Sunday, November 11, 2012

Proletarian Princesses

In January 2000, Andy Mooney, an executive with Disney’s consumer products division noticed young fans dressed in home grown princess costumes at a Disney on Ice show and recognized the potential in princess products.

He and his team grouped nine heroines from Disney's animated films together in a princess court.

In 2006, licensed Disney princess products generated $300 million in sales.

That year feminist critic, Peggy Orenstein asked “What’s Wrong with Cinderella?” in a New York Times article that sparked hundreds of reader responses.  

    Orenstein was concerned that princess mania might send retrograde messages about women’s roles in society to vulnerable young girls, but American consumers avidly embraced the idea that “all girls are princesses.”

Some feminists even argued that princesses could be role models of empowered women.

Disney-Pixar’s most recent princess release, “Brave” certainly lives up to that ideal with a heroine who defeats all her suitors in an archery contest to prove the point that she has the right to decide for herself when and whom she will marry.  Yet, in an era that economists are beginning to call the Great Divergence because of the gaping inequality between the incomes of the upper 1% of American households and the rest of the nation, princess mania may also provide an aspirational fantasy that normalizes the privilege of this new aristocracy.

    This Christmas season, you can fulfill that aspirational fantasy for $100 with a collection of ten 12” Princess dolls from the Disney Store.  Target’s online division offers a collection of seven Disney Princess dolls (made by Mattel) for $54.99, but this item is so popular it is currently unavailable online.  The in store price is $10 higher.  With the 2011 median household income reported at $50,054, by the time parents pay for food, housing, transportation, and health care, Santa might be hard pressed to deliver a full court of branded princesses to every little princess.  Fortunately, Walmart is selling two different 6 packs of princess clones for $20 each.  One pack has all white princesses in more traditional costumes while the other has two white princesses, two black princesses, and two caramel colored princesses who could be black or Hispanic.

Their costumes are less iconic than the ones in the “Snow White” set but there is a green gown that evokes a Princess Tiana motif.

    The gowns are fairly well-made and the fabrics are soft to the touch.

Yet the designs are not very exciting.  Notice that the skirts are narrower to save fabric.

    While these princess packs are sold under Walmart’s Kid Connection brand, I recognized their faces as Chic Boutique molds.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Chic Boutique ladies didn’t get enough to eat during the recession years.  They are now much slimmer than pre-recession dolls, thereby saving the company money on plastic and on fabric for their clothes.

Last week I splurged on a Chic Boutique fashion pack because I thought the pleats in this gown were an interesting detail.

Unfortunately it only shows to advantage on the new, emaciated Chic Boutique bodies.

    Indeed, pre-recession Chic Boutique dolls had fully articulated shoulders, a twist and turn waist, and shapely vinyl legs with click knees.

The Chic Boutique princesses in this 6 pack have hollow plastic bodies that now feature “articulated” knee joints.

 They can’t match the old vinyl legs with the click knees for sitting with ladylike decorum, however.

 Still, with clones adding rudimentary articulation, Mattel is going to have to make articulated joints a more standard feature of their playline dolls.

I wanted my new princesses to look more well fed so I matched them with upgrade bodies.  Chic Boutique dolls used to have a neck prong that gave the neck joint full mobility and expressiveness.  This current crop of princesses has a neck knob:

Fortunately it is not overly wide so the head fit snugly on a Liv body:

 As I learned while preparing my new ladies to wear wigs, the hair on these princesses is thick and tightly rooted even though the fiber is not as silky it was on pre-recession Chic Boutique dolls.  Juanita opted for basic braids.  She is coming off the night shift on her job as a nursing home attendant and is looking forward to a bowl of cereal before she goes to bed.

Her sister, Niama chose a short and sassy do.  She has just enough time to grab a cup of coffee before she goes to her new assignment as an office temp.

Juanita's outfit came from two different Dollar Tree fashion packs:

Niama's dress came with a glass-eyed Dream Girl from Family Dollar:

The sisters know that nobility of character rather than wealth or privilege is the true mark of a princess.

So they both intend to live happily ever after, with or without the prince.

À Bientôt


  1. Every girl/woman indeed can be a princess and should be treated like one regardless of her economic status. I concur with the sisters "that nobility of character rather than wealth or privilege is the true mark of a princess."

    I like Wal-Mart's Kid Connection pack of 6 diverse princesses -- affordable and inclusive.

    I love the LIV body upgrade!


  2. Niama is pretty. I have never seen this face mold before...or maybe it's the hair. I really enjoyed this story. Love your castle.

  3. Hi Debbie and Georgia Girl,

    Thanks for your comments. I think that Niama's face mold is new but I am enchanted with it. I got the castle on eBay about 7 years ago. Glad to finally have a chance to use it.

  4. Great post! I love princess stories and your pictures are lovely. I particularly love the 5th picture. All of your ladies are beautiful before and after their upgrades.

  5. Hello from Spain: congratulations for this work as real. I really like the summary of the story. I also love all your furniture and your castle. The photo of the chair is very artistic. You are doing a great job!. We keep in touch.

  6. This is such a great post. Love this quote: "The sisters know that nobility of character rather than wealth or privilege is the true mark of a princess."

  7. Wowwwwwwww so many lovely pics together,my daughter and I had a gala time reading your lovely post and looking at the beautiful pics!!!

    I still believe in fairy tales and happy endings no matter how complicated life actually is in reality!! :) Your dolls are gorgeous in the entire post whether as princess or as today's gals!! WELL DONE,btw I love your sense of humour,your posts never fail to bring a smile on my lips!!!:D :D :D

  8. Hi Vanessa, Marta, RoxanneRoxanne, and Pam,

    I had a great time shooting all these princesses. Only a fraction of the photos made it into this post so I guess I will have to write a story around the others. Thanks for your compliments!

  9. I love all the princess. You have the most unique doll collection I have ever seen in the fashion doll sizes. I truly believe all women are princess and should be celebrated as such.

  10. Hi Brini,

    Thanks for your comments. I think Walmart's "proletarian princesses" were a really good deal.

  11. Thanks for showing the pre-recession Chic Boutique fashion doll - I have that one, and she does have a nice weight and solid build. Now I want to take her out of the box and redress her ;-)

    Thanks for the body-comparison, too - good to see the difference in the bodies. Although the new dolls have greater poseability, the others have fuller figures.

  12. Who needs a prince? Indipendence!