All of the Ways You Can Save on American Girl Dolls and Accessories
Your kids are getting American Girl dolls for Christmas, but the clothes and accessories are super expensive. Now what do you do?
In 2016, Kohl's and American Girl announced their plans to sell Lea, 2016 Girl of the Year, doll accessories and the new line of Wellie Wishers. Although the dolls are only available in-store, the partnership provided a convenient way for families who don't live near an American Girl store to get easy access to these products.
A few years ago, my nieces Bella and Maggie (not their real names) were treated to a visit to the American Girl store in Chicago where they chose their dolls. Five year old Maggie immediately zeroed in on Rebecca, who was dressed in her favorite color. Six year old Bella was pickier, at first enamored with Grace, briefly considering Addy, and ultimately settling on Maryellen.
Following after the girls as they explored the store, their mother, grandmother and I were all left stunned by the price tags on clothing and accessories. Most of the outfits we saw were $36 or more. A pet for your doll - a stuffed animal roughly the size of my fist - was $28. A doll-sized bicycle? $115. Seriously. I paid less than that for my real, actually rideable, grown up bike.
And so the three adults sprang into action finding alternatives. We quickly found plenty of knockoff clothing lines. My mother and I are both pretty crafty, and there are tons of doll clothing patterns out there to sew, knit and crochet. I dug around in my yarn stash to see what I could whip up quickly, and both girls were ecstatic to get new knitted hats for their babies on Christmas Day.
Neither Bella nor Maggie cared that the knitted hats didn't come from American Girl. And that's a wonderfully good thing. Not only does it mean that outfitting these dolls will be easier on our wallets, it also vastly broadens the possibilities for doing so.
Stick to knockoff doll clothing and accessories
American Girl isn't the only 18-inch doll manufacturer out there. Most major toy retailers have their own knockoff version. At Target, it's Our Generation. Walmart has My Life As. Toys R Us had Journey Girls, which you can now find at ShopKo. Amazon is a treasure trove of clothing from lesser known brands like Dollie & Me and Sophia's, often Prime eligible and cheaper than on their home websites.
These were some of the best off-brand wardrobe collections we found:
- Our Generation - Target
- My Life As / MLA - Walmart
- Journey Girls - ShopKo
- Springfield Collection
- Dollie & Me
- Silly Monkey
All of these are much cheaper than American Girl brand outfits and fit American Girl dolls just fine. The quality is good and the cuteness factor is sky high.
But for the skeptics out there who might wonder if the knockoffs truly stand up to official American Girl merch, may we present the following challenge:
Can You Tell Which One is From American Girl?
Most of the kids who love their American Girl dolls care more about the doll than the brand of clothing that they wear. Remember how thrilled Bella and Maggie were with their handknitted baby hats? In fact, we're betting most grown ups would be hard pressed to spot the official merch. Check out these side by side comparisons to see exactly how similar outfits and accessories from other 18-inch doll brands can be to the real thing.
When you have lunch at American Girl Place, your dolls are seated at the table with you using a special seat that clips on to the table, and it's a wonderful upselling gimmick. What little girl wouldn't want one after that? The American Girl version is $30, but Target sells a similar clip-on chair for $19.99 that also comes in four different very cute patterns and includes a tray and lunch set complete with tiny utensils.
Both halter-style outfits have a classic retro sweetheart bodice in an adorable print. One is by Our Generation, sold at Target for $12.99. The American Girl outfit costs more than twice as much at $32.
Check out these precious ballet outfits, complete with tiny shoes and all in classic ballet pink. The American Girl version costs $15 more than a similar outfit from Our Generation at Target.
Left: Sophia's Hot Pink Satin Doll PJs with White Slippers - $11.95 at Amazon
Right: Rebecca's Satin Pajamas - $24.00 at American Girl
Here's another set of doll jammies. Both sets are satin and come with slippers. One of these belongs to an American Girl doll. The other is half the price. Would your little one know the difference?
The doll-size bunk bed from Our Generation includes realistic touches like a ladder and guard rail, compared to American Girl's overly simplistic four-post design. The bed from Walmart is relatively simple, but it includes a trundle bed to accommodate a third doll. Which of these three options would you choose?
P.S. You totally need to check out Etsy, too.
A quick look at the 18-inch doll clothing available on Etsy proves that handmade doesn't have to be expensive. Many of the outfits you'll find here are priced on par with the commercially-made Our Generation and Journey brands from Target and Toys R Us. Plus, the custom nature of Etsy makes it a heck of a lot of fun to browse, not to mention that you can coordinate your kid's other interests with your doll a lot more easily than you can elsewhere.
