DOLLS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
by Debbie Garrett
The main members of the Black Crissy™ doll family, L-R: Crissy's cousin, Velvet; Movin' Groovin' Crissy, Crissy dressed in orange lace dress,
the elusive Tressy, and Velvet's little sister, Cinnamon (in front).
From 1969 through 1983, the Ideal™ Crissy® (hereafter referred to as Crissy) grow-hair doll family was all the rage. What made them so special was their grow-hair mechanism and their mod-mod-mod, "groovy" fashions and accessories. Owning their extra boxed outfits and other accessories was always an added plus. These dolls were must-haves for most pre-teen American girls during the often turbulent 1960s-1970s. For some, they may have served to overshadow the ongoing war in Vietnam, the constant struggle for African American civil rights, or other more personal issues that children who owned them may have experienced. For children who were not affected by local and world issues, the dolls certainly served as pure playthings.
Black Beautiful Crissy debuted in 1969 along with her white counterpart. While Black Crissy is often found today wearing the orange lace mini dress or another Crissy outfit, her original dress is an apple green lace mini with matching green shoes. The bow at the neckline of the dress was either pink or green. Having been produced in fewer numbers than the white counterpart, the Black version is highly sought after today and, in most cases, a mint Black doll commands a higher price than a mint white doll. Finding a mint-in-box Black Crissy is truly a Crissy collector's dream come true.
Crissy's Vital statistics: Crissy stands 18 inches and has black sleep eyes without pupils. As in the case of the entire Crissy doll family, with the exception of Magic Hair Crissy, Crissy has rooted, short, black hair with a top midsection that grows. The grow-hair portion extends by pressing her tummy button and pulling the hair to the desired length. The knob on Crissy's back is turned to retract the grow-hair section. The hair can be styled multiple ways, which enhances doll playing fun.
Several versions of the Crissy doll were made:
Black Velvet, Crissy's cousin, debuted in 1970 wearing a lavender dress and lavender shoes but is often found wearing white Velvet's purple corduroy dress. Velvet stands 15 inches. Like Crissy, she has black, rooted short hair with a growing, top midsection. She has a closed, smiling mouth.
Several versions of Black Velvet were made. The first two dolls mentioned below, have the same features as the Crissy dolls of the same name.
Black Tressy was added to the Crissy family in 1971 having been preceded by her white counterpart a year earlier. Black Tressy was a 1971 Sears Wish Book exclusive, sold only in Black. A white doll was featured in the Sears Wish Book as "Posin' Tressy." Unlike Crissy, Tressy's eyes are brown and they have pupils. She has a smiling closed mouth, whereas Crissy's lips are parted to show her molded teeth. Tressy wears an orange and white geometric-print dress and black shoes. Because she was a catalogue-exclusive, Black Tressy is much harder to find today than Black Crissy and usually commands a higher price.
Cinnamon, Velvet's little sister, debuted in 1973, a year after the white doll's debut. Cinnamon's original outfit is an orange polka-dot short set with a white lace-trimmed collar and orange shoes. She has black hair with a growing, top midsection, painted eyes, and a smiling mouth that shows her molded teeth. She stands 12 inches.
In 1974 Curly Ribbons Cinnamon was added to the family. The doll wore the same outfit from the prior year and also came with an extra denim short coverall with yellow gingham blouse.
In 1976 Tara, dubbed as "The Authentic Black Doll with Hair That Grows!" made her debut. Tara is the only doll in the Ideal grow-hair family who did not share her face mold with any other member, black or white. Her facial features were described as "authentic." She stands 15-1/2 inches and has black pupil-less eyes, rooted, short black hair with a top midsection that grows. One braid on either side of her face is accented with a white ribbon. Tara wears a yellow gingham pants suit and yellow shoes. One side of her colorful box features a beautiful African-American girl holding a Tara doll. It is reported that some collectors do not consider Tara an "authentic" Ideal Crissy family member, while others feel her grow-hair mechanism and size give her Crissy family rights. Family member of not, Tara is one of the most difficult grow-hair dolls to find. Because of her rarity, a mint condition doll usually commands top dollar.
Baby Crissy was added to the grow-hair doll family in 1973 and was reproduced in 1981. The same face and body molds were used for both versions; however, the 1973 doll's reddish brown vinyl has a softer, rubber-like texture. The 1981 doll's firmer vinyl does not have the red tinge. A lavender baby-doll outfit is worn by the 1973 doll while the 1981 doll wears a white romper trimmed in yellow or green gingham. Baby Crissy is 24-inches tall with black, short rooted hair and a growing, top mid section. She also has pupil-less eyes. It is interesting to note that the 1973 doll's box features a beautiful African American girl caressing Baby Crissy. In 1981, however, some of the boxes used for Black Baby Crissy feature a white doll's photo on the exterior with a label that reads: This Package Contains a Black Doll. Many manufacturers excluded photos of Black dolls from their box exteriors, as in the case of some 1981 Black Baby Crissy dolls. Perhaps economics played a role in Ideal's decision to use one box featuring a white doll for both dolls. It may have been more cost effective to attach an identifying label on the Black doll's box as opposed to using separate graphics for her box. On the other hand, I have never seen a white doll packaged in a box featuring a Black doll on the exterior with a label that reads: This Box Contains a White Doll. Little did Ideal know that these exclusive boxes have become one of today's collectibles for those aware of this discontinued practice.
Speaking of boxes, young Crissy lovers found delight in the several extra boxed outfits and accessories that were manufactured throughout the years for the dolls. The outfits alone were a treasure and provided loads of redressing fun. Other Crissy extras included an array of colorful shoes, clogs, and boots to match the outfits; carrying cases and luggage, paper dolls of Black Crissy and Black Velvet, board games, coloring books, and hair styling sets, just to name a few. You name it, and Crissy probably had it.
The owners of this delightful doll, her family, and friends no doubt derived many hours of pure delight from styling the hair, changing the clothing, shoes, and accessories and perhaps role playing with the 12 to 18-inch dolls that attempted to mimic real people with hair that grew.
Nearly 40 years post-debut, Crissy, her family, and friends, have managed to maintain their popularity with many little girls who have become adult doll collectors today. For the adult collectors, these dolls and their multitude of groovy paraphernalia probably conjure up pleasant childhood memories of pure make-believe fun. Perhaps for some, however, the dolls continue to provide a pleasant escape from past or present harsh realities.
L-R: Look Around Crissy, Beautiful Crissy, Magic Hair Crissy (redressed), and Velvet wearing the "On the Lamb" outfit
The Look Around dolls, Velvet and Crissy
L-R: Beauty Braider Velvet, Look Around Velvet, and Velvet wearing "Ruffled Up" outfit
1981 final issue Velvet with brown eyes that have pupils
Eye Comparison: 1981 final issue Velvet and 1973 Beauty Braider Velvet
Eye Comparison: Tressy and Crissy -- note Tressy's brown eyes and pupils
Tressy in issue dress; Tressy in Swirla Curla Crissy dress
L-R: Cinnamon dressed in issue outfit and dressed in outfit similar to Curly Ribbon Cinnamon's extra outfit
Tara from 1976
L-R: Baby Crissy from 1973 and 1981
If you would like to haveThe Black Doll-E-Zine spotlight a specific doll for a future issue, or share a doll story, please email Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org