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Finding an alternative for the Indian American Girl doll Kaya proved harder than I expected. I ran across a wide range of 18″ African dolls, but hair texture removed most of them. I found a number of 18″ Hispanic dolls, but their hair was often a brown color instead of black. I also saw a doll in leather and feathers with brunette hair more golden than my own auburn curls, and another Indian-dressed doll with beautiful black hair. . . and skin lighter than mine. Apparently feathers make the Indian for some people.
Operating on the principal that feathers have nothing to do with the Indian, I have compiled a list of acceptable Kaya alternatives – or general dolls that make good Indians, and, ideally, double as Hispanic Josefina. My criteria:
- Must fit standard 18″ doll clothing
- Must have medium or dark skin
- Must have black or very dark brown hair, long, parted – preferably down the center (for easy braiding) and preferably no bangs
- Preferably sport a closed mouth (Nez Pierce had a cultural taboo on bearing teeth, and for this reason the Kaya doll was made with a closed mouth)
- Must be priced under $100!
More detailed specifics for the Kaya doll can be found here.
It is important to understand that doll that do not come with their hair braided will need some fiddling to properly divide the hair on the back of their head. It’s not difficult, and I will post a tutorial later, but it is something to keep in mind. Also remember braiding substantially shortens hair length – you want hair as long as you can find it. Lowest prices first:
Doll Title: Maria Doll
Company: Fibre-Craft Materials Corp.
Age Range: UNSPECIFIED
Features: 18″, medium skin, brown eyes, open mouth, very long straight black hair with partial center part
Make-up: rooted hair, soft body, brown eyes open and close, standard joints
Accessories: lime green velcro dress
Doll line further information: The Springfield Collection includes five dolls, many modern outfits and accessories, and some basic furniture sets.
Company: Gali Girls
Doll Title: BLACK HAIR (DARK SKIN) GALI GIRL
Age Range: 4 to 11
Features: 18″, black hair, light medium skin, open mouth, hair styled parted on one side
Accessories: Candle Glow print t-shirt, denim skirt with white pattern ruffle, white sneakers and socks, matching Magen-David bracelets (for doll and for owner), 10 piece wooden toy Shabbat Kit with paints and brush, Hebrew and English name birth certificate (to be filled out by owner) NOTE: Her accessories and dress are distinctly Jewish, so perhaps these items can be used in the creation of a mock Rebekah Rubin. After all, Kaya has a modern dress, so why not Rebekah?
Make-up: rooted hair (can be styled by wetting it and letting is dry in desired position), soft body
Price: $25.00 [GIVEN RECENT PRICES CUTS AN DISCONTINUATION OF SOME PRODUCTS, I SUSPECT THE COMPANY IS GOING OUT OF BUSINESS]
Doll line further information: There are currently four modern Gali Girls and two historical ones, the latter of which have their own books. Gali Girls aims to go beyond the “fashion, makeup and boyfriends” dolls that are common today by promoting the values of “kindness, respect, and honesty.”
Doll Title: Favorite Friends – Autumn Mist 18″ Play Doll
Company: Madame Alexander
Age Range: 3+ COLLECTOR GRADE
Features: 18″ dark skin, closed mouth, wavy black hair parted in the center
Make-up: rooted hair, eyes open and close, vinyl top-half of torso so she can sport low necklines and straps, bottom half is soft
Accessories: green jersey top, denim skirt, green knit hoodie, polka dot corduroy belt, green-and-black stripped leggings, gold Mary Jane shoes
Doll line further information: Madame Alexander dolls are well known and sought by adult collectors. Favorite Friends take that quality to children. Dolls and outfits are modern and stylish.
Doll Title: Today’s Girl Sophie w/ 15-pc Wardrobe
Company: Constructive Playthings
Age Range: 4+
Features: 18″, light medium skin, brown eyes, open mouth, straight black hair with center part
Make-up rooted hair, soft body, eyes stay open
Accessories: one coat, 2 hats, one headband, black boots, pink shoes, tennis shoes, jeans, jacket, black and white dress, pink jumper, tee shirt, long sleeved shirt, pair of underwear, and a pair of socks
Price: $59.99 (Amazon)
Doll line further information: Today’s girls include five dolls and many modern outfits, accessories, lots of furniture, and other items for the dolls such as horses, scooters, camping tents, wheelchairs, a “doll room” made of two connected walls and a floor, and even doll-sized carnival games.
