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Friday, January 31, 2014

Carpatina Ana Ming review

WARNING:  this doll does not have a developed figure, but she is partially unclothed in some of the pictures.  If you don't like that, don't read.  

I don't know if any of my readers are Chinese (I'm definitely not), but today is the Chinese New Year so I'm going to have a bit of fun.  It's the year of the metal horse, not my symbol or my element (I'm a rabbit, and my element is fire).  But given the fact that this is Ana Ming's review, and the fact that her name suggests Chinese blood, I'm willing to pretend that the horse is her symbol and metal is her element.
Neigh!  Or is it a "yay" moment?

The Carpatina company is based out of Nashua, New Hampshire.  The company creates dolls (seven girls and two boys) and two lines of clothing, one line for their own dolls, and another line for American Girls called the Girlfriends Collection (Carpatina dolls are slimmer than the highly-popular American Girl dolls, hence the need for two sets of clothing).  Both lines have contemporary, historical, international, and fantasy-themed clothing, plus sleepwear, shoes, small pieces of jewelry, and other accessories.  One important accessory is this necklace:
My doll came with a catalog, and in order to get the full story surrounding this moonstone, you have to read both it and the website very closely.  The moonstone is obtained, through a process told on the website, by a woman named Cordelia.  When Cordelia obtains the stone she receives a vision of three young girls, each wearing a piece of the stone around their neck.  The magazine then reveals who these young girls are.  In time Cordelia becomes a great-aunt, and the three faces she saw are those of her great nieces.  The nieces are none other than Ana Ming, Kohanna, a Japanese schoolgirl, and Julia, whose nationality is neither specified nor implied.  Confused yet?  It gets worse.  Flaxen-haired Adam, one of the boys, is Ana Ming's brother.  The other boy, Carter, is Adam's best friend.  The moonstones that Aunt Cordelia bestowed upon the girls enables the whole crowd to go on fantastic, impossible adventures; Kohanna's catalog bio explains that with the stone, all you have to do is wish yourself there.  Apparently the same could be done by people of the past; Medieval princess Veronika is referred to as "a visitor of the past through the gift of a magical moonstone."  Even modern-day fashionistas Zoe and Erin get in on the action, travelling to the past to get ideas for new fashions in today's world.  Celtic princess Rowena is the only one left out so far; nothing in her descriptions mention a moonstone.

Okay, that's quite enough of a tangent!  I learned about the Carpatina company from an advertisement in an old issue of Doll Reader.  The issue is at least a decade old so I thought "okay, it'll be another one of those websites that I missed out on because I had my head up my butt."  Not so!  Not only was the website active, but it had plenty of items to choose from.  After much deliberation I chose Ana Ming and some extra outfits.  Here's what Ana Ming looks like up close.
She's made out of vinyl like all the other eighteen-inch dolls that I own, but she feels different.  Her plastic is smoother and heavier.  Her paint is much nicer too; the cheek blush is subtle, and she has a cupid's bow mouth in an red-orange shade.  I'm not in love with that lip color, but it photographs well.  Unfortunately I noticed a problem right off the bat.  Ana Ming's left cheek already had a couple of scuffs!
Dang it!

I'm pretty sure these occurred during my struggle to get her out of the box; she was tied in, I couldn't get enough leverage to pull her out, and the whole shebang, box, doll, and all, went flying off the couch.  I try to be careful with my dolls, so I'm ticked about that.  Based on this misadventure and the fact that I'd owned the doll all of five minutes, I concluded that these dolls are NOT for young children unless they're extremely careful with their things.  The website says "ages eight and up," and I'd definitely concur.

I was irked with myself over this mishap and I'm still not thrilled over it, but I can live with it because Ana Ming has a beautiful face.  According to the story her mother is Oriental, so she would have to be at least half that.  Her features concur with that part of the story; her eyes are brown and slightly oblong.
She has a natural-looking nose and a short jawline.
Miss Emily points out that Carpatina dolls have more realistic profiles than a lot of other eighteen-inch dolls, and once again I concur with her opinion.  Notice how squat Denise's nose is when compared to Ana Ming's.
I'm not a tremendous fan of how either of them look in profile, by the way.  Both dolls look like they've got the mumps, and Ana Ming looks like she's about to lean in and kiss Denise.  I probably won't photograph them like this much from now on.

