It’s May! Yay! All the dolls–and humans–at A Doll’s Picnic just love the month of May. It’s such a relief after a long, cold, brown-and-grey winter and a fickle and temperamental April. April gives us gorgeous glimpses of the year to come–and then pelts us with hail or frowns under chilly northern cold fronts. May, on the other hand, is truly the month of green: buds, new leaves, new growth, new grass. It also gives us abundant flowers, the first really warm days and nights, and most importantly of all–the first outdoor doll picnics! So once again, hurray for May! Ahem. (I really love May).
I have a treat for you today: a review of a truly unique, remarkable, and beautiful doll: Dolls From Heaven St. Therese. I found out about Dolls From Heaven around Easter (I honestly can’t remember how) and once I saw the St. Therese doll’s unique face and American Girl style construction, I knew she had to wing her way to A Doll’s Picnic. Dolls From Heaven is a Catholic family-run-and-owned doll company that hopes to inspire children to become modern-day saints. Their first two dolls are St. Therese and St. Joan of Arc, and their third doll (and first boy doll) is John Paul and is currently available for pre-order. All three dolls arrive with a chapter book that tells about their character. I am not Catholic and am totally unfamiliar with the concept of canonization. Yet despite my religious differences, I felt drawn towards this company because of their concern for the moral welfare of today’s children and their earnest, unpretentious approach to developing a totally unique line of character dolls. Their website is simple and neat, their blog is pleasant, and their dolls are simply stunning and represent fascinating characters, so I felt comfortable supporting this company. I ordered St. Therese and her extra outfit. St. Therese’s Accessories looked beautiful and fascinating, but I knew my Therese doll was not going to remain a nun so I decided to give them the pass.
As always with a non-American Girl doll, I felt excited but also trepidatious about her arrival. From the photographs on the Dolls From Heaven website and various reviews, I could see that she would be quite different from the other dolls in my collection. Would I like her? I was so curious to see her in person. From the moment I lifted her simple but beautiful box out of the shipping package, I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed. Therese looked like a sleeping angel.
She looked just as amazing and detailed as the photographs had shown her to be. As always, I first studied her inside her box. I was so struck by her detailed face.
Then too, her nun’s habit was amazing!
When I stood the box upright, I just about gasped aloud. Two giant warm brown eyes stared gently back at me. The way Therese’s habit complimented her big brown eyes was truly divine.
At this point, I couldn’t wait to take Therese out of her box.
I noticed several things about her right away. First, Therese is heavy–very solid and valuable feeling. Second, her outfit is incredible. There are so many pieces, and all are just beautifully designed and made.
Her face captivated me right from the first. Therese’s face has several significant differences from an American Girl face, but there are also several similarities. Mostly I was struck with her loving and gentle expression–so earnest and innocent. I couldn’t wait to study her details more closely, but first I turned my attention to her ensemble.
When I turned her around, I found a large “x” of black thread pinning together the back of her veil. Assuming this was meant to be clipped, I did so, and her veil swung free.
I was so impressed by how neatly all the components of Therese’s ensemble fit together. I found them very simple to disassemble, and also very interesting in and of themselves.The veil attaches to the coif by means of a snap on either side and is very simple to remove.
As I removed each layer, I saw a little more of Therese’s unique spirit and beauty.
At this point I could see Therese’s hair and free it from the hair net.
The Therese doll has gorgeous hair. It is such a unique color: a rich chestnut brown with strong red overtones–almost an auburn. Her hair is styled in layered, loose curls, with the top pulled back into a small ponytail. The fiber is very silky and fine and seems identical to the fiber used for Bonnie and Pearl dolls. Her hair is a wig.
