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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Mattel Starr

It's time for a Throwback Thursday review again!  Today we look at Starr, who is considered by some to be a Barbie clone.  I received one Starr in that bag of dolls that I talked about three years back (the same one that Maxie came in), and I bought the others from a Facebook friend.  Here's my first Starr...before I took care of that messy hair.
Starr is a Mattel doll like Barbie, and originally I thought she was created to compete with my childhood friend Maxie instead of rival Barbie.  However, Starr is quite a bit older than Maxie is, being available in 1979.  Sindy was available stateside around this time, and Starr's high number of joints make me wonder if she wasn't supposed to compete with Sindy!  I have no proof of this, but the timing does make me wonder.  But first, a backstory.  What else?  Starr's backstory is simple and not very original:  she's your stereotypical attractive high-schooler with a nerdy friend, a goofy-looking "zany" friend, and a boyfriend.  Hmmm...the beauty and the nerd, friends???  That's not the way I remember high school!  But anyway, that's pretty much it.  It was a simple storyline that allowed for kids to get free with their imaginations.  So let's take a look at these!  I've got four of Starr herself and one of nerdy friend Kelley, whom my mother adores.
My friend also included this doll in the mix.
I have a couple of ideas about this doll's identity, but since she's made out of hollow plastic I jokingly call her Polythene Pam.  I may review Pam in the future but now let's focus on Starr again.  Despite her backstory, Starr doesn't look like the stereotypical mean pretty teenager.  She actually looks pretty sweet!  She's got blue eyes that have a slightly anime-ish flavor, heavy sky-blue eyeshadow, and pink lips, but she's not gone overboard with her makeup like some teenagers did (me).
With slight variations, all my Starr dolls are like this.  Some of them have faded a little, but for the most part they all look the same.  Kelley, being a different character, has a slightly different face.
She looks friendly and approachable, just like Starr.  Her hair is dark red, her eyes are teal, her eyeshadow is pale lavender, and the rest of her makeup is subtle.  In fact, her makeup is so subtle that the lower lip is almost completely unpainted.  Believe it or not, I actually like that paint; it looks like Kelley is chewing on her lower lip in a bashful sort of way.  Very cute.  I love Kelley's eyes too.  I don't own too many dolls with teal eyes.  Both dolls have eyebrows that are a shade darker than their actual hair, which is a good thing.

Now, hair.  Starr's hair is light blonde, very thick, and styled in tight curls like so.
Kelley's hair is worn in the same style.
This hair is difficult to style and impossible to brush, and if not cared for properly it'll turn into a giant mass of irreparably tangled fluff.  My first doll's hair was so matted that I ended up having to cut it and tie it up.
Her hair actually looks halfway decent when tied up, believe it or not.  This is a style that I wore quite often myself when I had long hair (I recently got the crap cut), so it's reasonable to assume that a teenager like Starr would too.  But the point is that these dolls have hair that's very difficult to control.  The hair fibers themselves are very fine and the curls are very thick, so usually once they go out of control it's hard to tame that mane again without doing something drastic.  I do have one exception, however.  This one has hair in smooth ringlets.
All of my dolls have hair that's a little on the thin side in terms of rooting; it's possible to see this Starr's scalp shining through in the picture above.  Usually the styles make the roots next to invisible, so no biggie if the rooting is a smidge thin.  Unfortunately, the smooth curls on this doll make her scalp a little more visible.

Starr and Kelley are slim, tall dolls, more so than Barbie was at the time.  Here's how Starr compares visually to Farrah, a Malibu Barbie from the same part of the decade. 
When I first saw Starr's body and its similarities to that of Beauty Secrets Barbie, I thought she might be a doll from the same line.  They're not from the same line of course, but look how alike their shoulders are!
Starr is slimmer than Sindy and of similar size to P. Bo.
Even though I know now that Maxie and Starr are two decades apart, I still love to pose the two together.
Though they are both supposed to be high school-aged girls, Starr and Maxie are quite different, just like real teenagers are.  Starr is tall and slim, while Maxie is shorter and thicker all over.
Maxie's paws dwarf Starr's dainty little hands...
...but strangely, the two dolls have similarly sized feet. 
Maxie feels like a higher quality doll overall.  She feels sturdier and her hair is easy to play with.  Starr can pose rings around Maxie, though.

