I gave in…but… (review of Tenney’s Banjo, Guitar, Spotlight Outfit and Hat/Necklace set)

Up until recently I did very well with not purchasing anything from American Girl.  My last purchase had been on January 26th, and I was trying my best to stick to it.  Unfortunately, temptation came in the form of Tenney Grant and her accessories.  I managed to do well, but then I discovered that Kohls was selling most of her accessories along with Tenney and Logan.  Hmmm…  First off, there would be no shipping and handling fee, PLUS because Kohls was selling them, it would mean less money going into American Girl’s pockets.  Let’s be honest here, Kohls is probably making a decent percentage off each item sold.  That made it hurt a little bit less.  And then, there’s this lovely thing called Kohls Cash, earned for spending so much in one trip.  I decided to investigate.

The one thing I was most tempted by was Tenney’s banjo.  It looked super cute in all the photos, and I have this thing for musical instruments to begin with, having taken more than my fair share of music lessons in my younger days.  Plus it actually played music, so what wasn’t to love?  After great debate, I decided to end my boycott of all things AG and purchased it.

I know a lot of people aren’t fond of the new packaging, but in the case of the banjo, I actually thought it was nicely done.  The box is of nice quality, meaning that the banjo itself is well protected.  Anyone who has purchased the guitar with case that was previously released can vouch for the very strange packaging on that item.  This is a definitely improvement!

The banjo itself is very cute and well done with a lot of details.  The only drawback I can see to it is it’s all plastic, so if it gets dropped, it’s going to break, no doubt about it.

The back is where the battery compartment is, as well as an on/off switch to conserve the battery.  I do like this feature on AG items, makes accidentally turning it on and draining them less possible.

Here is a side view so you can see some of the additional details.  Hooks for the strap and the large button is how you play the music.  Overall I really liked it.  Except for one thing…

The strap is awful!!!!  I don’t know what they were thinking or where quality control was on this piece, but someone seriously dropped the ball.  It doesn’t even look like the one pictured on the box or the website!  It’s a shoddy piece of crap.  Sorry, but that’s what it is, and mine is going to be disassembled so I can use the hooks to make a proper one.  (Insert massive disgust emoji here)  It’s made of some sort of cheap vinyl and not well done to boot.  Not what one expects when forking over this kind of money.  Yoohoo American Girl!!!  You screwed up!

The little pick is cute, but one of those things that would be super easy to lose.  I did manage to get it on Louisa’s thumb, but it wasn’t easy, it kept popping off.  I hope it stays on Tenney’s thumb better. (And don’t yell at me if I don’t have it going the right direction.  I don’t play banjo!)

Even so, aforementioned strap didn’t deter me from purchasing anything else from this line.  Yet.  I decided to go back and get Tenney’s Spotlight Outfit and her Hat and Necklace Set.  By purchasing both at the same time, I earned a $10 Kohls Cash on this particular trip.  I should have thought this out a little better, but oh well.

Both of these sets are hit and miss.  And horribly overpriced.  We will start with the hat and necklace.

I love the hat, I think it is very nicely done.  I was very surprised when I got it out of the box to find that it’s actually stiff, which is nice.  I was thinking it was going to be more floppy, along the lines of Julie’s birthday hat.  However, the box that they made for it is not the right size and the hat is literally crammed into it.  I thought for sure I was going to damage the hat just trying to get it out!  This did not make me a bit happy, as it was the hat that I really wanted.  Fortunately, the packing gods were with me on this and I got it out without any damage, but I’d be willing to bet that not everyone has been that fortunate.

The necklace is a major fail on a lot of accounts.  First off, I’m not a fan of the cord type necklaces, but I really hate the knot set up.  I have a necklace like this for myself, and while it’s a neat system, it doesn’t translate well in this scale.

I think it is probably difficult for some people to figure out and if you have any kind of manual dexterity limitations, it is hard to get it to work.  Plus, unless you want the charm clear down to the dolls crotch, you see the knots.  Not well thought out at all.

But then, there’s an even bigger issue…

On mine, in order to get the treble clef facing the right direction, the AG side shows instead of the cute little bird.  You have no idea how much this annoyed me.  Sorry, but I’m getting tired of being a walking advertisement.  They should be paying me if my dolls have to go around with AG plastered in plain site all over everything.  And unless you know how to retie those knots, there is no way to get it apart in order to correct it.  So I’m going to remake it, using a different type of closure.  (Insert scowl emoji)

Overall I think these pieces are cute and had a ton of potential, but the lack of quality on the necklace is unacceptable.  This set is in no way, shape or form worth the $18 price tag.

