One of the brands of play dolls I was most excited to discover this year is Bonnie and Pearl, a recently emerged British company based in Wales. I wanted to be the first to introduce their lovely dolls to parents and collectors everywhere, and accordingly, I have been meaning to write a review since receiving my Bonnie and Pearl doll in May! But one way and another life got in my way, and lo, I look up to find it’s now fall and one of my favorite blogs has beat me to the task: Swish and Swirl has written a lovely introduction filled with eye-pleasing photographs. All I can do now is offer my own perspective in the hopes that between us we will do these beautiful dolls justice. So without further ado, meet Tabitha, my Welsh doll from Bonnie and Pearl:
Tabitha is one of seven 19 inch dolls currently in the Bonnie and Pearl line. There are three brunettes, two blonds, a red-head, and one black-haired doll. All of the dolls share the same face mold, and five of the dolls have light skin, but one of the brunettes and the black-haired doll have brown skin. Except for the black-haired doll, who has a wonderful (‘s marvelous!) curly wig, all the dolls have exactly the same hairstyle: long and straight with a side part. I had a hard time choosing which doll would join our family. They’re all lovely… and my choice was made especially difficult by the scarcity of owner photos available on the internet. I would have been happy with any of the dolls, but I finally settled on the brunette with blue eyes because 1) I always find this an attractive combination, 2) I was in need of blue-eyed dolls in my collection at the time, and 3) she looks so Welsh! As it turns out, I’m glad I did because this way I can warn you about the, um… rather special blue eyes, which I otherwise might not have discovered. But let me not get ahead of myself: first things first.
I purchased Tabitha directly from the Bonnie and Pearl website. She cost seventy nine pounds, which is roughly equivalent to $128. The tricky part was arranging shipping. At the time, the United States was not on their list for overseas destinations, which meant I had to send an email to customer service detailing my order, which was then finished by phone. I want to add that the dolls are now available from other UK retailers, among them the online doll shop Petalina, and they do ship internationally. Their price is also quite a bit lower: sixty-six pounds, which is about $106, a much better deal for overseas customers. Anyway, the customer service at Bonnie and Pearl was excellent and friendly, and I received the parcel in very good time. The packaging was just lovely. Everything was wrapped beautifully in tissue with great care, and there were even little Bonnie and Pearl stickers taping things together! And unlike Swish and Swirl, I adore the Bonnie and Pearl boxes! I love the color, the beautiful artwork, the details, the sturdy cardboard and smooth matte finish… everything.
And when I removed the beautiful tissue, here’s what I saw!
(Actually, the doll’s face was partially covered with her hair net which had slipped down in transit and obstructed her eyes. So I reached in and pulled it up for the pictures, which is why her hair looks a tad messy here).
I was so delighted by the doll’s presentation that I spent a long time savoring the moment and admiring her box. I just love all the imaginative details. Every side of the box is beautiful:
One of the things I like best about Bonnie and Pearl is their emphasis on creativity and imaginative play. Every detail of their lovely packaging reflects this. I love the little birds, buttons, “stitching” details, and ribbons, butterflies and flowers adorning their boxes. Maybe it’s a little girly of me, but hey–it is a doll!
The boxes containing the outfits are equally attractive:
I even received a complimentary wire brush:
Well, back to my lovely doll! After gazing at her in the box for a while, I finally opened it up and found a free voucher for an appointment at the Bonnie and Pearl doll hair salon resting on the top of the bed that doubles as the doll’s box. I only wish I could use it!
Here is the end of the bed-box:
It’s a tight fit and was a bit difficult to slide out…
…but at last she emerged! The details of her outfit, the cute bed, her lovely face… she took my breath away.
I was so pleased to find she was tied in with ribbons! This is such a nice touch, which in my opinion should be adopted by every doll line. Not only did my doll look wonderful, but she smelled good too! She had a light, fresh cherry-ish scent. I couldn’t quite tell if it was emanating from her, her outfit, or her bed, but five months later I still catch at times a very light scent when handling her. I don’t think it’s strong enough to bother anyone with sensitivities, but I might not be the best judge.
