Meet Arista!

Arista Micallef | Custom American Girl Doll (My American Girl #53 with Grace Thomas wig and hand-painted freckles)

I am so excited to be making this post. For the past year, I’ve watched in awe as other American Girl collectors have swapped wigs and eyeballs, added paint and custom clothes to create one-of-a-kind dolls. I decided a few months ago that I wanted to try my hand at it and ordered a #53 with the intention of turning her into my mini me.

Today, she’s finally complete!

Arista - Custom #53 with Grace's Wig and Added Freckles

Arista Micallef and some of her favorite things

I’d like you to meet my very first custom, Arista Micallef. “Arista” is the name I usually go by on different American Girl forums, so I thought it’d be perfect for my mini me. “Micallef” comes from my grandma’s family (and sounded the best with “Arista”).

Arista - Custom #53 with Grace's Wig and Added Freckles

Arista – fan of Final Fantasy, Disney, American Girl, roses, and other way too many other things…

I considered lots of options when I decided to create this custom. Arista could’ve easily started life as a Rebecca or a Marie-Grace… but, I decided I wasn’t too keen on the idea of pouring boiling water into a doll’s head and popping her eyes out, so I went with #53 and her lovely dark brown eyes instead. Finding a wig was also a bit daunting. I realized Rebecca’s and Marie-Grace’s wigs were a bit too light (not to mention hard to find on their own – for me, anyway), so I decided to go with a Ruby Red Galleria Wavy Brunette Parting Wig. While I was waiting impatiently for it to arrive, Grace Thomas leaked.

Her variegated brown hair and side bangs were a lot closer to mine than the wig I’d just ordered (and was no longer able to cancel… crap). And if it was hard enough to find a separate Rebecca or Marie-Grace wig, how tough was finding Grace’s going to be? I figured I should just stick with the one I ordered – whenever it decided to show up.

Then on my birthday, my husband took me to American Girl Place… and Grace’s hair was so darn close, and her face was so sweet, and I had gift cards to use, that I decided I’d get her, take her wig for my mini me, give her another wig, and make two custom dolls. Easy! …Or so I thought!

I started by removing #53’s wig with an old dessert spoon my mom had. Sure, it took a little elbow grease in some of the more heavily glued sections, but overall, it wasn’t too difficult. I think it took less than an hour.

Arista - Custom #53 with Grace's Wig and Added Freckles

Arista and Tutu

And then there was Grace’s wig… To put it in video game terms, if #53’s wig was a random encounter in a beginner area, Grace’s wig was the hardcore optional boss that required all characters to be at max level with ultimate weapons equipped. Her wig was practically FUSED to her head! I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that she’s a brand new doll (my #53 could have been sitting around in a storeroom for awhile, who knows), but EVERY. CENTIMETER. was a slow and painful process. My fingers are seriously ripped from the rough fragments of clue around the wig’s edge. There was even a point halfway through where I didn’t think I could get the rest off and I started to wonder if I’d made a huge mistake even attempting this. After two and a half hours, I somehow managed to get the wig free, though unfortunately losing some hair and making a hole in the wig cap in the process.

I brushed out the wig to see how stable it was (I was SO afraid that after all that, it would completely fall apart), but thankfully everything seemed intact. I patched up the hole with some tacky glue and scrap fabric, then glued the wig to #53’s head – which may have been the most daunting part of this whole thing. After all that, if I didn’t get the wig placed on correctly, I was going to cry haha… I didn’t have anything to keep pressure with either, so I ended up winding a thin ribbon around the wig edges – which seemed to work!

Arista - Custom #53 with Grace's Wig and Added Freckles

Faint freckles (and a furry creature)

Then I decided she needed one more thing – a couple of faint freckles on her cheeks to match mine. I mixed some leftover acrylic paint I had with some fabric medium and very carefully painted on a few freckles with a toothpick – dabbing at some to make them more faint.

Finally, she was complete. I am so happy with how she turned out – especially for her being my first custom. She’s not perfect (you should see the hot mess her wig cap is), but luckily all of her less-than-perfect areas are pretty well hidden.

And now it’s formerly-Grace’s turn to be transformed! Her new auburn wig should be coming today!



6 thoughts on “Meet Arista!

  1. She looks great! I can’t wait to see Grace with the new wig too. I’ve been wanting to try eye swapping and wig swapping, just haven’t gotten brave enough yet. There is a lady who sells ones she’s done on Ebay and she has come up with some really unique combinations. One of these days…

    • Thank you! 😀 If it’s an older doll, I’ve heard wig swapping isn’t too hard, because the glue isn’t as hard to cut through. Grace’s, though… I kind of wonder if they started using a new glue or maybe more of it, because my #53 was a new doll and her wig was nothing compared to Grace’s. Usually, it shouldn’t be too bad. Yeah! I’ve seen some really pretty ones on eBay and Etsy!

  2. Oh, my beloved #53! Love that face and eyes, no matter what the wig. She was the first Josefina mold AG doll I got, after Molly and Emily, and I fell in love with her (and named her Janelle). Those dark brown eyes are just so appealing. When Julie arrived, she became her cousin.

    You’re too young to remember this (I’m nearly certain), but Julie is like the AG version of the 1970’s Malibu Barbie. I was a kid in the 70’s, so that’s kind of a tickle. I’d say she’s kind of like Skipper, more an AG age, but Skipper was always second fiddle to Barbie (though have you seen the 50th anniversary repro of Skipper?! That outfit is fantastic!

    Anyway … nice to see another grown-up having fun with AG dolls, as always. I have eight of them sitting on the love seat in my living room, along with the Animator’s Collection version of Disney’s Anna toddler, and my reborn infant (cutest baby EVER), and one or two assorted plush Corgis.

    Yes, I’m a grown up. Which is why I get to enjoy what I want and tell people to go fly a kite if they don’t like it. Ha!!! Maybe being a grown up’s not so bad after all. 😉

    • Janelle’s such a pretty name! The dark brown really is pretty! I toyed with the idea of having #53’s eyes swapped for decal brown, but when I saw them in person, I quickly changed my mind.

      I can definitely see Julie being similar to Malibu Barbie. She just needs the turquoise one-piece bathing suit! Ah, 50th Anniversary Skipper is so pretty! I really love the reproduction ones. I’ve got the Twist ‘n’ Turn repro and the first ’59 bathing suit repro (before they made the second version with the curly bangs). My sister has the Solo in the Spotlight one and I think my mom has a couple, too.

      I agree! There’s no rule that says when you reach a certain age, you have to immediately stop loving everything you enjoyed as a kid. I love that there are so many adult doll collectors. 🙂

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