Sunday, 16 March 2014

The J-doll quest

J-doll Lavalle

This is a special post. I'm not much of a reviewer - there are people who do a much better job than me (pretty much everyone in my followed blogs list). I like to buy dolls, swap their clothes and play with them. This time though, I'll make an exception and review a much expected doll that I got recently. I'll concentrate on aspects I found curious or interesting, rather than doing a review by the book. This is entirely new for me, so there are many words and pictures ahead. Oh, and the doll? It's J-601 "Lavalle".

I became interested in J-dolls a few months ago when I saw one with the new body type on a blog. A little bit of googling convinced me quickly they are way out of my budget, at least as long as I'm in Europe.

This is the cheapest store, too

The odds of getting such a doll looking quite discouraging, I buried J-dolls at the bottom of my wishlist, next to Tonner dolls and a personal helicopter. They stayed there until this January, when a friend of hubby's let us know she could bring me some doll from the USA, if I wanted to buy one. It was such an incredible surprise, I mean, she could have minded her business and I would never have known she was even there. I raised puppy eyes at hubby and asked if I could have a J-doll... and he agreed. I started some serious research and hunting. This is not an easy task for a scrooge like me. My goal was to find a doll on the 4th Pullip body under 50$ (including shipping within the USA).

Why the 4th body? J-dolls come on a Pullip body, either the 3th or the 4th. Emily explains at length all the differences between the two body types. Here is her chart. If you click it it will lead you to the article it came from:

 Emily's post about Pullip bodies

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. I'll return to this chart later. For me, these were the key reasons for avoiding the type 3 body (in order of importance):
- the forearm and wrist joint. No. No. Just no. Have you seen those things? They look like sausages and on top of that the wrist looks broken (and is often broken in the package). The hands are always visible and I'd rather have immobile wrists, but they have to be elegant like Barbie's.
- screws all over the back and neck. I don't keep my dolls naked but I still want to have the option of a backless dress.

Emily of The Toy Box Philosopher wrote a wonderfully detailed post about the 3rd body type. You should check it out if you want to learn more about it.

The 3th body does have some advantages, like prettier hips, thighs and knees and a thinner waist, but the hot-dog forearms are something I can't get over. And it's a shame, because the prettiest designs in my price range are almost exclusively on this type of body. Dolls like In-Sa-Dong or Mariya Luiza (my favourites). All the following are official promo photos:


  Old Church Street, Camden High Street, Takeshita Street and so many others...


 We almost chose Camden because we were fooled by some photos on a transplanted body. It's often impossible to guess the body type from promo or in-box pictures, because the tell-tale wrists are concealed by long sleeves.

The dolls that use the new body usually have clothing too casual or too specific that is not in my style. And what's a doll without a great outfit? I came to the conclusion I don't enjoy dolls nude or with useless clothes. Especially for a first doll of any type, everything has to be perfect! I'll show you some dolls I do like, which are all very expensive. Here go Unter den Linden, Via Appia, Carrer de Montcada, Andrassy Avenue...

I almost got Andrassy when it briefly emerged on Amazon for just under 50$ but at that point I had already selected a few dolls in the 35$ range and it seemed like a huge difference to pay for the outfit, when the doll itself isn't very versatile with that blue wig... and I wanted above all a doll I can dress in anything without any limitations. My final picks were Rue de Belleville, Karl Johans Gate and Lavalle (which I bought in the end).


I liked Belleville's brown eyes, but the colourful outfit and yellow hair not so much. Karl Johans has yellow hair as well, but the dress is too gorgeous. I was set on getting her but I encountered a logistics problem. I could buy Lavalle for 7$ less and I liked the wig and eye colour much better (muted purple versus bright teal), in spite of the plainness of the dress. Thus it was decided that Lavalle was to be my first J-doll.

This is where the actual review begins

I apologize for the first pictures which are terrible. My doll arrived with hubby around midnight and that's when I deboxed it between fits of coughing. My box was very mangled, it was actually coming apart and I was worried the doll might be damaged. It was packed very safely though and the state of the box did not affect the contents at all.

Doll packaging doesn't interest me. One thing I noticed was that the scotch tape was limp and sticky, which made me think the doll had been packaged a very long time ago. I was prepared for some massive staining, which these dolls are famous for. I was very lucky in that aspect - there was not a single dot on the doll's body! Some dolls get it in spite of the plastic wrap that covers them head to toe beneath the clothes. I forgot to take a picture of the wrapped doll while I was marveling at it. Whenever I heard "plastic wrap", I imagined a sort of cling wrap, but in reality it's a stiff wrap similar to transparent purses or umbrellas (only thinner). It renders all joints basically immobile. I don't envy the people whose job is to clothe wrapped dolls.

