are not as severe as those faced by Molly and Emily. Phone calls and the Internet make separations easier in most cases. Deployments aren't as long. Fewer Americans die. But the pain of being away from the people you love is the same now as it was then, and that is what American Girl is all about-yes, it shows the ways that things have changed, but it also highlights the multitude of ways that life has remained the same. Love, family, the desire to spend time with the people you care about during the holidays-those things have remained mostly the same.
So, since this is my last Christmas as a military wife, I wanted to go ahead and cover Molly and Emily's Christmas outfits-two girls who would have spent their holidays away from people they loved.
Christmas During WWII:
The holiday season on the American home front was of course adversely affected by the kind of rationing that meant Molly had to eat the infamous disgusting turnips. There were very few workers to cut Christmas trees down, for example, and there was no way to ship the trees because railroads were being used for war goods. Many people who previously would have insisted that a real tree was a proper tree therefore bought artificial Christmas trees that year.
What did they decorate them with? Well, a lot of ornaments before WWII were apparently of German or Japanese origin, so people threw them away when the war began (despite the fact that, after you've purchased it and given them the money, they can't possibly be affected economically if you then throw it away). Obviously precious supplies weren't going to be wasted in creating new ornaments so magazines taught people how to make home made ornaments out of things like pine cones and string.
Children might have gone to see Santa Claus at Saks Fifth Avenue-but under the beard, it was likely that Santa Claus was actually a woman! With so few men around to play Santa Claus, a lot of women filled in, as they filled in at the factories. The home front was increasingly a world where women, previously seen as properly serving only in the house, were coming out in droves to run civilian society.
Just like I couldn't go home last Christmas because my husband had no leave after the wedding and the many funerals we had to attend (and I wasn't about to leave him alone on a day like that), many families couldn't travel because of gas rationing.
And of course, for many American families, it was hard to spend a holiday away from their family members. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" was written during WWII, and that breaks my heart.
Things were even harder in London during the Christmas season. Many men were off at war, and many children had been evacuated like Emily. The bombing of London-which went on for 57 consecutive nights in the fall of 1940-did not let up for the holidays. In 1940, a lot of people spent Christmas Eve underground, waiting for the bombing to stop.
People were encouraged not to spend too much money during the Christmas season in London. Gifts were small, practical, and often home made.
But there were still some bright spots. Many groups, like the British War Relief Society, tried to give gifts to children who otherwise would not have had them. Americans serving in England (such as Molly's father) spent time with British families and brought food, which was obviously welcomed because rationing in Britain was tougher than rationing in the U.S. Children still met Father Christmas, and carols were still sung.
Most notably in my mind was a Christmas radio program that began broadcasting in 1939. King George VI was the first monarch to participate in that, and it is still an annual tradition today. Much like the fireside chats of FDR during the Depression, that program gave hope to British people suffering from the realities of living under siege.
And of course, being away from your family was just as hard for the British if not harder (more people were likely to be away).
All in all, I would say that I would have preferred having a colonial Christmas like the one I discussed with Elizabeth Cole than a Christmas on the American home front or a Christmas in London during the Blitz.
Now on to the actual review.
Molly's Evergreen Velvet Dress:
As the name suggests, Molly wears a dark green velvet dress for Christmas in 1944. As I've said before, green is my absolute favorite color and it is an especially great color for Christmas gear. Forget red-it's overplayed. The set came out with Molly when she was released and it is one of my favorite holiday sets. I said before when I was doing my review of Kirsten's summer outfit that I really have a thing for simple garments that appeal because of a nice color or cut (other examples-Felicity's summer outfit, Addy's flower picking dress, Kit's birthday dress, etc.). That's kind of how I feel about this dress-it's simple, the decorations are tasteful, and it looks very elegant.
The dress is short-it comes to just above her knees-with short sleeves and a full skirt.
The collar and the sleeves are trimmed with small cream lace-I much prefer that over ruffles. I also like that they used cream instead of pure white-the cream and dark green color combination really pops.
The front of the dress has a set of six simple, small white buttons down the front. If you have an older version of the outfit, it won't have these buttons. I prefer the ones with the buttons because I think they look nice against the dress. My set is a much later one-I got it right before Molly retired.
The back of the dress closes with velcro. The lace continues around the back of the sleeves and the collar-they didn't cut corners with this set like they did on the Elizabeth Holiday Dress that I reviewed last time.
