I admit it: I fell into the American Girl obsession/love fest/cult when I was nine years old. Times have changed since 1993. The brand has exploded from a few stories and dolls to an empire of stores, teashops and even hotel packages. American Girl will even make its Hollywood debut this summer with the company’s first, full-length feature film. The brand would appear to be unstoppable, leaving one to wonder what they could possibly do next.
Last week, when a friend of mine (who happens to have Molly and Samantha dolls from her childhood) was booking her trip to visit New York from California next month, she came across a number of American Girl hotel deals. While it is increasingly tricky to find an affordable hotel room for just a human in Manhattan, not so for the American Girl doll. For instance, at the New York Marriott Marquis in Midtown, American Girl hotel packages come with a number of “surprises” for child and doll, as well as a travel bed to take home after the trip. Rates start at $314 per night, but your American Girl doll will sleep and be well rested for her day at the salon and tearoom.
Originally, there were only four girls; now there are nine main characters along with four supporting roles you can also squander your child’s college fund on (not counting American Girl’s expansion to baby dolls and stuffed puppies and kittens). Although the brand has expanded into the live-action realm with made-for-TV movies for Felicity, Samantha, the Victorian girl with women’s suffrage ideals, and Molly, a girl living on the home front during World War II, American Girl will be hitting the big screens nationwide on July 2 with the release of Kit Kittredge, An American Girl, based on one of the more recently released dolls. Kit’s story is of a young girl who aspires to be a journalist and is set during the Great Depression.
My personal favorite was Felicity, the spunky Colonial girl from Williamsburg, Virginia. Behind the book collections, the American Girl doll collection has always had a plethora of (expensive) accessories to tag along with the dolls. Back then, as much as I wanted the $100 wooden 18th-century English-style wardrobe meant for Felicity’s vast amounts of attire (albeit I only had two outfits for her), the biggest accessory I could receive from my parents was a faux-Colonial American embroidery set. (I can still barely sew a button.)
Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea behind the American Girl collection (promoting strong female characters from an early age) and I love teaching young girls about history through vibrant and motivating stories. But I think some things have gotten out of hand, as do most brands aimed towards children in America. For those of you who grew up fixated with the American Girl collection, had a sister who did, or if you have a little girl now, you’re probably familiar with the American Girl store. With locations in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, you can find yourself in a sea of little girls screaming with delight, whining for more toys or begging their overwhelmed parents for one of the très chère amenities available for dolls. For those interested in taking their toys to the salon, prices go up to as high as $25 to pamper your doll’s hair to the fullest, while I spent $35 on my last haircut at the Aveda salon on 114th and Broadway. It’s your call.