The original Tressy Doll was created in the 1960s by the American Character Doll Company and gained popularity with children by having an incredibly unique, novel feature: hair that actually grows. Tressy was the first of its kind to offer adjustable hair. The secret was a button and wind up key that would lengthen or shorten her locks. This 11.5” doll was so versatile and fun for kids – and parents need not worry about their children chopping off the hair of all their dolls!
The Tressy Doll was set apart from other dolls because of its hair, and American Character really capitalized on this by offering all kinds of different hair colors and accessories. There were even booklets you could purchase to give the child ideas for different ‘dos and instructions on how to use the hair tools. Some of these accessories included hair pins, curlers, hair dryers and brushes. The books that include different hairstyles are incredibly quaint and really reflect the times. Examples of this include the beehive, flip, bouffant and side braid.
The accessories for Tressy didn’t stop at just hair embellishments. Tressy also had a range of modern clothes, a penthouse and even a beauty salon. After the success of the original Tressy doll, American Character created other versions, which still had the hair growing feature. There was the little sister “Cricket” and the “pre-teen” Tressy doll which had a younger looking face but more hair, and a knob that could wind up or down the doll’s ponytail. These new additions to the Tressy family were thought to be a direct response to the ever-growing Barbie collection.
The first generation Tressy dolls all have a large amount of hair and sideways, glancing eyes. These early dolls came with a button and “secret strand” that would make the hair grow, and a key to wind up Tressy’s hair that was usually made of metal and worn on her belt. There are still a few surviving keys around today if you’re lucky enough to find one. These original dolls did not have moveable features – it was only until the later models that bendable joints and wrists were introduced.
Although American Character Doll Company folded in the late 1960s, the dolls continued to be made by Ideal Toys and were popular in countries outside of the US. The Tressy doll never became as popular or recognizable as Barbie, but it has definitely carved out a place in the history of dolls and continues to be quite the collector’s item.