While we have a certain image in our head when mentioning dolls, the truth is that the dolls can vary significantly one from another. These items have existed for such a long time and throughout the centuries, numerous iterations of dolls have emerged. Most people will think of entertainment value but dolls can symbolize so much more. They have been used for religious processions, magical rituals and all sorts of other cultural events.
The oldest dolls are as old as civilization itself. They were made based on human features and in all these centuries, the only thing that changed is the quality of craftsmanship and material used. For example, the oldest pieces were made from resources that were available at the time which included wood, stone, and clay. Nowadays, dolls are much more sophisticated and it is not uncommon when they have complex mechanisms built within.
But besides all these rituals, there is another rarely mentioned aspect of dolls. Apparently, ancient civilizations used them as a way of expressing themselves. They were meant to portray a wide range of emotions and state of mind. By tracing back all these items, you can learn more about a particular era in human history, how a certain tribe or culture perceived its situation, you can notice class differences and so on.
Development of dolls over centuries
As mentioned, dolls were used for almost everything. Among others, they were rarely used as toys or decorative items. It took some time for them to become these lovable products and the change came with new materials and manufacturing technique.
The change came with industrialization and technological improvement. Dolls, as we know them today, started becoming more and more popular in the 18th century. Germans and then, French spearheaded this revolution and in time, the trend spread to the US. Various materials were used over time such as porcelain, plastic, wax and so on. Unlike ancient dolls, these modern dolls were sometimes very brittle (especially those made from porcelain) so they were mostly used as decorative items.
Plastic and various mixtures were used in the 20th century. The material was much more durable and cost less than any other thing that was previously used. As time went by, even silicone and vinyl were introduced.
Nowadays, dolls are primarily used as a plaything but there are also certain products such as reborn dolls which can be comfort items. Some of them are even used as sex toys and other strange uses.
How do you classify dolls?
Given how long these items have existed and all the different uses they had, it is really hard to create one universal classification that will cover all the dolls. Among others, you can group them based on brand, era, material and so on but it all depends on which factors you’re focusing on.
For the purpose of this article, we have made a categorization based on era. It is very important for us to track back dolls’ origins and how they changed over time so that we can better understand the item itself.
Dolls with historic value
Here are some dolls that had a big impact on human history:
- Wooden paddle dolls
There are some of the oldest dolls in existence. They were created in Ancient Egypt and as the name suggests, they were based on a wooden paddle. The doll maker would use this paddle and add motifs on it. The narrow part of the paddle was the head while the wide part was bottom. On top of the narrow part, doll maker would add strings that were made from small wooden beads. This would signify hair
- Wax dolls
Wax is one of the oldest materials for making dolls. These items are an important part of history and interestingly enough, there are still a lot of doll makers who are making their own versions of the item. First wax dolls were made during the late 1700s. In order to create them, you have to rely on a mold. The doll maker will create the precise mold and after that, he or she will pour wax in it. Once wax gets cold, all you have to do is add small details and draw features to have a complete item
Throughout history, dolls were often used for fertility rituals. One such doll was Akuaba doll which was common in Ghana. These items were really unique especially when it comes to their appearance. Doll makers would use wood to create them; they have a thin long body with two “branches” for hands and a big head. Head was the focal point of the doll and it is the main reason why they were so different from anything else we’ve seen
- Rag dolls
When talking about dolls as playthings, rag dolls are probably one of the first items that were used for this particular purpose. They were made from rag (cloth to be precise), most of them were really cheap and easily produced. With rag dolls, everyone had a chance to have a toy for their kid regardless of their economic state. Various other materials were used for filling such as scraps and so on.
