Pity the poor dollar store doll, made of inferior plastic, dressed in shoddy clothes, taunted by little girls everywhere with jeers of “fake!” “phony!” and “you’re not Barbie®!” It’s no wonder her self-esteem is suffering. So in January 2008, we put out an online call to creative types around the world to take one of these sad and lonely dolls under their stylish wing. We invited them to treat their doll to a much-needed makeover, help share her personal story, and set her on the path to a rewarding and fashionable life.
All 100 dolls were quickly adopted and shipped to locations throughout North America, the UK and Western Europe. The slate of participants was diverse from the start: a nurse in Texas and a fashion stylist in London, professional photographers and hairstylists, Toronto art students and Italian architects, even a criminal attorney turned stay-at-home mom — they were all eager to make over a doll.
The guidelines were simple: give your doll a new look, take a Polaroid picture, write a little something — anything — about your doll that fits on one page and send it in. Some makeovers were completed, while others were abandoned. In the midst of the project, Polaroid went out of business and suddenly the die-hard, determined participants were buying film on eBay, placing ads on their local craigslist and scrambling to complete their submission. A handful of dolls arrived very late in Europe and the UK. We extended deadlines and hoped for the best.
The results are more spectacular than we could have possibly imagined. Not everyone who signed on finished the project, but those who did have more than picked up the slack. Given the permission to play, they opened their imaginations and shared their most artistic, most serious, and silliest sides. Ultimately, it’s the participants who have collectively defined the project and made it a fascinating pop culture experiment. See the dolls here.
Pamela Klaffke, curator