The Return of the Barbie debate.

I wrote a post on here recently, about Barbie Dolls. To cut a long rant short, I think they might be a bit sexy to give to young girls, but girls like them, and there’s not much alternative. I had started writing a follow-up post, about Barbie-alternatives, and also about  ‘responsible shopping’ but I was half-way through writing it when I cam across a really, really cool thing. And I got very excited. So I ordered said cool thing, and rubbed my little hands together in glee, awaiting delivery. I was thinking of the lovely photos I could put up of this thing. And then, today, I saw that someone had blogged about it somewhere else. Somewhere a bit better connected than the adventures of Sarah and Alice. And I though ‘dammit.’ And then ‘stuff the photos, just write about it.’

So. For all of you with little girls who like playing with dolls, who perhaps aren’t entirely comfortable with buying a blonde, mini-skirted, stiletto-wearing, double D doll, for your daughter, take a look at Lottie.

She’s great, right? For a start, she looks like a five year old. And her clothes are not exclusively pink. (I bet anyone who has met me can guess my favourite Lottie doll, just from the outfit…)  And she is not wearing stilettos. And, it has endeared her to me greatly that her creator has described her as having ‘chunky thighs.’

Lottie is available in the UK from Amazon. Which, as part of my original blog, I was going to suggest boycotting, because of their tax policies (i.e, not paying any.) Luckily, although Lottie is available through Amazon, she is made by an Independent British company, based in London, called Arklu. You can read about them on their lovely website here

So, although you have to buy through Amazon, you are actually supporting an Independent business, with a great ethos. Sometimes, a bit of necessary evil goes a long way. It would be lovely to think that Independent businesses could make enough just selling through their own websites. But although I am a bit of a ‘head in the clouds’ kind of person, working hard selling childrenswear for the last two years has introduced me to such realism.

I promise I will write the rest of my no-doubt fascinating blog about responsible Christmas shopping. Or I might just go and have a sherry.

The tale of the Stripes and the Gambler.

I am a terrible gambler. I pick a Grand National horse each year based purely on name (they never win,) I get addicted to 2p machines on seaside holidays and I once won a line at Bingo but was too shy to go up and claim my (£3) prize. I’ve only won one raffle in the last 15 years, and that was at a school pamper night, right in the middle of a manicure. My daughter was new to the school, so I had decided to try and get to know some of the other mums by going to a pamper night. I was just having the final coat applied, when I heard my name being called. I was quite a long way from the raffle and had to do an undignified sort of running through the school hall, past lots of people I didn’t really know -with no shoes and socks on, as I was due to have a pedicure – my varnish-y hands outstretched like a zombie in order to collect what turned out to be a wonderful ‘pamper hamper’ of goodies. But since then, zilch. I played the lottery for a while with my friend Lois, but I spent most of that time in a state of paranoia that I would forget to buy a ticket when it was my turn and our numbers would come up. We won a tenner once, I think.

But it is Christmas. And we’ve had some ideas for t-shirts kicking about for ages, and haven’t got around to printing them. We’ve both been busy lately, and preoccupied, and to be honest, a bit worried about printing t-shirts. Just in case, you know. Just in case they weren’t good enough. Just in case people didn’t like them. Just in case they ended up sitting in a corner of my living room. Basically, we got The Fear. If you don’t have much money to gamble with, it quite often feels like a silly thing to do. Much more sensible to put the money in the bank and save it. But then, two weeks ago, I got a bit bored of The Fear, and remembered that in order to get an idea off the ground, you need to actually do it. It might fail, it might, actually, turn out to be a rubbish idea; but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Sometimes you really do have to take a gamble.

So in a typical last-minute rush (some things never change) I arranged to re-print our retro-rollerskate design on some beautiful stripey t-shirts. I was guessing at the result, I’m actually quite bad at visualizing stuff, which is annoying, but I do love stripes, and I love the rollerskate design. So I made a wild guess that a combination of the two would be good. And here is the result.


I really, really like it. So does Sarah. But ultimately, we are not making t-shirts for us, we are making t-shirts for other people to buy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? Well don’t eat this t-shirt, but if you have a little girl who likes to rollerskate, do think of buying it. Hell, do actually buy it! Try here. Our Folksy shop is woefully under-used:

And for parents of boys: don’t worry! We haven’t forgotten you. We’re re-printing our best-selling BMX design on black and white stripes THIS WEEK! We also have two other new designs, which I shall update you/blather on about in my next blog post this week. (Two in one week?? Blog posts are the new buses.)

Is Barbie a feminist issue?

“Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!”  Right? Or not?  That Aqua ‘classic’ (obviously the definition of classic depends vastly on your musical sensibilities,) summed up perfectly my uneasy relationship with Barbie dolls. “I’m a blonde bimbo girl in the fantasy world,” hmmmm.

I’m never sure whether I love Barbies, or resent the weirdly plastic and sexualized version of young womanhood they represent. As a child, I spent many, MANY happy hours playing with our collection of Barbies and Sindy dolls.  We were mostly a Sindy house, due in no small part to my parents buying a massive box of retro Sindy dolls from Peacocks Auction House for me and my sister one year. The previous owner(s) had given them rather dramatic haircuts, so they resembled a bunch of heavily-made up punk-era girls but with pearl earrings and  paisley dresses, which as Barbie style goes,  is not so terrible. At the time, I had friends who were not allowed to play with Barbies, as they were deemed ‘too glamourous’, and my mum felt much the same way, but ours were mostly excused due to their weirdness.

And now my girls are at the age where they have started to play with Barbie dolls. Proper Barbie dolls with long hair and six inch heels, and teensy waists, and hips, and…boobs. (Although Tilly refers to them as Teletubbies, which has caused much hilarity and a few  embarrassing moments at Gran’s house.) And suddenly I’ve looked at Barbie in a slightly different light. Sure, Barbie has moved on, and these days she can choose any career she wants, from doctor to vet to popstar. Which is great. But I still feel somewhat uncomfortable giving my six year old a doll who looks like that. Because girls that age sometimes do long to be grown ups, which in itself is fine, and Barbie is indeed a grown up. But she still looks like some man’s impossible version of an ideal woman, formed in plastic. I’m not saying that my children should only play with Frump Barbie, who wears plimsolls and a ankle length dress, but it would be nice to think that in 2012,  someone could manufature a doll that doesn’t look like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, pre Richard Gere. Just not having feet shaped to wear six inch heels would be fine. Or not having quite so tiny a waist. And, let’s face it,  just with slightly less enormous breasts. That is not, and should not, be what little girls think grown up girls look like. I don’t want to ban Barbies.  I loved the imaginative games that I played with mine and I don’t want my girls to miss out because their mother is having some sort of ridiculous crisis about the body image messages sent out by RollerSkate Barbie.

So I am embracing Barbie (metaphorically, you understand, she is not exactly cuddly,) because ultimately I think that she’s fun. And that is what matters. But I am not happy about her looking so…glamourous. Perhaps I’m just jealous?