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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: What's Her Face

Hey, all you lucky people!  It's Throwback Thursday again and I'm unveiling something that I've been keeping for a time when I'm short on ideas for posts.  During my early teenage years there were quite a few lines of dolls that were available and surprisingly popular with twelve-year-olds like I was.  There were the Diva Starz, Bratz, Betty Spaghetty (who is making a comeback), and there were these.  The What's Her Face dolls (abbreviated "WHF," not to be confused with "WTF") were available for a short time during the Bratz' early run, and like the Cupcakes they had a highly unusual and unique gimmick.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with these, here's what the dolls looked like.
Not my pic, so it's blurry.  Anywho, this is the first wave of What's Her Face dolls.  From left, they are Glam, Hip, Sweet, and Cool.  Rather odd choices of names, are they not?  Each doll had a theme, albeit a rather loose theme, and the name focused on said loose theme.  Glam was fashion-centered, Hip was a music fan who wore a tie-dyed shirt and bell bottoms, Sweet was the artsy type, and Cool liked sports.  Glam and Sweet both had a pale skin tone, Hip was tan, and Cool was fairly dark.  I own both Glam, whom I named "Meredith," and my sister's Hip, whom I christened "Jolene."  Also present is Hepzibah, Meredith's Whatever Pet.
Right here is where the gimmick should be perfectly clear.  These dolls have faces that can be drawn on.  They came with little rubber stamps for stamping on eyes and lips, plus washable felt-tip markers that were used for inking up the stamp or for drawing directly on the face.  Like the LIV dolls that would come later, the What's Her Face dolls also came with wigs.  Meredith's two stock wigs are a long pink wig and a blue ponytail wig.
Unlike the LIV dolls, WHF wigs attached with Velcro.  The hard side of the Velcro is embedded in the crown of the doll's head...
...and the wigs had bits of the soft side glued inside the cap.
Each doll came with a full outfit, two wigs, three pairs of eye stamps (closed, round, and cat-shaped), four mouth stamps (big smile, smug smile, frown, and open)...
...a mask to help align the stamps...
...a sponge for erasing mistakes (mine is well-used)...
..four markers of varying colors...
...and this thing that gives the young artist some design ideas.
There were also two sheets of stickers that came with these dolls.  One had multicolored daisies, and the other had holographic shapes like stars and hearts.  Most of my stickers went on the wigs to stop flyaways.
The clothes were also fun, as they could be switched around and modified.  Meredith has a two sided halter top and a two-sided skirt, and Jolene has a reversible t-shirt, all of which y'all will see during the clothing discussion.  Jolene also had extensions on her pants that enabled her to wear either capris or bell bottoms, but of course my sister lost them.  She lost both of Jolene's stock wigs too, so thank goodness for all those extra wigs that Mattel produced.  Yep, Mattel made add-on packs.  The first add-on packs included a wig, a new pair of eyes, a new mouth, and some fresh markers, like so.
The wigs are of fairly decent quality, by the way.  They're well rooted, the colors are nice and bright, and the fiber is soft.  It WAS easy to get these suckers tangled, but they usually are easy to comb.  I had a lot of fun with these wigs when I was a kid.  This one was always my favorite.
I wasn't constantly having to tidy it up because it was in a style already.  I usually put it on Jolene because braids seem more suited to Jolene's blue jeans than they did Meredith's fancy mini and halter top.  I do wish the Velcro was attached a bit better, though.  One of Meredith's stock wigs has had problems with the Velcro right from the beginning, and one of the extra wigs has Velcro that has completely slid loose.
I don't know why these wigs want to misbehave and the others don't, but for some reason the Velcro wanted to come loose.  The blue wig's Velcro was working loose before I'd even had the doll a month, in fact!

