May 2021 - You may have come across them in your childhood or some decades ago: PETRA, SINDY, STEFFI dolls or even some BETTYS.
In this blog I want to talk about the (in some places still popular) copycats of Barbie and other 1/6 scale dolls that WANNA BE BARBIE and come very close.
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❤︎ PETRA (by Plasty) ❤︎
Starting out in the 60s, hailing from the core of Germany (just as Bild Lilli, who ironically inspired the birth of Barbie herself), Petra was the 2nd choice doll throughout the 80s and 90s that I experienced. Not necessarily a cheap option, since while I remember her being more affordable than Barbie, she still ranged on a higher spectrum than e.g. Steffi Love dolls. Her dresses and shoes fit well and were well cut, and her style made sure to follow Barbie's trends:
Night Star Petra was obviously mimicking Dream Glow Barbie, Jewel Petra was reminiscent of Crystal Barbie and even the gorgeous polka dot dress of the 1983 Birthday Barbie found its counterpart in the Birthday Petra.
But see for yourself, the pictures provided here offer a good overview of the similarities in fashion styles and names.
The Petra that I remember always had bent arms, that quiet smirk on her face and classic 80s bangs. I do not recall a dark skinned Petra at all. Her guy friend "Fred" was quite attractive, not an abomaly like some other Ken clones that made the hair on my neck stand up in horror. Looking at him now, he may well have been the first metro guy in the doll world with his soft features.
Petras pumps were a delight, made from softer plastic than the hard shoes by Mattel, they fit many dolls well and were a popular item. What stood out negatively was the fabrics that were used for many of Petra's dresses: while not lacking in glitter and metallic accents, they more often than not had a tendency to fray even before getting them on or off the dolls.
So if you happen to come across a well fit doll dress in sixth scale that has lots of threads sticking out, it may be a Petra one.
❤︎ BETTY (by Tong) ❤︎
aka Gloria, Debbie, Rita
Hailing from China and the 80s, Betty was trying to offer an alternative to Barbie. Same size, same fashion forward thinking. Indeed the fashion packs are the ones that make me swoon nowadays. There are various leisure sets with e.g. walkmans and cool comfy outfits.
There is something about the face as well that speaks more to me than even Petra.
The only thing that tends to get a bit tricky is the fabric of the hair which does not give the impression of staying in good shape after rough play and lots of brushing. Actually, even before handling it already looks as if it has been worn out.
Betty has a life. As princess and as your average girl next door.
✨As some of you may know, Hasbro also brought out quite intriguing SINDY playline dolls with their intense face. I guess I would even prefer them over Petra, it just happened that Petra was more available in my hometown and was always making sure to knock off Barbie's themes. So it was the go-to option if a child dreamt of the real thing (=Barbie, Mattel), but parents could not afford it.
Sindy went her own way, had her own style and looking back I keep appreciating this line of dolls more and more. It is a pity that they did not produce more dark skinned girls though, those look amazing but are notoriously hard to find today.
There even seems to have been a combo set of both Petra and Sindy in 1994 by Hasbro: "Babysitting Sindy And Petra With Crawling Baby"
Foto found on eBay (by user 1greypants).
✨The annoyance that is still out there and presumably selling well is STEFFI LOVE (Simbatoys). Created in the 80s by - again - a German company, she is one of the dolls that do many things well but could still improve a lot.
I have quite a love-hate relationship with her. I cannot stand the cheap quality of some of her clothes and the ghostly facepaint that looks like a mask. I do however appreciate the price point and some past collaborations (with Sanrio, Swarovski) came out quite good, intricate and inspired. Indeed, I even happened to buy some of those dolls for the outfits alone and the packaging is usually nicely done, too. It is just a pity that the doll itself has a weird shape, the face is dead and the overall look of her body seems poor/cheap.
I get the impression that the doll was moulded decades ago and they were just too lazy to give her a better look. Which is odd, because otherwise this company does a lot to stay on top concerning trends and keeping up with current events.
✨Another doll line I came across whilst scouring American eBay was the MAXIE dolls series by Hasbro. Most of the dolls I find are from the 80s and I must say I enjoy their fashions and face expressions and their slightly big heads a lot.
✨And then we should not forget about INTEGRITY TOYS (IT) that brought out various dark skinned fashion beauties which many of us collectors don't want to miss. Since they came out in the 90s and show a more serious face, I would not completely consider them playline dolls and therefore only mention them on a side note.
The rubber legs of the 90s IT dolls are a bit chunky and somehow don't fit well with the rest of the body. The arms have a stiff pose, but the girls do look good in their clothes! Not to mention that IT also created some (bald) guys that perfectly fill the need for stylish and interesting male companions.