This past week we took an impromptu trip to Chicago to visit the American Girl Store. I had been planning a trip like this for when each girl turned 10--- I thought that by 10 they'd be capable of picking out their own doll and taking care of it. However, I've recently read some articles which indicated that by 10 girls are at the end of their doll playing years, and that a doll purchased at that age would only have a few years' of play. I've given each of my girls my AG doll (Viola has Kirsten and Evangeline has Samantha, both of which are in a worn state so I'm not worried about the girls damaging them), and even though I wanted to wait until the girls were a bit older to start this tradition, I decided to move the purchase up to 7. Better to have a toy that is played with and loved, than one that is in pristine condition, right?
It just so happened that our good friends were planning a trip to Chicago to take their daughter to the AG store for her birthday, and they generously offered to meet up with us there. I'd been to the AG store in MN (as an adult) while on a business trip and it had been everything that my inner-child had imagined it would be, so I knew this was going to be a fun trip for the girls as well as me!
The week before the trip, I browse the catalogue with Viola to discuss picking out a doll. For those of you who grew up in the 80's/90's with me and remember AG as a line of historical dolls, they've now added a "Truly Me" line of dolls where girls can pick the hair color / style / face / eye color, etc.
Viola fell in love with this "shimmer and lace" dress, and the doll model shown in the catalogue, so I called ahead to make sure that the doll was in-stock for our trip. Because we wanted to put these items on hold, we were assigned a "personal shopper" to take us through the store (a complimentary service) which turned out to be a lifesaver!
We left for Chicago on Monday night after work, and arrived just in time to check in to the hotel and go to bed. The next morning we headed over to the AG Store right after breakfast and met with our Personal Shopper who was amazing. The Chicago store is huge, even bigger than the Mall of America store which I'd previously visited, and we spent the entire morning browsing the doll displays and interactive windows on the first floor. Eva was excited to see that her doll had been un-retired and had an entire display dedicated to her. (AG has started 'archiving' dolls, similar to Disney's 'vault' strategy to keep inventory fresh.) Samantha was my first and favorite doll, so I was thrilled to see all her new accessories and outfits, too! :-)
The one rule I had for the shopping trip was that the girls spend their shopping allowances on dolls, doll clothes, or doll accessories. When I'd browsed the catalogue with Viola at home she'd been immediately drawn to the AG Girl pets. We'd been trying to cut back on the amount of stuffed animals in our house and we have ample little cats and dogs and bunnies and whatnot that are the right size to make AG pets. Of course, one of the first things the girls picked up (and refused to put down) were a pet dog and a pet cat, and their corresponding accoutrements. I was less than thrilled with that choice, but they were both adamant that they wanted the pets instead of outfits.
Eva wasn't allowed to get a doll, as she is only four. I promised her that when she turned 7 she would have her own trip to AG (maybe NY?). After arriving and seeing this year's "Girl of the Year" though I really regretted that decision... this year's girl is named Grace and she is a baker! Eva is absolutely obsessed with cupcakes and baking and has been for over a year now. Her big gift from Santa last Christmas was a "cupcake shop" with crocheted cupcakes (thanks etsy!) and a little menu sign. So when she saw Grace's accessories she fell in love immediately. Spoiler alert, we didn't buy any of them, but we did pick up Grace's movie which the girls watched last night and loved. I'd love to get some of Grace's playsets / accessories for Eva but they are just so expensive. (I'm investigating knock-off alternatives, though!)
Viola used the rest of her shopping budget to create her own outfit at the in-store fashion design print-on-demand kiosk thing. I was a little skeptical about the cost/quality, and would have preferred to come home with one of the adorable historical outfits, but Viola loves to make things and it super proud of her outfit and had a ton of fun making it! Check out the process, below:
We had appointments to take our "old dolls" to the doll salon to be cleaned and have their hair done nicely, and for Viola's new doll to have her ears pierced. I really wish I'd taken before/after pictures of the dolls because they were pretty grimy from years of play and storage in my mom's attic, and when the salon ladies were done with them they looked almost like new! Turns out the secret to cleaning AG doll skin is Baking Soda--- who knew?
After, we headed over to the American Girl cafe for lunch with our friends (and dolls, of course!)
The cafe even had these amazing "doll holders" in the bathroom so you can wash your hands. I'm thinking they'd make great storage for dolls if you put them, say, in a kids bedroom, don't you think?
My favorite "get" from the shopping trip, though, were these doll storage / carry cases. I had seen them in MN for $95, but they were on clearance in Chicago for just $35! And they say "American Girl Store, Chicago" on the side, so in addition to being practical they make a great souvenir! And, I guess, how could I have let them get those bags and not let them get an AG pet for the pocket, right? (I have three years to coach Eva to LOVE historical clothes before her trip to an AG store, though!)
Viola named her doll Shimmer (even though that was the name of the dress, not the doll) and in recent days has been asking me to Google "Shimmer Doll Story" to find her doll's story. I keep reminding her that her Truly Me doll doesn't have a story and that part of buying a Truly Me doll is that you get to write your own story. Last night she was up late planning out Shimmer's story and we talked about photographing vignettes for the illustrations, so it looks like we have an exciting craft project ahead of us!