That's as far as everything bended

I found the handbag stitched to the dress:

When I was researching this doll, I found very few photos of it (compared to other models) and even worse, almost all had the hair in the original ponytail. I couldn't understand why anyone would keep that beautiful straight hair in a pony that looks like a boy cut from the front. I think that if one has such long hair it's a crime to keep it tied (says girl with a 24/7 waist-long braid). Anyway, after one look at it I found the reason. A strand of hair wraps around the ponytail base several times...

...after which the end goes back under the wig cap where it's glued securely. All I wanted for the hair was to set it free, so I cut the elastic and pulled the hair out of the ponytail to figure out the beginning and end of the looped strand.

There it is!

Then I cut the ends close to where they go back under the cap. The hair is nice and free!

Actually, "nice" may be an overstatement

The hair has a weird texture (more on that later), but to my surprise, it straightened very well with boiling water. After a few days the doll was ready for a photo session. I have no intention to bring back the ponytail so the hair is loose from now on.

Here is the doll with the complete outfit. Much to my surprise, she doesn't need a stand to balance on those tiny feet.

That's the front

Profile, sort of...

...and the back:

The feet aren't as small as they look actually, but I had to shoot from the head level to make the upper half look better.

The doll comes with a telescopic stand of a much higher quality than I expected. The metal pole screws neatly into a metal nut embedded in the plastic base, not in the base directly as I thought.

My only wish is that they'd made it a neutral colour to coordinate with the monochromatic outfit.

One of the main draw of J-dolls are the realistic inset eyes. They are advertised as glass, which probably means acrylic, but I can't think of a non-destructive way to find out. I'll play safe and keep any acetone away, especially since the head is hard plastic anyway and I can't let any weird chemicals around it.

You have to really look to see it, but there is a faint grey under the eyes. It's more visible in real life and looks like the semi-transparency of human skin in that area. It's so nicely executed. The waterlines and inner corner are freakishly accurate, too.

The mouth has some deep ridges in the upper lip, accented by paint. I'd like to cover the lips in bloody red (not a fan of the "natural" look), but I still can't help marveling at the delicacy and precision of the makeup.

That has to be about the neatest hair fringe seen in a doll. It's curved in a natural shape over the forehead; it's not the fan/broom shape we usually see on fashion dolls. There are a couple of strands that end under the chin and the rest of the hair is knee long. It's a wig glued to the head. There are some bald spots in the middle, which may be the results of my hot water procedures. They are barely noticeable.

Although it usually photographs black, the hair is brown. I think the high contrast in the doll design messes with cameras. I thought it was supposed to be black until I saw it in the box and noticed the real colour immediately even in the dim midnight light. Here it is with Raquelle's true black:

Raquelle, Lavalle

This is hands down the worst hair texture I've ever laid my hands on. It's coarse and stringy like the cheapest artificial hair. Like these things, if not worse:

Considering this, I was double amazed that a) the curly strand straightened in one go and b) it looks impossibly good in photos, especially the fringe which is flawless. Maybe the designers are smarter than I think and they chose this fiber specifically because it styles so nicely. After all, this is a 15+ doll and nobody should be combing and touching the hair a lot (in theory).

This is a 2-minute style with a small claw pin and one of my huge bun pins.
The long hair hides the pin completely.

Ah, those eyes. Sometimes I look and it's like a tiny person caught in fragile plastic, with only the eyes alive, watching me. It's so eerie. I love it.

Okay, back to business...

I bookmarked Diane's tutorial for removing J-doll wigs. I'd like to make a spare wig, softer and fringeless and I know just the right girl who can borrow us a little hair...

Sorry, Draculaura, you could never pull of the Venus McFlytrap

If I clear the forehead area, I'll need to do something about the brows. They are too thin and light. In fact, this was one of the main reasons I chose Lavalle over Karl Johans Gate. With that I would have had one yellow and one black wig and every time I'd swap them I'd have to redo the eyebrows because eyebrows that don't match the hair drive me crazy. Did I mention the head is hard plastic and not getting along with paint remover?

Anyway, to finish with the face, here is the ear. It has a lot of detail for something the size of a pinky toe nail. The ears aren't pierced, and they are hard. I'll think of a way to drill tiny holes or get creative about earrings.

