Do you like to surprise yourself with new doll loves? I do! I love the challenge of expanding my appreciation to include new approaches to the classic 18 inch doll, even when that means learning to love new shapes, sizes, facial expressions, and appearances. One of my new dolls that I’ve been having the most fun with was a total surprise to me. I discovered the Via E Alexis doll through–who else?–My Doll Best Friend (a wonderful UK-based online doll shop that really is an excellent source of information and pictures of play dolls). Between the My Doll Best Friend webshop, blog, and Facebook page (which is open to viewing even if you are not a Facebook member) I’ve been introduced to many different play dolls, and found several new doll loves. Alexis was the most surprising of these, because she is the first doll in my collection to have a full, open-mouth smile! This is a big deal for me, after having been used to the more conservative, quiet American Girl smile for so long. I have to admit that when I first saw pictures of Alexis, I found her grin to be off-putting. Yet I soon found myself being attracted to her unique individuality. She looked so, well, personable. I also really liked everything about the way Alexis is presented: she is advertised as unique, realistic, poseable, durable, versatile, and representing positive values and educational play. I love taking dolls with me places, and it was a big selling point for me that Alexis is intended to endure rigorous play, even in or near water! When I envisioned happy summer day-trips playing with Alexis at the lake, how could I possibly resist? I’ve had Alexis for about a month now, and she has surpassed my initial expectations, allayed my prejudices and concerns about having a doll who smiles so broadly, and easily become one of my favorite dolls in my collection. Alexis immediately asserted herself as a kindred spirit and a writer, and you may have already read her own posts. Now I’d like to introduce Alexis to you by way of a review. This is a truly unique doll from a truly special company, and it’s my hope that this review will help introduce her to a wider audience.
My Via E experience started off on an excellent note with an exchange of emails with Ellen Callen, the founder of Via E and Alexis’ creator. I’ve heard Ellen described as one of the nicest people ever, and it’s true! I was so impressed by Ellen’s customer service, and it is one of the major recommendations for buying from Via E. In addition to graciously clearing up a computer glitch that affected my order, she kindly offered me my choice between a first production or second production Alexis. Ellen explained that the second production dolls have a couple of minor improvements, including a slightly darker scalp and a small drainage hole placed inconspicuously under the hair to allow water to drain safely from the head. As a collector I preferred one of the limited edition first production Alexis dolls, and I was so grateful I was given the choice. The first production dolls arrive in boxes signed and numbered by Ellen, with hand-signed certificates of authenticity that describe the special characteristics of a first production Alexis Christine O’Shay Dollfriend. Each first production Alexis doll also has her number written on the back of her neck.
What is better than a brand new doll arriving in the mail? I am fortunate to share a home state with Alexis: she hails from San Clemente, California, so she didn’t have to travel far. She was shipped via Priority Mail, so she arrived within days!
I love the label on the box (in fact, I carefully peeled it off to preserve it in my journal). These little personal touches go such a long way in making a customer feel happy with a purchase.
The box was absolutely beautifully packed by hand with sparkly tissue paper (which will be recycled as an art journal supply), pink shredded packing, and a hand-written thank you note included with the packing slip and my Alexis doll’s certificate of authenticity. Here it is with the tissue paper and packing slip removed. You can see the glued-on label on the doll box, which is one of the features of the first production Alexis dolls. The box originally read “Alex,” which is Alexis’ nickname, but due to legal issues this had to be changed to Alexis. The new boxes have Alexis’ full name, Alexis Christine O’Shay, at the top.
Alexis’ hair had lodged across her eye during transit, so I reached in and gently moved it aside before I took any more pictures.
This is the first time I’ve bought a limited edition doll like this, so this was very exciting:
I love that, “Not Just Any Girl.” Alexis is not being sold as a “just like me” doll, which makes her stand apart from much of the 18-19 inch doll market. Alexis is herself, no more, no less. Just like each of us, that’s the most special thing she can be. In order to honor Alexis’ uniqueness, I won’t be comparing her to any other dolls in this review. I’d also like to state right away that Alexis is a play doll intended for little girls. None of the minor imperfections or areas where I feel there is room for improvement detract from her appeal for little girls and their moms. When possible, I do try to embrace the little “flaws” that make each of my dolls unique. I choose to see them as individualities that don’t take away from the doll’s loveability. Finally, I’d like to remind my readers that Via E is literally a brand-new start-up company working to get things just right, which is not a simple process! I imagine being the founder of a new doll company is something like being President: it is impossible to please everyone, and you get blamed for everything! Personally, I think Ellen is doing a wonderful job at introducing a unique product to the market, and I wish her every success.