All the Bonnie and Pearl dolls arrive in the same outfit, which I love: a flowered skirt with attached tulle petticoat, a white blouse with a Peter Pan collar, plain white undies, matching flowered slip-on shoes, a pink bow barrette, and a pink cloth purse. Honestly, this arrival outfit is one of the things that sold me on this doll line. Today it is still my very favorite outfit for Tabitha. It just looks so pretty, like something a little British girl would wear to a tea party.
I finally removed Tabitha from the box…
…and removed her hair net:
Here on out I’m going to share pictures that I took of Tabitha outdoors at different times in better light. Here she is as she arrived:
She sits well on her own:
Now let’s get down to business and look a little more closely at this special girl. To me, the Bonnie and Pearl dolls have one of the most unusual and beautiful face molds on the market.
Her expression is neutral (unsmiling) without being somber, alert, innocent and thoughtful. Her face is very pretty: a lovely classic oval shape and not too made-up, with the exception of her rather dark lips. According to the Bonnie and Pearl website, the facial details are hand-painted. I would prefer her lips to be lighter, but over all I feel she is one of the loveliest play dolls I’ve seen. One of my very favorite things about this face is the distinctive profile, which is stunning:
This is a good place to address Tabitha’s most distinctive feature: her blue eyes. Take a good look:
Yes, she has slight stray-eye on the right side. But notice anything else unusual? Yep, the blue is reflective. Here’s a close-up, (which also shows the exquisite detailing around the eye):
Both the pupil and the iris are reflective, making Tabitha’s eyes glow in an uncanny manner in most lights. Initially I found this off-putting, but Tabitha was so beautiful in all other respects, that I decided to accept it as one of her special characteristics. It soon became quite clear to me that she is, in fact, a witch–but a good one. What her magical eyes do I haven’t decided (or she hasn’t told me) yet. At any rate, I’d very much like to see a review of a brown-eyed Bonnie and Pearl doll, because it looks from pictures as though they have non-reflective eyes and I would be interested to know if this is true. Besides the reflectivity, I think Tabitha’s eyes are gorgeous: large, almond-shaped, with long feathered lashes and delicate painting, which includes a line of black on the inside edge of her upper eyelid and soft brown painted lashes all around. Even the eyelid line is enhanced with shading. I’m not sure why, since I don’t put my dolls to bed anymore, but I’m a big fan of sleep eyes in a play doll. Tabitha’s eyelids are glossy, which you can’t tell from this picture.
And here is what her ears look like. They hide pretty thoroughly under her hair.
Tabitha has an exquisite skin-tone and she is made with one the nicest quality vinyls I’ve seen so far. I love that she looks truly fair–this is part of what makes her seem so British to me–and that her coloring has a healthful, slightly pinkish radiance. I am very curious to know if the two brown-skinned Bonnie and Pearl dolls have equally lovely coloring. The vinyl is hard and smooth, and has a matte finish that reminds me of porcelain. Actually, one of my first feelings upon opening her box was that she is too beautiful to be given to a child! The perfect, delicate porcelain appearance and silky-smooth tresses seemed so precious that I mentally cringed to imagine giving her to a careless child. Let’s take a look at her wig:
Tabitha is a rich brunette with yellowish tints in full sunlight. Her hair provides a gorgeous contrast to her skin tone and light eyes. The hair material is extremely fine and smooth, almost delicate feeling. I am not usually nervous about doll hair, but at first I was afraid to play with hers. The only flaws I could find were: a tiny clump of glue sticking together a few of the fibers; a hidden bump on her wig cap which isn’t visible but can be felt; and a few long hairs reaching below the longest part of her hair. The wig does come to a slightly off-center point in back, which might be due to the orientation of the part. The wig strikes me as neither thin nor thick, and there are plenty of short hairs along her scalp which make it versatile for styling.
As far as care, the Bonnie and Pearl website recommends misting and brushing only with a wire wig brush, as well as no use of hair products and absolutely no heat. I don’t usually find it necessary to mist my dolls’ hair during styling, but I have found Tabitha’s fine hair to be very prone to snagging even with the very slight, gentle brushing I have done so far. It also seems prone to fly-aways and static in our dry climate, so the misting is probably a good plan.The only thing I do not thoroughly like about Tabitha’s wig is that the hair color appears to not have any highlights or lowlights, and has a yellowy glow in sunlight. The one-toned appearance of Tabitha’s wig makes it seem a little less lifelike to me, but the amount of hair, the way it drapes, and the fine texture are all realistic.
