Barbie and the STEM Movement

Barbie and STEM If you saw the big hit movie Black Panther, you noticed that King T’Challa’s 16-year-old sister Shuri was presented as a confident, smart scientist. She’s just one character in today’s pop culture society that happens to be female and interested in science. There’s the female characters on The Big Bang Theory, one of whom is a neuroscientist. And now there’s Barbie, the doll, taking up robotic engineering. Yes, you read that right. Barbie is into STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

We’ve come a long way in society when women used to be moms, nurses, secretaries or teachers– those were the four main options for decades it seems. But now, in 2018, the iconic Barbie is dressed in a ponytail and sneakers, complete with her own robot. She can “code like a boss.” And she’ll inspire the next wave of young women to grow up and pursue STEM careers. At least that’s the hope.

STEM and Barbie

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, about 24% of jobs in STEM are held by women. The Barbie line, since 2010 or so, has sought to get young girls thinking about imagining themselves in roles such as scientist, game developer, and now, in 2018, robotics engineer. To make their Barbie dolls look the part, Mattel (the company who makes Barbie) worked with female engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to make sure the doll they made looked authentic. Furthermore, Mattel utilized multimedia technology to make it so a young girl can play with her robotic engineer Barbie in such a way where she’s able to go online, apply skills and learn– fostering an interest in STEM stuff beyond just playing with the doll. There are actually six free coding courses available via Tynker, which girls have access to when they buy and use their robotic engineer Barbie.

We live in a digital world these days. Barbie has adapted to this ever-changing world; she’ll help introduce millions of kids to coding– imagine that!

Gigi’s Dolls offers antique, vintage and newer Barbie dolls. For more information, call 773-594-1540 or email

The Different Materials Dolls Are Made From

Antique Dolls When most people think of dolls, these days, they’re probably thinking of modern day Barbies made of vinyl plastic. That said, dolls come in all shapes and sizes, made of various materials. Over the years, there have been many different materials used to create the dolls people love and cherish for generations.

Carved Wood

Way back in time, perhaps centuries ago, the first dolls were made from carved wood. While few examples exist today, there are still a handful of woodworkers making wooden dolls– though they are few and far between.


After wood came wax… the first molded substance that doll heads were made from. So, instead of carving wood, wax got carved into a head, complete with eyes, a nose, mouth, ears, etc. As you’d imagine, wax was and is a pretty fragile material to use. So, like wood, there aren’t too many wax-head dolls in existence. Wax dolls had their heyday back in the 1700s and 1800s. Today you’re likely to find some doll artists using wax to make or enhance doll heads, though, like wood, it’s almost a lost art.

Papier Mache

Have you heard of Papier-mâché, better known as “papier mache?” In the early 1800s, in Germany, dolls made from papier mache were all the rage. Papier mache involves the combination of paper pieces (or pulp) that’s reinforced with textiles, and bound with an adhesive like glue, starch or wallpaper paste. Toward the end of the 1800s, though, papier mache went out of style, replaced by china and bisque dolls.

Porcelain Dolls

Bisque dolls with a glazed finish are called porcelain dolls. The average person doesn’t know the term “bisque,” but they do know “porcelain dolls” and, perhaps, “china dolls.” These terms can be used interchangeably. China dolls are known for their pale, untainted skin tones. Typically, heads of these types of dolls are made of bisque porcelain while the bodies are made from another material like fabric. Doll collectors are often looking for antique bisque dolls made in Germany or France in the 1800s.

Before plastic “took over,” for a brief time some dolls were made of celluloid, an early form of plastic that’s both fragile and flammable. Another form of doll material– composition– had its heyday in the 1920s, 30s and 40s– and they were marketed as “unbreakable dolls.”

Hard Plastic

During the 1940s and 50s, hard plastic took over for a bit, followed by the now ubiquitous vinyl plastic. Since the late 1950s and early 1960s, most famous dolls, like Barbie, have been made from vinyl plastic.

