American Girl Outfits I’d Wear Today: Samantha & Molly

My generation gets a lot of flack for being overly nostalgic before we’ve really earned the right to be. But first of all, as a kid in the 90s, I remember all of the gen-Xers were into 1970s childhood nostalgia. This is hardly new. Additionally, we were pretty much doomed to be nostalgic. I blame the American Girls Collection. It made all of us long for the past before we had even been in the present for more than 7 years. We never had a chance.

Here is our final installment of the American Girl Outfits I’d Wear Today series – Samantha and Molly. If you missed it, check out our coverage of  Felicity and Josefina and Kirsten and Addy.

Samantha Parkington

Samantha was really the it girl of the American Girl world. If you had at least one American Girl doll, it was probably Samantha. I mean, I didn’t , but that was because my teacher’s daughter had Samantha, and their dog ate it, so she passed the outfits on to me. My Molly doll was the same thing as Samantha, but with grey eyes, so once I had the outfits I was seriously all set.

I’ve read several articles and fashion blogs discussing the influence of Downton Abbey on today’s fashion, and the general consensus is “who would have thought that Edwardian style would ever be the thing?” Um, how about all of us who grew up in the 1990s and idolized Samantha Parkington’s well-tailored outfits, sleek furniture, and bangin’ Victorian mansion? Sidebar, since I was about five years old, with the exception of  high school and a few stabs at bobbed hair, I’ve had Samantha’s hair ‘do. Forget Zooey Deschanel. Samantha Parkington’s are the bangs that defined a generation.

Samantha’s Middy Outfit
This outfit just kills me. Usually when I wear nautical-themed outfits it’s more on the lines of navy stripes and a jaunty scarf, maybe with some kelly green pants or Nantucket reds. But this dress is a great reminder to try out the sailor look – keep the collar smallish so you don’t look costumey. I had a red sailor coat when I was little, and I practically cried when I outgrew it, because it reminded me of Sam’s summer dress. I mean, I probably did cry.

Samantha’s Plaid Cape and Gaiters
Thus began my lifelong love affair with Black Watch plaid. So classic and gorgeous! I think Susan has a coat like this in the ’90s Miracle on 34th Street. I was so annoyed with my school uniform, which was almost black watch, but with stupid red and yellow lines in it (which clashed with our baby-blue Peter Pan collar blouses). The real beauty of this is in the adorable gaiters she has. Anyone know where I can get a pair? Also, did anyone else carry a muff as a kid because of this, or was that just me? I never realized what a vintage-obsessed child I was, but I toted around my aunt’s 1950s fur hand-warmer like it was going out of style (which it probably was).

Molly McIntire

Molly McIntire always had a place in my heart, primarily because we are both named Molly and are both sort of awkward, yet also driven and optimistic. She was like a nine-year-old, wartime Leslie Knope that way. She made me really want wire-framed glasses, although my eyesight wouldn’t deteriorate enough for that until my mid-20s. Molly had a tomboyish yet preppy style, and if you were born in the ‘80s, your mom probably liked her because the outfits reminded her of her childhood in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Molly’s Camp Gowanagan Outfit
High waisted red shorts, sassy scarf, and crisp white button-up? Yes, please. Molls looks like such a 2010s hipster here. Like, I can practically tell which Brooklyn neighborhood she lives in. As I mentioned before, thanks to Molly, I dragged my mom to about five stores in third grade, searching for saddle shoes (I found them, and they were everything I’d ever dreamed of. And I’m pretty proud that I was thinking for myself, fashion-wise, at such a young age, because I’m pretty sure they weren’t in style. And I’m pretty sure that I want another pair right NOW.)

Molly’s Slicker And Rain Hat
Yes. Yep. This is it. This is how you dress in the rain. I’ve actually not gone with a serious vinyl raincoat since I was probably in the single-digits, age-wise, but I would definitely wear this. Also, how amazingly practical is it to have a rain hat? When did we, as a people, stop doing that? You’d still carry an umbrella, probably, but think of the hair damage you could avoid! This is also a nice reminder that while novelty wellies are adorable, the classic reds and yellows will never fail you. An aside: I taught one of my nephews to call his boots like these his “galoshes” because it is adorable.

Molly’s Pajamas

A lot of the time, my pajamas are fleece pajama pants or pajama shorts, and then some sort of t-shirt that I got for free. But when I wear legit pajama sets, I always feel way more put together and cute. It’s somehow less embarrassing to answer my door in p.j.s when my pajamas are also an outfit. Miss MacIntire understood this. While any kind of pajama set will do, these red stripes are so cheerful yet dignified, I think they’re really the ultimate in classy yet comfy, child (or adult) appropriate nightwear.