Regarding hair, Carpatina dolls are wigged.  Ana Ming's wig is straight, black, and fairly long.
I've already fooled around with the hair somewhat so it's got some strands that won't lie flat.  The hair is kanekolan like my old American Girls, so I'll have to be careful with it.  It's definitely better than the nylon hair of my Bratz and Bratzillaz, though.  And it's also superior to Madame Alexander My Life hair.
Carpatina (left) and My Life

My future brother-in-law and I both tinker around with steampunk subculture, so I redressed Ana Ming as soon as I got her out of the box so he could see what the outfit looked like (he liked it).  When Ana Ming is fresh out of the box she is wearing an outfit common to Chinese women called a qipao, or cheongsam (either term is correct).
Beanbunny.com points out that these are should be made out of brocade, should always have a slit, should possess a mandarin collar, and should never have piping on the edge.  Based on these criteria, I think the folks at beanbunny.com would be pleased.  Brocade?  Check.
Qipaos are often portrayed as being red, especially in the doll world.  While red is not inaccurate, it's also not the only color that a qipao can come in.  Ana Ming's is buttercup yellow brocade with purple, pink, yellow, blue, and green flowers.  It looks and feels great, but I'm not in love with the way it handles.  When I took Ana Ming out of the box her dress wanted to snag on my unkempt fingernails.  I was able to prevent any catastrophes, but if you like growing out your fingernails keep in mind that they may catch on fabric like this.  It's also hard to put on and take off of the doll for reasons that I'll soon elaborate on.

Okay, next criteria.  Slit present?  Check.  Notice that the dress is lined.
No piping?  Check.  The hems and edges have a lovely floral border.  Mandarin collar?  Check.
The dress closes left over right, which is authentic, and it has little frogs holding it shut.  There are two at the collar and four at the sides.
These are real frogs, by the way.  They hold the dress closed, and they do their job very well.  I had a moderately difficult time getting them undone, in fact.  They're all knotted up as good frogs should be, and I was terrified that I'd pull one of the knots undone (the nail clippers came out at this point).  As it turned out I needn't have worried, but the next time I have to do up those frogs I'll make sure my nails are cut beforehand!  Dressing and undressing Ana Ming is a bit of a chore, by the way, due to her stiff arms and my unwillingness to damage the outfit.

The shoes are basic slip-on flats and are made of the same material as the dress.  The soles are white foam, and I'm not sure what the insides are made of, but they're stiff.
Doll shoes that go with outfits like this are often rendered in boring black, and while this IS sometimes done in real life, I'm glad Carpatina didn't take that little shortcut.  These shoes are put together well, by the way.  I've had them on and off Ana Ming's feet several times already and they are very resilient little shoes.  No bending or warping or peeling back of the seams.  Nothing of that sort.  Yes, they'll snag if treated roughly, but I don't plan on doing that.  I just wish they came in my size!

Underneath the qipao Ana Ming wears a simple little pair of white panties with picoted edges.  The waistband is tight, so I haven't tried to take these off.  Underneath these her body is completely vinyl.  Ana Ming's body is strung, jointed at the hips, shoulders, and neck.  Her arms don't have much mobility, though.  She can hold them up:
And out to the sides a little.
Her hands are dainty and have a few molded details (nails, palm lines, and creases on the knuckles).
Ana Ming's arms don't move inwards much, which added to the difficulties that I have when dressing her.  The legs aren't all that mobile either in spite of a ball joint, though in Ana Ming's defense NONE of my eighteen-inch dolls have much mobility in this joint.  Ana Ming can sit:
She can do a split too, but I won't be posing her like this much.
Her feet are nicer than American Girl feet.  They have a molded arch instead of the flat sole and instep that my other dolls have.
The downside is that she cannot stand without shoes.

I love the neck joint.  It can pivot and tilt, something that not a lot of similar-sized dolls can do.
If you tip the head back far enough Ana Ming's eyes close partially, giving her a dreamy look.  I love this effect.  Unfortunately, the lower part of the neck joint sticks out and looks unnatural if I tip her head back too far.  I don't love that.

Carpatina dolls are in the "slim-body" category.  They are thus skinnier than American Girl dolls and Our Generation dolls.
American Girl, Carpatina and Our Generation

American Girl Denise and Our Generation Sadie are both chunkier than Ana Ming is.  They are both thick enough that they'd NEVER be able to squeeze into her clothes.  Furthermore, this means that the clothes that I highlighted in my past posts about American Girl clothing (part 1, part 2, and part 3) will be too big for Ana Ming to wear.  Sadie's dress looks adorable, but it's big at the waist.  Her shoes are also too big, which is a shame because Ana Ming can stand in them quite nicely.
Oh yeah, I could probably force Denise's plaid dress to fit Ana Ming by pulling the sash tighter, but I won't try this because the black bodice stained Denise's arms.  With those options out, that leaves Madame Alexander.  Madame Alexander dolls are slimmer than AG dolls, but still chunkier than Carpatina dolls.
MA My Life and Carpatina

