In the mid-’90s, teenage girls had Delia’s catalogs and Seventeen magazine to flip through, dreaming about how their lives would be when they grew up. But for girls under the age of 10, there was Polly Pocket.
Polly Pocket was a one-inch tall doll that came in a compact, shaped house, which allowed girls to carry their own little dream-world in their pocket.
Polly Pocket was designed in 1983 by Chris Wiggs. He took an actual makeup compact and turned it into a tiny house with a tiny doll for his daughter. Bluebird Toys licensed the compact and started selling Polly Pocket in 1989.
What was so appealing about Polly Pocket was that each little compact featured Polly doing something that she loved to do. She had her own house, too (or in some cases, her own school or hair salon).
Polly did some pretty neat things, too. In one compact, Polly was a waitress. In another, she was an award-winning horseback rider. In another, she was a doctor at a children’s hospital. When I was 6 or 7, I wanted to be all three.
So what ever happened to Polly Pocket?
In 1998, Mattel bought the company out and redesigned Polly Pocket into something totally unrecognizable, something more like its top-selling Barbie.
I was definitely too young to understand what a change in companies meant for my beloved Polly Pocket, but I knew something wasn’t right when my grandma bought me one of the new sets that Christmas. Polly didn’t have her own house, and if she did, it surely wouldn’t have fit in my pocket.
Instead she was a rubbery, yet smaller, Barbie doll. She didn’t have anything fun to do except try on her new rubber clothes. If I wanted to dress up a doll, I could play with the large box of Barbies that I had stashed away under my bed.
Since the initial redesign, Polly Pocket has grown even bigger and more Barbie-like. Polly no longer comes in a pocket-sized world for little girls to carry around. She is just a doll, and a boring one at that.