Friday, February 12, 2016

Ivy's New Years Outfit

Happy belated Chinese New Year! As some of you may know, February 8 was the Chinese New Year-a holiday Ivy celebrates in Julie's books. 

Now I was originally planning to have this post out on the the actual date. I had most it typed out, the pictures taken, etc.

And then I got strep throat. And because my immune system is bad, I got a bunch of other illnesses (whenever I get sick, I always get something else completely unrelated). It has only been in the past couple of days that I have been feeling at all better. And then I had to work a lot to make up for the missed other words, I just couldn't complete the review.

I thought about delaying this post for a year...but Ivy doesn't have that many outfits to review. I don't own her rainbow romper so the only other thing I could review is her meet outfit in the fall (I try to dress the dolls seasonally). I could review a Julie outfit with Ivy wearing it but it still wouldn't be HER review. I don't want to wait 6-12 months for this beauty to grace my blog. So I'm just going to go ahead and press forward.  

So first of all, shout out to my grandfather who bought Ivy for me on my very first trip to an American Girl store. There's kind of a sad story about that. I basically had four parents-my mom, my dad, and my maternal grandparents who I saw every day growing up.

I was going through a very hard time in my life, and my grandmother promised that, once the summer came, she would take me to the nearest American Girl store (which at the time was 5 hours away). It was kind of a life rope for me, as silly as that sounds-it gave me something to look forward to during a time period where I felt like nothing in my life would ever be good again. Everything else was ruined for me-I couldn't read because the story lines depressed me, I couldn't talk to my friends, I couldn't enjoy anything. I couldn't sleep or eat. I managed to still do well in my college classes but that was it. But whenever things seemed really low, I would think about the trip we would make and it would make me smile for a few seconds before I fell down the rabbit hole of depression again.

She was also the only one who really understood my pain-my grandmother struggled with depression and crippling anxiety that started to really impede her quality of life. Towards the end, she never wanted to leave the house (which should show you how much she cared-that she would take a five hour trip because I was feeling so badly).  

Sadly, that trip never happened-she died before the summer came. It was very unexpected. One day she seemed fine; two months later she was gone.

Out of all my family, she was the one who really enjoyed the dolls with me. My mom, grandpa, and husband listen but they don't really want to. She loved to look at the outfits and accessories though-she would have loved Maryellen. As some of you may have noted, Granny gave me Saige and Emily. Despite my deep love for Josefina, I will admit that, in a fire, I would save Emily first (after my husband and fur babies) because of the memories.

Anyways, that summer my grandpa and I decided that we would still make the trip. It turned into a two week road trip-we went to the mountains, where my grandma loved to spend her own summers before she was too afraid to go, before going to see my husband (military life was keeping us apart), and then finally hitting the doll store in Atlanta. While there, my grandpa bought me Ivy. I'm sure you can imagine, then, how much I love that doll.  

Maybe it seems silly, but I really felt like I could feel her there. I have never felt like that before or since-not even at her grave. But in those mountains, I could feel her. She was finally free of the pain that had dominated her life for so long. 

Sorry to mope-but the pain is still fresh. Anyways, back to Ivy.

Ivy, of course, was the best friend of Julie from 1974 and the only historical Asian character ever released (so far). That's a shame because 1) she is now retired along with the rest of the Best Friends characters, meaning there are no named Asian characters in the line; 2) Asian Americans have had a huge impact on American history; and 3) the doll only had two extra outfits, and no pajamas. 

The treatment of Ivy has been shameful and I hope American Girl rectifies it soon with an Asian BeForever character-I would buy the doll the day she came out.   

For this review, I'm going to discuss the significance of what Ivy is wearing and touch on Chinese Americans in California. It'll be sort of like what I did for Nellie in the last post.

Chinese Americans in California:

From the beginning, America has always had a complicated relationship with immigration. Of course, unless you are Native American or African American (in which case, I hesitate to call kidnapping "immigration"), you are the product of immigration. That is why the stories of Kirsten resonates so strongly-immigration is the story of how most of us came to be here. Obviously, that immigration was horrible for the people already living here-but it is still the reason that a lot of us are here.

Sadly, however, America has always been more comfortable with certain types of immigrants and less comfortable with other types of immigrants. Basically, white Americans wanted immigrants who looked like them and who had customs similar to their own. They did not want people of color or people with widely different traditions in America.

Although Chinese immigration was allowed at first, Chinese immigrants were treated differently. An immigrant from Europe had the hope of becoming an American citizen one day. There was no naturalization process for the Chinese (though their children born in America were citizens). 

The Chinese who came to California (mostly men-these immigrants hoped to return to their home and their families one day, though this changed with time) worked jobs that were both essential to the economy of the west and dangerous. For example, they often built railroads (an Irish occupation in the East) and mined for gold. 

Yet despite this, sentiment soon turned completely against the Chinese. A series of economic crises meant that many Americans lost their jobs. They were afraid and desperate. They wanted an outside group to target their frustrations at-a group they could blame for their economic troubles. In the West, they chose the Chinese. Because of this, stricter immigration laws were passed. If this is sounding familiar, that was intentional on my part. There a lot of parallels between what happened then and other historical and current events.

Look at this horribleness.

