Monday, December 19, 2016

GOTY Gabriela: A GOTY Marisol Comparison and Review

American Girl will always and forever revisit major themes that are popular with young girls. But from the perspective of the size and theme of her whole world collection--is Gabriela the new Marisol?

I am not surprised or complaining that Gabriela's major theme in her clothing and collection are dance related. Dance is a popular and winning theme for American Girl and the newest and youngest customers barely know who Isabelle was let alone Marisol. Any scrutiny or criticism offered here is focused on the execution of the dance theme as well on the design and quality of the actual items themselves.

My question: In spite of the ubiquitousness of the dance theme, are Gabriela's outfits and accessories still unique, well designed and well executed within this broader category?

Before leaping into the design comparison, a few words on the smaller size of Gabriela's collection.

Size of Collection

We don't know the eventual size of Gabriela's world, but she is rumored to have a compact collection. Based on rumors and leaks, the size of her collection may mirror the size of earlier collections (pre-Nikki) in terms of number of outfits and accessories.

2005 Marisol's Whole World included the Marisol Doll in Meet and Meet Accessories (bundled), her Ballet Outfit, Spotlight Outfit, Tap Outfit, Jazz Outfit (bundled with trunk), Performance Trunk, Duffle bundled with her Cat, and a Spotlight Stage. Separating the bundled items, basically 5 total outfits and 5 accessories.

2017 Gabriela's Whole World is rumored to include Gabriela Doll in MeetAccessories Set (boombox duffle), Sparkling Sequins Outfit, Rehearsal (Heart Tee) Outfit, Pajamas, Tap Shoes, Performance Case, Cat, and Creative Studio (ballet barre with backdrop). She is also rumored to have a Ponytail Hair Extension accessory for $15. Basically 4 total outfits and 5 or 6 accessories depending on how her tap shoes or ponytail hair piece are categorized/bundled.

(Note Gabriela may still receive a 5th outfit if the summer outfit release pattern holds.)

Meet Outfits

Let's shield our eyes from the glaring use of purple n' pink vs purple n' teal. What strikes me most is the lack of any design details in Gabriela's meet.

Marisol's meet has a long sleeved purple wrap over a pink shirt with a gathered collar. Her crop pants have a velcro front fly, real belt loops, decorative top stitching, embroidered flower designs and a working pocket with a flap. And her two-tone shoes have a metallic buckle clasp.

Gabriela's meet has a basic purple crop tee with a decal worn over a simple teal tunic. Her jeggings do not have any top stitching. Her shoes are also two-tone but without clasp.

Taking into account the two different design styles/era, Gabriela's clean lines still seem to exude a rather severe austerity as if designers were told "stitching-time is money!" and were ordered to eliminate any extra gathers, seams, loops, top stitching, velcro closings, or pockets and additionally to eliminate all buttons or snaps.

Fabric wise, Marisol's meet uses unique fabrics including the shimmer on her khaki crop pants and the gold-sheen of her shoes. Gabriela's meet fabrics look fairly ordinary.

At this time I am unable to compare the meet accessories (Marisol's knit cap, scarf, necklace) as it is not known if Gabriela will have meet accessories. But based on the main outfits, I can't help to be visually drawn to all the wonderful details of Marisol's khaki crop pants and overall ensemble vs. the once-and-done-glance at Gabriela's outfit.

Meet Outfit Winner: Marisol

Dance/Tap Outfits

Both Marisol and Gabriela are tap dancers and both of them have really nice tap performance outfits.

Marisol's tap outfit comes with a black leotard, a fringe skirt, fishnet tights, glittery top hat and cane, a bow-tie and tap shoes with real taps. The fringe skirt is extremely whimsical and the glitter top hat and cane appreciated. The real star of this outfit is Marisol's "real" tap shoes with taps. Tap, tap, tap!

Gabriela's Sparkling Sequins Outfit comes with a fabulous sequined top, black crop pants with sequin detail, glittery half-gloves and glittery headband and from my best guess, the glittery silver dance slippers. The sequin top is the star of this ensemble, but if it is true that this outfit is bundled with dance slippers instead of tap shoes, then there is a bit of a potential let down. But to be fair, Gabriela's outfit could be a straight jazz dance outfit where the slippers would be more appropriate. And, as you will see in the next comparison, Gabriela will have a tap shoes option.

Both outfits are well designed in terms of details and flair. The materials used seem comparable. Marisol's outfit seems to have a bit more whimsey, but Gabriela's more sleek outfit contours seems to fit the overall aesthetic of her collection.

Tap Outfit Winner: A Tie

Tap Shoes

Marisol left and Gabriela on the right. These are such classics. I like that Gabriela's were made with silver glitter material. No marks down for a rehash of a classic. I only wish/hope they will come included in the Sequin Jazz Outfit rather than a separate accessory.

Tap Shoes Winner: Tie


Marisol's Duffle is bundled with her cat, so I will visually set the cat aside for the moment. 

These two sets (sans cat) are surprisingly similar. Both contain a zippered duffle-type bag with strap, a drink, snack and bandaids. Marisol's also includes a personal ID, bandage wrap and a flip-phone. Gabriela's duffle, which is part of her Accessories Set, includes bobby pins and colorful hair ties. It would be splitting hairs to try and nitpick the differences in these two duffle sets.

