When Bratz Dolls were first debuted to the masses, they caused some controversy. Maybe you remember them: they were like a brassier, sassier, sexier version of Barbies (who have had their own share of controversy), with oversized heads full of makeup that appeared to have been applied with a trowel, and scanty outfits that most schools would probably deem inappropriate daytime attire.
Many people found the dolls' clubby clothing and over-the-top sex appeal uncomfortable when they remembered the dolls were marketed to young girls. And these are pretty conservative outfits for Bratz dolls.
People's opinions were divided about the dolls. Some thought they were cute, modern, and empowering, while others found their clothing and makeup, as well as their focus on makeup, partying, and shopping to be age-inappropriate for their target audience and possibly damaging to young girls. There were also allegations of poor working conditions in the company's factories.
However, some people, like an artist from Tasmania, who goes by Tree Change Dolls on Tumblr, saw potential in the dolls, and decided to perform what has become a ritual practice in the beauty-product-heavy culture aimed to young girls and women: a makeover. Or maybe in this case, a makeunder.
First, the factory paint on the faces was removed. Typically, this is done by simply rubbing the oil-based paint off with a solvent like nail polish remover. Then, a new, more naturally-proportioned face was painted on. The new face looks much more like an actual human girl, and is surprisingly cute!
The dolls are purchased from second-hand shops, so they're also essentially recycled toys. "I love the satisfaction of repairing and reusing discarded items to give them a new lease on life," the artist says.
Bratz dolls have a weird characteristic where they don't actually have feet. Instead, the shoes snap on and off the legs. People, including this author, have found this trait pretty disturbing. It also posed a unique challenge at Tree Change Dolls, where new feet had to be constructed and attached to the dolls. Most of the feet are hand-sculpted.
The results are pretty amazing, not to mention adorable. The dolls go from made-up mini-adults to relatable young girls. The artists's mom even chips in to create unique, handmade clothing for them that's a little more age-appropriate.
The artist describes her concept, as well as the meaning of the name behind the project: "These dolls have been rescued and rehabilitated from op-shops and tip shops around Tasmania. These lil fashion dolls have opted for a 'tree change,' swapping high-maintenance glitz 'n' glamour for down-to-earth style. I hand repaint the dolls faces, mold new shoes, and my Mum sews and knits their clothing."
The artist likes to photograph her new dolls outside, and hopes that the images will encourage kids to play in and appreciate nature.
A collection of made-under Bratz dolls, now looking more like normal people. Even their heads don't seem as freakishly huge.
So if you ever find yourself a bit weirded out by a doll that seems a bit to grown-up for your kids, you can try the make-under approach. It makes a fun craft to do with your children. If you're less than crafty, you can also get in contact with Tree Change Dolls via Tumblr, and see about purchasing one for yourself. There will be an Etsy shop coming soon as well.