Bella has been really into Paris lately.
Left: Paris Sparkle / Eiffel Tower / Ooh La La by JillRodgersDesigns - $12.95
Center: Pink Paris Eiffel Tower T-Shirt and Pink Print Skirt by IfDollsCouldDream - $14.50
Right: Paris Doll Dress by AnniesDollFashion
Their auntie may be a bit more into Star Wars.
Basically, whatever you or your kids are into, Etsy's probably got you covered with an outfit for your American Girl doll.
Make your own adorable doll clothes
My mother can sew. Once upon a time, she made an entire Barbie wardrobe for my sister and I for Christmas and it was glorious.
Looking around for sewing patterns, there are plenty from McCall's and Simplicity (found in abundance at JoAnn and Fabric.com), but my favorite patterns come from Etsy, where the designs seem to be a lot more on-trend:
Personally, I'm a knitter. As I noted in the intro, I whipped out a couple doll hats just in time for Christmas using a free pattern I found on Ravelry.
I'll be honest, a lot of the knitting and crocheting I've seen for dolls can look homemade in a well-meaning but not particularly appealing way, and I hold my knitting to a pretty high standard these days. But with a good eye for color and the right pattern, the results can be nothing short of spectacular. The quality on these caught my eye and maybe, possibly made it into my Ravelry queue:
And Don't Forget Matching Girl & Doll Outfits
Both Bella and Maggie love dressing their dolls up in clothes that match their own. American Girl has more than a few, of course, but Kohl's, Amazon and Target come through on this request rather well at a much better price. Kohl's can be pricey, but the discounts are great when outfits go on sale and the usual Kohl's coupons codes can reduce the price even more.
Here are a couple of my favorite matching girl and doll outfit finds:
Left: Our Generation You & ME Outfit, Heart Mesh Skirt - $34.99 at Target
Right: Dollie & Me Top & Bottoms Pajama Set & Matching Doll Pajama Set - $44 at Kohl's
Check out the Dollie & Me collection at Zulily or Amazon right now. Beyond that, you can find Our Generation Me and You outfits at Target.
Making your own is also an option. If you're a knitter, check out the pattern for these adorable matching Dolly Bloom dresses, designed by Georgie Hallam. Does it get any cuter?
If you absolutely must have American Girl brand stuff, however...
Shop the Sales
Our sources tell us that Black Friday and Cyber Monday always have some of the best deals seen all year at American Girl. In fact, in the past, we've seen an American Girl promo code covering the entire weekend, taking 20% off full priced items, including the dolls themselves.
We've also heard the Cyber Monday sale is THE sale of the season, and we've seen up to 50% off there. And that is usually followed by a full week of daily deals.
There are also some fantastic sales after Christmas, though they tend to be in-store only.
Check Craigslist and eBay for secondhand clothing and accessories
It can be tough to find bargains on auction sites and the like. Many buyers and sellers in these markets are collectors, so you're often going to be looking at collector prices. Translation: Hardly anyone is divesting themselves of this stuff for cheap.
On the other hand, there's a ton of secondhand AG for sale online and there's bound to be a gem or two out there for those with the patience to sift through it.
Buy a used doll and send her to the Doll Hospital
While poking around on Chicago's Craigslist, I spotted someone selling American Girl's Julie doll for $50. She may be sold without her clothes, but that's still $65 off the price if you bought her new.
Assuming she's in reasonably good condition but could use a bit of touching up, add in $28 for a Wellness Visit at the American Girl Doll Hospital for cleaning and hair restoration, and you've spent $78, still $37 less than you'd pay for a new Julie doll. The Doll Hospital's services range from cleaning all the way up to reattaching and replacing parts and are priced from $28-$44, plus shipping and processing.
Look for discounted American Girl gift cards at Costco
In past years, we've seen $100 American Girl gift cards being sold for $79.99 at Costco, and rumor has it this is a deal that comes back periodically. So if you're a regular Costco shopper, keep an eye on the gift cards at your local store to potentially score a 20% discount.
Follow American Girl on Facebook
Several collectors we spoke to noted that discounts and free shipping promos are usually announced on American Girl's official Facebook page the same morning they start. You'll need to move fast!
Will your kids be getting American Girl merch for Christmas this year? Let us know in the comments!