This set is not very elaborate. Other than the dress, the only other component is the set of hair ribbons. The dress is meant to be worn with her meet shoes and socks-this was back when American Girl was trying to cut costs down so the meet shoes were meant to be worn with a lot of their first outfits (Molly wears it with her school outfit, holiday outfit, and wears the same shoes but not the same socks for the birthday outfit if I'm not mistaken; Samantha wears her set for her school outfit, gets a new pair of white stockings but wears the same shoes for her holiday dress, and wears the gaiters over her meet shoes and stockings for her winter set; Kirsten wears her meet shoes with her school outfit). Compare that with Caroline, for example, or the new Rebecca outfit, where they have meet shoes that ONLY go with their meet outfit (Caroline has pink shoes, and Rebecca's second meet has a pair of darling velvety purple shoes).
The hair ribbons are therefore the only other part to this set.
They're cream, just like the lace. There are two, so you can tie them to the ends of her braids-though her hair isn't depicted as being down in two braids in some advertisements. I keep Molly's hair in the two longs braids personally.
The hair ribbons are nice and silky. There isn't much to say about them-they're hair ribbons. If you are on a budget, maybe just get the dress and go to Joann's for your cream hair ribbon needs.
Anyways I love this outfit so much-I would wear it myself!
Enily's Holiday Outfit:
Emily wears a purple satin holiday dress. That isn't as awesome as wearing a green dress, but at least it isn't the overplayed red! I can only assume that this is her holiday dress for 1945 (she came into the picture around Molly's birthday, so after Christmas 1944). It makes me happy that she got a pretty dress-I think Molly's concerns (though they were actually quite serious-having a parent serving is no cake walk) were played for laughs (shut up about the turnips Molly, you're such a whiner) when they could have done so much more with her story-though her fears for her father in the Christmas book were much more serious.
Still, Emily's life was (rightly in my mind) depicted as much more difficult, properly illustrating the greater difficulties faced by Britain than by the U.S., which came into the war much later. Emily was literally a refugee, someone deserving of compassion (and yes, I am making a political statement right now). A large amount of her life had been spent in terror of the Blitz. So thinking she had a beautiful dress makes me really, really happy.
The dress, like Molly's, has a full skirt and short sleeves.
The sleeves have some puff to them and a lilac trim around the edges.
The light purple trim is matched by the satin lilac ribbon tied in a bow around her waist. The bow is big-the edges reach half way down the skirt. In my experience, this ribbon tends to ride up, making the fit on this dress a little off.
The collar is square, with more lilac trim and a lilac rosette on the left side. I think the rosette is too much. With the shiny fabric, puffed sleeves, and big bow around the waist, I feel the rosette doesn't add anything and instead detracts from the outfit.
The dress Velcros up the back and the lilac ribbon goes all the way around in the back.
Overall, I like the concept of this dress but I think it fails in the execution. Purple is nice. However, the fabric has too much sheen to it for my taste-the sheen on Elizabeth's dress is much more subtle. It makes the dress look kind of costume-y and cheap for my taste. Additionally, I think the fit on the dress is weird-the square collar doesn't sit right, the dress is a bit too short for me (it's a centimeter or so shorter than Molly's, but that's a lot on an 18 inch doll), and the waist ribbon rides up.
However I can see why a little girl would love this dress-the shiny fabric, the bright color, the embellishments. Emily is a little girl after all, and in my head, she loved this dress.
Emily, whose set was released later, gets more components to her set. Instead of wearing her everyday dog tags (Molly wears her everyday silver locket with her dress), she gets a new necklace.
It's a silver necklace with a pearl on it. It's very pretty, though part of me wonders where it came from. Still, I don't insist that the dolls have historically accurate numbers of clothes and accessories. Kirsten, historically, would have had like three dresses. I'm okay with my Emily having pretty things, and the necklace is easily the best part of the outfit.
Emily does wear her meet shoes (and her meet shoes are SO much better than Molly's!) but she gets a pair of fancy socks with lace trim to make her outfit a bit more festive. She had to-her meet socks were red to match the cherry print on the dress (see what I mean about American Girl caring less about versatility) Not much to say about socks,
To finish it off, Emily ties back her hair with a lilac bow that matches the trim on her dress-it's attached to an elastic. The hair ribbon is okay-it won't go with anything else and it's a bit too much for me.
Overall, I do like the dress but I think there are some serious issues with it.
I do like Molly's outfit more than Emily's, I have to admit it. Looking around at my dolls in their holiday get ups, I have to say that it might be the least favorite holiday outfit I own along with Julie's second holiday outfit. Molly's is one of my favorites. I think it has to do with the fact that American Girl went all for the "oooh! ahhh!" for Emily instead of focusing on fit and quality of material. Molly-whose outfit I bought at the same time, so it isn't a question of Pleasant Company versus Mattel-has a much less ambitious but a much better constructed outfit.