On to Tenney’s Spotlight set.  Let’s talk about the packaging first.

I am on the fence about the clothing packaging.  I do like being able to see the items and knowing that I’m purchasing something that hasn’t already been handled by other shoppers.  However, it’s not very reusable as is.

I know a lot of people have had issues with other items in the new packaging ending up with holes in them.  I was very careful when I removed everything, and had no issues.  But I did notice a few things that seemed to help.

There are cut out flaps in the insert that the shirt and the skirt hooked over.  Sewing was minimal on these pieces to hold them in place, and the thread was held with only tape, so it was very easy to remove the tape and gently pull the threads out.  Neither piece ended up damaged.  On to the clothing itself.

The headband, yuck.  It’s a typical AG headband in that it’s too short to properly hold hair back and in some cases will probably pop off the dolls head.  And it’s a cheap excuse as well.  The headband itself is not covered with anything like previous headbands.  The stars are simply felt sewn on, and they have glitter on them.  Wow.  I’m so unimpressed.

The shirt is a cute idea and had a ton of potential.  Unfortunately, they made it super skimpy.  I wish someone would explain to the designers that at one time, AG clothing actually fit properly!  It’s very short (more on that in a minute) and the sleeves are really poorly set.  My particular shirt is done in such a way, the lace bunches up under the arm.  Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would be to wear?! (In addition to looking bad).  AG needs to hire someone who understands clothing construction, both on the design end and the assembly end.  Now I’m starting to understand why so much of their stuff is sleeveless, heaven forbid quality would cut into their profits!

The skirt is okay with a few minor issues.  It’s very short, but that’s more a personal preference for me.  And I couldn’t pull it down further on the torso without making the midriff on the doll show because of the skimpy top!  The waist is elastic on it and it was kind of difficult to get over her bottom.  And then to make things even worse, the glitter comes off onto your hands.  I’m hoping that situation will improve over time and it’s just some of the loose stuff.  Here’s a tip too for anyone who might purchase this set–DO NOT store the shirt sitting on top of the skirt.  The lace on the shirt catches on the skirt and snags.

The only good thing in this set is the boots.  I thought they were really cute, but I was concerned about the glitter on them also coming off.  I’m happy to say that it doesn’t.  The only issue I had with the boots is because of the fancy design they put on the sole, I did have a bit of trouble getting Louisa to stand properly.

Overall, I think the $36 price tag is ridiculous for this set.  The quality is lacking in so many ways, and I don’t see this as a set that is going to hold up to much play.  It was a major disappointment for me, and quite honestly, the thought has crossed my mind to just keep the boots and flip the rest of the parts on Ebay, I’m that let down.  Not sure what is going on at AG, but they need to get their act together.  I do have to admit though that Louisa looks awfully cute!

After that purchase, I still had my $10 Kohls Cash.  Originally I thought about purchasing the Picnic Outfit, but after seeing the poor workmanship on the clothing I’d already bought, I changed my mind and instead decided to get the guitar.  I’m happy to say that it’s the one thing that had absolutely no issues with, I was not disappointed at all.

Packaging is very similar to the banjo, and also sturdy.

The guitar is very well done, I just love it.  The attention to detail is terrific.  And the strap is nice on it too.  I’m still not sure what they were thinking with the banjo strap.

The back opens up much like the banjo for the battery compartment, and there is the same on/off switch.


Three buttons on the guitar, which I originally thought made it possible to pick which song you played, but it doesn’t. They are essentially one button made to look like three. Oh well.


The guitar set is more expensive than the banjo, I guess because it comes with this cute book??? Not worth $6 more. And I expected it to be an actual music book, but it’s more a notebook for Tenney to write lyrics in. The pick is cute, but another thing to easily be lost. Since I don’t have a doll that can hold it either, I’m just going to leave it in the plastic bag and store it in a safe place.

Overall, I’m happy with the guitar and the banjo (except for that strap).  The clothing items not so much.  I’m still not sure about purchasing anything else from American Girl after seeing this lack of quality.  If I do, I will definitely be VERY choosy about what I buy from here on in.  But I have a feeling that my Berry status in the Rewards program is going to go by the wayside when it comes up for renewal.  I’m just not feeling the love anymore.  I’d much rather support Etsy sellers.

