Blog post updated OCTOBER 2023
If you enjoyed playing with Mod Barbies as a child, you probably remember the tiny doll stars of the early '70s, Topper's Dawn dolls. Topper Toys released Dawn dolls in March 1970. Compared to Barbie, these dolls were much smaller at 6 1/2" tall. Like Barbies of that era, they had rooted hair and rooted eyelashes. Three friends of Dawn were also released in 1970 - her girl squad Angie, Glori and Dale. Dawn and her besties were glamorous fashion model dolls with the most beautiful fashions. The initial line included 44 groovy outfits.
The (anything but!) basic Dawn was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll with straight, waist-length hair parted in the middle. Her eyes glance to the left but there are some variations including brown-eyed Dawn dolls, side-parted hair, strawberry blonde hair and eyes looking forward or towards the right.
Dawn's friend, brown-eyed girl Angie, also had waist-length straight hair but in a dark brown shade.
Dale is a groovy African-American doll with brown eyes and a black bubble cut hairdo, very popular in that era. Dale variations include many different eye colors and different lip colors. My favorite Dale has the rare green eyes - which I have in my collection.
Another gal pal of Dawn's, Glori, is most commonly a redhead with straight, waist-length hair and cute bangs. Some Glori dolls have side-parted straight, waist-length hair without bangs and others have side-parted curly or wavy hair. Other Glori variations have blue eyes or no bangs.
The second wave of Dawn dolls in 1971 included three men: Gary, Ron and Van, plus Jessica the flight attendant and Longlocks with, you guessed it, long hair! Jessica had short side-parted blonde hair (I need to add her to my collection so I don't have a photo of her) and Longlocks showed off her extra-long auburn center-parted hair that went below her waist.
Also in 1971, Head to Toe Dawn was introduced. These cuties had a short bubble cut hairstyle with bangs and came with wigs; a floor-length fall, a sausage-curled ponytail and a long braid. Head to Toe dolls became so popular that in the following year, 1972, Head to Toe Angie and Head to Toe Longlocks were introduced. These dolls were inspired by Crissy and Velvet dolls who had hair that "grew" from the tops of their heads. I had Crissy and loved playing with her hair!
The dancing doll line included Dawn, Angie, Glori, Dale, Longlocks and Jessica. Dawn's Dance Party set came in three options: First, Dawn's Dance Party featuring Fancy Feet (see her above) and secondly, Dawn's Dance Party featuring her boyfriend, Dancing Kevin. The third set, Dawn's Double Dance Party, included both Fancy Feet and Kevin. Alternatively, the two single sets could be attached to form its own double stage! The stage was battery-operated and had a handle of the side so the doll could move around on the stage. The dance party stage is yellow hard plastic with a pink, blue, yellow and white polka dot stage.
1971 Flower Fantasy dolls are hard to find so mint in box dolls are highly sought after by collectors today. I have one in my collection that is so pretty (see above). There were four styles; a yellow pot with red flowers, pink pot with pink roses, blue pot with orange and yellow flowers and a pink pot with purple flowers (this is the one I have). Only Dawn dolls accompanied the flowers, not any of her friends.
Dawn had a plethora of fun play sets. The most popular set was 1970's Dawn's Fashion Show. Dawn and her friends sashayed down the battery-operated revolving stage. The girls could practice modeling the latest fashions on the runway. Dawn had an aqua Action Car that could do turns. Dawn's Beauty Parlor play set (see left photo) kept Dawn looking her best. Dawn also had a Music Box and the Dawn 'N Me Pocketbook which was a purse with a long gold shoulder chain. If Dawn was inserted correctly, her head peeked out from a sliding window on the front.
Dawn introduced 8 new play sets in 1971: Dawn's Beauty Pageant which allowed the dolls to walk the runway, turn and walk back along the other side. Also introduced was the DeLuxe Beauty Pageant (added a gold cape and Gary doll dressed in a tux), Dawn's Dance Party (3 versions), Dawn's Dress Shop, Dawn's Floral Stand, and Dawn's New Car in hot pink with flowers.
