The Toy Box Philosopher
Reviews and opinions about dolls and doll-related toys.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
“Zaria” and “Kaila” by Double Dutch Dolls
Stephanie emailed me over the summer to tell me about Double Dutch Dolls , a new company that is producing multicultural, articulated (!), slim-proportioned 18 inch play dolls. The company’s founder, K. Charles , grew up reading Sweet Valley High and Judy Blume books–wishing that there were similar fictional characters who looked like her. Unsatisfied with the current market, Ms. Charles decided to write her own books about spunky, smart, unique and beautiful teens from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The characters in these stories were so real to her, that Ms. Charles decided to turn them into high-quality 18 inch play dolls.
At the moment, only the main characters from K. Charles’ book series are available in doll form. These are Kaila and Zaria, identical 14-year-old twins who are navigating the challenges of middle school together. With Kickstarter funding success, the company hopes to introduce a full line of doll characters, including Kaila’s best friend Sacha, Zaria’s Hispanic friend Alainna, Zaria’s Irish/German/Asian lab partner Kadence, and (my favorite!) the redheaded African-American and Norwegian girl, Trinity.
After reading the website and looking at the dolls, I instantly wanted to get involved and support this wonderful project. My experience with these dolls is a bit of an epic tale, though. It all started back on August 9th, the day of Stephanie’s email, when I ordered Zaria. However, almost two months later, I am the proud owner of both Zaria and her twin sister. And Zaria is sporting a new wig. I’ll tell you the whole story, of course, but let me start by showing you the beautiful twins as they look today:
Zaria (left, re-wigged) and visit the website Kaila (right) by Double Dutch Dolls. $69.00 each.
Zaria and Kaila are identical twins, so the dolls have the exact same face mold. When I first started shopping, I figured I only needed one of the twins, and the choice was pretty simple for me. Kaila is the fashion-conscious sister who is on the cheerleading squad and has her own line of clothing called “Double Dutch.” Zaria is the science-lover who plays soccer, is good at math and wants to go to medical school. Can you guess which was my favorite?
I also chose Zaria because I liked her non-pink outfit and her wonderfully exuberant curly wig. I haven’t seen a wig like this on any other doll. However, my biggest hesitation in purchasing Zaria was also her wig. As you might remember, I don’t have much skill or intuition with curly wigs .
Still, I put aside my wig concerns and ordered Zaria. She cost $69, which is a good price for a high-quality doll in this scale. Comparable dolls, like Kidz ‘n’ Cats or A Girl for All Time, cost $100-$200. Online ordering was easy, the communication from the company was excellent, and Zaria arrived very quickly. She came packaged in a cardboard window box with a pink-themed design:
Zaria herself was looking down in the box (almost like she was feeling a little shy) so I focused on reading the information on the back of the box. At the top, there’s a picture of the twins:
Kaila (left) and Zaria (right).
My son points out that this is a computer-generated image. I guess he can tell because the two girls’ faces are identical. The only difference between them is in the style of their hair–Kaila’s hair is straight and Zaria’s is wavy.
There’s a paragraph introducing Zaria and Kaila, and a short mention of the book and website:
I have to say, as a person who thinks about names a lot, I love that the twins are called Zaria and Kaila. These are both slightly unusual names that sound pretty to my ears. The names also go together very well, with their similar vowel sounds, strong consonant start, and five-letter length. There are minor punctuation flaws in this text that I find distracting, though. It’s fine for a back-of-the-box blurb, but as an advertisement for a book series, it could have used another round of editing.
At the very bottom of the box, there’s a bulleted list of a few more details about the dolls–including the fact that they have posable arms and legs. Yay!
I am also excited about the “hip fashion clothes and accessories” that will be available.