Here’s what it says on the back of Alexis’ box. Love it!
And here is my charming new Alexis doll peeking a little shyly out of her window:
Right away she felt like a real person to me, which is one of the things that attracted me to this doll in the first place.
In looking at Alexis in the box, I noticed that her right eye was a tiny bit stray. I mention this because some collectors are very picky about “wonky” eyes. I’m not as picky, though I probably notice little things like this more than a little girl of the target age range would. When possible (which is almost always) I embrace the little idiosyncrasies that make each of my dulls unique. Initially, I was a teeny bit disappointed that Alexis’ eyes were not perfectly straight, but I decided that I wouldn’t let it detract from her individuality. Via E’s customer service is so excellent that I have no doubt Ellen would have gladly exchanged dolls if there was anything about my Alexis that really bothered me.
I was struck by her pretty profile, lovely coloring, and of course, by her happy smile!
Not feeling very patient, I soon removed the insert that contained Alexis from the box, so I could see her better. You can see some of the values Alexis represents printed on the inside of the insert:
Alexis started to win my heart right away. She looks alert, intelligent, caring, cheerful, and very, very friendly. She’s pretty too–at least I think so. 🙂 Her wide smile is certainly different than I’m used to, but I quickly began to find that it made me feel happy to look at her!
Here she is removed from the insert (she was held in with metal twist-ties).
Her hair is just gorgeous! It was wrapped in tissue to protect it during travel, and the feathered layers in front were tied back with ribbon. Alexis has rooted hair made of nylon. It is the very nicest quality nylon hair I’ve seen so far: very shiny, soft, and extremely thick. It is also a lovely color: a rich caramel blond or light brown (one of my favorite colors for hair). It really shines in the sun, and has a nice feel in my hands. From what I’ve read, collectors usually seem to view nylon as a lower quality material, preferring acrylic wigs. Alexis, however, is designed to be a durable and water-friendly toy, so I think rooted nylon was a wise way to go. Here’s her hair with the tissue paper removed:
Her hair is long, but it doesn’t seem to tangle much. She has chunky layers that add interest to her hairstyle, and make her hair sit very prettily even without styling. Alexis’ hair also brushes out very easily.
You can see here how thick my Alexis doll’s hair is! In fact, my Alexis has as much hair as a real girl might have! The nature of rooted hair is that the “plugs” and scalp will inevitably show in certain styles. This is why the second production Alexis dolls have a slightly darker tinted scalp, to help reduce this appearance. However, I haven’t noticed any problems with my Alexis doll’s scalp or roots showing too much. I haven’t tried pig-tails yet (I will), but I haven’t had any problems so far with her hair smoothing down evenly over her head. Here is her hair from the front:
And from the side:
Underneath her gorgeous hair, on the back of her neck, is her official identification number.
Here is Alexis all unwrapped as she arrived:
Alexis’ arrival outfit consists of knee-high fringed boots, short jean skirt, pink t-shirt, and undies. I would describe the overall quality of her outfit as basic, but nice. It isn’t a very interesting outfit for me, but the pieces are cute and hold mix and match potential. The t-shirt has a sweet kitten graphic, and closes in the back with velcro. The elastic-waisted skirt has real pockets, which is a big plus! I can’t say the boots are my style, but they are fun and different. Overall I think a girl of the target age range would be perfectly happy with this outfit. My only suggestion is for Alexis’ arrival outfit to include a pair of tights or cropped leggings for modesty, as her skirt tends to slide up on her smooth torso, revealing her undies when she sits down.