As predicted, Madame Alexander clothing hangs on Ana Ming's small body.  If you look closely you can see the elasticized skirt starting to fall down.
However, those cute little animal hats that I bought a few months back fit nicely.
The infamous B.F.C. Ink outfit doesn't come close to fitting, except for the shoes.  They were just a teensy bit small, but they will fit Carpatina feet.  The rest of the outfit, though?  Pfffft, no way!
Amid all this furor with modern-day eighteen-inch dolls, I forgot that one of my vintage dolls fits into that category as well.  Enter Crissy.
I can't believe it!  One of my dolls is actually slimmer than Ana Ming is!  There's definitely no way that Ana Ming will be able to squeeze her arms into Crissy's tight-sleeved dress, but some of the dresses I've made for Crissy will work.  This red dress fits Ana Ming like it was made for her.
The green A-line drowns her a bit, but not as much as it drowns Crissy!
I also have a pajama set, but it barely fits Crissy so I'm not going to put it on Ana Ming.  The qipao is a smidge loose on Crissy, but as you can see, it looks quite good.  All of the shoes are too big.
Alrighty, so Madame Alexander clothes, American Girl clothes, Our Generation clothes, B.F.C. Ink clothes, and vintage Ideal Crissy clothes are all out.  Handmade items for Crissy may or may not fit, depending on the skill (or lack thereof) of the knitter.  This leaves me with very few sharing options for Ana Ming at the moment, but clothes from the defunct Magic Attic and EuroGirl lines can and do fit.  I can't test this myself because I don't have any outfits from either line, but Miss Emily HAS tried it and it works perfectly.  Just be mindful of clothing that stains; Miss Emily's EuroGirl had a red-striped top and matching socks, and they left some nasty stains on the EuroGirl's body.  The stains were easily covered, but be wary just the same.

Also (prepare for a tangent), there is a possibility that clothing for Sasha dolls will fit; one of Julisdolls' posts shows a Sasha dressed in a Magic Attic dress, and it appears to fit Sasha nicely.  Based on that, I'm willing to bet that whatever Sasha can wear, Ana Ming can wear.  I know for a fact that Sasha can wear Carpatina outfits; another of Julisdolls' posts shows Sasha wearing the qipao that Ana Ming comes in, shoes and all.  This is good information to know, because it means that Sasha and my Ana Ming could potentially share clothes.   But it's also problematic because Sasha dolls have been a defunct line for some time.  There have been three lines of Sasha dolls, the most recent one ending in 2001.  Jeez, that seems like it was just yesterday!  But I'm getting WAY off the subject!  I was aware that very little in my dolly wardrobe would fit Ana Ming, so I thought ahead.  Carpatina offers a great selection of international outfits for both their own dolls and American Girl-sized dolls, so I bought two other dresses, both of which have an Asian flair about them.  I bought the cherry blossom dress and a cute pair of sandals:
And the Yuan dynasty outfit.
This is a crummy picture, but you get the drift (it looks really great on Ana Ming, as you will soon see).  The Yuan dynasty dress is a perfect example of both a historical Carpatina outfit AND a foreign outfit.  It's a Chinese outfit, and it represents a dynasty that rose in 1271 and fell in 1368.  This is the dynasty that saw the rise of Kublai Khan, by the way.

Okay, history lesson over.  Since money is often a concern for people, I'm going to point out that not all of Carpatina's outfits are created equal.  Some outfits come with shoes and accessories, and some don't.  The website is very keen to point this out, providing a list of items that come with each outfit.  Because of this, not all outfits have the same price.  It all depends on whether accessories are included, the simplicity of the design, and the number of pieces that go into an outfit.  The cherry blossom dress, which is fairly simple in design and comes with nothing, cost twenty-six dollars.  The Yuan Dynasty outfit has two outfit pieces, a pair of shoes and a comb, and it cost me forty dollars.  The steampunk outfits are currently the most expensive; they come with three or four pieces of clothing, plus a pair of shoes (I bought the rest of the accessories separately).  If you are on a budget, keep this in mind.