If you’re looking for a terrific selection of vintage, antique dolls, check out all that Gigi’s Dolls has to offer.

Does Barbie Have a Last Name?

Barbie FactsIf you say the name “Barbie” in everyday conversation, there’s a good chance everyone will know exactly who and what you’re referring to: the iconic doll!

There are certain icons in this world, both real and fictional, who only need one name and everyone in a room automatically knows who that is: Cher, Madonna, Beyonce, Snoopy, Barbie, etc.

What is Barbie’s Full Name?

However, does Barbie have a middle and last name? She does. Her full name is Barbara Millicent ‘Barbie’ Roberts. For those of you who had no idea– and that’s probably most of you– it turns out that Random House published a series of books about Barbie’s life back in the 1960s, and that was when her full name was first revealed. Not only did people learn that, but they also found out her parents were George and Margaret. He was an engineer and she was a housewife. They lived in the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin. Did you also know she had three siblings? Barbie’s sister was/is Skipper and then there were the twins, Tutti and Todd.

Okay, so now we know a little more about Barbie, but what about her boyfriend, Ken? His full name is Kenneth Carson. The pair reportedly met on the set of a TV commercial back in ‘61. Ken’s family consisted of his parents, Dr. Carl and Edna Carson, and a younger brother named Tommy.

The Barbie doll came into being back in 1959 thanks to businesswoman Ruth Handler. Inspired by a German doll known as Bild Lillias, Barbie has since sold more than a billion Barbie dolls worldwide. Mattel, the company responsible for selling Barbie to the world for many years now, has made a boatload of money thanks to their doll, her outfits, and, of course, her friends and accessories like the pink Corvette and Malibu dream house.

Barbie has become so well-known and loved that even real people want to look like her– oh, and Ken, too. Do a google search and you’re likely to see pictures of Rodrigo Alves, the “Human Ken Doll,” or Rachel Evans, Kerry Miles, or Valeria Lukyanova, who all had cosmetic surgery done in order to look like a real-life Barbie doll.

Want to see what Gigi’s Dolls has that’s Barbie-related? Use this link.

A Quick Look at Dolls and Feminism

Dolls and Feminism “Finally, a doll that looks more like me,” she said, as we strolled past the toy aisles in a giant store. “It’s about time!”

Indeed, doll makers are waking up to the reality that not every girl or woman is stick-thin with blonde hair, blue eyes, big boobs, long legs, and hardly any waist. In today’s world there’s such a thing as “empowerment feminism,” which is helping to transform the way people think about many things, including dolls.

For instance, just recently the makers of Barbie announced their plans to put out 17 new dolls honoring “historical and modern-day role models around the world.” These dolls include artist Frida Kahlo (the one with bushy eyebrows), pilot Amelia Earhart, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (think “Hidden Figures” the movie), as well as more modern strong women, like boxer Nicola Adams and Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim.

For a long, long time, diversity wasn’t a buzzword in the doll world. The Barbie look of the 1960s was the main look. Obviously, times have changed, especially since the rise of feminism in the 1970s all the way up to today.

In recent times, doll shapes and skin tones have become more diverse. 2015 saw flat feet instead of pointy feet (the kind meant for high heels). 2016 saw body shapes that weren’t just stick-thin. And 2017 saw the first hijab-wearing Barbie doll introduced.

The beauty standards of past generations are changing, thankfully. Dolls are evolving to better reflect the diversity around us.

If you need help selecting the right doll for your needs, contact Gigi’s Dolls today.

Tips for Cleaning Doll Clothing

Cleaning Vintage DollsOne of life’s great joys is finding and having a vintage doll for your home collection. Old dolls from another era somehow connect us to that time, and make us feel like we’re handling treasure that was cherished long ago, and still is, today. We want our dolls to look great, don’t we? But we know they’re delicate because they’re old. We don’t want to upset their beauty by messing them up in anyway, and that goes for cleaning them.

Obviously we can’t just put old doll clothes into a washing machine. We must inspect the clothing to see what has happened to it over the years, and then proceed with caution to essentially make it better.