My only disappointment with the outfit is that the soles of the boots are foam instead of plastic. Also, the boots on my Alexis have experienced some separation at the back of the sole:
This is the only thing that gives her arrival outfit a bit of a “cheap” feeling for me. For the record, I’ve seen foam soles on other high quality dolls’ shoes too, so Alexis is certainly not alone here. I prefer the more realistic plastic or rubber soles as being nicer and more durable for play.
Alexis also arrived with this cute little tote bag that can be worn as a back-pack:
It has a draw-string closure under the flap so that Alexis can store her goodies and treasures inside.
Alexis has numerous features that make her realistic and very person-like. Let’s start with her face:
Alexis has closing eyes that are a dark turquoise blue, with black lashes and molded eyelid creases above her eyes. I think her eyes are a very pretty shape and color and have a pleasant expression. I soon discovered that the reason her right eye is sometimes stray is that it is a little looser in the socket than her left, and tends to jiggle a little bit while Alexis is being posed. I can straighten it by gently tapping it (which is why some of the pictures show her eyes perfectly straight, and some don’t).
Alexis’ eyebrows are very nicely painted on, and I love how they taper to a point at the ends. The best part of her face for me, though, is her beautifully sculpted nose. Most dolls don’t have a real nose bridge, and Alexis does, which gives her such a beautiful profile. I also love the indentation between her nose and her mouth. Here’s her profile:
Alexis has such a lovely face sculpt with realistic cheeks, mouth, and chin. The shape of her face really supports her happy smile. If you’ve ever tried to draw a smile, then you know how difficult it is to make it look right. I can only imagine how difficult it is to sculpt one three-dimensionally! Ellen has done a beautiful job with Alexis’ smile. You can’t see it very well in these pictures, but her chin even has a “smile line” underneath!
Alexis has a tilting head, which is one of my favorite features. This gives her so much expressiveness and enhances her poseability. My Alexis doll likes to tilt her head to the left a little more than to the right. Alexis also has very realistic ears:
Her ears are actually sculpted out from her head, meaning she can tuck back her hair! My Alexis doll has such thick hair that not much of it will stay back, but I love this feature. It is one of the many things that make her feel like a real person.
She seems fairly sturdy on her feet, but her joints do make her a little tippy on uneven surfaces. I’ve had her fall a couple times during photo shoots, but she always gets back up with a smile. 🙂
The construction of her hip joints makes her legs spread a bit to the side when she sits down on a flat surface like this. On a chair or bench, she can pull them a little more closely together.
Altogether, I am very happy with the way Alexis is designed. She has a pretty build and an effective construction that is very playable. She is a bit on the heavy side and not as huggy as she might be with a soft body, but then her all-vinyl construction allows her to be played with in water, so I think it is a successful design. The only thing I am not crazy about in her overall appearance is that her arms seem just a little bit too short to me. My husband doesn’t agree with me here, so this is a matter of personal opinion, but if it were me, I’d lengthen them by another half of an inch or so.
Note: Ellen explains that the length of Alexis’ arms was purposefully designed a little bit short so that Alexis can put her hands into her pockets and reach her own face and hair–in other words, to make her as poseable as possible. I’ve completely adjusted to the length of Alexis’ arms and I no longer notice them seeming short when I look at her.
Here are a few more pictures of Alexis’ face and hair.
Now I’d like to talk a little about clothes, which is a huge part of the life of any doll. Alexis is advertised as being able to fit most fashions for 18 inch dolls, but Ellen acknowledges that she will need a belt for some of the pants and skirts/dresses because her waist is thinner than most cloth-bodied dolls (Via-E provides a special belt on their website). Based on my experience, this seems true. Alexis can wear American Girl brand t-shirts and tops, since they look fine even if they are a bit loose, as well as hats, but only pants and skirts with a tight elastic waist will stay up on her torso without assistance. For example, I’ve had success dressing her in American Girl pajamas and leggings, which are naturally made from material with quite a bit of stretch. Alexis also fits the pants designed for Gotz Hannah and Gotz Happy Kidz (they use elastic waists anyway, but Alexis has a similar waist size to Hannah and the Happy Kidz). Since I was eager to give Alexis a wider range of choices, I purchased three outfits from the Via E website. Again, I received stellar customer service, and the outfits arrived by Priority Mail, beautifully packaged. Alexis was very excited!