Molly’s After-School Outfit
Plaid shirt, high waisted cords? So, this is pretty much how we’re all already dressing, right?

Molly’s Regular Outfit
The argyle sweater is pretty cute, and the preppy knee-length wool skirt is great. The rickrack trim around her Peter Pan collar is killing me, in a good way.

What do you think – did we miss any great outfits? Did you try to dress like these characters as a kid (or adult)? Did your parents buy you the kid-sized outfits? We’d love to know!

American Girl Outfits I’d Wear Today: Kirsten and Addy

Last time around, we brought you (potentially) wearable outfits from American Girl characters Felicity and Josefina. Now that you’re – hopefully – done seething about unfair taxes on tea, we’re bringing you two more. Use this as a shopping guide if, like Angela from The Office, “sometimes the clothes at the GapKids are just too flashy. So, I am forced to go to American Girl store and order clothes for large colonial dolls.”

Kirsten Larson


On Christmas day in first grade, I opened a small box from Santa. There was a note to look under my bed – and there, in a maroon Pleasant Company box, was Kirsten Larson. If you got a Kirsten doll, it may have been because you were blonde, or of Swedish descent, or from the Midwest. For me, it was because Kirsten and I were both fairly outdoorsy. Granted, for Larson it was more of a default situation, since she lived in the Minnesota wilderness. As such, Kirsten’s outfits are casual and practical, but there was a budding fashionista under her pragmatic Scandinavian exterior.

My fourthhand claim to fame is that this character was named for my friend’s aunt (?) or something. If you’ve ever wondered about the historical accuracy of American Girl main character names — well, first of all, we should be besties forever, and second of all, they’re almost all statistically quite unlikely for the place and time the books were set. I’m terribly sorry to tell you that the name Kirsten is Danish/Norwegian, and wasn’t really used in Sweden in the 1840s when our girl K. would have been born.

Kirsten’s Summer Outfit
These faded blue pinstripes are soft, crisp summer perfection. And those red booties! What is Kirsten, some sort of Swedish-Minnesotan fashion genius? The red is echoed in the fresh berries on her hat, because Kirsten Larson is brilliant and I’m still really sorry that she lost her friend Marta to cholera (…spoiler?).

In third grade or so, I was sorting through a trash bag of hand-me-downs from my cousin (did everyone get those or was I just poor? They were the BEST). I pulled out a pale blue striped number, and could not believe it. It was Kirsten’s summer dress! On closer examination, it was no dress at all – it was culottes. This was probably the first of many times that I was disappointed to find that what looked like a skirt or dress was actually culottes or a skort. It’s like taking a sip from what you think is Sprite and finding out that it’s water. And it’s a life lesson that I think all of us have learned. [This was also my first time thinking that I could alter a clothing item, and failing miserably.]

Kirsten’s Winter Outfit and Scandinavian Woolens

If this were a catalog for adult humans, she’d wear that outfit on a dock with an adorable Yellow Lab. Her gentleman friend would have a coordinating sweater set. And I’d hate them.

Damn, Larson. Look at you. Cozy and adorable. When I wonder if it’s too cold to wear a skirt, I just remind myself that Kirsten did it, and Minnesota is probably colder than upstate New York. For real, a full wool skirt is a great addition to your winter wardrobe, and the ribbon detail is just bonus.

Addy Walker

Addy was a truly groundbreaking American Girl character. No, I don’t mean because she was the first African-American girl featured – although that was a big deal. I mean, she had pierced ears. This was HUGE. I think if I’d had one more American Girl doll, it would have been Addy. In an age when everyone had Samantha, Addy owners were real originals.

Addy’s School Dress
Look at what a professional Addy is! Little kids in suits kill me, probably because – according to photographic evidence – I wore a little pink skirt suit for Easter when I was 7. I wouldn’t wear this whole thing head to toe, but the cropped blue jacket with skinny jeans? Absolutely.

Addy’s summer dress
Cute floral, adorable peter pan collar, waist detailing – what more could you want in a summer dress? Maybe leave off the visible pantaloons if you are an adult in the 21st century.

Hope you enjoyed our stroll down sartorial memory lane! Check back for our final installment – Samantha and Molly.

American Girl Outfits I’d Wear Today: Felicity & Josefina

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 Merriman

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.

Josefina Montoya

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!