The last run of Dawn dolls was in 1972 which introduced two collections - the Majorette Dawn dolls and the Dawn Modeling Agency dolls.
The Majorettes included Dawn, Kip and Connie (originally named April). The bodies were made with a set of hard plastic arms that would stay straight and help the doll twirl her glow-in-the-dark baton. Maybe these dolls inspired me to be a Twinkie Twirler when I was 5 years old back in the day, haha!
The 1972 Dawn Modeling Agency dolls are among my favorites. There were five different dolls with unique hairstyles and fancy clothes that oozed glamour. Each model came with an evening bag, jewelry and a plastic portfolio that was color-coordinated to match their outfit. Each portfolio held a strip of 6 black and white photos of the model.
Daphne is a redhead with her hair in a pony with two sausage curls.
Denise is a blonde with her hair in a bun on the top of her head.
Dinah is a platinum blonde doll with two long braids tied with pink ribbons.
Initially, Dawn dolls were very popular because Topper invested heavily in TV advertising, the dolls were easy for retailers to display, while the low price attracted the consumer. Also, at this time, Barbie sales weren't doing that great. She was suffering from an identity crisis and her quality wasn't as good as earlier years. Think Malibu Barbie vs Twist 'n Turn Barbie!
Sadly, Dawn Dolls were discontinued in 1973. They had a good run for a few years anyway! Dawn's popularity was short-lived because Topper went bankrupt in 1973 and they were not able to innovate such a small doll.
Checkerboard Toys reissued the dolls in 2000 making reproductions of Dawn, Glori, Angie and Dale as a 30th year anniversary commemoration. Checkerboard also released three new dolls in addition to Dawn; redhead Shannon (aka Maura), brunette Macy and African-American Denise in a line called Fab Fashions Fun. Their catchphrase was, "It's Groovy to be a Girl!" Then there were the Karma Cool Dawn dolls (Dawn, Denise and Macy. There was Shannon. She must have left town haha). They had super-long hair with colorful streaks. Dawn, Macy and Denise also came out in Go 'n Glo versions. Checkerboard produced other Dawn dolls too; bridal and holiday dolls, and special edition dolls like Totally Golden Macy and Seriously Silver Dawn dolls (photo from my collection). The dolls didn't really catch on and, due to a lagging economy, Checkerboard made its last Dawn dolls in 2003. Toy-O-Rama (the re-organized Checkerboard Toys) tried to revive the Dawn dolls in 2004 by repackaging the liquidated Checkerboard dolls but it was short-lived.
The advent of eBay catapulted Topper Dawn back into the consciousness of the youngest Baby Boomers and the oldest Gen Xers, referred to as Generation Jones (that would be me!). The Gen Jones are born from 1954 to 1967 and became the target market for Dawn dolls.
In 1972, England's Palitoy produced Pippa, another pocket-sized doll who looked shockingly similar to Dawn. Some refer to her as Dawn's British cousin! They produced over 30 different Pippa and friends. Her first three friends were Marie, Tammie, and Britt. To reflect Britain's diverse ethnic population, Pippa later had an Asian friend named Jasmine and an African-American girlfriend, Mandy. More friends were added to the line - Gail (she looks like a small Malibu Barbie!), Emma, Rosemary, Penny and boyfriend Pete. The Pippa line outlived Dawn by seven years.
In 1971, Mattel produced Rock Flower dolls in response to Dawn dolls' popularity, but they came nowhere near Dawn doll sales. The squad including Lilac, Rosemary, Iris, Doug and Heather. Each doll came with a 45 record. The records featured a solo song written for each doll with the flip side showcasing a group performance. The line was discontinued in 1974.
If you love Dawn and collecting her, there are many groups on Facebook - just search on Topper Dawn Dolls. There is also an annual Dawn Doll Convention.
Which were your favorite Dawn Dolls?! Would love to hear from you. Talk soon, dolls!
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Sources: The Dawn Spot, A Little Bling and The Spruce
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