The photo above also shows the extensive blushing, which makes her face appear darker/oranger than it is elsewhere. I composed a lineup of the few doll skin tones I have here and shot them on a background of white office paper to callibrate the whites correctly. I think there are at least 3 skin tones among J-dolls and I wanted to show this particular one to the best of my abilities. I have Nikki (standard Barbie black), Teresa (standard Barbie white), Raquelle (peach), Barbie Denim Basics #14 (fair) and Lavalle which is so milky white it blends with the background. I have seen people who are actually this light. It's a realistic skin tone and looks better when seen with the naked eye.

Nikki, Teresa, Raquelle, Basic #14, Lavalle

And now in reverse order to balance the lighting difference:

I wanted a new skin tone that is not the Barbie tan and since J-dolls aren't racially diverse I looked in the palest of the pale end of the spectrum. I almost dismissed Lavalle in the beginning because most photos make it look like the darkest J-dolls. It's anything but that; I blame the limited optical range of cameras that can't handle the dramatic contrast. I hope my lineup will help someone decide if this the skin tone they expect in this J-doll.

Here is everything else besides the doll and the stand. Very few pieces with no concealed extras.

Jacket, dress, tights, bag and shoes. No underwear.

I was curious about the construction of the jacket/wrap thing. It's an unusual garment which I didn't care for in promo pictures, but I've grown to appreciate it since.

It's made of a shimmery wrinkly fabric. It has a gathered high collar and puffy sleeves created by turning them halfway inside out. If you pull the sleeves into a natural position, this thing looks like bloomers with an open crotch seam.

Whoever thought of this had a very vivid imagination

Under the jacket, the dress is sleeveless.

The fabric under the lace overlay is white, not grey as I thought. I don't have to wash the dress because it's completely white on the wrong side. I did wash the black items; the jacket bled a lot, but the tights didn't.

The holes are from where the purse was attached with strong button stitches

Look at the elegant design with piping even on the collar! I liked it immediately.

The back closes with hook-and-loop tape half of which is sewn on the edge of the dress, not on top of it. The waist is tight and I want to extend the back opening, but the lack of overlay might cause a problem. It looks very neat and centered though.

The purse up close:

It's highly detailed, big and functional, although the opening is restricted by the chain attachments.

The shoes are plain pumps made from a rubbery plastic that attracts lint. They are differentiated into left and right.

I've heard of J-doll shoes that break or are too stiff, so in that respect the sticky plastic was a clever design choice. I was worried they wouldn't fit over the tights (they were packed separately from the doll), but they do, perfectly. So well, in fact, that they are much too loose on bare feet.

The tights are simple, sewn from a soft synthetic knit. They snag easily.

Let's take a look at the doll now.

The colours aren't true to life. The contrast between the hair and the skin is very beautiful on my shelf, but a massive pain to photograph. I've blown the contrast to make the body shapes easier to see. As I understand, that's the typical Pullip 4 body. The only visible screws are in the sides of the knees:

This is my first doll with ankle joints, so I examined them from all sides. I don't like the swollen look of the ankle, but the mobility is fun.

The feet are small and from some angles they appear paper-thin. The dolls are clearly not meant to be displayed barefoot.

The hands are much prettier. My doll has a grabby hand:

Unfortunately, that one wrist is butchered and barely hangs on a shred of the peg. I'll have to think of some surgery to reinforce it. Note how most of the seams are sanded neatly.

The elbows and knees appear to be double-jointed. The mobility of the elbow is enhanced by a twisting joint in the upper arm; the part that connects to the elbow has a slope which means that at one point it bends further and the arm joint can be twisted to change the angle to the desired position.

Monster High, J-doll, Fashionista Barbie

In the above photo, the left arm is simply bent upwards, while the right arm is bent to the left and twisted to face up.

After I took the picture, I discovered my doll can do this:

This is as close to the body as Barbie's arms will go

This is possible thanks to the prominent shoulders and this carving in the torso:

All the elbow bending makes the forearm slide away and it has to be pushed back in every now and then.

Same thing with the knee:

Although the knees are the most flexible of my dolls, I don't like the look of the internal knee piece and the leg design in general. The bumpy thigh looks nothing like the elegant curve of a human leg, or Barbie's.

J-doll, Barbie

Seems like my doll will be restricted to wearing long skirts, but it's always interesting to have different body types!

One thing I like a lot is the waist area. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?


I want to make two more points about the articulation. I mentioned Emily's comparison table, here it is again:

Link to Emily's article about Pullip bodies

The table was made for Pullips and not everything applies to J-doll, mine at least. The torso moves in every direction, not by much, but it's noticeable.

The head also moves up and down. These photos are taken from about the same spot.

It also tilts sideways, but I forgot to take a picture.