In case you haven’t read it, Mattel posted their earnings for the 1st quarter and the results were not good at all.  American Girl alone was down 12%.  I’m sure that the whole permapanty mess and their lack of handling it properly affected those numbers a certain amount, as did their decreasing quality.  If you haven’t been to the AG website lately, be sure to go and read some product reviews.  I remember a time when you rarely ever saw a poor review for a product, and now it seems to be happening far too often.  American Girl and Mattel had better wake up and turn things around, or there will be a lot of people looking for jobs.  I keep reading about all of the plans they have for the line, but all of the plans in the world aren’t going to work if you don’t improve quality and listen to your customers.

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31 thoughts on “I gave in…but… (review of Tenney’s Banjo, Guitar, Spotlight Outfit and Hat/Necklace set)

  1. Thank you for the reviews. Right now, the banjo (and MAAAAYBE Tenney’s PJs, for Luanne) is probably the only thing from her collection coming home (well I’d like Nogan’s meet outfit too. I have the t-shirt from his meet already and I may just pick up the rest on ebay).

    • After seeing the lack of quality in AG clothing at the moment, I’d be tempted to look for items on Etsy that look the same. Probably cheaper as well as being better made, plus it helps a small business person.

  2. Thank you for the reviews! I was eyeing up that outfit, but now I think I will just make something myself instead. I really do love that guitar, but we already have three guitars so I think that we are good in that department too. The only thing that I really want from Tenney’s collection is her picnic, but American Girl Ideas has a very solid tutorial to make a lot of the items so we will probably resort to that. 🙂 I just can’t bring myself to buy any of the doll clothing from AG what with the US exchange and the shipping. I feel so lucky that I can sew!

    ginnie / http://www.fakingitmostly.com

    • Make it! I liked the looks of hers BUT again, everything is for just one doll. Who goes on a picnic by themselves? (stay tuned to this channel too…)

      • I made her a Spotlight Outfit! Now I really want those boots! 🙂 Too bad they aren’t sold separately. I also made up some other outfits for her on the blog. Yay! Now we are working on her picnic food, and we are making sure that there is food for more than just one doll at the picnic. 🙂

        ginnie / http://www.fakingitmostly.com

    • I think it is pretty too, and it photographs very well. I just wish they had made it about an inch longer. I’m tempted to make an underskirt for it for certain situations.

  3. I love your honest reviews!! My soon to be 8 year old has asked for Tenney for her birthday and after seeing the clothing reviews, I think I will choose some different outfits. That’s too bad that they are so cheaply made. Except for the cute cowgirl boots! I don’t think you can go wrong with the instruments, though, like you said. I was so tempted to buy stuff during that huge AG Beforever sale they had earlier this month. I had so many clothing items in my cart, but hesitated. I really wanted Addy’s bed! I’m glad I didn’t get anything for now, but I know I will again down the line. I’m glad their sales went down though and that more people are voicing their opinions. I honestly totally forgot that Kohl’s sells some AG stuff!
    Thanks again for your detailed, honest reviews and again, I’m sorry to hear there were quite a few disappointing items. Etsy is where it’s at! 🙂

    • Thanks! I get tired of reading “reviews” that only say “It’s so cute and I love it!” That tells a potential purchaser absolutely nothing, so I try my best to point out the good parts and bad parts, and I’m not going to say I like something when I don’t. No one learns from that!

  4. Thank you for the reviews. Only two things other popped into my head while reading.

    1) The banjo is usually played with picks on all the fingers especially if you play bluegrass style vs. mummers’ style (mummers do more strumming). So only having one will be bad news for Tenney’s fingertips.

    2) The necklace. I read a previous review that showed the necklace full length. I suggested the two not system as a way to fix. If that is already in place and there are no instructions on how to use it…not good. Flo, those knots are easy to redo, you wouldn’t have to remake the entire piece. Basically a slipknot on either side. I learned that at a bead store at the shore one year.

    As I type another thought popped. I’m glad people are leaving honest reviews over at AG. AG has started giving rewards points for reviews – I hope they give the same amount for a each review no matter the star count.

    • You are right! She’s going to have some sore fingers if she keeps playing like this.

