Depression Dolls and $40 Feedbag Dresses

My mom was born during the Great Depression. (I know–that makes me feel really old.) She grew up on a sugarcane farm in rural Australia, and didn’t even have electricity–if I’m remembering the story correctly–until she was 14. As a result, my mother was always thrifty and often felt as though we as a family could do without many things that a typical American family would have considered necessities.

Buy me! In this picture, I look like I'll murder your daughter and your family while you sleep!

Buy me! In this picture, I look like I’ll murder your daughter and your family while you sleep!

In other words, my mother would never be enough of a sucker to spend $110 on a doll who comes packaged with a story about the Great Depression. My daughter was dying to be the proud owner of Kit Kittridge, an American Girl doll who is described on the AG site thusly:

Even though the Great Depression was filled with hard times for families, Kit helps hers by being resourceful. With her best friend, Ruthie, by her side, Kit figures out clever ways to make do with what she has. She also learns to treasure what money can’t buy—friends and family.

Yeah. So I spent $110 on resourceful Kit, who “makes do with what she has” and “treasures what money can’t buy.” Anyone else see the irony? Now, I’ll admit that I’ve seen the Kit Kittridge movie, and it’s sweet and heart-warming. Abigail Breslin makes a suitably plucky Kit–one with ambition, to boot. (She wants to be a newspaper reporter.)

However, in the story, Kit is horrified that some of her friends must now wear dresses made from feedbags–but of course, her own family’s finances soon plummet to that point. Luckily (and not surprisingly), Kit’s mother makes the prettiest feedbag dresses ever!

Part of me was hoping that the feedbag dress would be for sale at American Girl, a veritable pink-and-black temple of high commerce. However, it seems that the AG execs are too savvy to offer a $40 Depression-era doll dress made from faux feedbags.

I don’t mean to sound bitter. I actually like the American Girl historical dolls and I think it’s great that little girls are fascinated by every detail of their imaginary lives. My only real issue with the dolls is that the price point is exclusionary for many, many people in this country, especially as we experience the greatest recession to date.

And there’s no doubt that any little girl taking notes could one day learn to be a brilliant marketer. Maybe I’ll just join Conan and his doll for a little Chardonnay. Enjoy!

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