Eighteen inch soft bodied play dolls have become increasingly popular due to the success of the American Girl doll line. While I find it very interesting to see the different variations that are in the 18″ doll space, I think the inspiration and stories behind each one are even more interesting. This is especially true with the PenPalGirls brand. The PenPalGirls doll company came about in 2010 when their founder realized her two daughters were not aware of their cultural heritage and wanted to create a line of dolls that would help girls understand their own cultures as well as others from all over the globe. One of the things I fell in love with immediately is that PenPalGirls was not afraid to share their journey from concept, to disastrous first results to a final product. Take a look at the progression of their doll faces here. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty cool!

I was recently given the opportunity to review a PenPalGirls doll and two outfits as well. 

PenPalGirls doll

The doll arrived in her box which is decorated to look like an Air Mail package – since the underlying theme of the line is pen pals and world travel, I found it very fitting! 

PenPalGirls doll

Inside the box were two postcards with product information and two more “Air Mail” envelopes that the doll’s outfits are in. The envelopes are plastic and are sturdy enough to keep and store your doll’s clothes or mementos in. I really like the fact that the team at PenPalGirls has looked beyond the doll and even her clothes and is developing a complete brand.

PenPalGirls doll

Naked doll alert! Yikes, the poor girl arrived with nothing on. I do wish they would have shipped her at least in undies and a cami. From first glance, Cady, who is from China (according to the PPG website) is very sweet looking. She has nice eyes and a pleasant look to her. Her skin is dramatically paler than many of the other 18″ dolls and the vinyl in her face and limbs is a little harder than AG. 

PenPalGirls doll

Cady’s head is attached using a neck string and she has a flower stamp at the base of her neck. Her hair is wigged and I am not sure if it was just mine, but it seemed like there was a lot of excess glue in the front. Her hair is long with a slight curl to it and there are lots of super short pieces near the base of the wig. Actually, the wig is the only part of the doll that doesn’t quite seem right to me yet – the top of her hair is almost flattened to her head and pulling her hair back into a ponytail just doesn’t look right. Two low ponytails, two french braids and style using hair clips look good, just not the single ponytail.

American Girl vs PenPalGirl

One thing I noticed right away is that the PenPalGirl has very pale coloring – Kit looks like she has been on the beach all day, in comparison. Cady’s hips are also much narrower and her legs are slightly thinner than her American Girl cousin. While this doesn’t seem to affect the way the PenPalGirls clothes fit American Girl dolls, I just thought you might want to know.

Now let’s get some clothes on this girl before she freezes – it’s a lot cooler in Virginia this time of year that it is in sunny California!

PenPalGirl doll review

I think Cady looks very grown up in her purple striped dress. The pink heart is embroidered on the front and she is wearing the matching sparkly purple flats. The dress is well made and feels like nice quality jersey. The PenPalGirls clothes definitely have a different look to them – more international, which again, falls in line with their branding. 

The second outfit they sent me is a gold trimmed separates set and I just knew right away it was going to look great on Ivy. It is truly a cross between European style, Asian influence and American fun. The long sleeved top has gold trim and Ivy almost looks like Cleopatra wearing it. It comes with fine wale corduroy shorts that are ruffled on the edges – again fun and fashion combined. She wears the shorts with detailed black lace tights and some fun gold fur lined boots with black tips. All four pieces are well made and are a nice addition to the doll clothes in our current collection.

American Girl next to PenPalGirls doll Cady  

Ivy and Cady have become new friends quickly and have been comparing notes about their adventures growing up in America while celebrating aspects of their Chinese heritage, too!

The PenPalGirls dolls are currently available as Cady (China) and Emma (UK) who is just the blonde version of Cady. The dolls sell for $85 which includes the purple striped dress and shoes. The outfits range from $20-38 depending on whether it is a basic one or more detailed. As of now they are only sold on the PenPalGirls website.

Another thing I really like about the team at PPG is that they really seem to have invested in creating an online destination and resource to add interest to their brand, from online games to an interactive map, to teaching girls about the food and cultures in different countries and blog entries from the dolls and their “girls”, there is quite a bit to do on the site and it definitely invites you back.

SPECIAL OFFER: This just in. If you enter “dolldiaries” in the instructions box at the end of the order process on the PenPalGirls website you can receive an extra outfit (valued at $28).

I look forward to more from the PenPalGirls and wish them success as I do think their doll line is unique, was well thought out and their dolls make great friends for all your other 18″ friends!