      I think the real issue with the necklace is if I shorten it with those knots, it won’t go over the dolls head. I will have to see. But yes–there are no instructions on how to use it, so I am sure there have been a lot of frustrated people.

    • Thanks! That’s a good question Mel! We haven’t decided which direction the band is going to go, we all like different styles of music. More on that story to come though…(is the suspense killing you?)
      –Louisa

  5. You’re making it very hard for me to resist that banjo! (I’m secretly hoping someone gifts it to me so I don’t have to give AG money).

    Great review! Thank you. Louisa looks WAY better and more realtistic than Tenney all gussied up!

    • Lay some Mother’s Day hints LOL!! I agree Louisa looks so cute in this set. But she looks cute in just about everything.

      I’m trying to figure out why all of your comments go into moderation…makes no sense!

  6. Thank you for your review! We recently picked up the guitar and banjo, but haven’t opened them yet. Do you think they are good play value? Durable? They look cute, but with four little kids I’m nervous how long they’ll last.

    We had bought a gold skirt and lace top from Sophia’s last year, which the kids love, so there was no point to getting Tenney’s set. I agree that much of AG’s stuff is too short!

    Other than for pictures, there’s no play value in the hat and necklace for us. I’m glad your hat was able to be unboxed unscathed! It looks very pretty on Louisa.

    Most people probably won’t even notice that the treble clef is backward. I had also read somewhere that there were too many holes on the banjo? I don’t think AG is much interested in the fine details anymore.

    Xrya – very cool that your recommendation for the necklace was put into effect!

    • I guess it depends on how rough the kids are. The plastic isn’t a heavy plastic at all, so it’s not going to stand up to being dropped on a hard surface. I can see some of the strings or other tiny pieces breaking under rough play too. It’s definitely an item made for the age range AG is geared to, and not younger.

      I thought the same thing about the treble clef–I wonder how many people buy these who have no musical training whatsoever and that is what AG is counting on.

    • 🙂 Thanks, but I don’t think that is really what happened. Was just my suggestion to another blogger (not Flo), so not sure if it was tried by the other person or if they figured out how to adjust the knots.

  7. Even though I don;t have any desire to own any on Tenney’s collection. it was nice to read an honest review for a change. Can’t wait to see the band story! Maybe they can jam w/ “Loud and Proud”. LOL!

  8. I think both the guitar and banjo look pretty good, and the fact that they do play music is a good selling point. To bad I am not into accessories. The outfits leave a lot to be desired, go to Etsy to get better made doll clothing able to withstand tough kid play.
    Got a suggestion for the band name “Teenie 6 Stringers”, a line from a tribute by Jimmy V. to his brother Stevie Ray. They could all dress up in denum outfits with Cowboy boots and play Texas Blues. Or perhaps in Egyptian outfits and sing “King Tut”. Where are you Steve Martin when we need you?
    Just ET -2 being silly.

  9. I completely agree with you on the banjo! I have it too. And I’m so glad to learn about the spotlight outfit because I want it but now there’s no way I’m paying full price for it. I’m really tempted on the guitar too, but, like you said, not worth six dollars more….

    • At least the original AG Truly Me Guitar has an awesome case which makes it a bit more worth the price. Hopefully you can get the spotlight outfit on sale at some point. It’s definitely not worth full price.

  10. Thank you Flo for the great review. I have been to Kohls to see Tenney’s collection. I have made the Spotlight outfit . Your pictures were such a help in my making the outfit, as on my Kindle, I could enlarge them to see the detail. The outfit cost me nothing as I just used what I had. I made the skirt longer so my doll’s undies do not show when she sits down. Dolls are not very ladylike when they sit.😊

    • Oh cool! Are there pictures anywhere of it? That is exactly my complaint about these short skirts, drives me bananas! I’m actually thinking of making something to go under mine so that it isn’t an issue, I just need time to run to the fabric store.

  11. I love that guitar – so pretty. Thanks for the real review. I have been wondering how all the changes at AG would affect their bottom line – not good it seems. Ah well. I’m kinda sad for the little girls coming up that are going to get lower quality dolls and accessories.

    • I really don’t understand what they are thinking. I am very concerned about the future of the entire company at this point. Consumers will only stand for so much and once the quality declines and the market is saturated as well, that doesn’t leave anywhere to go but down.

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