A Tale of Two Dolls
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of Barbie, it was the age of Darci – in short, the period was so far like the present period, there were competing dolls.
Fans of this site know that I loved my Barbies. Barbie was beautiful, fashionable, and well accessorized – I especially loved her town house, pool, horses, dog, corvette, etc. And then there was Darci. Darci didn’t have the volume of play sets or accessories that Barbie had – after all, she was only produced for two years – but Darci was a fine friend in her own right.
Kenner’s Darci Cover Girl was unveiled at the 1979 Toy Fair as a fashion model on-the-go. She was intended to provide direct competition to Mattel’s Barbie. As a professional model Darci came complete with a fashion portfolio including an array of magazine cover shots. Advertising of the doll positioned her as if she were a real model. To add to the realism, model/actress Leah Ayres appeared in Darci commercials, inside some Darci packages, and on in-store displays.
At a statuesque 12 ½ inches tall, Darci towered over Barbie and other fashion dolls. Darci’s height and more realistic proportions made it impossible for her to share clothes with Barbie, including shoes since Darci had ginormous feet. This was not a problem, however, as Darci came complete with a luxurious swimsuit, wrap skirt, silver heels, flower chocker, and five bracelets.
Darci was produced as a blonde, brunette, and redhead. The blond Darci typically wore a white swimsuit with matching lace skirt, while the brunette was adorned in pink, and redhead in blue. I owned one of the variations on these standards: a brunette attired in white. Because four times more blonde Darcis were produced than either brunettes or redheads, many more blondes are available for sale online and at your local flea market.
Darci also came with a patented posing stand with her name engraved on it that allowed her to strike various provocative poses during photo shoots. Thanks to the use of highly flexible vinyl materials, Darci was far more bendy than Barbie. She could contort her body into various positions, including straddles and splits…she could even bend at the elbow!
The Cover Girl World of Darci also included friends Erica and Dana. What it didn’t include was a male doll. And though as an independent modern woman Darci didn’t really need a man, I often had her on dates with Barbie’s Ken, which was especially awkward given Darci’s disproportionately large physique.
Darci Cover Girl: A Product of Her Times
Darci was a woman that had it all. She was a successful fashion model; a trendsetter wearing the day’s most current Studio 54-inspired designs; a marketer of her own line of perfume; and even a disco entrepreneur.
From the cover of Darci’s in-box pamphlet:
“She’s stylish and classy, sometimes sassy. Her fashions set the pace! She’s carefree and easy, funful and breezy, she’s the doll with the beautiful face! Darci Cover Girl, the beautiful poseable doll has a lifestyle all her own! Now, you, too, can discover the world of Darci; a super-deluxe van, a dynamite disco, fashions by the dozens, and lots more!”
After a demanding day of modeling at the Perfect Pose Studio, Darci and her gal pals could let their hair down at Darci’s own Fabulous Disco complete with revolving disco ball, spotlight, and pinball machine.
What would have added even further to Darci’s freewheelin’ ‘70s lifestyle was a Mobile Dressing Salon, perfect for on-location modeling gigs. Unfortunately the fashion van is thought to have only been produced as a prototype for the 1979 Toy Fair.
According to a Kenner Darci Cover Girl Introductory Offer, Kenner was sparing no expense and creating the largest promotion in history, easily spending $1-2 M for the campaign in just six months. Thanks to Kenner’s heavy advertising, Darci sold very successfully in her first year, 1979.
Unfortunately, America’s girl culture was just too enamored of Barbie to give Darci a chance. In 1981, Kenner shut down the disco ball on Darci’s dance floor due to disappointing sales. Even though she was only produced for a mere two years, many women like me fondly remember their Darcis. She is still loved and sought after today.
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