I was hoping that Meredith and Jolene could share wigs with my LIV dolls since playline dolls with switchable wigs are not the most common things in the world.  Alas, my hopes were dashed; Daniela's head is bigger than Meredith's.
Most of my other dolls wigs (Novi Starz, Bratzillaz, and Moxie Teenz) are too big for WHF heads as well, but one of my Monster High Create-a-Monster wigs does work.
This wig came from the mummy/gorgon set CAM set.  Meredith has to wear it backwards for it to fit properly, but it does fit.  Thus Meredith and Jolene can get freaky-fabulous themselves if they so choose!

Later the add-on packs included do-dads like eyelashes, shoes, and sunglasses, and there were also a few fashion packs released.  I was only able to find one of these extra outfits, and Meredith has worn it during the bulk of the review for reasons I'll discuss shortly.
It's a dress and a purse, with a single little stamp.  No extra shoes, which was a bummer.  Meredith's silver boots are nice, but a change of shoes would've been nice too.  Anyway, this dress is particularly neat in that it can be drawn on and stamped on just like the dolls' faces.  This wasn't possible with the stock clothes that the first wave dolls wore, but drawing on the clothes was an option with later waves.  They utilized a fair amount of wipe-off vinyl fabric, and thus drawing on clothes was possible without the material staining like mad.

Alright, so that's all well and good, but tell me the truth.  Y'all want to see how this face works!  Well, I shall not disappoint.  There were two ways to give these girls a face.  The way most remember is with the stamps, and in theory that was very easy.  First you take the doll's wig off and put her mask on like so.
Then you choose your stamps, choose your colors, and...DRAW on the stamps to get them all inked up, like so!
Then you very quickly lined the stamp up and stamped the doll's face, like so.
If you were lucky, your result came out like this.
Unfortunately most results came out more like this.
Usually if you came out with a so-so stamp imprint you'd end up having to fill the rest in yourself.  That part wasn't hard; it was a lot like those old Connect the Dots games.  However, doing this defeated the purpose of having stamps.  In short, the What's Her Face dolls' greatest selling point unfortunately turned out to be her biggest flaw.  I had trouble with Meredith's stamps, my sister had trouble with her Jolene's stamps, and there are plenty of others saying similar things on YouTube and Amazon.  I think that if the doll had come with stencils instead of stamps she might have gone over better, because drawing directly on the doll's face yielded much better results.  There was a slight problem using that method, as you could never get the doll to look the same way twice, but that was also part of the doll's uniqueness.  Here are some of my attempts to draw Jolene's face freestyle.
Not to boast, but I'm pretty happy with that last one.  Jolene's less-than-pleased expression reminds me of one of my favorite Peanuts strips.  I also tossed in a vein pop for good measure; Talolili told me that she drew her WTF dolls in anime style (an idea that I love but never considered as a child), so I took a page out of her book.  Thanks, chica!

Regarding clothes, these first-wave WHF dolls came with one outfit that could be switched around.  Meredith's top is blue paisley on one side...
...and the other side used to be silver.  Now it's pale gray.
I assume that the shiny spots were painted on, because within a year they'd rubbed off.  The jacket had the same spots and they rubbed off too.
I don't mind the disappearance of the spots on the top since I can just turn it over, but I wish the jacket had stayed sparkly.  It's a cute piece of clothing otherwise.  It's a little bit stretchy and has a ruffled collar.
The jacket closes in the front with a plastic snap, one of the last Mattel items I bought that had a snap...or at least, the last one before I began collecting eighties Barbie fashions.
The top closes with that infernal Velcro that doesn't snag but does lose its tack over time.  I can't even put it on Meredith now, not without replacing that Velcro somehow.
The upper part of the blouse ties closed, like so.  Too bad the whole thing doesn't tie shut.
Meredith's skirt is cute, but it's also ludicrously short.  It's so short that if I ever pose her seated or bent over, her rear hangs out!  Later versions of this doll did come with molded and painted underpants, but poor Meredith is one of the earlier dolls and doesn't have this.  Like the top, the skirt Velcros together with that cheap stuff that doesn't hold.  One side is made of this sturdy zebra-print jersey fabric that's a little grubby after years of use.
The other side is made of brick-red pleather...the kind that splits as it ages.
I have no idea how to fix that, but it doesn't matter much because Meredith can't wear the skirt right now anyway!  The stitching is nice on this pleather side, though.  It has faux pockets and a faux fly sewn on.
Oh, if only that pleather weren't splitting!  I had forgotten what a nicely sewn little piece of clothing this was!