Since it's Chinese New Year, I'm going to save the cherry blossom dress for spring and put Ana Ming in the Yuan Dynasy outfit.  Here's what she looks like in it (my original intent was to take her outside and photograph her in front of the bird bushes, but it's RAINING!!!)
Each of these outfits has a little story of it's own on the website, and this one concerns Ana Ming directly.  If you want to read it, here's the link.  Regarding the outfit itself, it's brocade like Ana Ming's qipao.  The fabric has no stretch to it and will need to be handled with care, but it makes up for that by fitting more loosely; of the three outfits that Ana Ming has worn, this one was the easiest to put on.  Check out the details!
The shoes are awesome too.  The soles on these are vinyl and are stiffer than the soles on Ana Ming's meet shoes.  They were also harder to get on her feet.  A doll-sized shoe horn would have helped here.
The comb is pretty, but when I saw that it was a plastic comb, I braced myself for another struggle.  Sure enough, I couldn't get Ana Ming's hair styled the way it is on the website.  So I pushed the comb into the crown of her hair and called it a night.
I really wish that these hair decorations clipped or tied onto the hair instead of using lousy little plastic combs.  Oh well, can't have everything, I guess!  It looks good once it's in, so I'm not going to complain.  All of these outfits are exquisitely made, by the way.  Carpatina could've taken the easy way out and used Velcro on everything, but they didn't; the steampunk boots zip, the silver sandals have small buckles, and everything else snaps together.  The hems and seams are exquisitely done, and the fabrics are nice.  The plastic combs are the only things that I hate.  Oh, that and the snaps.  The snaps are tight and difficult to undo, making me wish I hadn't cut my nails.  They don't pop open at the drop of a hat like some snaps do, but they're hard to open and close.  Which leads me to my usual complaint department, the good stuff/bad stuff list.

*The plastic will scuff if treated roughly.  I've dropped or knocked over all of the dolls pictured in this review at least once, and Ana Ming is the only one showing any wear.  Keep this in mind if you or your child happens to be a klutz.
*The lip color isn't great.  It photographs well, but I'm not in love with the orange shade.
*Mobility isn't the best.  I can't get Ana Ming's arms to come together, and that makes dressing a chore.
*Dressing is a chore even without the stiff arms.  The fabrics are the type that can snag easily, and the snaps are very tight.
*The hair will require some special care in order to stay nice.
*PLASTIC HAIR COMBS!!!!  I hate those danged things!
*Can't share clothes with American Girls.
*Can't stand without shoes.
*Expensive!  The dolls themselves are not as expensive as American Girl dolls, but the clothing can get pricey depending on the elaborateness of the design.  My cherry blossom dress cost twenty-six dollars, while the other two cost over forty apiece.  If you get one of these dolls, be prepared to pay some cash for some of the outfits.

*The plastic is very smooth and pleasant to the touch, much more so than my other girls.
*Cheeks are pretty.  I don't love the lip color on this particular doll, but I do love her blush.
*The hair is better quality than a lot of dolls this size.  It's not cheap saran, and thank God that it's not nylon.
*Clothes are great quality with beautiful fabrics.  Historical clothing is accurate (as far as I know), as are the foreign outfits.  Some of the outfits are pricey as I mentioned above, but you get what you pay for.  I can't comment on the similarly-priced Girlfriends Collection yet, but I do plan on getting a couple of dresses for Denise.  Stay tuned!
*Shoes fit well and aren't constantly falling off.  At the same time they're not too tight.
*Detailed arms, legs, hands, and feet.
*Properly dressed underneath.  Not all dolls come with underwear, so when I find one that does it's always a plus.
*Versatile.  I can see a lot of potential for games of make-believe with this doll, especially with time-travel incorporated into her backstory.

In short, Ana Ming was worth the wait.  I love her face, her hair, and her clothes.  I love how she can be distinguished from American Girl dolls, but is still similar enough that the two can be dolly friends.  The bad list looks long, but it's largely little things that can be overlooked by a collector or a parent.  Nevertheless, the box and the website both state that these dolls are for children eight and up, and I definitely agree.  I've mentioned time and time again that children can be very hard on their dolls, and Carpatina dolls simply are not cut out for a lot of abuse.  Their hair needs special care, the surface of the plastic shows any marks that may occur during play, and some of the clothes are elaborate and may snag or tear.  This may sound a bit strange of me to say, but if your child wants a doll this size, I'd go with an American Girl first.  If your child treats her with care, then she's probably responsible enough for a Carpatina doll.  Just use your common sense.

As for me myself, I'm very pleased with this company.  I'm pleased enough that I'll do business with them again.  The Girlfriends' Collection has a cherry blossom dress and a Yuan dynasty dress that American Girls can wear, so that may be what I buy next.  Denise and Ana Ming have proven to be fast friends in spite of Ana Ming giving Denise the kissy face, and they'd no doubt look cute in matching outfits!

Three cheers for the Year of the Metal Horse!  May your year be prosperous!
Ana Ming WOULD say goodbye, but she's still pining to go outside.  I need to tell her that this is a heck of a lot better than the snow we had back around Christmas!

Happy Chinese New Year,

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