I've never seen as much confusion among doll names as I have for Mattel's Li'l Miss series. There's more than ample reason for it, as all but one of the dolls were exactly the same lest for a change of clothes and a new hairstyle. They had 5 points of articulations -- the head, shoulders, and legs. The original in the operation was Li'l Miss Makeup, which I owned, and well, may still own should I dig deep enough into some old storage.
Li'l Miss Makeup debuted in 1989 along with P.J. Sparkles, forming a vile rivalry between the two, that ended with Miss Makeup forming a pink color-changing mob to crush P.J. and her light-up bow. Her cyan jumpsuit and tidy pigtails may have given the appearance of a standard run-of-the-mill doll, but with a swish of icy water and an additional layer of clothing, this baby was a doll. Her cheeks were rosy, her eyeshadow was perfect, and even her fingernails were done finer than an Oriental salon.
As I said, Miss Makeup didn't stay by herself for long. She formed a barrage of clone Li'l Miss dolls, releasing two more editions by the next year.
Li'l Miss Magic Hair is cut from the same mold, but with some minor tweaks she made little girls clamor at their mothers like a sea lion in heat. Instead of changing color on the skin, Miss Magic hair had long blonde locks that changed to rainbow stripes when groomed with the "Magic Touch" hairbrush. It also featured a heart-shaped stamp that could be used to make patterns in the hair. You've never lived until you've scrawled "eat me" into a dolls's hair in 3 different colors.
A deluxe edition was also released, known as Triple Change Li'l Miss Makeup that worked on three temperatures of water. Warm water took off all her makeup, cool gave her light coloring, and icy turned her into a French hooker. The accessory factor was ante upped and she included a bodysuit, reversible skirt, shoes, 2 ribbons, headband/ sweatband with bow, comb, and applicator. They forgot the 6" stilettos and fish/wine cologne to complete the French hooker effect.
Since skin and hair were already covered, the next strategic move was to invade the clothing itself. Li'l Miss Dress Up had clothes that changed pink and blue depending on the temperature of water filled in your "Magic Touch" wands. As a new addition, stencils were also included to help better design shapes onto her ensemble. She also has a streak of hair that changed from pink to blue. Miss Dress Up was most definitely my favorite because her outfits were more fun to draw obscene pictures and flowers on, plus she had such gorgeous crimped hair.
Li'l Miss Mermaid came out in 1991 as a way to cash in on the Little Mermaid craze. Miss Mermaid had no "Magic Touch" wands, but she did have color-changing fins and best of all -- she sang. With the help of a hug and a 9-Volt battery she belted out some musical cords. She was gemmed, crowned, and frilled. Most importantly, she was the only doll that didn't have the exact same body mold. That summer I couldn't get anywhere near a swimming pool without sacrificing some blood and offering it as a gift to the Gods in exchange for bringing me a Li'l Miss Mermaid, but sadly I was forsaken to gently stroking the TV set when her commercial came on.
I've always been a big swimmer, if you want to see how many gold stars I got in swim class when I was 4 just let me know, and I'll dig out my old papers from the Allentown YMCA. When I got into the water, I thought I was a mermaid. That era was mermaid gold, including the hot hot hot mermaids from the movie Hook. At that time, I thought a dip in the pool was nearly equivalent to a bath and that it was perfectly acceptable to eat, sleep, bathe, and generally just live in a swim suit. When I wasn't swimming, I was flooding the downstairs by accidentally spilling my Barbie's pool a few dozen times a day. Li'l Miss Mermaid would have been happy in my care. I'd of given her a nice plastic bucket with a few stones in it.
After that, the color changing went on hiatus and it was full-swing for velcro. Li'l Miss Magic Jewels was given a wand a dozen plastic colored gems that could be attached to the doll's hair, dress, shoes, bracelet, or crown. A fun substitute for a bedazzler doll, and none of the regrets of permanently placing your gems in a wrong place.
By 1993 the line was dying down, but not before Li'l Miss Candi Stripes hit the scene not only with her own doll, but with a mini Happy Meal version. Essentially they recycled the past ideas which allowed Candi to change colors on her hair, outfit, and even a little on her face. She had a very "beachy" look about her, with bright neon pink and orange accessories. Her hair was longest of all, reaching town to her tiny bare feet, perhaps taking a note from the popularity of Totally Hair Barbie.
Aside from the normal dolls, a few additional items in the line were produced. A set of smaller, 7" dolls known as the Wee Li'l Miss collection hit the scene for those whose parents wouldn't fork out for the full 13" versions. From left to right we have Wee Li'l Miss Bedtime, Roller-Skater, and Dancer. Not pictured is Wee Li'l Miss Makeup, who came with a usable lipstick or nail polish. The dolls all came with a few little plastic chokable accessories, color-changing and changeable outfits.
As far as playsets, there was only one -- the Li'l Miss 'n Me Magic Vanity. It was a wild pink affair with hair fashions and a ruffled trim that doubled as a skirt for your doll. As you can see, the skirt only truly matched the outfit of Li'l Miss Magic Hair, but when you've invested that much time into making brushes and combs into table legs, the coloring of some flounce becomes less of a concern. It also had a flip-top drawer, which was more of a tease than anything because you weren't provided any little things to store inside it.
There's two main things to do with dolls -- brush their hair and change their clothes. Since each doll came with a limited amount of clothing, 5 Li'l Miss Fashion sets were released. The ballet costume, party dress, nightie, denim & lace active wear, and beachwear each came with a warm/icy color changing accessory. Unfortunately, there were no additional shoes available so poor Miss Magic Hair with her green slip-ons was condemned to swapping shoes with friends. Baby needs a new pair of shoes.
The denim and lace set was very early nineties, but I would have liked to see it come with a big denim sunflower hat as well. And a scrunchie. And some blue raspberry candy. Then it'd be totally fly.
All the Fashion sets were also drawn and stuck on punch-out paper for the Li'l Miss 'n Me Paper Doll set. It had two paper dolls, both Miss Dress Up, one with a pink hair streak, the other with a blue hair streak, more makeup, and a sash. I was a paper doll nut as a girl, and I still have pretty much every paper doll I owned, but I'm scared to dig through them because I fear a silverfish infestation. These are good quality paper dolls because the hair covers a lot of the top and allows the top tabs to slip on with slits above the shoulders. Nothing is more tragic than punching out the neck of a brand new paper doll and having her head rip straight off. It happened to me once with an American Girl paper doll. I was able to reattach her head with some Scotch tape, but she was never the same. The other dolls made fun of her. She had to undergo harsh therapy for years.
The Li'l Miss dolls still float around from time to time on eBay, even occasionally still mint in box for even cheaper than the $25 they cost originally. That should take care of the "where can I buy one" e-mails, now I just have the "how do I clean/repair my doll" e-mails to look forward to.