A Fan Letter

Message to Tonner Doll Company:

I would like to pretend that Barbie is MUCH older than I am, but the fact is we’re nearly the same age.   If memory serves (and it rarely does), I received my first Barbie when I was about seven.  The Barbie was as much as my parents could afford, so my mother made beautiful handmade outfits for her from the beautifully detailed sewing patterns designed especially with the new Barbie doll in mind.  Growing up, I usually dressed my doll in Mom-made clothing and sadly did not realize how superior in execution and material they were to the store-bought fashions that my more well-to-do little girlfriends flaunted.   Only in retrospect can I truly appreciated the hand-sewn lace on her negligee, the little crocheted muff that perfectly matched her skating costume, or the golden tassels on that fabulous flapper costume!  The quality of Barbie merchandise declined rapidly over subsequent years, particularly after the early seventies (post Stacey and Francie), when all Barbie clothes seemed to be made from poor quality leftover parachute material and possibly tinfoil.  Dresses were ugly and shapeless and shoes were clunky and garish.  Of course, that didn’t matter much, since Barbies were no longer original or very attractive.  Fortunately, I had outgrown dolls by that time.  They had become boring.   I didn’t blame modern little girls; after, the poor things didn’t know any better… I was playing around on some online auction site when I had my first encounter with one of Robert Tonner’s original American Models.

Omigosh, I felt like I was seven years old again and Barbie now came in a Giant Economy Size!  And her clothes!   That fabulous Red Felt Dress  and Matching Coat! The broad-brimmed hat and matching shoulder bag!    The long, long legs.  And best of all, the beautifully painted face and Twist’N’Turn Barbie’s Hair! This was the first of many cruel blows to my savings account over subsequent years.  Because it turns out, Mr. Tonner and Co. made a LOT of those big beautiful Models.  I told myself I wouldn’t overindulge.  But in vain.  So many dolls, so little will power. Not every Tonner doll is created equal, of course.  Sometimes I wouldn’t like the face so much, but the outfit was irresistible.  Or perhaps the other way around.  Other times, the finished product was, like Mary Poppins, Practically Perfect In Every Way.

For example: The Red Queen from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.   Not
only did the Tonner artists recreate Helena Bonham Carter’s face in incredible detail, but there was the gorgeous Elizabethan gown with gold skirt, the chessboard patterned hose and those boots with the Tonner piece-d-resistance: little hearts on the soles.   Oh, the thrill of opening that box!

Another jewel in the Tonner crown must be Queen’s Tea Party.  No tiny detail of this stunning Shauna model was overlooked, fr on her pink pleather boots and lacy stockings to the china tea set on the top of her rose-trimmed picture hat.  Why, yes, now you mention it, that is one of my favorite dolls.  How did you guess?

I keep thinking they’re going to run out of good ideas.But Deathly Hallows Ron Weasley and Wood Nymph suggest otherwise.

Dream on, Tonner artists!



(published with permission)

2 responses to “A Fan Letter

  1. I felt the same when I bought Wonder Woman in her original outfit…and other DC Heroes.
    Now I have Wonder Woman, Catwoman, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, Black Canary, Supergirl and customs of Celsius, Icemaiden, Paula the Amazon scientist, Liberty Belle made out of high quality Tonner dolls/action figures (thats what we guys call’em)
    They were perfect. More durable than Action Man and more fabulous than Barbie.
    Tonner figured it out and has brought smiles to guys and gals.


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