Aside from the stunning color, the first thing I noticed about Therese’s hair was how messy it was right out of the net. Her hair fiber is slick and fine, which is lovely, but the texture also allows it to frizz and tangle very easily. Normally this is no problem because a quick brushing will tidy up a case of box-hair in no time. But Therese arrived with a rather puzzling sheet of hair advice. The sheet recommends “a wire hair pick” or finger styling for maintaining Therese’s curls, and goes on to expostulate that “Using a regular brush will comb out the curls and ruin the hair.” Now the word “ruin” puzzled me because Therese’s hair is by no means the densely-curled type of wig that can be ruined–or at least frizzed–by attacking it with a brush. Therese’s curls are exceedingly loose and free-form, as can be seen, and even with very gentle play the slick fiber will cause her curls to lose their clumped form on their own. As I took photos for this review, her curls became more and more tangled. With rougher play–such as I imagine an eight year old girl likely to administer–Therese’s curls could become a rat’s nest. Finally, after changing Therese’s outfit, I decided to ignore the instructions and treat Therese’s hair as I would any gently curled or wavy hair. I misted it with water and brushed it with a wire wig brush. This is how it looked when I was finished:
You can see that the clumpy curls have been brushed out into glossy waves, which I much prefer anyway because to me it looks more natural. In fact, Therese’s hair brushed beautifully. And it needs to be brushed often! Despite my extreme care, as I was changing Therese into the different outfits shown at the end of this review her hair quickly became messy. I think the long layers exaggerate the tangle-prone texture of her hair. Without brushing, Therese’s hair would quickly become unmanageable, so the instructions provided with the doll are simply impractical. Finally, it is easy to finger-curl her hair if I wish to make the curls look the way they did when she arrived. There are Youtube videos that show how to do this, but basically all it takes is separating her wig into layers and misting and finger-curling sections until all the hair has been curled. I reiterate that the nature of Therese’s hair fiber will resist holding a tightly curled shape.
Anyway, back to the doll. Here is the way she looks sans headpiece.
Therese has two loose (and messy) pin curls on her right and one on her left.
I am fascinated by Therese’s face. It is so much more realistic looking than the dolls I’m used to playing with. Her three-quarter view and profile are amazing!
My Therese doll does have eyes that are set just slightly off-center. At times this can give her a bit of a “doe in the headlights” look, but at most angles it’s not particularly noticeable. She also has some metal showing at the very edge of her eye sockets. The rest of the doll is such fabulous quality that I can overlook this.
Therese’s eyelids and mouth (and maybe eyebrows?) appear to be hand painted, which is amazing. She has two front teeth showing, like an American Girl doll, but her lips are wider and more pronounced. Note the beautiful philtrum above her top lip. She has blushing applied to her cheeks, chin, and forehead, which gives her beautiful coloring in addition to her pleasant olive-y tan vinyl tone.
Her eyebrows are long, light, and neatly painted. Her eyelashes are very similar to those of an American Girl doll. I love her nose! It isn’t pugged like the American Girl doll classic mold, but slopes gently downward. I especially love it in profile.
Her ears are also larger and more realistic than an American Girl’s. Her hair is too silky and thick to tuck behind them, though.
I just could not get over her stunning and realistic face, especially at three-quarter view. Therese is extremely photogenic!
Therese has a basic copyright printed on the back of her neck. Also, her head is attached to her cloth torso with a zip tie. Now for the body and overall construction:
As you can see, Therese’s construction is very similar to an American Girl doll’s (in this case, a Pleasant Company GOT #5 doll). Her shoulders are about as broad as the older Pleasant Company dolls, but her waist is narrower like the more recent dolls. Her muslin is a nice tan shade that matches her vinyl well. The major differences are subtle, such as the fact that Therese does not have as much freedom of movement in her joints, due to a difference in the way her limbs are designed. Also, her arms and legs are just a touch slimmer. Her vinyl has a hard, smooth, porcelain feel that reminds me of the vinyl used for Bonnie and Pearl dolls. The mold of her limbs and hands is not quite identical to American Girl’s design.
Her hands are a touch smaller, with beautiful blushing on the back and real French manicure nails! Yay!
Her feet seem very similar, but again she has real painted toenails! So fabulous. She also has blushing on the tops of her feet and knees. I love this extra attention to detail. It makes me feel so good about my purchase, and it makes the doll seem extra special. Wouldn’t it be nice if American Girl would do this?
Like American Girl dolls, Therese has dimples on the backs of her knees and elbows.
Her elbows also received some blush.
Finally, her cloth torso construction is identical to that of (the original) American Girl dolls.
The cloth (muslin?) is extremely sturdy feeling and stuffed very firmly, which adds to Therese’s weight and substantial feel.
While we’re at it, let’s compare her face with the classic American Girl face mold charmingly modeled by Judy. You can see that Therese’s head is larger and oval in shape, with a much more pronounced chin. Her eyes are also larger and set proportionably farther apart. Her lips are more deeply molded and her nose turns under instead of being snubbed upward. Her forehead is higher. Overall, Therese’s face has a classic oval shape and very beautiful detailing which are very attractive.
Also interesting to note is the similarity in the color of their hair. Judy’s hair is what American Girl originally sold as “red,” though it is really auburn. Therese’s hair is just a tad browner but has a very similar red tone (my camera did a really crummy job of capturing these subtleties). Therese’s hair could justly be called auburn.
