It’s no secret that I love articulated dolls. I love to pose my dolls and add them to dioramas, rather than just have them stand on a shelf all the time. As a child and when I began collecting, articulation in the Barbie line was pretty basic. Bendable (double click) knees and straight or bent Superstar arms was the best I could hope for, but that was enough, at least a doll could sit. Now Barbie dolls seem to be see-sawing between completely articulated Made to Move style bodies with their limited head moulds and vinyl colours or the Model Muse and new Fashionista bodies with their unbending arms and legs, but great range of faces and vinyl tones. I try to buy articulated dolls where I can, but a lot of the time I’m left with no option but to head/body swap. I scavenge bodies wherever I can, from op shops, doll sales or occasionally, buying dolls new. The ones I use most are Barbie Made to Move – standard and curvy, Barbie Pivotal, Barbie Articulated Fashionista and Liv Doll by Spinmaster. Of course there are other alternatives – Fashion Royalty, Azone, Pure Neemo, etc., but these can be expensive and I tend to go for the cheapest option I can find. All have their positives and negatives, so here’s a look at each of the articulated bodies I have in detail. I’ve chosen three poses – how well a doll can touch its face/head, how well it can kneel and how well it can sit naturally on the floor – as a means of comparison for each body type.
Barbie Articulated Gymnast – In the 1990’s, Barbie got a completely articulated, hard plastic body, and while it has its limitations – silver pegs visible at the joints, huge flat feet (although some editions, especially collector, have high heeled feet) and awkward flat hands – it’s fabulous compared to what has gone before. Some also have a ball jointed waist which allows more poseability. It was used mostly on sporty themed dolls, and of course with limited head moulds, but it’s better than a static body. There are some hybrids of this body, the arms are often used on dolls with the usual double click bending legs, such as the Generations Girls.
While the arms do reach up to the head, those hands make a natural pose difficult. The doll kneels quite well, but sitting on the floor is a no go, those hip joints don’t have enough lateral movement and there’s no twist at the knee. 5/10
Barbie Pivotal – Some excitement heralded the Pivotal bodies, first used on the Cabaret Dancer dolls in 2007 and on the Pop Life dolls of 2008. Again made from hard plastic, these dolls had a great range of movement including moveable wrists. There are a few hybrids of his body, with different torsos and arms, see previous article here. I really love this body, it has a high fashion look and good poseability. However, because it was used mostly on Collector dolls, it doesn’t turn up often at a reasonable price. I especially like the sculpt of the feet, perfect for Barbie Basic shoe packs. Some do have an under bust joint which allows limited lateral and twist movement, but I’d much prefer a twist or ball jointed waist. In general it’s taller and slightly slimmer than other bodies meaning it doesn’t work with all fashions.
The arms reach the head quite well, and while not able to touch the face too well, those moveable wrists mean natural poses can be achieved – putting on glasses, pushing back hair etc. The doll kneels, but needs to lean back a bit for balance, but can sit quite naturally on the floor. 8/10
Barbie Articulated Fashionista – Fashionista’s became articulated around 2008 and the body looked almost like a play line version of the pivotal body. In fact some hybrid pivotal dolls had these Fashionista arms. There was a good range of vinyl colours, a few new faces, and they occasionally turn up cheap at op shops and doll shows. Like the pivotal body, some do have an under bust joint which allows limited lateral and twist movement, but again, I’d much prefer a twist or ball jointed waist.
The arms reach the head about as well as the pivotal body, and again the moveable wrist makes natural poses easier. The doll kneels well with good balance, and although it can sit on the floor, not quite so naturally as the pivotal body. 7/10
Barbie Made to Move – The Made to Move dolls first made an appearance around 2015. The most articulated Barbie doll to date, these bodies tend to polarise collectors. Some hate the visible joints, but others love the poseability. The head moulds and vinyl colours are limited and to begin with I bought the dolls new to head swap. Recently I’ve found a few second hand for only a couple of dollars, which is a much better option. While I love that they have an ankle joint, I hate the feet on these dolls. They’re so small and shapeless, it’s often hard to find shoes to fit. I really, really wish they had a twist waist. There is also a tall version of this body but unfortunately other dolls in the range did not make it to Australia and some were really hard to find when they did hit the shelves here.
This doll can touch her head and her face in oh so many ways. Natural poses are a cinch. She can kneel realistically and sit on the floor in several natural positions. Except for those feet and the lack of a twist waist, this body would be perfect. 9/10
Barbie Curvy Made to Move – The curvy Made to Move dolls were released around 2017. The articulation is similar to the regular Made to Move body, although the size of the limbs does alter the poseability slightly. The head moulds and vinyl colours are limited, only tan and a pale doll so far, although the pale doll was not available here in Australia. Again, I’ve bought one new, but have also found one at an op shop. And again, I hate the feet. They’re slightly bigger than the regular Made to Move body feet, but they’re a weird shape and it’s hard to find shoes that fit. And yet again, no twist waist. Sigh.
Like her regular counterpart, this doll can touch her head and her face in many different, natural ways. She can kneel realistically, but not quite as well as the regular body, due to slightly bigger limbs. However she can sit on the floor in several natural positions. Except for those feet and the lack of a twist waist, this body would be perfect. 9/10
Barbie Articulated Collector Curvy – I think the articulated collector curvy first appeared in the Harlem Theatre Collection in around 2017. This body is sort of like a curvy articulated Fashionista. Again I’m lamenting the lack of a waist joint and this doll’s feet are a problem. They are sculpted quite nicely, but they’re huge. It’s really hard to find shoes that fit.
