Fashion Femme Fatales
Gene, Tyler Wentworth, Willow and Daisy--They're new,
they're hot, and they want a piece of Barbie's Action!
For years, Barbie was the undisputed queen of the fashion dolls. Although there were many rival fashion dolls in the 1960s such as Tammy and Tressy, there hasn't been a "serious" fashion doll with a "serious" fashion wardrobe for dressing and undressing the doll until the late 1990s, when the very successful Gene came on the scene. Gene's success has spawned several additional fashion dolls, and has also helped cause Mattel to create high-quality changeable fashions for Barbie for the first time in years, for such lines as the "Barbie Millicent Roberts" (BMR) collection. These new dolls--Gene, Tyler Wentworth, and Daisy and Willow (along with Tonner's Julia and Tonner's Models Collection, among others) have stolen the collector hearts (and pocket books!) of many current (and former) modern Barbie collectors. Most of the dolls cost under $100, with fashions in the $40-$60 range, which is slightly higher than the cost of BMR dolls, and well below the cost of dolls such as the Bob Mackie Barbies.
Gene was the first of the dolls in the fashion-doll renaissance, and so in some sense she is the "grande dame" of the new crop of fashion femme fatales discussed below. Gene was created by Mel Odom in 1995. She is 15 1/2" tall, and is made from hard-vinyl. All Genes are numbered, and have a Certificate of Authenticity with the same number, as well as a story about Gene's costume.
Gene's "story" is that she is a movie star from the 1940s and 50s, and her costumes are from those eras. The costumes are high-quality and couture-oriented, with detailed accessories--everything from hat boxes to violins to newspapers to jewelry. The outfits range from glamorous evening wear to business suits to sleep-wear (much like the vintage Barbie costumes!).
Gene has been enormously popular with collectors. She was initially released in three models-- a blonde (Premiere) a brunette (Monaco) and a redhead (Red Venus). Each year, there are special limited edition "dressed" dolls and limited edition costumes. Dolls and costumes are retired as new ones are produced (much like, well, um, Beanie Babies!). Some of the early retired dolls and costumes bring high-prices on the secondary market--Premiere regularly sells for over $500, and "Holiday Magic," the first limited edition outfit, regularly sells for over $200.
To date (including the 1999 collection, there have been 32 Gene dolls produced, and regular line and limited editions, not including convention or special event dolls) and 46 costumes. Some collectors would like the number of dolls produced to go down, and the number of costumes to go up, since many collectors who have been collecting from 1995 have long ago run out of room for new Gene dolls!
Tyler Wentworth has been created by well-known doll sculptor Robert Tonner, for release in the fall of 1999. Even though she has not been released yet, this doll is hot--the buzz on the internet about this doll has been incredible. In fact, the first limited edition dressed doll, "Party of the Season" has been sold out, and the 6 limited edition outfits for the doll are also rumored to be sold out at the factory.
Tyler is a 16" bendable leg hard-vinyl fashion doll. The basic "Signature Tyler" comes in three styles, with brunette, blonde and red hair. Like Gene, she will also come in special limited edition dressed dolls, and there will be numerous separate outfits, complete with wonderful little accessories. Tyler's "story" is that she is the head fashion designer for the "House of Wentworth." The doll is contemporary, meaning that the fashions available are the fashions of today.
The quality of the doll and outfits, if produced true to the publicity photographs, should be exceptional. The doll's suggested retail is $79.99 for "Signature Tyler," $169 for the limited "Party of the Season," and from $49 to approximately $89 for the costumes available so far. Another nice touch--for dollmakers, sewing patterns for Tyler will be available.
Willow and Daisy
Also new this year are "Willow and Daisy," designed by former Gene designers Laura Meisner and Doug James. Willow Somers and Daisy Field are 16" vinyl dolls, some with bendable and some with straight legs. Four dressed dolls are are scheduled for release this summer, which will retail for approximately $89 each.
The era for these dolls is 1960s British Mod. Their wardrobes will be homages to designers such as Mary Quant and Paco Rabanne. As for their "story:" Willow is British, and Daisy is British/Hindu, and their fathers own a department store in London named "Somers and Field." The costumes for the dolls will have a tag that indicates all the clothes came from that department store! It seems that Gene, with her starlet story, not only started the "new" fashion doll era, but she also started the era of background stories for fashion dolls and the various costumes they wear, although it could be argued that the early vintage Barbie fashions, with their imaginative names, was the very first inkling of this trend.
If Gene continues to be successful, and if Tyler Wentworth and Willow and Daisy are successful, these dolls are likely to be the start of a true trend in collectible modern dolls.
photos, from top: Gene in White Hyacinth, Tyler Wentworth, Willow, and Daisy
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