Starr and Sindy have different measurements, but their jointing is highly similar.  Starr doesn't have Sindy's jointed ankles, but otherwise the two dolls jointed in the same manner.  They don't hold poses in the same way, though.  Starr can bend her elbow to a sharper angle.
Both dolls can do a bridge, but Starr's loose shoulders won't hold her in the pose.
Lastly, Sindy can achieve a full side split.  Starr cannot.
In addition to loose shoulders some of Starr's other joints are fragile.  Some of my dolls have chipped or cracked wrists.
These cracks and chips don't affect the mobility, but I'm extra careful with these wrists just the same.  Also an issue are some of the waists.  All of my dolls have varying degrees of looseness at the waist joint, with Kelley and Ringlet Starr being the worst.
Ringlet Starr can stand up straight with some effort, but Kelley can't stand up straight at all.  She always looks a little like she belongs on the street with P. Bo, leaning against a mailbox and looking tough.  These loose waists are fixable, but they're still a mega pain in the butt.

In addition to the dolls I was sent several outfits, plus most of Kelley's stock outfit.  Here's what they look like.
Wait a minute...is one of those getups a poodle skirt set???  Yep!  I tried it on Ami, in fact.  Why on Earth would Starr be wearing a getup like this in 1979???  It sure is cute, though.  These are all cute outfits, and with the exception of the poodle skirt they're timeless.  There are a lot of mix and match options, so that's a big plus.  To my great surprise, one piece has an unusual oversight:  the pink blouse that came with the poodle skirt set has nothing to hold it closed.  No snaps, no Velcro, nothing.
This particular outfit is showing some minor signs of age, mainly in the form of the poodle motif peeling off.  The glue holding it on is the problem; it's stiffened and lost its tack with age.  Easy fix.
Only the polka-dot dress came with accessories.  It came with a yellow velour purse and a "math book" that is really just a sheet of folded paper.
The purse opens and closes, thanks to that gold bead.  It fits through a hole in the flap of the purse.

Shoes are ordinary, just your typical tennis shoes that Mattel issued.  I've only got two pairs, one in red and one in white.
The red shoes are a bit bigger than the white ones, which may mean they were intended to fit over Kelley's thick socks.  And sure enough, they fit.
The white shoes are too small to fit over Kelley's socks, so I think I may have found a reason for the size difference.  Both pairs are too big for Barbie and too small for P. Bo, but Maxie can wear both pairs with ease.
The red shoes are not colorfast, by the way.  They've stained Kelley's socks and Starr's feet.  The staining on Starr's feet isn't super-obvious, but it's there.
In addition to having her own threads, Starr can wear some of Barbie's modern-day duds.  This outfit is one of those.  Again, Ami stole it briefly, but now Starr is wearing it again.
I love how some outfits intended for Barbie are emblazoned with her year of release.  One of Ken's outfits is the same way, only his has a 61 on it.  But unsurprisingly, I digress.  This outfit has a black tube top worn underneath the main top, and it was tight on Ami.  The same top fits Starr perfectly, while the outer top and the skirt are a little loose.

Maxie's measurements are flattered the most by loose-fitting Fashionista outfits, but these same dresses look baggy on Starr's willowy body (left).  In a similar manner, dresses that are too tight for Maxie (right) fit Starr like a dream.
As an aside, the purple dress is printed all the way around.
Dammit, Mattel, it wouldn't kill y'all to print more dresses all the way around!  It looks so much better that way.  Ahem...older Barbie dresses like this Quick Curl Kelley dress may be a bit loose.  I haven't tried it until now.
I turned out to be completely wrong about this dress.  It's a teensy bit loose, but it doesn't bag around Starr's bust like it does Emiko's.  This could easily be one of my favorite looks for Starr. 

Another of my favorite looks for Starr is this outfit, one that I made myself.
This pattern was intended for a Barbie doll, but as is often the case with my attempts at crocheted doll clothes, it came out too small.  It fits Starr with very little fuss, though.  It also fits my Francie-bodied dolls, and that gives me another inspiration for clothes.  I got interesting results with the handful of Francie clothes I own.
My Francie is a 30th anniversary reproduction so neither of those outfits are legit vintage pieces.  The swimsuit is obviously too small; I probably could have forced it the rest of the way up, but that might have stretched it out and wrecked it.  The reproduction "Gad Abouts" set is looser than the swimsuit so it fit almost perfectly.  The sweater is a little short in both the bodice and the sleeves, but otherwise it all fits.  Francie's dainty little shoes are too small for Starr's feet, though.  So loose Francie clothes are a yes, but shoes and tight clothes are a no for Starr.

This next dress is a family favorite; both Mama and I are very fond of it.  Jenny usually wears it, but in truth it's a Bandai Barbie dress.
From the front this looks okay, though very short.  However...
...it's too tight across the bust.  The Velcro doesn't even close in back!