Like the Fashionista body, this doll can touch her head, but not her face. She can kneel, but must lean back a long way to achieve balance. And sitting on the floor is a no go. Her hip joints have very little lateral movement and the knees don’t twist. 6/10
LIV Dolls – LIV dolls, manufactured by Spinmaster were released around 2009. The bodies are roughly Barbie sized but the dolls have over sized heads with glass insert eyes, and interchangeable wigs. I love these dolls in their own right, and they regularly turn up cheap at op shops, so I’ve snapped up spares for body swapping Barbie heads. They have a really interesting sort of rolling ball waist joint that allows some lateral as well as twist movement. The downside is their feet. While the ankle is jointed, the feet are huge and LIV shoes are really the only option.
This doll can easily touch her head but not her face very well. She can kneel, but not as well as the Made to Move body. Sitting on the floor is possible, but not very natural. The hip joint only moves laterally in one direction and there is no twist at the knee making sitting on the floor difficult. 7/10
Unknown eBay body – I did buy a cheap body from eBay. It’s very pale and I bought it thinking it may be suitable for Barbie Fashionista #91, with her pale vinyl and big blonde afro. Unfortunately, that particular doll did not make it to Australia, and I’m yet to find a head this body does match. The body has fantastic poseability though and was only about $7. It reminds me of the body used on Meng F (see here) although there are differences. The arms and hands are similar to articulated Fashionista, it has a twist waist and the legs are similar to Made to Move legs, except there is no twist upper thigh joint, but there is one above the knee. It has jointed ankles and nicely sculpted feet, although finding shoes may be a problem. If you are going to buy a body like this, make sure it has a moveable neck knob, so you can pose the doll’s head up and down.
I’m guessing this body can touch the head – when there is one – but not the face. It can kneel realistically and sit on the floor in many natural ways. And it has that twist waist. If only it had a head! 8/10
I’m still trying to find articulated bodies the right colour for these three dolls (left), while these three Artsy bodies are all slightly different colours (middle). The Artsy body is one or two shades too light for Fashionista Cheerful Check #80 (right).
The biggest problem I have when head/body swapping is finding the right colour match. Sometimes close enough will do, and dolls tend to look better if the head vinyl is a shade lighter than the body, rather than slightly darker. Darker brown bodies are especially hard to find, and the right shade of brown, even harder. I’ve even found that there can be slight differences in colour between the same doll. For example, I have three Fashionista Artsy bodies, but all are a slightly different colour. I put the head of Fashionista Tropical Dress #126 on one of these bodies, but it just didn’t look right. I tried another and it’s almost perfect. I have Fashionista Cheerful Check #80 on one too, but it’s just a shade or two too light. I have two other dolls that I just haven’t been able to find a match for either. Pale bodies are harder to find too. I could do with a few more Asian Made to Move bodies, but I even had trouble finding one in stores. I’m currently waiting for the curvy Tokyo Olympics Skateboarder doll to arrive. It will be nice to have a pale curvy doll in the mix. In a perfect world, I’d love to be able to buy doll heads and bodies separately. Think of it, different head moulds in one or two different vinyl colours, and different body types – model muse, made to move, regular, curvy – in several vinyl shades so, effectively, you could mix and match your own doll. That would be dolly heaven. I do like having different bodies in my collection. They are all different heights and builds and I like diversity. So, for now, I’ll keep scavenging bodies where I can and hope I get the vinyl colours I need soon.
This photo shows the differences in size between articulated bodies. All except the curvy dolls are wearing Barbie Basics jeans, with varying success. From Left: Pivotal – jeans are a perfect fit, doll is taller, LIV – jeans are a good fit, doll is shorter, Articulated Fashionista – jeans are a tighter fit, doll is shorter than Pivotal but taller than LIV and Made to Move, Made to Move – jeans fit, but are hard to do up and doll can’t sit in them, doll is taller than LIV but shorter than Fashionista and Pivotal, Barbie Articulated Gymnast – jeans don’t fit properly and won’t do up, bust is larger too and doll is about the same height as Fashionista. The Collector Curvy doll is hippier and bigger in the bust than Curvy Made to Move.
And just in case you need some help to body/head swap, here’s how I remove a doll’s head:
- Be filled with a sense of dread (I can’t help it, I always get anxious)
- Wrap the hair in a towel so it’s not affected by heat
- Lay a hairdryer on a flat surface and turn it on, on a hot setting
- Hold the doll’s head/neck in the warm air, try and get the heat up into the head
- Carefully pull and twist the head until it comes off
(The head knob will have plastic anchors that can pull through the doll’s head, so I generally try to make sure these anchors are not near the doll’s face by careful twisting. I always cut the anchors off, before I put another head on the body. If a swapped head is a bit wobbly, a small rubber band or a small piece of plastic under the head will help)
- Breathe a sigh of relief
LIV dolls are somewhat easier. Remove the wig and soak the whole head in hot water for a few minutes until it softens, then pull and twist off.
Two bodies showing the neck knob. The knob on the left still has the anchors in place, while they have been cut off the one on the right.
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