Things That Dirty Doll Clothing

Some of the things that can damage doll clothing over the years include dust, oil, and exposure to sunlight. When kept in storage, doll clothing can also suffer from getting wet. Mold and mildew become chief concerns. Then there’s the issue of insects or rodents getting at the clothes. Now, in some cases, clothing might have brownish rust spots– and this, of all things, can be a good thing. It might actually enhance the doll’s value since it’s the one way the doll looks especially antique. Who knew: rust spots are a good thing with doll clothing?! Yep.

Vintage Doll Cleaning Tips

Now back to the subject at hand: we need to be gentle with vintage doll clothing. Remove any accessories if possible, including bows, ties and flowers. Brush off mildew. Lay the clothing outside in the fresh air to help get rid of odors and/or to dry it out. And then figure out which detergent will work best to truly clean the clothes.

For cotton clothing, use a soft cloth with Dreft’s Laundry Stain Remover on it. For stubborn stains, you might try OxiClean. You can soak the clothing in a bucket or jar with 1 tablespoon of gentle detergent/solution per gallon of cold water. Gently pat dry the clothing and then lay it flat on a towel to dry.

Should your doll clothing be made from silk or satin, try a light steaming or just gently dust it. It’s best to avoid using water on silk. And with satin, washing it tends to wrinkle it and makes it lose its shine. To gently clean silk with a detergent, use the kind used on baby clothes, like ECOS or Seventh Generation.

Wool clothing can be cleaned using Woolite and cold water.

Finally, to dust off the clothing, here’s a novel idea: use a can of computer air spray! Or you can wipe off dust with a soft toothbrush.

You might want to do some online research before attempting to clean your vintage doll clothing. Keep in mind, Gigi’s Doll’s offers doll restoration services that could help.

What Are Fashion Dolls?

Fashion Dolls Perhaps one of the reason people like dolls is because they can be aspirational, which means they help represent what young women want: social prestige and material success. Dolls often achieve this by the gorgeous clothes they wear. Did you know there are dolls and then there are “fashion dolls?”  With fashion dolls, it’s all about the way they’re dressed to reflect fashion trends. Some are modeled after teen girls or adult women, while others can be based on children, males or even non-humans. Of course, most fashion dolls look young, pretty, female, fashionable, and, of course, well-dressed.

The Start of Fashion Dolls

In the 1800s, fashion dolls got their modern era start in France in the form of “bisque dolls.” Made with bisque porcelain, these dolls were known for their realistic, skin-like matte finish. And, they were costumed in fashionable European clothing styles of the day. Gigi’s stocks quite a few bisque dolls currently for sale.

More recently, Barbie was (and remains) the intensely popular fashion doll of America. Created in 1959 by Mattel, an American toy company, Barbie has set the modern day standard for fashion dolls. Millions of little girls have asked their Moms for Barbie dolls for Christmas, complete with different outfits to dress them up in. Interestingly, the first American fashion doll was named Cissy and put out by Alexander Doll Company in 1955. While collectors might know of her, the average person does not– Barbie stole her thunder, for sure.

Girl Next Door Fashion Dolls

In the 1960s, Barbie inspired Tammy, which was a young “girl next door” fashion doll advertised as “the doll you love to dress.”

More recently, Bratz dolls came on the fashion doll scene around 2001, complete with large heads, skinny bodies, and lush lips. Bratz seemed to have a rebellious hip-hop feel to their outfits.

In 2010, Monster High fashion dolls, inspired by monster movies (sci-fi/horror/thriller films), became a hit with doll collectors and little girls. A little more ghoulish than Barbie– okay, a lot more ghoulish than Barbie– Monster High is just one of many mass market fashion doll lines that has made a name for itself in a competitive market. See Monster High dolls on Gigi’s site here.

