Monday, June 22, 2015

AG Showdown: Mini-Samantha vs. Mini Samantha

"She's right behind me, isn't she?"
As followers of the American Girl dolls know, their historical character doll line was revamped earlier this year, and rebranded "BeForever".  Part of that revamp involved both a new style of mini-dolls and a re-release of my personal favourite, the 1904-set Samantha, so naturally the new mini-doll was the first thing I picked up.

I'd originally wanted to get some photos of them fighting it out, but sadly they're too cute, and those fight photos all turned out looking friendly instead.  Ah well, it was a funny idea while it lasted!

I've posted about the old style dolls before, so I won't go into too much detail about them on their own.
The new minis still come in miniature versions of the full-sized doll boxes, which now include a window that shows of the included mini book.  The new books are a fair bit smaller than the old ones, and are paperback rather than hardcover.  Unfortunately old Samantha's book is M.I.A. after my recent move, so I'll save that comparison for later.
In the box.
The new Samantha has an entirely new wardrobe, so in terms of clothing, these two are quite distinct:  the new lace-heavy and very pink dress seems a world away from the muted plaid of the original (although of course the old full-size Samantha did have a pink-and-lacey birthday ensemble - it just didn't exist in the mini size).

New vs. old.
They do have similar shoes though.
Undressed, we can see the biggest change in the mini line: The old dolls were miniaturized versions of the full-sized dolls, complete with the soft bodies and tied-on heads, while the new ones have vinyl bodies and simpler joints.
Body comparison: front view.
Body comparison: side view

This change in body styles has been a source for quite a bit of complaining amongst fans who liked the idea of a perfect miniture of the larger dolls, but I have to say that as dolls on their own, I actually like the new minis.  For one thing, their bodies are significanly more stable, so they can stand more securely on their own. More subjectively, I prefer the way the clothes fit their narrower bodies - some of the clothes aren't quite the same quality (I also picked up the 2015 Girl of the Year mini, who I'll discuss in a later post, but whose outfit was very weak), but they hang better on the new bodies than the old.
Old Samantha almost looks hunched over by comparison.
One change that I thought was a bit odd was a detail of the eye paint: Old Samantha has brown eyes, while new Samantha appears to have eyes with a bit of a purple tint.  The larger doll hasn't gotten a new eye colour, so I don't have an explanation for what they were trying to do with the minis, but the new doll does seem to have a brighter face, although to be fair, my old Samantha is actually old in years, so it may be a factor of age more than anything else.  Along similar lines, I don't feel comfortable comparing the quality of their hair, just because my old Samantha's has probably been damaged over time.

BeForever Samantha, with her purple eyes
The brown-eyed old Samantha
In summary, I have to say that I'm fairly impressed with the BeForever mini doll release: the doll is attractive, and while it's not to everyone's taste, I think the new body may actually be an improvement.  And the new dolls still clearly go with the old, so that's nice to see:
My current group of AG minis.
ETA: Barb of My Little Doll Corner asked how the two Samanthas fit in each other's clothing, so this morning I tried it out, and the results are in: BeForever Samantha can wear old Samantha's dress with ease, while old Samantha is just a little to plush in the body for the new dress to fit her - it goes on, but it can't quite close:
Old doll/new dress, new doll/old dress.
The new dress can't quite close on the soft-bodied Samantha.


  1. The new mini Samantha looks good, I too like the new body even though it's not a mini-version of the older types, and her eyes are lovely and bright. BTW, I was surprised to see the large AG's for sale on a Dutch second hand website a while ago, apparently they are popular all over the world :-).

    1. They are branching out - they ship to many more countries than they did back in the day. And they opened their first Canadian shops last summer, and are moving into Mexico this coming year, so I suspect that going global will be the next step after that.

  2. Urgh. You probably don't want to get me started on my thoughts on the new Samantha line. At least the new ads say the clothes are "inspired" by clothes from the time period. I don't like the newer faces so much, and the new Samantha's dress didn't translate to mini size very well, in my opinion. How would the dresses look switched from one Samantha to another? Just wondering if the stuffed body makes a difference in fit.

    1. You know, I meant to try them on each other and forgot! I'll try that out and take some extra photos. Thanks for the reminder! :)

      I'm on the fence about the style changes - the newer style isn't really to my taste either, but I don't think it's any less historical than the old ones. I think it's just that they're just tapping into different trends of the era that better match with current tastes.

      Which makes sense - the original collection reflected the version of the era that was big in the late '80s/early '90s (my parents were decorating the family cottage at the time - in the then-trendy "Country/Victorian style - and Samantha's brass bed and wicker chairs were very much on trend for that look). I can't fault them for doing the same thing now - especially since the market for the dolls is so much larger now.

      That said, she certainly doesn't look like *my* Samantha anymore, so I did do my share of frowning through my nostalgia glasses. So yeah, on the fence about it! ;)

    2. (takes deep breath) Actually, as an amateur fashion historian, I've spent years studying vintage fashions, and the Edwardian era is absolutely my favorite time period. The original Samantha stuff really was more period accurate than the current stuff, and so was the furniture. Brass and iron beds were very popular at the time, and if you didn't have those, you likely had an older bed, with a large, dark wooden headboard. Wicker furniture was popular for outdoors where it was exposed to weather conditions.

      I really have considered writing a large post contrasting old and new Samantha; I've even done some research. I'm just not sure how many people would be interested. Maybe I should take a poll.

    3. I think people would be interested - I would certainly read it! It was a popular topic on the AG blogs and forums last summer, so I'd think people we're due for another round.

      My main takeaway from last year was that early 20th century fashions were actually more diverse than I'd assumed, but as with everything, YMMV. :)

      For the record, my mother's grand Nova Scotia antique-shop searches of 1990 were successful, and she did eventually find herself that vintage brass bed (she stuck with reproductions for the wicker chairs though), and they're still in that cottage - they're just not as on trend as they were at that time (or the first time around!) . ;)

    4. I tried the clothing swap this morning & added photos to the post - it works fairly well, and the new doll looks good in the old dress, although the new one is just a little too small to close on soft-bodied Samantha.

      Thanks for reminding me to do it!

  3. Hi JS,
    I love reading your reviews on your dolls, most of which I have never heard of, let alone seen. I find them very interesting and informative. To me the new Samantha's eyes seem to be larger, but overall I think the older one has a prettier face.

    1. I'm glad you found it interesting - discovering new-to-me dolls is one of my favourites things to come across! :)

  4. Great review! I think they each have their definite attractive points. I can't seem to decide which I like better. I equally like both of their faces. I do appreciate an exact mini so in that case I wish they had continued with the cloth bodies. I think my collection will probably include a mix of both. I've seen reviews of Kit and Kaya and I like the newer versions primarily based on their faces, but I like the older versions of Julie and Caroline. I guess for now, it would come down to how easily I could find the older ones at a reasonable price! :)

    1. Heh, the price point is always a good deciding factor! I actually only picked up Samantha (and the GOTY Grace) because they were deeply discounted on Amazon - the $25 AG price just seemed a little steep to me, considering what they used to cost (and considering the standard price for mini dolls from other lines).

  5. Oh and your mini Ivy is so cute!!

    1. Thanks!

      I think she's going to be my go-to travel doll from now on - her hair is just so much easier to deal with versus all the others!

  6. I can't help but love the purple eyed Samantha. They both have cute faces but the eyes do it for me. I also tag you for World Doll Day!

    1. They do give her a different look, it's true!

      And thanks for the tag, I'm just writing something up for it now. :)