Meredith's footwear is nothing super-special, just the huge, stompy knee-high boots that were fairly popular when I was a young teen.
I guess they're supposed to be silver, but they look more gray than silver. They're also very stiff, though they do have a slit down the back for ease of removal.
The slit isn't much help though; I have to pull and twist and tug to get these shoes off, often while saying all sorts of naughty things.

Jolene, bearing the "Hip" label, had a more retro vibe about her outfit.  One side of her grubby T-shirt is white knit fabric with this little flower child insignia on it.
The other side is lavender tie-dyed material, which I absolutely love.
Jolene's capri pants are made out of blue, slightly shiny stretch material.  They're a little short for capris, but the overall look is there.  Like Meredith's skirt it has stitched pockets and a faux fly.
These would've been able to transform into bell bottoms, but as I said above my sister lost those pieces.  I could probably make some more though, so no huge biggie.  Jolene's shoes are much easier to deal with than Meredith's are.  They're white wedge sandals.
Both dolls came with plastic sunglasses, which come in handy if you're too lazy to draw in eyes.  Meredith has silver cat's eye glasses and Jolene had round orange ones.  Sister lost those too, but I still have Meredith's shades.
I also have these, which I assume also came with Meredith.  They're blue cat's eye glasses without any lenses.
Now let's take a look at the dolls themselves.  Normally I do this at the beginning of the review, but...oh well.  These are small dolls, being ever so slightly  taller than a first-wave Bratz doll and quite a bit shorter than a LIV doll.
They have no rooted or painted hair under their wigs, and obviously, no facial features.  They do have molded ears, though.
They're nice little doll ears, but I can't help wishing that earrings were an option.  It would've been fun to mix and match earrings.  However, such a feature may have upped the cost a bit or made these less kid-friendly, so I can see why there were no earrings included.  The dolls' heads are made of a different plastic from their bodies, probably for ease of drawing and stamping.  The heads have a rougher texture, while the bodies are smooth all over.  I've never tried drawing on the bodies, though I suspect that it could be done.  Ink tends to rub off of smooth, nonporous surfaces like this body, so I doubt tattoos would stay very long, but it's still worth a shot.

The bodies are jointed like all good doll bodies should be, but the placement is minimal:  neck, shoulders, hips.  The heads turn and tip.
The shoulders have both back-and-forth movement and lateral movement.  For a ten-inch doll the shoulders are very flexible.
The hips aren't as mobile as the shoulders.  Meredith and Jolene can sit...
...and they can do front-to-back splits if they're balanced properly.  No sideways motion at all.
The shape of the body is pretty cartoonish, which probably helps sell the gimmick in some way.  As you no doubt saw, these dolls have big heads that are out of proportion with the rest of the body, but the goofy shapes are in perfect tune with one another.  The bodies have a definite female shape, but not overly exaggerated or sexualized.  They have small breasts and a flat, cylindrical stomach with a bellybutton molded in.
The arms and legs are surprisingly proportionate in length.  Here's what Meredith's hand looks like.
Not a whole lot of detail, but the individual fingers are present, as are fingernails.  Again, fingernail polish can be drawn in with those markers...if you're smart enough to think of it.  I never considered that with Meredith, but my sister "painted" Jolene's nails and said it worked okay.

The dolls' feet are not as realistic as the hands.  They look a little like flippers.
They're also stiff as a board, and this is a bit of a problem with Meredith because of those equally stiff shoes.  I have to push and shove to get them on her feet, and I have to pull like mad to get them off!  I don't often maim myself when playing with my dolls, but I do distinctly remember trying to pull off one of these shoes during my teenage years.  My hand slipped and I ended up smacking myself in the face.  

