To All The Dolls I’ve Loved Before: Crissy and Velvet

One day last summer as I was driving somewhere, it dawned on me where my obsession with American Girl dolls comes from. It all goes back to a doll I had from my childhood. I always thought she was a Velvet doll, but I’ve since found out otherwise. Keep reading.

If you aren’t familiar with Crissy and Velvet, I’ll enlighten you. Made by Ideal, Crissy was introduced in 1969. She had flaming red hair with a unique twist to it–you could make it “grow”. And thanks to a knob on her back, you could make it short again. Push the button on her stomach and pull–long again! It was really a pretty clever idea and interestingly enough, not an original one. Ideal had acquired a closed company called American Character Doll Company who had originated the idea with their Tressy and Cricket dolls. Crissy was 18 inches tall.

A friend of mine had one of the first Crissy dolls which was pretty cool because like Crissy, she had red hair. I thought Crissy was cute, but I didn’t really want her. My mom apparently thought she was cool too, and the following Christmas, I got one. Mine came in a teal satin type dress with matching shoes. I did play with her, but I wasn’t in love with her.

kerry velvet crissy
Kerry, Velvet and Crissy Photo courtesy of Julie Newman’s 70’s Time Capsule

The following Christmas my mom decided to get me another doll in the line. This is where some confusion began that I’ve just recently cleared up. Velvet was introduced and was designed to be Crissy’s little cousin. At only 15 inches tall she was the perfect size for a girl my age (I would have been 7 at the time). She also had the “growing” hair mechanism. Until last summer, I thought I had a brunette Velvet doll. My doll came in exactly the same outfit as the Velvet doll (a purple velvet dress), adding to more confusion. After doing some research, I’ve discovered that I didn’t have a white brunette Velvet, but a Mia doll! (there was a black/African American Velvet version that had dark hair.) Mia was supposed to be one of Velvet’s friends.  Velvet was only ever available as a blonde in the Caucasian version.   I suspect that the reason for the confusion with the outfit is that she may have been a catalog exclusive through either Sears, JCPenney or Montgomery Wards, my mom was a huge catalog shopper and frequently bought more unusual dolls when she could. The outfit shown on most photos of Mia dolls that I came across in doing research, I’d never seen before!

mia
Photo of Mia from http://www.museumofplay.org

 

I can say in all honesty that she was probably my favorite doll of that era. Velvet/Mia (I called her Velvet, hey, I was 7 and didn’t know the difference!) went a lot of places with me, and I played with her quite a bit. I have a distinct memory of my 8th birthday involving her. Right around lunchtime, a woman showed up at our house who had made doll clothing that fit these dolls, and I picked out a couple of outfits that my mom bought me as part of my birthday present. I only remember one of these outfits now, a little pair of white flannel pj’s, trimmed in pink. I also remember dressing up Velvet/Mia in one of the new outfits and she went out to dinner with us, my parents had arranged for all of us to go out to celebrate with friends of theirs, I can still picture her sitting in a chair by herself beside me.

Poor Velvet/Mia though, she didn’t know she was about to be jilted. Big time. I discovered Barbie, and it was all over. I did keep Velvet/Mia for a long time, but she didn’t get played with all that much. I mean, seriously, how can you compete with someone who has a Dream House, a swimming pool, a camper and her own airplane???? Eventually I donated her to charity, and hopefully some little girl loved her as much as I did. At least until she discovered Barbie too.

Ideal continued to make Crissy and her friends for several years, and in several different styles: Movin’ Groovin’ Crissy, Talky Crissy, Look Around Crissy and even a Baby Crissy (just to name a few). They also introduced a number of different friends. I’m not exactly sure when Crissy and her gang were phased out, but Ideal Toys went defunct in 1997.

I do have fond memories of her, and on that day last summer, I realized just how similar she was to American Girl in terms of size and idea of a little girl/young girl doll. Not an infant, not a fashion model, but a young girl. With the dark haired version I had, she resembled Samantha and Molly quite a bit, just with blue eyes. Suddenly everything made sense: I’m just reliving my childhood with these dolls! Maybe someday I’ll buy a dark haired, blue eyed American Girl doll and I can name her Velvet. Or Mia. Oh, never mind!!!

Here’s a commercial showing the same Crissy doll I had and a Velvet doll:

 

 

I have to thank Velvet/Mia for one thing:  because of my trying to figure out who I had, I became friends with Sharry at Julie Newman’s 70’s Time Capsule.   I noticed her Crissy, Velvet and Kerry dolls (Kerry was another doll in the line) on her website, sent her an e-mail asking for info, and the rest as they say “is history!”

To All The Dolls I’ve Loved Before–Swingy!

**When reading the title line, you have to imagine Willie Nelson Singing!**

With Christmas approaching, I thought it would be a good time to start a new feature I’m going to have here on the blog from time to time.  In my lifetime I’ve had a lot of different dolls.  I thought it would be fun to write about several of them.  Some I asked for, a few were gifts, but at some point in time they all made an impact on me in some way.  And that is why I decided to start with Swingy…

I think I was 5 or 6 when I got Swingy.  She was made by Mattel and the big “thing” that she did was dance.  She even came with her own cardboard record! (remember those?!?!)  It was really a clever idea, especially for the swinging 60’s era, and the doll itself was really very cute.  This is what my Swingy doll looked like:

swingy
Photo from Pinterest, Unknown

 

I do remember that I asked for Swingy, this wasn’t one of those dolls that someone thought I would like, I truly did want her. I was very excited to see that Santa had brought her, and couldn’t wait to try her out. Of course, she needed batteries, so after digging around to find some (this was one thing that my mom was terrible at planning for!) we managed to get her dancing. She did her thing…and then one little problem…her head fell off!!!

Fortunately I was a pretty well adjusted kid and this didn’t give me nightmares or anything, just a huge feeling of disappointment that my brand new doll wasn’t right. 😦 But then it actually became a source of laughter for me and my older sister, we would put her head back on and let her dance until it fell off. If we had been a few years older, we might have been taking bets on how long it would have stayed on. Yeah, we were a little sick, but I have to say, it was funny as all get out.

After the holiday was over with and the novelty of a doll whose head fell off wore off, we boxed her up and shipped her off to California to the Mattel headquarters.  This was back before the days of “easy store returns”.  Several months went by and then a package arrived-it wasn’t the same Swingy but a brand new one in a different outfit-cool!  We had kept her outfit when we shipped her back, so I now had Swingy with two outfits, yes!  And this one worked just fine, her head didn’t fall off, and she danced and danced and danced for a couple of years until something happened and the dancing mechanism broke.  It didn’t bother me though, I think by that point I had grown tired of the dancing doll and I just played with her as a regular doll.  My mother did learn somewhere along the way that there were quite a few defective Swingy dolls that Christmas, I wonder how many of them resulted in screaming little girls instead of ones who laughed like me. :/

Now when I see the commercials each year for the new dolls coming out and all of the things they do, I always think back to Swingy.  I often wonder if they revived her if she would sell as well as she did back then?