The American Girl catalog was probably my first fashion inspiration. I pored over every page, and even tried to incorporate the style into my real life. I wore Kirsten’s looped braids in first grade, and insisted on saddle shoes during back-to-school shopping when I was eight. When denim sunflower hats were the rage, I also had a straw hat with a ribbon, inspired by Felicity. I wore a long, floaty cotton nightgown in the summer, like I was a spunky Victorian girl. Chances are, if you’re a twenty- or thirty-something who loves classic fashion and accessories, your love affair with vintage clothing began with the Pleasant Company Catalogs.
To be fair, you probably got the catalog because you read the books. One of the best things about American Girl books is that they’re full of great little details about the characters’ special outfits and accessories. Of course, my cynical adult self realizes that this is because each book had a tie-in outfit in the catalog, even though most of these characters would have had maybe two dresses, tops.
When I started this post, I didn’t realize just how great these outfits would be – props to Pleasant T. Rowland. The list grew so long that I had to split this into three separate posts. So, sit back and get ready to travel through time – we’ll start with Felicity and Josefina. If you want to continue on and read about Kirsten and Addy, that post is over here.
Felicity was my gateway drug into American Girls. My mom was a fourth-grade teacher, and ordered me some Felicity books from her Scholastic catalog (man, I miss the Scholastic catalog). If any of you were kindergartners with a fifth-grade reading level, then you were probably one of the American Girl trendsetters in your class, too. [Why do I get the feeling that our target demo includes a lot of adults who were once really precocious five-year-olds?] I was hooked. This girl had red hair, like me. She had adventures. She had spirit. And, damn it, she had OUTFITS. Felicity was my first American Girl doll, and I probably continued to play with her long after it was socially acceptable to do so.
Felicity’s Spring Gown With Pinner Apron
I mean, I’d take elements from the concept. If you can pull off a pinner apron, more power to you.
The dainty floral apron is perfection, and kudos to Lissy for sticking it to those people who say that redheads can’t wear pink (we can). While I keep meaning to wear more aprons in the kitchen because (1) they’re cute, and (2) I’m a mess, the tiny floral pattern would be really great on a sundress. By that, I mean I own an H&M sundress in almost this exact print.
Felicity’s Summer Dress
Again, the concept. Not the ruffled bonnet underneath the straw hat tied under the chin.
I almost ordered Felicity’s Summer Outfit for my First Communion, until I found the white satin sailor dress of my dreams (ahh, 1994). I still think it’s super-fly, though.
Felicity’s Riding Habit and Hat
What’s that? Military styling before there was even an America? Menswear inspiration two centuries before Annie Hall? Well done, Miss Merriman. I’m not in favor of a head-to-toe evergreen skirt suit, but the jaunty riding coat with jeans? Of course.
By the time Josefina came out, I was in sixth grade and too old to get into a new American Girl character. But, I was young enough that I was still on the Pleasant Company mailing list — and the new doll did not go unnoticed. Trust me, she was big talk around Sacred Heart Cathedral School. A good gauge of how culturally sensitive you were as a kid is whether you pronounced her name like Josephine-a or Ho-say-fina. While I just missed out on Josefina, I could totally see buying this doll for my niece in a few years, because it has been a chore to find Hispanic dolls for her. Well, and also because I have five nephews (five!) and can’t help but buy her girl stuff.
By the way, my research (read: poring over the American Girl website) reveals that there have been like a million new dolls introduced since this one (not counting the modern ones). If I don’t have kids, my goddaughter is going to be one spoiled lady.
Josefina’s school outfit
I was really into this peasant blouse and multicolored skirt I had in first grade, so I obviously would have worn this as a kid. But as an adult? Maybe at an outdoor concert in the summer? Yep. Definitely.
Josefina’s Christmas dress
I remember seeing the kid-sized version of this in the catalog and thinking “I want that dress!” This is probably because unlike most children’s Christmas dresses, this is not puffy, iridescent, nor red and green. Thus, it would make a pretty nice grown-up holiday dress, too. I love accessories as much as the next girl, but maybe skip the mantilla.
Josefina’s riding dress
Orange maxi-dress! So cute! I’d leave off the leather vest because it reads sort of costume-y, but if you’re really sassy maybe you could pull it off. Maybe if you’re in a rodeo. Yes to the boots, though.
Josefina’s party dress and spencer jacket
With the professional cropped blazer, I could probably get away with wearing this to the office. You could also get away with this if you were a spritely nine-year old in 1824, but I digress. I feel like Josefina is really riding the line between 19th century southwestern child and late ‘90s urban tween here, but I’ll let it slide because – fun fact – according to the website, Montoya and I are both the youngest of four.
That’s all for now! Check back another day for our analysis of Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly. None of those new characters, though, because they are strangers to me.
Good Blog Alert: This post was inspired by a comment from Amelia at New Old Fashion. Stop on over there if you like vintage fashion, in particular, or pretty things, in general. We’re fans!