I also purchased the first book in the series, Double Dare. The cover of this book has the same graphic image of the twins that’s on the back of the box:
This is a cute story, and it gave me a descriptive and memorable sense of Zaria and Kaila’s contrasting personalities. I am not the target audience for this book, but I did appreciate how the twins’ parents are portrayed. I also respect how the author avoids a two-dimensional portrayal of the antagonist (Trinity) by showing her differently from each twin’s perspective. The plot is far from original (twins secretly trading places with one another) but watching these new characters navigate the familiar scenario is entertaining–if painfully awkward at times. As with the back-of-box writing, the punctuation and sentence structure in this book tripped me up on several occasions.
The doll came attached to a five-sided pink cardboard backdrop:
She was held in place with two wire ties that were easy to untwist and remove:
The wire around the doll’s neck and ankles was wrapped in thin white foam padding:
When I tilted Zaria’s head upwards, so that I could finally see her face, I was struck by how stunningly pretty and unique-looking she is:
Even after she was freed from her box, Zaria still had the white foam wrapped around her neck and ankles. I quickly cut these strips off with scissors.
Here’s Zaria’s face again:
I think that the combination of this doll’s fine facial features and dramatically full wig is especially interesting:
The wig has long, distinct ringlet curls. The texture of the hair is thick and soft–almost like mohair or fine wool. All of the hair is not contained perfectly within the ringlets, though. There are frizzy areas in between and at the bottom of many of the corkscrew curls:
Zaria has some shorter bangs at the top of her head, but these are pulled back away from her face and secured with a single full-size bobby pin:
The elastic edge of the wig cap is visible in some areas where the bangs have been pinned back:
The wig has densely-spaced rows of hair fiber and seems to be very well-made:
I really love how the rich curls on this wig frame Zaria’s narrow face:
To get a better look at Zaria’s head mold, I had to pull her hair back into a huge, thick ponytail. Zaria has very large, wide-set, almond-shaped brown eyes. There’s a vaguely alien quality to these eyes. Zaria’s nose is realistic and narrow and her dark burgundy lips are slightly parted with the hint of a smile. I think her face looks quite beautiful from the front. Her narrow chin, lip shape and delicate nose remind me of the young actress Bianca Santos …but Bianca’s eyes are much smaller.
I don’t think Zaria’s features look as good in full profile. The biggest problem is in the angle of her chin and jaw. The pointed tip of the chin merges very abruptly into a slanted jawline. I think maybe if the angle of the jaw was less severe, the chin would look a little fuller and more youthful.
However, I think Zaria looks amazing in half-profile:
Her ears are pierced!
Her chin looks much better from this angle. In addition, this view accentuates the expertly-sculpted nose and the pretty shape of the mouth.
Zaria’s eyes are inset and fixed in place. They are highlighted by fine, realistic, applied lashes on the top lids. Her painted eyebrows do not have any brush-stroke detail, but they are elegantly arched and complement the shape of her eyes really well. She also has eye shadow around her eyes, painted in the same color as her eyebrows. I like the cat eye style of this makeup, but I am not sure it’s something Zaria would take the time to apply every morning?
Zaria’s eyes are light brown and have nice iris detail. The eyes are hard to photograph. Even when I manage to get the focus right, they appear ever-so-slightly foggy:
I really like the shape and color of Zaria’s mouth. She has a bow-shaped upper lip and a thicker lower lip. While there are no visible teeth, it looks from some angles like Zaria is about to open her mouth and say something.
Zaria comes in a sporty outfit that fits her personality nicely:
She’s wearing star-spangled denim shorts, a white tank top and a black hoodie sweatshirt:
The sweatshirt has a decal with the Double Dutch Dolls logo:
The Double Dutch slogan is “so Cool, so Cute, so You!” With an odd mix of lowercase and capital letters. I suppose many doll slogans are similar, but this reminds me of Lalaloopsy’s “Sew Magical! Sew cute!”
The hoodie sweatshirt is very well-made and feels like a perfect miniature of a full-sized garment. It has a real metal zipper, an elastic hem, and carefully serged seams:
Under the sweatshirt, Zaria is wearing a white tank top with “Double Dutch Dolls” written in cursive across the front. The shirt has a full velcro seam in the back.
