I discovered Monster High accidentally. About this time four years ago I was in Boots (the chemist, which was a fairly odd place to come across a fashion doll), with a friend who was looking for something, when I saw a doll with blue hair; my first thought was that she reminded me of Karou from ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor, and I thought about customizing her. Then I realised that she had grey skin (so, not Karou–suitable), and a rather lovely outfit, including fabulous glasses, and was called Ghoulia Yelps, from a range I’d never heard of before, Monster High, by Mattel. I didn’t buy her then, but I kept thinking about her. For years – on and off – I’d thought about making doll clothes (for as long as I can remember I’ve loved period costume, and miniature things), but had never come across any dolls that were interesting enough to make them for – now I had, and I wanted to see what other characters Monster High had to tantalise me. So I did some research(!), found myself becoming increasingly enchanted with Ghoulia, and ended up ordering her (the ‘Scaris, City of Frights’ version that I’d seen in the shop), and later Skelita Calaveras (I’ve got a bit of a thing for the Dia de los Muertos, and that and Skelita need at least one post devoted to each of them). I especially love the de-oxygenated colour of her lips! Her eyeshadow was a little too light for me, so I made it more smoky.
So, the premise of Monster High is that they are the children of famous monsters; Ghoulia is the daughter of ‘The Zombies’. Most dolls come with their own diary (in their ‘own’ handwriting), so their personalities are rounded-out, and you get to find out how they interact with other students; the diaries are interlinked, so you get glimpses of events from different viewpoints. There’s a lot of punning and wordplay involved with character names, and school subjects (Biology is ‘Biteology’, Physical Education is ‘Phys. Dead’). The dolls are MUCH better jointed than the Barbies and Sindies of my childhood, with movement of the wrists, as well as hands and lower arms that detach to make changing outfits easier, and have a lot more individuality and expression.
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Every character’s clothes and accessories reflect their monster heritage and their interests. The details are brilliant, and I love the shoes! As a zombie, Ms Yelps’s wardrobe features quite a lot of blood drips, bones and brains, with occasional eyeballs, sometimes as prints, sometimes as textures on bags and shoes; she even has a dress and rucksack with a gravestone theme. It’s a mixture of deliciously dark and very funny – sometimes the designs are so pretty that at first you don’t realise what they are – a tiny pattern on her pyjamas that could be flowers, but is blood spatter, and the lovely, squiggly brains pattern on her fabulous ‘Scaris’ hoodie dress. Ghoulia is a sweet, shy, but hip super-nerd with a passion for graphic novels (especially ones featuring her zombie superhero ‘DeadFast’), so a key part of her style is her collection of glasses, which, as she writes in her diary, ‘go with everything’ – the glasses motif even follows through to her ‘Dead Tired’ slippers, and on the Monster High ‘Skullette’ on her bags. Such is her status as nerd-in-chief that she even has a dress with the Periodic Table printed on it! And when it comes to those little extras that help to define someone, the icing on the cake is her carton of ‘Brain Puffs’ (perfect for sleepovers) and her DeadFast comic book and action figure.
So Ghoulia was the tip of the iceberg. Then ‘Scaris’ Skelita then ‘Picture Day’ Spectra Vondergeist (see what they did there??) for variety of themes and colours in potential dressmaking. Then it just sort of snowballed. I read somewhere that you start off saying that you’re only going to get one or two or three MH dolls at most, but you always end up getting more: undeniably true in my case. And that’s not even counting the second hand ones from eBay that I bought because I liked the outfit and it was cheaper than buying a new doll… I started reading doll blogs. And learning about re-roots and face-ups. Then customizing ‘CAMs’ (MH ‘Create a Monster’). Then I made a couple of tentative excursions into ‘Ever After High’ territory, and not long after first spotting Ms Yelps I’d become a little bit fixated on the cuteness of Mini Lalaoopsies (again – that’s a topic for other posts). Through reading various doll blogs I became aware of other dolls – as you do – particularly Blythe and Pullip, and decided they were ideal candidates for custom doll clothes too. Up until this point I’d been keeping my interest fairly quiet, and I was possibly slightly in denial about the extent of it, but when it gets to a certain point of accumulating dolls – especially the more niche kinds -you just have to face up to it and admit: ‘I am a doll collector’!
For MH diaries: http://monsterhigh.wikia.com/wiki/Doll_diaries
For posts about all sorts of different dolls and aspects of doll collecting - Confessions of a Doll Collector’s Daughter: https://dollyconfessions.wordpress.com