Let’s take a look at Tabitha’s hands. Her right and left hands are slightly different, which is always a nice touch (no pun intended):
Tabitha’s arms are fairly straight, which gives her a less natural, more doll-like look, which I think is charming. She has dimples on her elbows!
Her legs are also quite straight and just a little on the thin side. She also has dimples on her knees:
Her feet are simple and quite flat underneath:
Overall, I really like Tabitha’s proportions. Her arms and legs seem both childlike (a bit on the skinny side) and doll-like and nicely proportioned to her height. One of my favorite things about Tabitha is her body construction. I didn’t take any pictures of her nude, but both the Swish and Swirl review and the Bonnie and Pearl website show her 3/4 cloth and 1/4 vinyl body construction. In my opinion, this construction is the best of all possible worlds. The doll is soft and cuddly to hold, but has a lovely chest and neck area for modeling all different sorts of outfits, and best of all, she gains a tilting head. The tilting head is my single most favorite feature in play doll construction. It gives the doll so much expression and poseability, and makes photographing her a treat.
To demonstrate: Tabitha can look down…
…and to the side.
Her poseability gives her such a range of thoughtful expressions:
The only disadvantage to Tabitha’s body construction that I have found is the limited movement of her shoulder-arm joint area. Her arms move freely in a circle from front to back, but the sideways movement (lifting up from a resting position at her sides) is surprisingly limited. This means she would not be able to hold more expansive poses that require more flexible arm movement, such as some gymnastics moves or ballet positions.
Now let me show you Tabitha’s arrival outfit in a bit more detail. The details are what really make this outfit sing. I love the little pink (doll-scale!) buttons under her collar:
The petticoat is such a pretty touch:
And the purse has a tiny seed-bead button, a real snap closure and a satiny lining:
Tabitha can’t wait to put tiny treasures in there! Tabitha’s hair bow is on a simple barrette, which makes it easy to slip into her hair:
This is a cute look, even if a real bow would have been more versatile for hairstyling. Here are her adorable shoes:
They are very simple cloth slip-on ballet flats with an elastic strap. The only thing I do not thoroughly like about her arrival outfit is that the soles of the shoes are foam:
Foam is a cheap alternative to plastic that scratches and dents easily, is not damp-proof (not so good for outdoor posing!), and gets dirty easily. Contrasted with the other lovely details of her outfit, foam seems like a strange choice. If they were plastic soles, these would be one of my favorite pairs of doll shoes ever. Anyway, overall I am really happy with the quality of this outfit. I love Bonnie and Pearl’s use of snaps (on the skirt closure and purse). The shirt closes in the back with velcro, and the skirt also has a strip of velcro below the snap, to avoid unsightly gaps.
I indulged myself with the purchase of three Bonnie and Pearl outfits along with Tabitha (it was expensive, but I figured I wasn’t likely to make overseas orders very often due to the steep shipping charges. Hey, any excuse will do). Bonnie and Pearl currently has a nice little range of doll outfits that truly reflect their British heritage and very much appeal to my own sense of doll-aesthetics. I chose my two very favorite outfits and a pair of pajamas. I am every bit as pleased with the quality and appearance of these outfits as I am with the pink arrival outfit the dolls come in. Here is Tabitha in her smashing School Uniform:
This is a great ensemble! It comes complete with a snap-front jacket, a white blouse, a plaid pleated skirt, high knee socks, black mary jane shoes, a red bow on a barrette, a black school bag, and even an extra pair of undies for modesty. I was delighted with the quality, and again, the details. The jacket is finished with a satiny lining that makes it easy to slide on over her hands and arms:
It has real pockets on the front, doll-sized buttons positioned over each snap, a crisp fold-over collar, top-stitched ribbons at the cuffs, and a little Bonnie and Pearl embroidery on the left front:
The white blouse has a Peter Pan collar and tiny seed-bead buttons on the front. It closes in the back with velcro. The skirt closes with a combination of a snap and velcro. The shoe straps close with velcro.
The bag is pretty basic, but nice-looking and fun for imagination play. The flap closes with velcro and Tabitha could actually slip a couple of slim notebooks inside.