Why We Love Teddy Bears

Teddy BearsIn real life, people are taught to steer clear of bears. If you go to Yellowstone National Park in  Wyoming, and you’re like most tourists, you’ll want to be on the lookout for bears roaming around– if you do see them, you’re advised to keep your distance and not egg them on. They sell a bear spray at shops around and outside the park that’s a kind of pepper spray people can use to deter aggressive bears. Obviously, if you buy it you’d prefer to not have to use it. Bears are big, bulky creatures that can be ferocious and scary, especially to little children… If humans provoke them, watch out! Otherwise, from a distance, people can feel somewhat safe and marvel at how amazing they are, as seen in real life.

Now how is it that real live bears can be so scary, yet stuffed teddy bears are not? Well, for one thing, stuffed bears are a lot smaller than real bears. For another thing, stuffed bears are designed to look cute and cuddly– the perfect gift for a toddler who wants something soft to cling to during the day or at night.

The Psychology of Teddy Bears

Teddy bears got their start thanks to President Teddy Roosevelt. He was on a hunting trip where he refused to shoot a bear. Some people made fun of him in the press. One man, Morris Michtom, did something else– he produced a cute, cuddly, little stuffed bear cub and called it “Teddy’s Bear.” It sold well… and still does, in many sizes, shapes, colors and forms!

Why do we love our bears? Well, they remind us of our childhood— the good parts. For many people, a teddy bear was one of their first friends in life. They could talk to the bear, hug the bear, and take it places. If they were having a bad day, they’d tell their problems to their bear.

Interestingly, a person’s first bear usually stays with them for life… they don’t just throw it away like they do with other toys or stuffed animals. Indeed, many college kids will readily admit they still have and love the bears their mom or dad got them when they were 3-years-old. Some businessmen bring their bears on trips and sleep with their arms around them! Of course, men being men don’t often like to admit they still have, love, and sleep with their bear, but it happens. Women are much more apt to publicly admit they do, and they’re not ashamed of that in the least.

Teddy bears are loved because they remind us of innocent, carefree times in our life. Their soft fur feels good to the touch. Petting the bear can be therapeutic. Hugging the bear helps make a person feel peaceful, comfy and less stressed. See Gigi’s teddy bears for sale here.

A Brief Look at the History of Barbie Dolls

Barbie Doll HistoryIf you were a little girl growing up in the 1970s chances are you or a girl you knew had a Malibu Barbie doll. “Sunset Malibu Barbie” pretty much defined Barbie throughout the 1970s. The beach blonde California girl with a twist ‘n turn waist came with an aqua blue nylon one-piece swimsuit, round lavender sunglasses and a yellow beach towel. With her aqua blue centered eyes, brown eyebrows, peach lips and a hint of blush, this pretty Barbie doll sold millions through 1977.

Barbie dolls actually got their start in 1959, as the first Barbie doll went on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Did you know that this eleven-inch-tall, blonde-haired Barbie doll was the first mass-produced toy doll with adult features in the United States?

Ruth Handler was a mom who saw her daughter tire of playing with “baby” dolls, instead opting for paper “adult” dolls made of paper. She thought to herself, “What if girls had “adult” dolls to help them imagine their futures?” Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc., made her idea a reality, naming the new doll after her own daughter, Barbara.

Mattel utilized TV to promote Barbie. Commercials for her helped sell a whole lot of dolls to a whole lot of young girls in the 1960s. In 1961, Mattel gave Barbie a boyfriend, the infamous “Ken” doll– named after Handler’s son. Later on, Midge the best friend was introduced followed by Skipper, the little sister.

During the 1960s, 70s, 80s, etc., the Barbie universe has expanded to include cars, “dream houses,” other characters, and, of course, plenty of “job outfits,” from astronaut to doctor and then some. More than 800 million Barbie dolls exist nowadays, and Barbie has become a global icon, like Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, or Ronald McDonald.

Gigi’s Dolls has Barbie clothing for sale as well as a handy guide book covering vintage Barbie dolls. Check here for actual vintage Barbie dolls.

As one of the most popular and beloved dolls of all time, it’s no surprise that Gigi’s Dolls has Barbie represented in its for sale offerings.