Lastly there was the Whatever Pet.  As listed above, I named mine "Hepzibah."  Don't ask why.
Hepzibah came with a house, stamps and various body parts.  She could be a rabbit, a cat, a dog, or a bear, depending on how one organized the tail and ear parts.
One could also draw on her body or stamp it; I chose to give mine tiger stripes.  One could also either freehand-draw her face or stamp it.  It was much harder to stamp the Whatever Pet faces because they did not have masks to keep the stamps properly aligned.  The face that Hepzibah currently has is the same face I gave her when I was fourteen.  She's never been redrawn because of the slippery stamps, and thus I didn't have much fun with this accessory.  She does have a cute collar that is reversible, though.
As a last little note, these dolls are fairly hard to clothe.  I read online that some Teen Skipper and Bratz Boyz clothes will fit, as will some Barbie duds.  Pants of almost any sort are OUT due to these dolls' big feet, but dresses may work.  Too bad all my Skipper dresses are currently either in storage or in use!  I'll have to try that out in the future though.

I've talked enough.

*The doll's main selling point did not work well.  The markers worked then and still work now, but the stamps were a poor idea.
*Clothes have not aged well.  Meredith's jacket and top are no longer sparkly, her pleather skirt has split terribly, and the Velcro lost its tack long ago.
*One of the wigs has Velcro that won't stay put.
*Shoes are hard to get off.
*Can't wear any of my other dolls' clothes.

*Concept is original
*Doll itself is very sturdy.
*Doll can be made to look however its owner wants.
*Wigs are fun and brightly colored

The What's Her Face line was a great idea, one that I dreamed of when I was a little kid.  I distinctly remember turning to Mama and Daddy and saying "Wouldn't it be neat if there was a doll that had a face you could draw?"  Imagine my shock when I actually saw the idea in the flesh...er, vinyl, I mean.  Unfortunately the doll's big selling point appears to have been her big downfall.  Those stamps were absolute crap.  They were difficult to grasp, they slid around a lot (even with the mask), and there was no guarantee that they'd leave a clear-cut image to trace over.  In spite of the bum stamps this was an exciting doll to play with and to own.  When I whipped out the markers and let my imagination take hold it was like stepping back into my early adolescent years, where I spent many afternoons hunkered over Meredith's face trying to get it just so.  Once I abandoned the stamps I started having a lot of fun.  I don't expect Mattel to ever read this, but if they do I'd recommend revamping the What's Her Face dolls and trying this again.  This time though, I'd recommend using stencils instead of stamps.  The stencils could use the basic shape of the mask the original doll came with and put in cutouts for eyes and mouths that one could color over.  I'd also recommend encouraging the child to experiment more with her own imagination and draw their own faces freehand.  It's worth a shot, and if I had a toy company I'd give it a whirl.  Or I'd revamp the last wave of these dolls, called "Fab Faces."  These were sort of a combination of Monster High's Inner Monsters and a Kenner Blythe; they were taller and wore wigs, but instead of drawing on their faces one could change their expressions with eyes that shifted color and masks that had various expressions.  That idea is definitely worthy of a rehash.  But as I said above, I don't expect Mattel to ever read this, so for now the What's Her Face dolls will lie in Nostalgia Land.  I'll play with Jolene and Meredith until the markers run out, and then I'll just have them as fun little curiosities in a world where dolls are steadily getting less and less original.

Much love, 


  1. I would have been all over these dolls as a kid. How disappointing that the stamps didn't really work, but the extra thought put into the reversible clothing and wigs kind of makes up for it a little bit, I think.

    1. They were fun dolls, stamps or no. Just drawing on the face works better than the stamps, and I think it's more fun that way.

  2. Loved this blog post. I just recently rediscovered and fell back in love with WHF. There isn't much out there about them, so this post blog was a fun read. I was only 4 when I got mine (I think she was school hip from the 2nd wave). She left an everlasting impression on a young artist's mind lol. I hope Mattel lools back at this line and can incorporate more artistic aspects into their dolls.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I do think this idea is worth a rehash, yes; it was a good idea in theory and still could be with a little tweaking.