Duffle Winner: Tie

Pet Cat

Both Marisol and Gabriela have a cat as a pet. The differences seen between the two pets are primarily due to the changing style of pet design overall at American Girl. Marisol's cat on the left is plush with hard plastic eyes and Gabriela's cat on the right the embroidered eye which is being used more and more at American Girl--even Kit Kittredge's dog Grace now has embroidered eyes.

I can't say I enjoy the expression on either cat's face, lol. The one looks cranky and the other crazy.

Cat Winner: Tie

Practice Outfits

Both characters have a practice type outfit, with Marisol a ballet ensemble and Gabriela a modern dance warm up ensemble.

Both have a leotard, tights/leggings, skirt/shorts, and dance slippers. Marisol has leg warmers and Gabriela a mesh top. Marisol definitely has the extra add-ons which is a huge play plus--stick-on earrings, hair ties and bobby pins. However, hair ties and bobby pins are available for Gabriela and are bundled with her Accessories (duffle) instead.

While I am not personally a fan of Gabriela's practice ensemble stye, it is a full ensemble with pieces that fit Gabriela's story and dance styles. However, I can't help but think it could have been designed to be at least a little more appealing or interesting. I give this a pass but begrudgingly--this could have been a fabulous outfit.

Practice Outfit Winner: Tie (But barely)

Additional Outfit (Jazz Performance vs Pajamas)

The two outfits in the head-to-head here are two different categories--Marisol's purple Performance Outfit vs. Gabriela's Pajamas. This is where it starts getting difficult comparing the two collections since Marisol was given multiple "fancy" performance outfits and Gabriela just the one Purple Sequin jazz top with black crop pants (reviewed above). To be fair, Gabriela's Purple Sequin outfit could be matched with Marisol's outfit here and easily hold up well with another tie.

So let it be said that Marisol's Performance Outfit has a wonderful unique patterned top and lovely velour plush pants. Gabriela's Pajamas Outfit is made of plain generic off-the-shelf materials. I won't compare the bling (sequins) since it is an unfair matchup considering the different categories. 

But when I contemplate the two outfits side by side, Marisol's outfit seems tailor-made for her whereas Gabriela's pajamas are one of the most boring pajamas I have seen in the GOTY or TM line in the past decade. Gabriela's pajamas would be hard pressed to win against almost any outfit or pair of pajamas in any modern line.

Additional Outfit Winner: Marisol

Dance Barre

For the Dance Barre, we need to look to the other GOTY dancer, 2014 GOTY Isabelle for comparison. As the cumulative evidence shows, AG used Marisol's world as a template for Gabriela, but also borrows a classic from Isabelle's world.

A barre is a barre is a barre. And I have no complaints about a barre as a repeat accessory for a dance oriented doll. At least AG has changed the color and lower cross-beam design of the barre. But for the money, for Gabriela's collection one gets a cardboard backdrop, cardboard advert, water bottle and tiny yellow towel. I am not too excited by the hasty "G" in a random font added to the barre--an analysis of Gabriela's fonts forthcoming.

No new ground broken here but not feeling the wow factor, either. Gabriela's barre fits the theme of a Marisol retread item in the sense that it is drawn from another GOTY dancer with very minimal retooling. Understandable but not exciting unless one did not get Isabelle's barre.

Dance Barre Winner: Tie

The Show Stopper

Here is where Marisol's collection shines. An over the top, gorgeous, glittery, must-have Spotlight Outfit. So far Gabriela does not appear to have a 5th outfit, nor do any of her current outfits have a chance to compete with this show stopper. 

Show Stopper Winner: Marisol

Future Comparisons

How will the rest of Gabriela's collection compare?

Marisol's Meet Accessories (a crocheted hat and scarf, pendant necklace, and three pairs of stick-on earrings) vs Gabriela's Meet Accessories (her duffle, reviewed above) OR her Ponytail Hair Piece?

Marisol's Performance Trunk vs Gabriela's Performance Case?

First Assessment

I will want to see her full collection and work with actual stock images or in-person photos before making a final assessment of Gabriela's collection. My preliminary assessment is that many pieces of Gabriela's collection are on par with Marisol's collection. There are a surprising number of parallel offerings between the two dolls--duffle, cat, tap shoes, etc, but that is hardly surprising. However, there are plenty of signs that major components of Gabriela's collection are not very unique or well designed. 

Specifically I note the lack of unique prints just for Gabriela. Two of her plain tees are spruced up with a screened decal image and a third if you count the "heart" on her mesh tee in her Practice Outfit. There are also no discernible design themes sprinkled throughout her collection, like Saige's cactus theme (embossed on her boots, in her necklace, etc.) or Grace's bows and hearts.

I also suspect that the clean and uncomplicated lines of Gabriela's clothing have more to do with cutting construction costs vs merely a result of a character-driven design aesthetic. I am all for smart design and prudent business choices--but has this been pushed too far with Gabriela's collection?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I never realized how similar Gabby is to Marisol! I didn't like Marisol's story very much, but the doll (and her collection) are beautiful!
    Thanks for sharing! :D