Doll Title: Julie Doll
Company: My Doll’s Life (Now carries the rest of the Sophia line)
Age Range: 6+
Features: 18,” light medium skin, shiny long black hair parted on the side, open mouth
Make-up: wig hair, soft body
Accessories: 2-piece satin PJs set, bunny slippers, pink hair ribbon
Doll line further information: DOLL IS NO LONGER MANUFACTURED, PRICES LINKS GO TO RETAILERS WITH EXCESS STOCK. Sophia’s now only sells wholesale doll clothes and other doll lines to retailers. My Doll’s Life, however, carries Sophia’s modern outfits and accessories like bunkbeds, a vanity, car, and horse.
Doll Title: The Fidelia Doll
Company: Vision Forum
Age Range: UNSPECIFIED
Features: 18″, medium skin, brown eyes, closed mouth, slightly wavy dark brown hair with bangs and partial part
Make-up: rooted hair, eyes open and close, made by Goetz
Accessories: timeless “feminine” yellow dress, white socks and shoes
Price: $75.00 [COMPANY OFTEN RUNS SALES CLOSE TO THE END OF THE YEAR]
Doll line further information: The Beautiful Girlhood collection features four dolls in timeless dresses and many historical outfits from around the world. Each outfit has a corresponding book.
Sweet Pea Girls
Company: Karen’s Kottage
Doll Title: CUSTOM MADE
Age Range: 7+ COLLECTOR GRADE
Make-up: wig hair, soft body, eyes open and close
Features: 18″ medium skin, brown eyes, open mouth, long deep brown hair already in two braids
Accessories: your choice of five hand-sewn outfits complete with shoes, socks, undies, and a headband or hat
Doll line further information: This is a lovely home business. She hands sews the outfits and assembles the dolls, assuring quality herself. The custom options are endless, and classic, modern, and historical outfits are available very cheaply!
Company: Avonlea Traditions
Doll Title: Saila
Age Range: Unspecified COLLECTOR GRADE
Make-up: soft body, eyes open and close
Features: 18″, light medium skin, dark brown eyes, closed mouth, long black hair parted on one side
Accessories: gathered neck t-shirt, zip-up vest, dark sparkly silver jeans, kamiik (traditional Inuit footwear), trilingual (English, French, and Inukitut) keepsake journal, decorative storage box
Doll line further information: Maplelea Girls is to Canada what American Girl is to the US. There are six dolls from various parts and lifes in Canada, and many outfits and costumes (some historical, but mostly modern) and accessories as well as some furniture and beds.
Alright, that’s eight. I promised nine alternatives. I’m going to cheat on this one. Aunt Patty’s Kids also does custom dolls and can probably create a Kaya that fits ALL my criteria and preferences for $69.00. Her website is less professional than Karen’s Kottage, though, without the handy customization form for me to know for sure. Actually, I’m not sure she’s still operating. If you know, give me a shout in the comments.
My next post will highlight my personal Kaya alternative choice. I hope this post has been helpful in finding a quality 18″ Indian (or Hispanic) doll alternative to American Girl. Which do you choose? Have another doll to add to the list?
What is Home of the Brave Dolls?
The place to find instructions on how to create your own historical 18″ doll clothes, accessories, and items! I got hit hard while flipping through an American Girl Doll catalog a few months ago: so many of these items could be hand-created, sewn, or found elsewhere less expensively. I’m crafty by nature, and decided to take the plunge. Home of the Brave Dolls will soon be filled with my adventures (with some misadventures too, I’m sure) making mock American Girl worlds.
What’s wrong with American Girl dolls?
The obvious answer is, of course, they’re expensive. The most basic doll is $105. Further outfits or items sets are around $30, a table and chairs set runs at $90, and beds are more than the doll. Nor are they necessarily better quality than other doll lines, yet American Girl has cornered the 18″ doll market. No one else has the variety they do, which is the main reason people keep buying from them.
You might have your own, personal reasons for not buying American Girl. Mattel regularly supports organizations and causes I do not support, and I don’t want my money winding its way to these organizations.
Why make your own clothes and items?
When you craft dresses and beds, you control the quality and materials. If you want lined dresses that will last an entire childhood of play, moccasins that are easily put on, something tweaked to your personal tastes, doing it yourself is the way to go. But quality is secondary to the real reason I’m attempting to recreate American Girl items.
It’ll be fun, you and your daughter – daughters, if you’re lucky. I like to think of Mommies and kiddos choosing the materials for a doll bed upholstery and sculpting clay food together, having hours of quality time before hours of appreciated play.
This website will grow, a post a week, each one showing how to make or acquire a quality American Girl alternative. I’m starting with Kaya and working my way up the historical latter. I can’t wait to sew darling pioneer outfits for Kirsten and hunt up ugly doll-sized 70’s furniture for Julie! My next post will be a list of cheaper, but still quality, Kaya doll alternatives.
Question for you! What brings you to Home of the Brave Dolls?