We both love the Via E boxes, with their pretty flowers and pink and orange stripes, as well as the motto printed on top. I also love the little stickers taping each box shut (which are perfect for saving in my journal!) and appreciate how beautifully each item is wrapped and packed:
The outfits I chose from the five that are currently available were the Alexis Goes to Brazil outfit, the Loving Sao Paulo outfit, and the Saturday Nap outfit. I love how Via E encourages creativity by designing outfits that invite mixing and matching. The first two outfits arrived with a story card telling a little bit about Alexis, and suggesting options for designing different outfits. These story cards can be slipped into the ring-bound Clothing Activity Book (sold separately), which was included free with my order of Alexis (thank you Ellen!). The website states that all of Alexis’ outfits will include a story card, but the Saturday Nap outfit did not arrive with one, so I’m not sure if this idea has been dropped. I hope not, because it’s a fun addition to Alexis’ playability.
Alexis first wanted to try on the Goes to Brazil outfit, which was my favorite from the pictures. It includes four-pocket jeans, a pink lacy camisole, a two-tone long-sleeved tee, and strappy sandals:
The t-shirt graphic says “Oi!” which is Portugese for “Hello!” and closes in the back with velcro. The pants have real pockets and a front velcro closure and an elastic waist. The camisole has a pull-on construction and an empire waistline. This set even includes a special passport for Alexis!
The passport is printed on cardstock for a child to cut out and fold.
I love this fun, educational touch! The things I like best about this outfit, besides the passport, are the pretty color and sturdy material of the jeans, the wide neckline of the t-shirt that shows off Alexis’ shoulder-line and allows the camisole straps to peek through, the blue contrasting sleeves of the t-shirt, and the pretty pink camisole itself.
I’m not crazy about the heavy jersey knit used for the body of the t-shirt (I love the material used for the sleeves, though). Also, a snap closure would make this shirt more versatile. One of the options on the story card shows the shirt worn back to front, with the upper edges turned under to form a v-neck (sort of like a cardigan). In actuality this option is not possible if Alexis is wearing the pink camisole underneath, because the velcro would turn in and snag the material beneath. Snaps would remove this problem. The jeans are a nice color and material, and they look fine and are very sturdy, and I like how the cuffs can be left down or rolled up. However some of the white stitching seems a bit sloppy, and to my eye it seems like the front closure is a bit off-center:
The sandals were packaged separately in an adorable box which Alexis and I just love (she wants to use it to store her treasures):
The sandals feature thongs that slip between Alexis’ toes, and close around her ankles with velcro. I like the shiny silver, and the way the thongs accentuate Alexis’ special toes.
My only issues with the sandals are that they are a bit tight to slip on, which might prove difficult for a child, and that the construction does not seem quite top-notch. The soles are plastic, which I appreciate, but the way the side straps are compressed between the upper footbed and sole seems a bit awkward, and like her boots, there is some separation happening in the sole area. I also noticed some scratches on the shiny silver footbed.
Overall this outfit is really cute and has a nice look, and I think most little girls would love it. The things I’ve mentioned that might be improved are small issues that can be worked out with time and experience; they’re only important because little details add up to an overall impression. Again, I’d like to emphasize that there’s nothing about this outfit that would keep a child of the target age range from enjoying it.
Alexis and I were both really excited about the Saturday Nap outfit because it looks so cute in the pictures, and because as writers we love the name! It is a very sweet outfit, with lots of mix and match potential, and it looks adorable on Alexis:
The outfit includes a lacy white camisole with contrast pink stitching, grey shorts, pink-striped leggings, white bunny slippers, and a blue stuffed animal that Alexis can cuddle as well as use as a pillow. I’m not sure what kind of animal it is supposed to be (maybe a dog?) but it’s cute and a fun idea, and Alexis loves it.
Our favorite things about this outfit are the bunny slippers, the layered look, the coziness, and the subdued colors. The camisole is similar in design to the pink one that came with the Goes To Brazil outfit, but this one closes up the back with velcro.
