Like many children growing up in the late 90s and early 00s, I spent a good portion of my youth dreaming about American Girl Dolls. I’ve loved historical fiction since before I was old enough to go to school, and the idea of a vaguely historical book series accompanied by matching dolls and outfits was absolute heaven to me.
The thing about American Girl Dolls, though? In 2001 or so, they were about the cost equivalent of buying your kid an iPhone would be today. High prices beyond belief!
Enter the Stardust Classic Dolls by the company “Just Pretend,” the more budget-friendly 18-inch dolls I received as a child instead of the costlier American Girls. The Stardust Classics were off-brand variant of the American Girl style–but with more time travel and all-female species of woodfairies who are born out of flowers (?!?) and utopian princess kingdoms.
To be honest, that sounds more like my kind of thing than American Girl, doesn’t it?
I received my first Stardust Classic doll, Laurel (“the Woodfairy”) on my ninth birthday. As I learned from the ghostwritten book that accompanied her, Laurel was your quintessential fish-out-of-water in this fairy equivalent of the Amazons: while her friends were graceful and generally Good At Things, she struggled to paint or dance or participate in their complicated seasonal rituals in a productive fashion.
My Laurel’s biggest problem, on the other hand, was her gorgeous but impossibly tangled head of auburn hair. After only a few years of careful play, Laurel had a snarl of hair that looked more like Sasquatch’s than a sprite’s. Eventually, my mom had no choice but to give her a trim–which suited me fine, as my equally red hair just happened to be in a bob cut, too!
My second Stardust Classic acquisition was Kat the Time Traveler–but her blinking eyes’ tendency to stay constantly shut makes her a slightly less attractive subject for photography. Never fear, though: Alissa (the Princess of Arcadia, apparently) is here to take her place!
The fact that every single one of these dolls had full-on blunt bangs really places them in time, doesn’t it? (To be honest, though, I aspire to this level of bang perfection even today…good job, Alissa!)
Unlike Laurel’s curlier hair, Alissa’s was quite straight, and therefore survived intact into her old age. I never could do much with it as a kid, but I was weirdly delighted by the prospect of trying out a fish tail braid on her for photo-shoot purposes!
This beautiful princess arrived in a rich red gown, complete with a cloak and a miniature crown that has lost several of its diamonds over the years–you can see it here, if you’re curious! In my opinion, however, Alissa looks even better when she borrows some of Laurel’s fairy clothes: particularly this airy garment that looks like a shining river in the mid-afternoon. I’d do anything to find a version of this in a non-doll size!
I so enjoyed playing with dolls as a child–I can’t even begin to describe the imaginative stories I invented for these lovely characters! I’m saddened, though, that Stardust Classics went out of business very early in the 2000s, and that no one seems to remember them. That said, if you hung out with Laurel, Alissa, or Kat as a kid, let me know–let’s share this weird nostalgia!