By Marjorie Magazine, Photos Courtesy of Caleigh Allen
In 2020 Caleigh Allen found herself browsing through a thrift store when like out of her past a familiar sight appeared in the shape of a flowy 1970’s vintage piece: Felicity Merriman’s very own dress.
It wasn’t the exact dress, although the floral resemblances between the dress she was looking at now and that of an iconic fictional character beloved by many young girls in the 1990’s was too close. She bought it and tried it on– and her idea for evoking a part of her past became a passionate challenge to recreate more than one American Girl.
Founded in 1986, the world of American Girl celebrates the adventurous spirit of young girls through a diversity of stories and dolls to accompany each one. Most notable of their brand are the Historical American Girl dolls that taught history of the nation through the eyes of various historical yet fictional characters: from Indigenous Kaya to Gilded Age Samantha and even the Civil War with Addy. Through relatable tales of young girls in the midst of these landmark times in American history, readers could better understand and find delight in the past. Every girl who grew up in the 1990’s and 2000’s couldn’t wait for the colorful AG catalogs to arrive in the mail, every new one showcasing an array of outfits and play accessories which they could add with their dolls for the full effect of history lessons veiled as immersive playtime.
These fond memories of a magical girlhood for Caleigh are just exactly why she was so excited to have found the Felicity dress and begin the #AmericanGirlVintage Challenge on Instagram. “I love doing vintage inspired series!” She exclaims in an exclusive interview with Marjorie, “American Girl Dolls were such a fun and important part of me and my sister’s childhood. They were super special; we each were only allowed one to start, and had to wait years to collect more.” The thrill of building up the wardrobe for her first doll, Addy (1865), and eventually owning other dolls from the modern and inclusive “Look Like Me” series fueled her drive. As she already had Felicity’s dress, it was only right to begin her work in chronological order.
The finishing results are cheery, quirky, and best of all, absolutely nostalgic. For the 6 looks she completed for her challenge, sourcing various pieces from September through December for the looks was a challenge in itself.
“It was much harder when I had to do all my shopping from home without trying anything on! I gave myself leniency; each look just had to have at least one vintage piece, and the rest I allowed modern items to keep the look the way I wanted,” Caleigh explains, “Felicity ended up being very easy, as fate dropped that dress in my lap, as well as Samantha (1904) and Molly (1944).” As for the hardest look, surprisingly, it was Kit’s (1934), for being such a simple look had the hardest distinct pieces to find. Despite all the Etsy and Instagram vintage boutiques she browsed, there was nothing like the perfect skirt for Kit’s outfit until she came across the white floral skirt. “It was the last to arrive!”
Of all the looks she shared, nothing brought her moods up in full swing like Molly (1944) and Julie’s (1974). Both outfits reflect more recent periods in history with aesthetics that could almost blend seamlessly into styles of 2021. “Molly made me feel so CUTE and joyful; which to me was the core of this project.”
The #AmericanGirlVintage challenge has achieved just that, recalling to Caleigh’s followers and new fans of her work throwbacks to a moment in our lives that defined what it means to be conscious of bygone eras while embracing the wonders of your own present time. In hopes of inspiring other gals in the vintage community to join in and replicate their favorite dolls and broaden the inclusivity of the challenge, Caleigh dreams of when long after the woes of a pandemic, these modern and grown up American Girls can meet up in person and bond over the beauty of AG dolls together.
As for Caleigh’s next look? “I see a piece that just screams another Doll,” she says, “I’m sure I won’t be able to resist!”
See some outtakes from her #AmericanGirlVintage challenge here along with a heartfelt personal note to fans of the challenge:
I’ve never done this before, but this is my first big video project and all the footage was so joyful, I couldn’t resist making an #outtakes reel 😂😂
Last year was such a depressing bust for myself, like so many, and as an artist I struggle to find joy amidst all the pain. I did this series honestly all for myself; because this childhood toy always brings up such good memories. I spent months planning, searching, piecing together, shooting, editing, all for my own fun and bliss. To have it received so well by all of y’all … well that was such an unexpected bonus 🥰🥰🥰
“To create art” is the core of my soul; I’ll never stop, even if social media disappears tomorrow. To be totally transparent I’ve watched this particular video at least a hundred times; the summation of the ✨JOY✨ this project brought to myself, and surprisingly others. It was such a good end to a terrible year and a fabulous start to a new one. I’m gonna keep dreaming and creating; and I am honored and blessed for those of you who choose to join me. ❤️
And A MILLION THANK YOUS to the babes you hear cackling alongside with me in this video, who helped me articulate this vision and my heart cannot speak enough love: I couldn’t have done it with you ❣️