Tabitha just loves wearing this outfit. The bright cherry red looks amazing on her, and we are both a big fan of plaid. Here’s another picture of the jacket, just to show off how beautiful she is:
The other outfit I ordered is the Green Walking Outfit. I loved this outfit the minute I saw it on the Bonnie and Pearl website:
I really don’t have words for how cute this outfit is. I am a big fan of green, and it doesn’t come up often as a color for dolls. This outfit consists of a wool jacket and hat, a plain white tee shirt, jean shorts, thick brown knit tights, brown lace-up boots, and a scruffy pup on a leash. The ensemble is refreshingly unique, fun, practical, and nicely non-trendy (most of my dolls and me aren’t really into “trendy”). The jacket in particular is just beautifully constructed. Once again, it is fully lined and boasts an amazing amount of detail. It closes with three snaps in front. I love the four doll-scale buttons.
It has a lined, fold-over collar:
The cuffs snap closed around the doll’s wrists, and there are swingy pleats in the back:
The matching green wool hat is also fully lined, sports a brown ribbon bow on the side, and ties under the chin with brown ribbon.
The shorts have real pockets in front and back and real belt-loops.
There are tiny decorative buttons at the cuffs:
The tights are warm and snuggly. The only complaint I have about them is that the brown is a little yellowish, and the seams at the feet are designed in such a way that they have to be aligned down the bottom middle of the dolls foot in order for each leg of the tights to not be twisted (if that makes sense–I don’t have a picture), which makes fitting boots or shoes awkward. Anyway, the boots are awesome:
I love the metal eyelets, the rich brown color, and the fact that the boots really lace up. The toes are quite pointy, and since Tabitha’s feet are pretty round, it is a bit of a scrunch to get them on. Once on, though, they look charming.
The addition of a soft plush doll-sized puppy is a cute touch, though one probably more aimed at a little girl than myself. The dog is cutely scruffy (must be a terrier somewhere in there). I wish that he had real black safety eyes, instead of the embroidered eyes which look rather flat and un-lifelike. His leash is attached to his collar, and while the collar isn’t sewn to his body, it isn’t easily removable. A velcro or snap closure would have solved this problem and would increase playability.
Overall, this is an outfit for a doll to be proud of. Tabitha is excited to be all bundled up as our mountain fall comes on (we’re both hoping it cools down soon!), and I love that she looks ready to go for a brisk walk!
Last, but not least, Tabitha has one of the cutest pairs of pajamas (or pyjamas, according to the Bonnie and Pearl website) in all dolldom. If anything could make her look even more huggable, it’s this Stripey Pyjama set:
Seriously, I want a pair just like these. I love the color, the stripes, the little bows at the shoulders and hem.
The area above the empire waist on the bodice is lined with satin. The top closes in the back with velcro; the shorts have an elastic waist. Unfortunately, the adorable slippers feel a bit cheaply made to me. They’re cute to look at, but the leather-like material isn’t lined, and while the faux shearling is a cute touch the soles are made from foam, which gives them a light, flimsy feeling. The set also includes an adorable little teddy bear:
His arms and legs are thread jointed and can rotate, and he has a clear loop of stretchy elastic on the back of his neck that allows Tabitha to hold him quite convincingly.
The pale blue color of this set makes Tabitha’s complexion glow. I think she looks irresistible:
So that’s about it! This is a wonderful and unique brand of play dolls that is filling the 18-19 inch niche in the UK to admiration. I love my Tabitha, and there are very few things about these dolls that I would change. These things are: 1) replace the reflective blue eyes with more natural-looking blue eyes, 2) lighten the lip shade to a more appropriate tone for a young girl, and 3) improve the shoulder-arm joint flexibility so that little girls can pose these dolls in the active positions they love. I love the outfits, and only wish the rest of the Bonnie and Pearl selection was more readily available stateside. Steep overseas shipping aside, I hope to see Bonnie and Pearl dolls showing up in more families and collections in the U.S. Not only is this a play doll that deserves a lot of attention, but a genuinely caring company with good values, focused on the best in imagination play. I very much hope they are a huge success.
Just for fun, here are a few last pictures of Tabitha exploring. She really comes to life out of doors, and is a joy to photograph. She loved wandering through the Dunsmuir Botanical Garden:
She had just as much fun exploring the forest near the Sacramento River.
Together we wish you Happy Autumn!
Garden and river-side pictures were taken at the Dunsmuir Botanical Garden in Northern California.