This cotton knit shirt is also very ruggedly and realistically constructed:
The denim shorts are also expertly constructed, with little belt loops, working pockets and carefully turned hems:
Look at the stitched detail in the back:
With two more working pockets:
The shorts have a velcro fly, which is not my favorite closure for pants (zipper and snap would be more realistic) but this style is very easy to use.
These star shorts did not strike me as very trendy when I first saw them, but I have been told that this type of pattern is, indeed, quite popular these days. My mistake! Mind you, I am probably the farthest thing from a fashion genius that there is.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think too much about the creative design of these clothes, especially since they’re so well-made. However, Kaila is meant to be a fashion genius, and she makes all of the twins’ clothing, so this puts the creative design of the outfits under more scrutiny. Zaria’s whole outfit seems plain compared to what I’d expect from the sister of a gifted teenaged fashion designer.
Zaria’s footwear seems more funky than the rest of her outfit. She is wearing knee-high black socks and colorful flower-patterned sneakers:
The shoes are great. I love the lively, feminine print combined with the practical, Converse-style of the sneaker.
The shoes are made out of canvas and, like the rest of the outfit, are durably and accurately constructed–with little metal eyes for the red laces and everything:
The style and construction of these sneakers reminds me of the Extra Special Doll shoes that came with my Gracie .
Sadly, the black socks have left some pretty bad stains on Zaria’s legs and feet:
I contacted Double Dutch Dolls to let them know about this problem, and they were friendly, concerned and responsive. They told me they are already talking to the manufacturers about a solution. With new small companies like this one, I feel very sympathetic to this type of issue. The dolls are essentially a first draft, and I imagine there’s a steep learning curve in all of the nuances of doll production. I feel pretty optimistic that they will quickly find a solution to this problem.
Under all of her clothes, Zaria is wearing simple white knit underpants:
Zaria’s body is made out of hard vinyl and has eleven points of articulation. Her joints are elastic-strung, and the stringing work is very well done on my doll. She has just the right balance of tension and flexibility. Zaria has a slender, realistic body shape that I think is attractive from all angles:
Zaria balances very well on her own, with and without her shoes.
Zaria’s shoulder joints allow her to lift her arms up and hold them out away from her body:
This position reveals a bit more dark staining from the black sweatshirt:
The elbow and wrists joints are straight-cut and can each bend to about a 140 degree angle in any direction:
The hands have long, slender fingers and bright pink nail polish:
I wish the nail polish was darker, like Zaria’s lips
Zaria cannot touch her face with her hands, but she can just barely touch the top of her head.
Zaria can’t quite hold her hands together in front of her body on her own, but the joints are flexible enough to stretch the hands into that position temporarily. The joints are also stiff enough to hold the arms in several positions away from the body. Zaria is the kind of doll that has good static posing flexibility, but who can also be manipulated into many more temporary positions during play.
Zaria’s neck joint is also strung, so she can look up, down, all around, and can tilt her head from side-to-side:
Zaria is very good at sitting on the ground:
And can even bend one leg slightly for a more natural sitting pose:
She has a slightly “kicky” left leg that has trouble settling into a split position…
…but it can be made to behave pretty easily:
As I was positioning Zaria into her graceful front-to-back split position, a bit of hair fell out:
This actually happened pretty regularly throughout the review, but I figured instead of cleaning the hair up every time, I should show you what was going on:
The frequency of these hair loss moments decreased throughout the review, so I suspect the shedding would have stopped eventually (and Zaria has plenty of hair to spare…) but it did cause a fair amount of mess.
Here’s another split pose with the hair cleaned away:
Zaria’s knee joints can also hold a bend of about 140 degrees…
…which is not enough for her to kneel:
but is enough bend for her to sit nicely in a chair or on a bench:
Zaria can strike and hold a good variety of poses for an 18 inch elastic-strung doll. In fact, she has the best flexibility of any doll in this class that I own.
For her size and body construction, the two dolls most similar to Zaria are A Girl for All Time’s Clementine , and Sonja Hartmann’s Kidz ‘n’ Cats play dolls :
From left to right: Clementine, Zaria, Evita.