After that I wasn't betting on the Skipper dress fitting, but...
...I was wrong again!  This dress has a lot of stretch in it, making me wonder how well a less stretchy oufit would fit.  Starr can almost wear Skipper's apricot mules, but her feet are just a smidge too long.
Then there's Maxie's puffy pink dress.
Maxie's dress bags around Starr's bust, as it does on Maxie.  The skirt is also short, though not obscenely so.  I would put this on Starr in a pinch, but I don't think it really suits her.

P. Bo came with two outfits, as you may or may not recall.  I also threw in the Barbie Fashion Avenue outfit that I left Bo in at the end of her review. 
The black tracksuit is constructed in an odd manner so it was hard to dress Starr in it.  Once it IS on, though, it looks and fits great.  The red and white outfit is a little tight, surprisingly enough.  The shorts are tight enough that they were hard to pull up, and they restrict Starr's hip joints as well.  The Velcro fastens on all pieces and Bo's do-rag fits nicely over Starr's head, but these pieces are tight enough that I probably won't try this outfit again.  The Fashion Avenue set is a little big on Starr, just like it is on Bo.  But like Bo, the fit is close enough that Starr can wear it.  The top even has her name on it, though it's missing an R.  As an added bonus, Starr can wear Bo's shoes.

At some point during the Flavas clothing session, Lola decided to crash the party.
I think Lola knows she's cute.  LOL, such interruptions are commonplace when you have pets...especially young, boisterous, gregarious cats!!!  Right then, next dress.  I predict that Sindy's dress will fit loosely.
Well okay, I was partially right.  Sindy's dress is loose around the shoulders, but not at the waist.  This dress is supposed to be worn off the shoulder anyway, so the loose fit isn't a huge deal.  Sindy's stock dress is a safe choice for Starr.  So even though Starr's body is quite different from the other dolls I've got in her scale, she has a wide range of options in the clothing department.  Most of Barbie's modern-day stuff will fit, as will some Flavas clothes, some Francie clothes, and some of Sindy's things.  The only shoes that will fit her are Flavas shoes and her own, and maybe some Teen Skipper shoes will work if one isn't bothered by the imperfect fit.  But still, that's quite a few choices for Kelley and the Starr quads.  So what do I like and dislike about these dolls?

*Most of my dolls have hair that's hard to style, impossible to brush, and easy to tangle.
*Some of the joints are floppy or fragile.
*Most of the extra outfits did not come with shoes.
*One outfit came with no fasteners for the top.
*I didn't run into this last problem myself since I only own Starr and Kelley, but Starr's "zany" friend Tracy usually had a less than stellar paint job.  She had such a toothy smile that it was hard to keep the white paint inside the lip margins.  Starr and Kelley dodged this bullet, but if you choose to collect these dolls keep a wary eye for bad paint. 

*My set of dolls are well painted, though a couple have started to fade over time.  
*Unique eye colors.  I almost never see dolls with teal eyes like Kelley's, or with periwinkle eyes like the MIA Tracy's.
*Cute, well-made clothes with several pieces that can be mixed and matched.
*Thick hair hides any thin spots that may exist.  Let's face it, all dolls have thin spots.
*Concept, while not original, would've been easy for kids to relate to.
*The female dolls can wear a nice variety of other dolls' clothes.  I'm curious now about what the boy doll, Shaun, can wear.

Despite the lack of originality and the easily tangled hair, I like Starr and Kelley quite a bit.  Kelley is probably my favorite of the bunch; I love her shy, approachable expression and her red hair.  I also love how Kelley stands out from her friends, all of whom are blonde, blue-eyed Starr dolls.  This is a delightful line though.  The clothes are colorful and fairly innocent, and the dolls themselves are believable images of teenagers.  Instead of being overly glamorous or seductive, they're just cute friends out to have a good time.  The girls' joints give them a leg up over Barbie, but unfortunately the joints also make these dolls feel fragile.  Kelley and one of the Starr sisters have floppy waists, three of my five have cracked or chipped wrists, and all of them have loose shoulders.  The floppy waists can be fixed and the loose shoulders don't bother me much, but the chipped wrists DO bother me.  I don't want my girls losing their hands like poor Rio did!  Being gentle is key, I suppose, but I can't help wondering how many of these dolls ended up losing their hands after a play session.  Based on that I wouldn't recommend Starr to a very young child, but since these dolls are over thirty years old I doubt many young children are going to play with them anyway.  I do recommend at least one of these to an adult collector though, particularly if that collector gets tired of the same-old, same-old with Barbie.  Starr may not be able to wear all of Barbie's cute little shoes, but she'll make a great model for vintage and modern dresses!

Yours truly,

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