The body is quite different from anything I own so I was anxious to see if there was any chance of clothes swapping. The lace dress has no chance against Barbie's wide hips.

I hoped it would fit on the slimmer Model Muse, but I didn't account for her man-shoulders.

I think I'll name this doll Regina

The reverse is predictable - Lavalle drowns in the Basic outfit.

I thought I'd try the tight Barbie dress I bought separately. It looks like a deflated metallic balloon.

Full Barbie dresses that are supposed to look roomy seem to work from the front...

...but the back is a disaster:

In all honesty, Lavalle's own dress was sewn a little big to fit over the plastic wrap.

The short stature means nobody will be borrowing the tights.

J-doll could maybe swap some bottoms with Monster High, if the fabric and style allows it. These MH trousers barely fit, but they look horrible.

Seems like the only piece of the outfit that can be shared reliably is the gathered jacket:

I don't have non-Mattel dolls to try these on other body shapes. I'll move on to the shoes now.

First of all I tried the Model Muse shoes. They don't work because the MM foot has a pronounced arch while J-doll is flat.

Here is a comparison with the more common Barbie foot:

The J-doll is also a little wider in the toes

It doesn't go all the way in a Barbie shoe and you can see exactly why:

You need very soft shoes to make this work and even so, to take them off you have to be ready to peel the shoe away and pull gently the foot by the heel (the wide toes fit snugly). I regretted this experiment immediately and will not be attempting anything like this, except maybe with super-soft shoes.

J-doll, Fashionista; Barbie shoes

J-doll shoes look okay on Barbie, but they are loose and only stayed on by the power of rubbery stickiness. Even so, they fell twice before I snapped this quick photo:

Barbie with Lavalle's black shoe

There is this Mattel doll I have at Mum's (Muse Dori) that is smaller than Barbie and I tried her shoes which I have on hand. Big surprise...

Pun intended

I fetched the doll some days later and found the explanation. Turns out a smaller body doesn't necessarily mean smaller feet.

Muse Dori, Barbie

The rest of the body is quite similar to J-doll in terms of size and proportion.

J-doll, Dori, Fashionista

Dori came to me nude with just the shoes on, but I tried Lavalle's dress on her. It fits as well as could be expected, front and back. This is the first time I saw Dori dressed, actually. I even shoved the feet into the shoes, all but the half of the heels.

Unfortunately, I can't find any information about Dori's body so I don't know if it was used on other dolls. All I know is that this is a Barbie Diamond Castle Muse Dori doll. The arms move in every direction, but not the legs - only forward-backward. The knees have internal click joints. The rest you can see in these pictures. If anyone knows more about this body type and where it was used, please share with me! (Update: Liane shed some light on this subject, find her comment below and check out her blog for doll customising tips in Portuguese!)

Phew... that was long. I think I covered everything I could, but if you have mere questions about this doll, go ahead and ask! I hope to have the Cleo post soon, she's clean and ready and then it's time for a Mood for Mods article. I'll gladly read your impressions about Lavalle, as well as name suggestions for her ;)

Until next time -
The Black Kitty (^^)~


  1. The doll is lovely. I think the clothes are stunning and very well made. With the extra space in the back you might be able to switch out the Velcro (lace snagging bane of the dolly world) for snaps or hook and eye closures.

    I have one of the Diamond Castle Muse dolls. As far as I know that is the one and only time they used that particular body design. They might have used it in the Fairytopia for the smaller fairies but I do not believe they did. I wish they'd bring it back with joints as it was such a beautifully done body style.


    1. Thanks for the clarification, Mystic! I wished there were more dolls with dori's body because even though the legs don't move sideways, the rest is very nice. Do you happen to know how it compares to Ever After High bodies? This poor girl has no chance of getting a factory outfit, it seems!

  2. This is the first time I've seen this particular J-Doll in real life. The pictures are great and I think you did a good job on your review! I love the picture of the cat checking out the purse.

    It's too bad about her hands, but good that she has no body staining, at least.