Zaria’s slender body shape is most similar to Clementine, but the two dolls’ joints behave quite differently.
Zaria can easily out-pose Clementine. Clementine’s knee joints do not hold their bent position at all, while her elbow joints can’t stay straight. Also, Clem is lacking the wrist articulation that makes Zaria so expressive:
I liked that pose, above, so much I had to get another shot:
Balancing all on her own.
Clem can wear Zaria’s shorts nicely, but the shoes are too small:
I could force the shoe on, but it’s very tight in the heel.
Both of Zaria’s tops fit Clementine, and Zaria is one of the lucky few who can wear Clementine’s exquisite chiffon dress:
There’s no such luck sharing clothes with my other slim 18 inch dolls, though. Evita’s skirt and top both hang loose on Zaria, and Zaria’s clothes are all tight on Evie:
Stephanie mentioned when she first told me about Double Dutch Dolls that she thought they resembled the discontinued BFC Ink dolls. She’s right–the body shapes are very similar:
Kailtin (right) is curvier with slender limbs.
However, the BFC dolls are slimmer in the arms and legs to the extent that Zaria can’t even pull Kaitlin’s top on past her hands:
Zaria’s clothes are loose are Kaitlin, too–especially the shorts.
Even with short-sleeved BFC tops, the fit through the chest is too tight on Zaria.
Just for reference, here’s Zaria next to an American Girl doll :
There is a significant difference in proportion here, so I didn’t even try swapping clothes with these two. Journey Girls are closer in size, but even those clothes are a bit big on Zaria.
Update 10/07/14: I forgot to compare Zaria to Carpatina dolls , which are actually quite close in size. Here are some additional pictures (many thanks to those who reminded me to do this!):
Zaria and Carpatina “Erin.”
The biggest differences between the two are in the face and the torso. Zaria has more mature body contours, and her face and eyes are more angular.
I only have one Carpatina outfit (the Guinevere dress) but it fits Zaria very well. The laces on the side of the dress help achieve a great fit. Even though these two dolls look like they have similar arms lengths, the sleeves on Erin’s dress are quite long on Zaria.
Since Erin is the larger of the two dolls, Zaria’s clothes are pretty tight on her. The shirts, in particular, look too small:
Zaria can wear Erin’s slippers, but they’re very big. Erin can squeeze into Zaria’s shoes, but they’re too tight.
I think Zaria looks really pretty in Erin’s dress!
After comparing Zaria to these other dolls, I put her back into her original clothes and tried to work with her hair a little bit. I wanted to see if I could relax the tight ringlet curls and make her look more like the pictures on the Double Dutch Dolls website. I should never do this kind of thing, though, and I don’t know why I can’t learn from my mistakes.
I used my fingers to scruntch the curls (I didn’t even touch a brush–promise!). This made the hair look messier, and it also increased the amount of shedding:
You can see that I didn’t do much to loosen the ringlets, they’re just slightly less distinct than they were at the beginning:
Here’s the hair right out of the box again for comparison:
And here’s the little pile of hair that this project produced:
In retrospect, I should have just stopped playing with the hair. My Zaria didn’t look quite like the website pictures, but she still had pretty awesome hair:
However, I wanted to take Zaria outside for a final photo shoot, so I tried putting her hair back into a ponytail to keep it from casting shadows on her face:
But the more I styled the hair, the worse it seemed to get. I just couldn’t find a nice way to arrange this very thick mane. The back of the ponytail started to look unacceptably messy to me:
So…I did a bad thing.
Nice move, Emily.
I gave poor Zaria the worst haircut ever. I mean, this was an absolute train wreck of a haircut:
Like something I’d have done when I was four.
So…I emailed Double Dutch Dolls to ask if they sold replacement wigs for this doll. They don’t, but they were super-nice, sympathetic and helpful. They offered to replace Zaria (!!) but also gently suggested that I might prefer Kaila’s straight, styleable hair. They explained to me that Zaria’s wig is designed to relax (over time) into more natural curls. My bad.