- Corn dolls
Here is another interesting example of how the idea of dolls can surpass territories and cultures. Corn husk dolls were common for Native America. Even though Indians never had any contact with other civilizations, they were creating their own version of dolls. As the name implies, these items were made from corn cob husk. They didn’t have a face which was really atypical for dolls. According to a legend, the spirit of corn created a doll based on its husk. As time went by, the spirit spent less time with its kids and more time watching its own face. This is why the doll’s face was taken as a punishment for vanity
- Layli dolls
Layli dolls are also known as Lurish dolls. They are popular among Iranian Lur people. They are made to represent dancing ritual. According to the Iranian folklore, they are a symbol of a beloved person who is spiritually rich and beautiful. It can be used to represent young, vitality, femininity and all other virtuous traits
- Daruma dolls
Like any other country in the world, Japan had its own traditional version of a doll. Their dolls had red bodies with white faces, similar to their national clothing. One noticeable thing that sets apart daruma dolls is the fact they didn’t have pupils. Their name stems from Dharma, a bearded man who brings good fortune. The doll tends to vary from region to region but it always sends the same message
Here is another great example of how doll makers can be innovative. Matryoshka dolls are perhaps the most renowned of all the dolls on the list. They are a set of dolls each smaller than the previous. The point of matryoshkas is to place one doll into another. Then, when opening one doll, there will be another one inside and so on. Each set can be different in terms of the design and number of dolls; some of them can have anywhere between 3 to 12 dolls. Needless to say, as the number of dolls increases, it all becomes more complex
Today, due to the development of the internet, you can buy various dolls online without ever having to leave your home. You can get dolls from various countries. Some of them will be collectible, others will be playthings. In fact, collectible and toy dolls usually go hand in hand so you will have collections which can also be used as playthings. Here are some of the most common brands you can buy today:
When we talk about girl dolls, we usually think of Barbies. This product has revolutionized the whole industry and has produced various spinoffs and related products appearing in video games, cartoons and so on. Barbie is a relatively old product dating back to 1959. Initially, Barbie was imagined as a tall, blonde, Caucasian girl but over time, there were numerous dolls that were added to the collection. The brand has become recognizable all over the world and although some more modern toys are available nowadays, the demand for Barbies has not diminished
There is no other item that encapsulates pop culture as do Bratz dolls. The product is unique for its disproportionate heads; you can easily recognize Bratz doll among various other dolls. They are really trendy with things such as emphasized gloss, shadow, mascara and so on. While nowadays, this item is wildly popular, it did have its issues. Due to its appearance, there was a lot of debate in the media and some controversies. Luckily for doll lovers, Bratz dolls managed to weather the storm and today, you can find it in various online shops all over the world
- GI Joe
Most people associate dolls with girls. But, there is also a big market for boys’ dolls. The example of this is GI Joe. GI Joe has been around for decades and has come in various shapes and forms. As the name implies, this is a soldier toy doll which appeals to boys. Like any other doll on this list, it comes with various accessories. Its popularity can be seen through movies and all the other media that was created around it
- Ball-jointed dolls
In most cases, toy dolls will have one-piece legs and arms. In other cases, they might have one joint in between. Ball-jointed dolls or BJD take this concept to the whole another level. Instead of your regular joints that are used for dolls, these items have overemphasized joints that are bigger and more noticeable. First BJD dolls were created in Japan and after a while, the craze has spread to the Western world. These amazing products have lots of customizable details and each one if different from another. Unlike previously mentioned dolls, BJD is not always produced in factors but smaller doll makers can create them by themselves
- Reborn dolls
It is really hard to say whether reborn dolls are toys or not. The best way to describe them is as comfort items. Their main audience is teenage and adult women who have experienced child loss or have a strong maternal urge. Reborn dolls have been around for almost a century and they are still somewhat controversial. Unlike other items, the real reborn baby should be unique; there shouldn’t be 2 of the same items. Otherwise, they are seen as manufactured. The main charm of these babies is their uniqueness. They can be created per order, based on a child photo. There are lots of controversies surrounding them but women who buy these products only have words of praise
Obviously, there are lots of different classifications of dolls. If you wish, you can even make a classification of your own; the best thing about the dolls is there are no boundaries or limitations of any sort.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in reborn dolls, in particular, we can certainly help you out. Check our site for various models and if you need any assistance, make sure to contact us at any time!