The fit is not quite as nice as the pink one, but it’s perfectly adequate. The grey knit shorts have an elastic waistline and a small embroidered emblem near the left hemline:
They’re very sturdy and cute, and look nice and cozy on Alexis. The striped leggings are adorable, especially layered under the shorts. However, our pair had a defective waistband. When I went to put them on Alexis for the first time, the elastic sort of internally “fizzed” and lost all its stretch. Luckily, the knit material is stretchy anyway and they stay up even without elastic, especially with the shorts on top:
This elastic problem seems to me like a freak quality control issue. Since the leggings stay up anyway, it didn’t seem worth the hassle to bother returning them, especially since I can cut open a seam and insert new elastic if I really want to. Again, Via E has such excellent customer service and product support that I have no doubt the item would have been promptly exchanged if I had wished. Everything else about this outfit seems fine, and I’m sure little girls will love it. My only concerns with this outfit, besides the elastic issue, are that the lace straps of the camisole seem a bit delicate to withstand rough play, and that the velcro closure can get caught in the lace edging if care is not taken while dressing Alexis. The bunny slippers, which stay snugly on Alexis’ feet with elastic straps, and the cute stuffed animal are special touches that make this a fun set.
I’ve saved our favorite outfit for last: the Loving Sao Paulo outfit.
This is a gorgeous outfit that any little girl or collector would love! It includes a ruffly, no-sleeve cotton sundress, a reversible vest, and a red bandana-scarf, as well as a pair of “barefoot sandals” with included instructions (which we haven’t tried yet, but look really fun!):
This outfit, like the Goes To Brazil outfit, also comes with a story card describing four different creative ways of wearing the pieces. I love this dress on Alexis! It accents her beauty so perfectly, setting off her golden-tan skin tone and showing off her pretty shoulders:
The bodice of the dress features a ruffle, pintucks and lace, and the skirt is a two-tier ruffle.
The sash is cotton lace, attached in front. The back of the dress features smocking, which helps the dress hug Alexis’ smooth torso and forms an excellent fit.
The straps actually close with snaps at the back shoulders, which makes the dress very easy to slip on and off.
The vest is simple but nice; it features black buttons up the front (though it closes with velcro) and a blue contrast lining on the inner back, so that you can reverse it and wear it back to front to get a whole different look:
The only things I would change about this outfit would be to use snaps instead of velcro on the vest closure, and to line the entire inside of the vest with the blue fabric, instead of just the inner back. Since the vest is fully lined anyway, this wouldn’t increase production costs, and it would make the vest even more versatile, since it could be worn four ways: black side out closing in front, black side out closing in back, blue side out closing in front, and blue side out closing in back. All in all, this is a lovely outfit, and Alexis and I both love it!
Overall, my impression of Alexis’ collection of outfits is positive. I am happy with the outfits I have purchased so far, and I am looking forward to adding more to my collection. Alexis and I are particularly interested in the Fun in the Sun Waterplay outfit–we’d love to try it out at the lake! I can’t wait to see what new ensembles Via E dreams up (I’m crossing my fingers for a pair of really cute pajamas)! I love that the Via E Alexis fashions are focused on versatility and creativity, and are cute and interesting without being too trendy. I hope the story card idea continues because I think this is an original and clever touch that encourages both creativity and learning.
Alexis is a wonderful doll: original, beautiful, fun, versatile, and durable. She feels like a real person, and has quickly become one of my very best doll-friends. I adore her all her beautiful, special details, and I’ve come to love her friendly, caring smile. Perhaps one of the things that makes her the most special is that she makes me feel happy when I look at her. Even the little things that I wasn’t crazy about at first have become dear to me because they are part of Alexis’ unique individuality.
In short, if I enjoy Alexis this much, I can only imagine what a special friend she would make for a little girl. I know I would have loved her when I was a child! One of the biggest things that sets Alexis apart is that she is supported by a conscientious company providing amazing customer service and focused on positive values and education. As Ellen has said, Via E strives to be more than a company: they are a family. I hope with all my heart that Via E grows and prospers, and I wish them every success. I am so glad to have this special doll in my collection, and to be part of Alexis’ family.