    1. I know, this J-doll is so underrated! I had trouble finding enough pictures myself, and all except on one defunct picture blog still had the hair in that glued ponytail, ugh! I'm very happy with it and I'll get around to fixing that wrist, just need to have a talk with dad about drills.
      The mischievous cat is based on my own whom I have to wrestle out of purses and shopping bags of any kind :) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I think you did the best choice, this Lavalle girl has such gorgeous face, eyes, hair and skintone! I also love the clothes! They had a really good taste in all their choices for her. After seeing quite a few pics of j-dolls in the last couple weeks, I can say Lavalle is one of the prettiest ones out there, in my opinion. And WoW at your review, it clarified all doubts I had and could possibly think of. The only problem with this post is.. it's tempting me sooo much to save for a j-doll now! XD
    On Dori's body, I know the Mariposa barbie from 2008 (a gorgeous big eyed mackie faced doll) had the same body type, and I saw other fairies with that too, online and even on shelves (recently), though I didn't pay attention to the names at the time. But they are easily recognizable for the hand shape and feet (feet look triangular from the front), you can always find one or other listed on ebay as nude barbie fairy. =)

    1. Sorry for stirring your J-doll appetite ^^; I hope you can find one because they are gorgeous! I'm glad my review explained everything you wanted to know about this particular doll. The main problem is that their price blows up as soon as they cross the US border, but still, if you manage to find one for a two-figure price, it's absolutely worth it. Last week I saw cheerleader Spectra for 35$ in the store and after I paid less than 33$ on Lavalle, I was like, get out of here! The J-doll is by far much better value even than deluxe dolls like the 55$ Elissabat I also saw. I'd say you should keep an eye open for an opportunity to buy one of these little treasures. And thanks for the info on Dori's body, now I know what to give google to find out everything I need :)

    2. I can imagine, even from pics I can say monster high dolls don't come even close to j-dolls! And if we buy mhs or even barbies in our local stores, we spend a lot more than we would on dolls of much better quality. Just the shipping (and taxes in my case) make it a bit harder, but they are sure worth it. Now j-dolls were moved to the top of my doll want list.. X3
      And still on Dori, I'm not sure but I think high school musical clothes might fit her body (from pics they look about the same size). If I find any info on that I'll come back to comment again. =) Good luck with finding what you need!

    3. Aren't all these extra charges just a killjoy? I hope you find your J-doll(s) soon. Mattel made it easier now than ever to pass on their dolls and save for something better, with all the glue-head mishaps. Hubby wants "the other one with the fluffy dress", which I determined to be Karl Johans Gate. I take it he's thinking about the logistics already :) Will you post too when you get yours? I'm curious to see which it will be.

    4. True, Mattel is being a disappointment for some time now, which is already reflecting on their sales. If they'd take that as experience of what not to do, it would be awesome. But I don't think they will. The adult doll lovers will end up finding other better quality dolls, like j-dolls, that are a MUCH better deal for what they offer (we don't even need to do big comparisons, just the clothes already show the difference in quality O_O). And I'm glad your hubby already fell for them! (And you know, if the fluffy one isn't Karl Johans, you'll have the perfect excuse to get a 3rd one.. ;D) Btw, the other day I was seeing some pics of the Melrose Ave doll, when I suddenly hear my older brother (who was playing games in the same room), saying, "THAT is a really pretty one!" It's as you said in the other comment, the j-doll fever is really contagious! XD
      And I will post for sure, though it will take some time till I can get one. But I will. =)

    5. Melrose Ave is GORGEOUS! But if you plan to get her, be aware that it's the type 3 body. Probably wouldn't matter much because of the gauntlets that hide the bad wrists so nicely, but just a heads up. On the other hand, dolls on the 3rd body are usually cheaper. You can tell the bodies apart if the knees, elbows or wrists are exposed. I suppose you read Emily's review of Josephsplatz and you know what to expect. Any chance you have friends wandering about the USA? All this anticipation must be killing you!? So many dolls and only a few ship outside the country. It's so unfair!

  4. I have recently purchased a few J-Dolls, Lavalle is one of them. I absolutely fell in love with them. I live in the US, so the prices here can be very low, if you watch and wait for the right time. I have found that the Moxie Girls clothes fit them perfectly, even the shoes. The shirts, shoes, and jackets of the Only Hearts Club dolls fit also (pants are too short). The #4 body make changing clothes a lot easier because the hands are removable. That is one of my favorite features.

    1. Lucky you! Which ones did you buy and what determined the choice? Do you have pictures? Thanks for the clothing info, I don't see these brands any more than I do J-dolls, but you never know what ends up at a flea market :)

  5. Hi Kitty :) My name is Xenia, I am a Jdoll lover from Russia. I absolutrely LOVE your post. I have 12 Jdolls. the 13Th iscoming.... I have a second -hand Lavalle wih her hair cut short. She is edgy and gorgeous. I would really love to be your dolly - friend:)

    1. Hi Xenia, I'd be delighted to be your dolly friend! Wow, 12 j-dolls! Which are they? Do you have photos? It's quite an accomplishment, especially in this part of the world. Lavalle with short hair is very pretty. I had no idea they can be found second-hand. Congrats on the 13th doll, I bet you're excited!


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