then + now (not) barbie dolls

Not Barbie dolls on

In our nostalgia series, we look back at fashion, toys and times that were special to us as kids. Today, Jenna and Bron are comparing their love for dolls then…and now.

Then…The Babysitter’s Club.

Like lots of ’90s girls, I adored and read the Little Sister and The Babysitters Club children’s book series. I loved that the characters all had individual personalities, hobbies, interests and style. My favourites were Stacey, because I loved her oh-so-fabulous fashion sense and her curly blonde hair, and Mary-Anne, because she was a quiet achiever, which is what my school teachers described me as.

Like Mary-Anne, I preferred getting caught up in a book to playing dress ups, and similar to Claudia I was better at creative things (like art) than maths. They taught me that that was OK. I did own a few Barbie dolls when I was younger (hello, Barbie and the Rockers!), but I didn’t play with them as much.

When I was given a Babysitters Club doll one Christmas, I was so excited. They seemed more real to me. They were fresh faced, had different colour hair, were varying heights and had flat feet! I could never understand why Barbie’s feet were on an angle. Maybe from wearing too many pairs of high heels? The Babysitter’s Club dolls had sensible shoes like sneakers, boots and Mary Jane style footwear that made sense to me. I promised myself then and there that it would be The Babysitter’s Club dolls and flat sensible shoes for me.

Jenna x Babysitters Club and Tree Change Dolls on Now… Lammily and Tree Change Dolls

My daughter Rose is coming up to four. She hasn’t got any Barbie dolls (yet) and I’ve been keen to offer her dolls that are a bit more relatable and realistic in their image and proportions.

I was pretty excited when I heard that the Lammily doll was being crowd funded and I was one of the original backers. Lammily’s made in the proportions of an average 19-year-old American girl, and Lammily (Rose calls her doll ‘Lucy Lammily’) was her first fashion doll. Like the The Babysitter’s Club dolls that Jenna used to love, the Lammily doll has flat feet and sneakers, and came dressed in a chambray shirt and shorts. Lammily and llama on It turns out, though, as Rose is a little girl that loves pink, sparkles and dresses, dresses, dresses, her Lucy Lammily’s not quite as fancy as she’d like. Luckily, Lammily has released a range of fashion packs and handmade dresses that Rose has her eye on.

Tree Change Dolls by Tasmanian mum and scientist, Sonia Singh, also offers an interesting alternative to Barbie. Sonia hand makes the dolls through a ‘make-under’ process using cast-off Bratz dolls. Sonia cleans them up, removes their made-up faces and repaints them with features that are more in proportion to a real girl’s face. She updates her Etsy store when batches of dolls are available and they’ve become popular enough that she’s currently looking into ways to have the dolls mass produced.

I’m sure Barbies are on the horizon for Rose, but I love that she has a variety of dolls to play out her make-believe world with, where she’ll be imagining what kind of person she’s going to become. I mean, that’s the magic of toys, right? Then and now.

Bron x

Words: Jenna Templeton + Bron Bates / Photos: The Toybox Philosopher (top) Lammily and llama by C+C Mini Factory.