One more note about Therese’s wig. It has a sprinkling of oddly spiky short hairs at the crown:
I’m not sure why they’re so visible, but they form frizzy bristles right on top of her head. If there was one change I could make to this doll, it would be to give her a center part. For me, this would make her wig more realistic and would do away with these weird short hairs. Fortunately they’re not really very noticeable.
Here are a few more pictures of Therese’s amazing face:
She has a natural, real-girl look to her.
Sometimes it looks as if she’s about to say what she’s thinking about.
I love her face. Sometimes, though, I notice something a little odd about it–something a little other worldly or elfin. I think it’s a combination of factors: the fact that her eyes are closer to the sides of her face, the dramatic slope of her jaw, and the difference between the flatter side view and the round front view of her face. Sometimes she seems just a little bit other. Always in a nice way, though.
Here’s my Maplelea Taryn doll along with Therese and an American Girl #13 doll. This comparison brings out another important difference between Therese and her peers in the doll world: her chin. Therese’s head is taller, but her neck isn’t any longer to compensate. When posed with other dolls this can give her a bit of a neanderthal look at times. On her own, her proportions seem perfectly reasonable.
Now the dress I’ve been showing Therese in is the second outfit I purchased along with the doll, her “Sunday Best.” Whenever possible, I believe in purchasing an additional outfit with a doll. It gives her something special that’s all her own, as well as a much needed change of attire. In this case it was doubly important, since I didn’t want Therese to remain a nun if she didn’t feel like it. Therese’s outfit arrived in a simple but attractive box.
I really appreciate the attention to detail as shown by the ribbon decoration and sticker.
The dress is Victorian in style, and made from a soft, satiny, stretchy fabric in the most beautiful rich blue hue with cream ruffle details.
It has cloth-covered buttons up the front, and comes with lovely matching boots, white tights, a hair bow, and an optional sash. It closes in the back with Velcro.
The whole outfit is gorgeous. It has a hand-crafted feeling, and the details are exquisite. The tights are actually a real legging material. The boots are one of my favorite pairs of doll shoes ever.
They have an ingenious flap closure that is lined with hook-and-loop tape which makes them very easy to take on and off. They are simple but beautiful. Speaking of shoes, I have to show you the sandals that Therese arrived wearing!
Again, they are simple but so pretty. I like that they can be worn equally well with her nun’s habit or with a secular sun dress or even shorts. I especially love the way they show off her pretty toenails!
Therese looks wonderful in her second outfit. Since my Therese doll is going to be freed from her sainthood (in fact, none of my dolls ever remain as their original characters), I tried her in a variety of historical dresses from American Girl and various Etsy artisans. I think she looks wonderful in most historical styles, especially Victorian and Edwardian era dresses. She is even comfortable going modern, as long as she’s not forced to wear anything too up-to-the-minute trendy. Here is a quick sampling of dresses that I thought looked especially nice on Therese:
This gorgeous dress was made by Lily Kay doll clothes.
Therese looked wonderful in Regency fashions.
She even surprised me by looking sweet in this American Girl Beforever Samantha dress.
Here she is in my favorite Pleasant Company Kirsten dress.
Another Beforever outfit, this time Rebecca’s.
I cooed when I put her in this Samantha tea gown!
She really liked Samantha’s wardrobe.
But I really liked her in Rebecca’s.
And just to prove that she can go modern….
Both of these last two outfits are older American Girl outfits. Therese likes them because they’re not too trendy.
After modeling for me very patiently, Therese was excited to explore the garden. She looked so at home in the garden that she kept reminding me of Mary Lennox from A Secret Garden as I snapped pictures.
Therese wanted to know why the tulips were in cages. I told her that when she watches the deer leap the four-foot fence, she’ll understand.
At least the wire cages gave her something to climb up on so she could look at the flowers up close.
She was fascinated by their forms and colors.
I showed her the pansies and she was charmed by those as well.
Therese is so beautiful that she reminds me of a flower.
Finally she stopped in the middle of the garden and took a survey of all the new growth that May was calling forth.
She seemed happy and peaceful in her new home.
Yet she has such an inquisitive expression at times that I expect her to ask a question!
This is truly a special doll. I am so happy to have taken the plunge and supported this company. Now that I’ve seen how special the Therese doll is I’ve started wondering about Joan of Arc…. But for now I’m happily enjoying the company of my sweet, earnest, gentle new doll-friend. In her nun’s habit she reminds me of Ingrid Bergman’s character in The Bells of St. Mary’s. Out of it she is a thoughtful, charming, curious, and kind girl. I’ve named her Josette Dorothea, or Josie for short. She is an inspiring and wonderful spring-time companion, and I can imagine that for a Catholic child this doll might well provide inspiration for a lifetime.