Since Zaria’s hair calamity was entirely my fault, I did not accept the replacement doll. Instead, I bought Kaila, figuring that she could fill in for her sister in the final photo shoot–they are identical twins, after all! Also, I figured that this way I would get a chance to show you both of the Double Dutch Dolls. After ordering Kaila, I went online and picked out a few potential replacement wigs for Zaria, too.
Kaila arrived long before Zaria’s new wigs:
Her face is exactly the same as Zaria’s, but it’s neat how the straight hair gives her quite a different look:
The wig is beautiful and easy to brush and style. It has a center part rooted into a skin-like section of the wig cap–similar to some of the My Twinn wigs.
Kaila is wearing a pink version of the hoodie sweatshirt that Zaria came in:
Under the sweatshirt, she is wearing a pink tee shirt dress with a face on the front. The dress is very short and looks a little bit like a nightgown to me. Again, there’s no edgy fashion design vibe to this outfit.
Kaila is wearing the same sneakers as Zaria, but her knee-high socks are black (uh-oh…) with white stars on them. These socks match Zaria’s shorts. With my doll, the left sock has stars with a yellow tinge. They look like they should glow in the dark:
As expected, Kaila has the same dark stains on her legs:
The twins’ outfits have great mix-and-match potential, so I assembled my favorite pieces of clothing (Zaria’s shirt and shorts with Kaila’s sweatshirt), re-dressed Kaila, and took her out on an cloudless 80 degree weekend day to show her the ocean:
Kaila had only just started to investigate the rock formations on this spectacular beach when my family opted to move on and grab some lunch.
Two days later, I brought Kaila back to the same beach to let her explore some more, but as you can see, this day was not quite as summery.
I thought the sky was blue!
We hugged the rocks, trying to take shelter from the biting wind. Both the colors and the temperature felt a lot more like fall on this particular day!
Kaila’s curiosity got the best of the weather, and she ventured out on some rock climbing excursions:
I think Kaila enjoyed how the rocks gave her a good backdrop for posing:
As I was finishing up this review, Zaria’s new wigs finally came in the mail, so I figured I would quickly re-wig her and show you how that project turned out.
This is a Monique synthetic “Arielle” wig in black (size 10-11):
It’s nowhere near as thick or dramatic as Zaria’s original wig:
Original wig (left) and Monique wig (right).
But it looks more like Zaria’s hair from the cover art of the book:
The other wig I got is a Playhouse synthetic “Liza” wig in dark brown (also size 10-11):
Original wig (left) and Playhouse wig (right).
I like the dark brown color of the second wig, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near as soft as the Monique wig, and the curls are very thin and shiny.
I don’t like either of the replacement wigs as much as Zaria’s original wig. They are not as well-made, and not as special.
Here’s Zaria back in the Monique wig, which is what I am going to keep her in:
The curls on the new wig look wimpy compared to the original–there’s a lot of visible daylight between them. I tried to fluff up the curls a little bit, but I was so nervous about over-manipulating the hair this time that I don’t think I made much of a difference.
I like how this new wig also has center part that is rooted in a skin-colored wig cap. It makes Zaria resemble her sister in yet another way. The color of the new wig is darker than Kaila’s wig, though.
With Zaria’s new wig glued down, I decided to make one last trip to the beach to photograph the twins together.
Zaria is backlit in the picture below because I was trying to capture the enormous waves that were crashing onto the rocks…making me a bit nervous about the impending high tide:
We sought out some slightly higher ground, where Zaria seemed right at home climbing all over the boulders:
With all of the manipulation and posing, Zaria’s new wig started to relax a bit more at this point, too:
Kaila’s short skirt limited her climbing options…
…but as the sun came out in force, both girls were happy to ditcth their sneakers and dip their feet into the tidal pools:
Zaria is clearly the more adventurous of the pair, because even as we were hiking back to the car, she insisted on stopping to climb this tree (barefoot!) to get one last peek at the ocean:
Bottom line? I didn’t start out with the intention of reviewing both of these Double Dutch twins, but I am actually really happy to have the pair, and I find the small differences between them quite interesting. First, I’ll go over the things about these two dolls that are the same (their faces, bodies and articulation) and then I will contrast the qualities that differ from twin to twin (the clothing and hair).
