Want to Feel Old? American Girl’s Latest Historic Dolls Are from 1999

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New American Girl dolls Nikki and Isabel represent the 1990s
American Girl

For some strange reason, the Smithsonian doesn’t seem all that interested in my collection of butterfly clips. Or congealed roll-on body glitter from Claire’s. Not even my stack of CDs featuring free trials of AOL, which still have 150 hours of internet usage—each!—to be claimed!

It’s appalling, honestly, because the artifacts of my life are now historic records, now that I’m an elder millennial, but at least these precious plastic heirlooms can be passed down to my daughter someday.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself, now that American Girl has released the latest in its “long line of historical characters that feature inspiring role models from pivotal eras in American history.” The pivotal era? 1999. Way back when you were only as witty as your AIM away message, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Heath Ledger were the breakout teen stars of your dreams and you were still holding out hope that Geri Halliwell would return to the Spice Girls.

The latest doll is actually a duo, fraternal twins Isabel and Nicki, who are “as alike as glitter and grunge.” Going through the two dolls’ backstories and accessories is like stepping into a time capsule: There’s a Pizza Hut BOOK IT! set, harkening back to the days when completing your school reading log meant snagging a coupon for a free personal pan pizza; a chunky cordless phone; even a tiny replica of Miss AG Bear, a plush teddy I actually owned in the ‘90s.

New American Girl dolls Nikki and Isabel represent the 1990s with their clothes and bedroom accessories
American Girl

For a moment, as I took in the bulky gray computer, the colorful floral-print PJs and pseudo-badge Grin Pins, I wondered if American Girl unearthed a warehouse full of overstocked American Girl of Today dolls and accessories, and decided to rerelease them. I had those Grin Pins, the black crossbody bag—even a nearly identical computer, a Mini Macintosh that I’m surprised to see has retained its value, fetching $50 or more on eBay.

In a way, those “modern” dolls were the time capsule; an easy reference point to help ensure the dolls’ accuracy for their, ahem, time period. More so, though, they were modeled on real people: twin sisters Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy, who co-authored the full-length novel and illustrated journals that tell Isabel and Nicki’s story.

New American Girl dolls Nikki and Isabel represent the 1990s, down to their Pizza Hut Book It reading logs
American Girl

At first, learning a doll designed to be roughly my age was “historic” made me feel, well, ancient. But then, as I soaked in the gleeful nostalgia of the days when my biggest concern was keeping my Tamagotchi alive (which, yes, is another item available in the line), I felt…enchanted? I remembered excitedly saving up money from my pet-sitting job—a foray into entrepreneurship inspired by, I kid you not, American Girl Library’s Moneymakers book—to buy accessories for my Molly McIntire doll, then even more excitedly racing to visit my grandmother to ask her if Molly’s school kit was anything like hers in the 1940s. Did girls really wear saddle shoes? Did you use steel-cut pennies instead of copper ones due to wartime rationing?! It was a chance to connect, to share stories, to understand my grandmother’s world in a way my 9-year-old mind hadn’t considered before.

New American Girl dolls Nikki and Isabel represent the 1990s
American Girl

So, thank you, American Girl, for encapsulating my childhood in a “cloth body and smooth vinyl limbs.” Perhaps through Nicki and Isabel’s stories, I can share with my daughter what it was like growing up in an age before social media, when your chance to chat with your BFF could be interrupted by your mom picking up the phone and disrupting your dial-up (can you imagine?) and when the blessed day came that you received a cell phone, all your energy went into trying to nab the highest score in the closest thing to a game on it—Snake. Ah, the good ol’ days.

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...