Blythe Doll

Blythe was a fashion doll originally produced by the Kenner toy company. She was unique in that her eyes changed color when you pulled the cord in her back. Blythe was only sold for one year, in 1972, before she was discontinued due to poor sales. Perhaps little kids were creeped out by her oversized head and huge eyes, based on the kitschy 1960s paintings by Margaret Keane. Although Blythe sales were poor in 1972, I was one of the little girls who had a Blythe doll at that time. I had the brunette in the long yellow hippie dress, pictured at left in the ad above. My grandmother bought it for me at the Woolworth’s down the street from her house. I remember playing with Blythe on the front steps of my grandmother’s house. I tortured the little boy who lived next door to her because I made him play with me and my Blythe doll. In particular, I made him say “Oh Blythe, you have such beautiful blue eyes,” then I pulled the cord in her back to change her eye color to green and exclaimed “Not anymore!”

In 2000, a New York City photographer named Gina Garan received a vintage Blythe doll from a friend. It was purchased on eBay for a few dollars. Gina started collecting Blythe dolls and took photographs of them in different outfits in different locations all over New York. She published them in a book called This is Blythe. This led to a Japanese toy manufacturer purchasing the rights to produce the doll. Today Blythe is enjoying a renaissance as the Takara toy company produces Blythe dolls to widespread demand worldwide. And the vintage Kenner Blythe dolls that used to go for about eight dollars now sell for several hundred dollars. As if to try to relive my childhood, I’m one of the thousands of grown women who eagerly buy Blythe dolls as well as the “other outfits sold separately.” Gina Garan sells the Takara Blythe dolls in the US on her website This is Blythe. When I look at the new Blythes being offered, I get that same twinge of excitement as if I were still that little girl in Woolworth’s.

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