Face: when I first opened Zaria’s box, I think there was an audible gasp. Her face is beautiful in a striking and unusual way. I think the dark makeup and dramatic hair combine with Zaria’s exotic features to make a very bold first impression. On closer inspection, I noticed that her eyes are oversized and her chin has a mature, angular profile. I sill think her face is wonderful to look at, refreshingly unique, and very photogenic. Zaria and Kaila have the exact same face mold and face paint. Their different hairstyles keep the twins distinct, but I think it would have been nice to also have some slight differences their coloring. For example, I don’t picture Zaria wearing much (if any) makeup, and I suspect Kaila would have a more flashy, youthful style. I hope future Double Dutch releases have new face molds–not because I don’t like this one, but because I’d love to see how the different girls’ ethnicities are represented.
Body and articulation: both dolls have an articulated all-vinyl body that is strung with elastic. My two dolls are very well-strung with just the right amount of tension in their joints. The body shape is slender and has a believable physique for a fourteen-year-old girl. The slim proportions and all-vinyl construction also make this body great for showing off a variety of clothing styles. I have a few other 18 inch dolls that are constructed in a similar way to Zaria and Kaila, but none of them move, balance, or hold poses as well as these Double Dutch Dolls. The movement is not as good as it would be on a hinge-jointed doll, but it is the best example of strung play doll articulation that I have seen. I am very happy with the body style and movement of these two dolls.
Clothing: overall, the clothing is extremely well-made and has excellent detail. The construction and fabric choices make each item seem like a miniature replica of a full-sized garment. Unfortunately, the darker items (Zaria’s black sweatshirt and both girls’ socks) did not have any protective packaging, and left permanent dark stains on the dolls’ extremities. Also, the fashion design of the twins’ clothing does not live up to what I picture after reading the book. Kaila seems to have an imaginative, forward-thinking, slightly funky fashion sense, and very little of that is reflected in the dolls’ outfits. I wonder if there were some manufacturing or financial limitations in the creation of these clothes, because I suspect that K. Charles has a very clear idea of what Kaila’s unique fashion style should be. I hope that eventually we’ll get to see an offering of modern doll clothes that mirror Kaila’s Double Dutch fashion creations from the book. In the meantime, I prefer Zaria’s outfit to Kaila’s, mostly because of the denim shorts and diversity of colors.
Hair: Kaila and Zaria have very different wigs, and I think this is an important detail to be aware of when choosing the right Double Dutch Doll for you. Zaria’s thick, curly wig is not like anything I have seen before. Of the two dolls, Zaria’s hair offers a much more dramatic, unique look. Zaria’s hair is definitely not meant to be brushed, though, and even if you finger-comb it a lot (like I did) its volume can reach a level of chaos that might not appeal to everyone. Kaila’s wig, on the other hand, is perfect for brushing and styling, and would be a more sensible choice for someone (like me…) who can’t resist playing with their dolls’ hair. However, if I could go back in time and re-pick only one doll, I would still choose Zaria…but this time I would go out of my way to preserve the authenticity of her wig. If, despite your best intentions, you end up mangling Zaria’s wig like I did, there’s a $16 solution for sale at Monique that isn’t half bad.
It’s a grand moment in the doll world when a company realizes a personal, heart-felt vision for a new line of dolls. I always feel fortunate to get a window into this ambitious process, and I think the resulting dolls almost always add something special and distinct to the market. In this case, there are a few minor kinks to work out, but nothing that diminishes my enthusiasm for this customer-oriented company and its ethnically inclusive concept. I didn’t plan on having both Zaria and Kaila in my house, but I also didn’t foresee how each of them would add her own unique presence and personality to my collection. Overall, my experience with these dolls and this company has been wonderful, and I can’t wait to see which character is produced next.
Zaria (left) and Kaila (right).
For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit “Zaria” and “Kaila” by Double Dutch Dolls