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Tips for Keeping Your Dolls in Good Condition

Cleaning Dolls Dolls are special to people. They want to preserve them as best they can, so they look as good as new as long as possible. What are some tips for keeping dolls in good shape over the years?

How to Keep Your Dolls in Tiptop Shape

For starters, it’s a good idea to dust dolls rather than “clean” them. A light dusting works well to keep dolls in good shape, but once you involve water, chemicals or commercial cleaning products you can do real damage. For instance, if the doll has a crack somewhere, and you’re using water to “clean” it, that water can seep into the crack and make the doll worse than if you hadn’t tried to “clean” it. Furthermore, if you want to do a “touch-up” job on your doll, with, say, a marker, keep in mind that your touch-up job might make the doll’s overall value go down.

Should you see that there’s a stain on a wooden or ceramic piece of your doll, you can try using an ordinary gum eraser to remove it. Be gentle, though, and avoid using an eraser on any part that has flaking paint or cracks.

Have you ever known a kid to give their doll a bath in the bathtub? This is often a disaster! Even dolls totally made of fabric shouldn’t be given a bath. It’s better to utilize the soft attachment of a vacuum cleaner on a doll than to give it a bath in soap and water.

Where and how you store a doll matters. You should keep them out of direct sunlight– otherwise their dyes and fabrics deteriorate. If you can, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper and store them in acid-free cardboard or plastic boxes. Keep in mind that it’s best to give them some air, so don’t tightly seal their boxes. Fabrics need to breathe. If you don’t want to store your dolls away in boxes, consider putting them on display for people to enjoy in a glass-fronted cabinet. This cabinet, if wooden, should be sealed with polyurethane varnish and lined with acid-free paper. Did you know wood emits acidic fumes over time? Therefore, it’s best to keep wooden items away from textiles/fabrics.

Gigi’s Dolls has a “doll hospital” with services to repair, restring and/or restyle dolls. For more information, contact us today.


The Interesting History of Teddy Bears

Teddy BearsOne of the few items an adult may keep from his or her childhood is… their teddy bear. For many people, their teddy bear is one of their first inanimate-but-important friends. Sure, they’re stuffed, don’t speak, and don’t move, but they’re also–generally–cute and cuddly. How many of you have ever hugged a teddy bear? They’re hard to resist! Kids typically bring their teddy bears with them wherever they go, talking to them, hugging them, and showing care and concern, like a parent would a child.

Even though teddy bears seem so normal and ubiquitous nowadays, they’re a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of the world. You can credit former U.S. President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Picture it: 1902. Mississippi. Roosevelt went bear hunting at the invitation of then Mississippi Governor Andrew Longino. Unfortunately, while other hunters had luck, Roosevelt did not. His assistants cornered a black bear and tied the animal to a tree! They asked Roosevelt to shoot it but the President, a noted big game hunter, refused. That wasn’t the proper way to hunt a bear. Of course this story spread like wildfire, making the newspapers all over the country.

Just like today, politicians were ripe for lampooning, and a cartoonist did just that. Clifford Berryman drew a cartoon about the incident and it ended up in the Washington Post dated November 16, 1902. You can imagine a lot of people saw that cartoon. One man, Morris Michtom, lived in Brooklyn where he owned and ran a candy shop. On the side, he and his wife Rose made stuffed animals. When Michtom saw the cartoon about the President who wouldn’t shoot a bear, he then decided to create a stuffed bear and dedicate it to Roosevelt. It was called “Teddy’s bear.”

Doing things properly, Michtom secured permission to use Roosevelt’s name for his creation. Well, people went nuts for these stuffed bears, much like they would in the 1980s for Cabbage Patch Kids and Pound Puppies. So many were sold that the Ideal Toy Company formed because Michtom had such great success.

Teddy bears are still a vital stuffed animal even in 2017. Most kids have or want them. Plenty of older folks collect them. Indeed, Gigi’s Dolls has a whole section of various stuffed bears for sale here: People love teddy bears.