Whatever happened to Barbie? Or to that tony doll in a pink frock that fluttered her eyelids and then went to sleep in a little girl’s arm? Or that neighbour’s curly-haired cutesy who all girls in the locality adored and got together to dress in different cloths every evening after school?
They have all moved to the Internet. If you thought little boys spent too much time shooting nasty creeps, playing cricket, chess and tennis online, think again. Little girls are there too, getting hooked big time to a clutch of web sites that let them do what their mothers did differently — dress a wide selection of dolls by choosing from different designer labels available in online shops.
Stardoll ( www.stardoll.com ) is the biggest of virtual doll houses with nearly 12 million members. And what do they do once they start clicking that ubiquitous mouse? They dress and play with one of 400 celebrity dolls for free. There are Hollywood actors, top models and pop stars who little girls would want to look and dress like.
Members have the opportunity to log into the web site in 15 languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Dutch, French and German and clothe their stars the way they want to, chat live with them, write blogs and put pictures to share with friends.
Such is the charm of these pretty dolls that large international clothing brands like DKNY have opened a shop in Starplaza, the big shopping mall on Stardoll. There’s makeup available too and you can try dressing up supermodel Giselle Bundchen or even tennis star Maria Sharapova. It can be fun but frustrating if you don’t get the clothes and cosmetics right!
Even Barbie, the world’s best-selling doll that is now nearly half a century old and sells at a rate of three every second, has moved into digital space. On www.barbiegirls.com/home.html girls can play games, design fashion, create an online character, design her room and chat with girl friends.
Since it is targeted at younger girls, toy-maker Mattel is careful about who registers on the site. A girl may join only if she has her parents’ permission. They have to provide the email of their parents who are then informed. The registration is activated once the parent responds.
On designhergals.com users can dress their own gal by selecting the colour of her eyes and skin, hairstyle, clothes and whatever you have and then print her on personalised stationary. So next time your little favourite at home wants to send out her birthday cards, you know where to go.
On www.cartoondollemporium.com , where hundreds of hand drawn dolls are available to dress, you are welcome to participate in a Worst Dressed Doll competition. “Laylee”, an unfortunate mix of a Star War and Karate Kid character, tops the list. Click around and you can find dolls based on well-known political figures, including Hillary Clinton and George Bush in his underwear ready to be dressed in an elephant suit. Bill Gates is there too, waiting for the right shirt.
And then there is the dusky Daya, with oh very long hair! Her profile tells you she’s from Queens, New York and her family originally from India. “Daya loves to dance, and her favorite types of music are American hip-hop and Bollywood show tunes. She learned to dance by watching Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai musicals, and she plans to star in a movie of her own one day. Her mother is a dressmaker, and she makes gorgeous dancing costumes for Daya and her best friend, Fakhira,” it goes on to say. Glad to see a bit of Bollywood creeping into Western web sites.
Fakhira, whose family is originally from Iraq, is incidentally learning belly dancing. Her mother is a chef and for some strange reason she always feeds Fakhira “tasty treats like gulab jamun (fried cheese with honey) and phirni (rice pudding flavored with rose water).” It's all a lot of fun, so tell your daughters to go have a good time on the net.