Childrearing

American Girl Dolls Are Getting Permanently Attached Underwear, And Everyone Wants to Know Why

By  | 

(Facebook/American Girl)

When American Girl dolls first came out, they had plain, white, cloth torsos. That changed when Felicity was released, because fashions of the 1770s involved low, square-cut necklines that made the doll’s chest show under the clothes, so from then on the dolls came with cloth torsos that matched their skin tones. They were just plain, cloth torsos, though. Now it looks like the American Girl dolls are about to undergo another significant torso change, because the company announced that from now on most of its dolls will come with underpants permanently attached to their bodies.

American Girl posted photos of the new bodies on Facebook. In the photo at the top of this article, the doll on the left has the original body type with removable underwear. The one in the middle is a new doll body with permanently attached underwear. The one on the right shows the doll with the permanently attached underwear wearing one of American Girl’s doll swimsuits, to show that the permanently attached underwear are not visible under the bathing suit. All the bodies are still cloth, the new ones just have underpants permanently attached.

All the Truly Me dolls–the modern dolls–will have the new bodies with permanent underwear. Some of the historical dolls from the BeForever line will have them–Julie, Melody, and Maryellen will have the permanent underwear, so basically all the dolls from decades where people wore that style of underwear will get the new bodies. Historical dolls from eras where underwear looked considerably different, like Samantha and Addy, will keep their underwearless cloth torsos. Future contemporary dolls will also have the new body types.

This seems really weird. Why would a doll need permanently attached underwear? What if a kid wants their American Girl doll to take a bath in their $60 American Girl bathtub? The only dolls I remember having permanent underwear when I was growing up were the Ken dolls with molded plastic briefs.

This is a pretty big change, and people hate and fear change. A lot of American Girl fans and collectors have taken umbrage at the idea that their dolls will come with permanent panties. And many have been speculating as to why American Girl might want to make such a seemingly odd change. Some people speculated that the company was expanding internationally and were adding the underpants to make the dolls more “modest.” Still others objected on the grounds that it seemed to be telling kids that there was something wrong with what was under the underwear, and thus it must always be covered forever no matter what.

American Girl responded to the controversy with a Facebook post saying it wasn’t about modesty or international expansion, and that they certainly didn’t mean it to be about body-shaming. But they said itw as

“Just to clear up any confusion—this design change isn’t due to our plans to expand internationally,” the company said. “We made the decision for a variety of reasons, including consumer research that’s shown that having the underwear fixed to the body will make play easier for some and will ensure the underwear is less likely to be lost or need to be replaced.”

That seems a bit odd, though. It’s not like American Girl has ever made stuff that wasn’t easy to lose. In my experience, doll shoes are the real thing that gets lost, not underwear. And besides, if everyone is losing underwear and having to replace it, then wouldn’t American Girl want to sell more?

The permanent underpants don’t exactly seem like a hugely pressing issue, but it’s hard to see them as an improvement on the product. If anything, a lot of customers seem to be upset because the sewn-on underwear makes the doll seem “cheap,” or at least juvenile. Attached panties are for little kids, they say. Separate panties evoke more of a quality, heirloom-esque experience of a high-end doll that won’t break down, and who comes with a full wardrobe of realistic accessories.

Jezebel contacted American Girl to find out what the deal is, and the company’s response really makes it seem like it is a cost-cutting measure.

“The decision to make this change was made for several reasons, including our ability to continue producing a quality product without the price of our dolls going up. And because we learned from our consumer research that the new underwear design will make play easier for some children and will ensure the underwear cannot be lost, we hoped it was an overall benefit for most,” they said.

Attached panties aren’t the end of the world, but if you like the old-style bodies better, you might want to get any doll-shopping done in the near future, while there are still some panty-less dolls to be had.