The Chinese Exclusion Act meant that the Chinese were not allowed to enter the United States. Under these discriminatory conditions, illegal immigration began with people pretending to be the children of Chinese Americans already living in the United States (paper sons and daughters). The people coming to America under this guise (along with genuine American citizens re-entering the US) had to go through Angel Island where they were detained for months at a time in horrible conditions and asked extremely complicated, confusing questions. Any mistake and they would be sent back to China. The Julie mystery The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter is excellent and talks about the conditions on the island-I recommend reading it. It is probably my favorite American Girl mystery.

Ivy's New Year Outfit:


For this holiday, Ivy wears a close fitting Chinese inspired (I'll get to why I call it that in a moment) dress that I believe is meant to be a cheongsam (also called a qipao). When I originally posted, I was not 100% sure about the accuracy of this garment as a cheongsam. I was corrected by Shark below in the comments. In the interest of cultural accuracy, I wanted to add some corrections. It is obvious that American Girl was aiming for a cheongsam but they missed the mark in several key ways.

But first a history of the term. The term can mean different things in different parts of the world and there is no agreed upon origin story for the item. 

According to legend, a peasant woman invented the dress. Later, when the Emperor married her, she brought her dress with her and the court women all copied her garment.

Women started wearing them as a fashionable item in the 1920s, but there have been variations on the dress in different parts of China for a very long time. The Republic made them popular because they were seen as a liberating garment for women (one piece clothing items had originally been a typically male only garment). The Republic of China actually declared the cheongsam a national dress. The dresses were particularly popular in the fashionable city of Shanghai.The garments became closer fitting to follow the outline of a woman's body. They were often made of silk or brocade.

Advertisement for cosmetics (those are actually men because women models were not common) featuring people in cheongsam. Notice how the dress wraps around their bodies.

After the communist take over, however, the cheongsam was seen as a relic of the past. People were actually found guilty of a crime for wearing one. However, in the 1980s, the dress started to become popular in China again. Nowadays they are often worn as formal wear-sometimes they are used as wedding dresses. Various western fashion designers have used elements from the cheongsam in their designs. 

Now for the actual garment. A traditional cheongsam is often made of silk or brocade. This outfit is made of a very nice brocade, which is accurate for the period.

Ivy's dress is red with a gold pattern on the fabric. The gold glimmers in the light. The fabric is thick and sturdy and has a very nice sheen to it. It is a quality garment and very attractive. However you will notice that the garment does not wrap around her body like an actual cheongsam. That is one of those details that American Girl failed at including. It wouldn't have been hard to include either since they have made a cheongsam with a faux wrap around function.

Here you can see the Mandarin collar. Mandarin collars start at the neckline and then rise along the neck with a split in the middle. The collar on Ivy's cheongsam is accurate-American Girl gets points for that from me. Unfortunately though the collar is trimmed with gold piping-there is also a line of the piping crossing her chest. That is not accurate-piping would not have been used as a trim on a cheongsam. Still, the gold and red work well together-it was a nice color combination.

You'll also notice that the garment does not use the traditional frog closures-that is yet another failure on the part of American Girl.

The sleeves are short. Sleeves are of varying lengths on cheongsams so this part is not inaccurate. However, you can see in this image that the dress is very close fitting to Ivy's body, meaning that this is likely inspired by the fashionable 1920s Shanghai garments rather than the older, more traditional clothing. The dress would likely be hard to move in, which is a major reason that these have been relegated to formal wear. Ivy doesn't wear this for day to day activities-this is a formal party garment for her.

The hemline comes to mid calf-various lengths are appropriate for these garments depending on the occasion. There is a small slit, which is also an accurate detail. The hem is trimmed in the same gold piping used on the collar-which, again, is not accurate to what a cheongsam actually looks like.

And here is the back of the dress. 

I wish that American Girl had included the traditional frog buttons, the wrap around feature, and nixed the gold piping. That would have made it a better representation of a traditional cheongsam. I am a fan of this outfit but I must say that it would have been very easy for AG to create a just as attractive but accurate item. 

I do, however, like that this is Ivy's formal dress, not her every day attire. It emphasizes her cultural background without making her a caricature.  The dress is also very attractive on her-the red looks very nice against her black hair. 


Ivy wears a pair of Mary Jane shoes with her dress. They're black and velvety to the touch.  

There they are off her feet. They are very easy to get on, which is always a big concern for me.

They look very nice! There isn't a lot to say about them but I love that they are so versatile. These could be worn with a lot of different outfits.

Hair Clip:

Ivy finishes her outfit off with a flowered hair clip. The clip consists of a barrette with a pink and purple flowers and green leaves. 

The purple flower is the bigger one-the red flower is smaller.

That's how the clip looks in her hair. I think the clip adds a nice festive touch to the outfit. It's very pretty.


Overall, I like the outfit. However, now that I have been informed of all the inaccuracies present, my opinion of it has gone down a little. I still like it, but I am no longer as entranced. 

More Pictures!

The fact that the dress does not wrap around her body is much more apparent in the full length photographs.

Thank you Shark!



    This explains how Ivy's dress differs from an authentic qipao/cheongsam.

    1. Thank you! When I have some time, I'm going to edit it for accuracy and include that link as a source for further reading if you don't mind.

  2. *hugs*
    I love your research, I recently read "Good Luck, Ivy!"

    1. Thank you!! I wish she would have been the 1974 character instead of Julie (even though I do like Julie as a character).