Sindy (by Exeter-based manufacturer Pedigree Dolls & Toys) was introduced in Britain in 1963. US company Mattel had offered Pedigree the opportunity to licence its Barbie doll, but the company wanted a more British girl next door look than the glamorous American model.
The firm did cooperate with another American company, Ideal, even borrowing its slogan. Ideal manufactured Tammy, “the doll you love to dress”. Sindy outlived the original Tammy doll by 50 years.
The doll got her name from a survey where young girls chose ‘Cindy’ from a choice of four options. The spelling was changed for marketing reasons. The advertisements claimed, “Sindy is more than a doll, she’s a real personality. The free, swinging, grown-up girl who dresses the way she likes”. Move over Germaine Greer.
The first Sindy – known as ‘the weekender’ – had trendy bell-bottom denim jeans and a patriotic red, white and blue striped top.
Her hair was styled in a short bob, in a choice of blonde, brunette or auburn. Her head and arms felt soft and rather rubbery, while her body and legs were made from a harder hollow plastic, and her back was proudly marked “Made in England”.
She had side-glancing painted eyes and a slight smile.
Girls could dress her in the latest Carnaby Street styles and change her outfit depending on the occasion, with a range of fashionable outfits bearing such names as ‘Lunch Date’, ‘Shopping in the Rain’ ‘Dream Date’ and ‘Leather Looker’. Soon hair extensions were available, followed by career uniforms such as those of a nurse and air hostess.
Her boyfriend Paul – probably named after the most popular Beatle – joined her in 1965 (so was she still dressing to please herself?). Her mischievous little sister, Patch, arrived in 1966. Further arrivals were Sindy’s friends Vicki and Mitzi, plus Patch’s pals Poppet and Betsy in 1968. Paul was discontinued after three years and Patch disappeared in 1972.
Sindy may have lacked the Hollywood glamour of arch-rival Barbie, but Sindy was the first truly British fashion doll. The doll was crowned Toy of The Year in 1968, a distinction repeated in 1970.
In 1970 her glossy hair was given a centre parting and kept in place with a hairband. She also got joints (not those kinds!) for the first time.
‘Walking Sindy’ was sold with the shortest of miniskirts in yellow and green tweed. She also gained a full range of kitchen and bedroom furniture as Pedigree created a personalised world for Sindy, made with great attention to detail to replicate the real adult world.
Sindy’s outfits were a great selling point and Pedigree upped the ante with a collection designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel (makers of Princess Diana‘s wedding dresses), including frilly layered ball gowns and lingerie.
By the mid-1980s, Sindy was living in a three-storey mansion complete with a rooftop patio, a dishwasher and a microwave, with bottles of wine and chocolate cake. Sindy’s most glamorous year, 1985, saw the Starlight, Space Fantasy and Premiere Sindy dolls in shimmering fabric and more daring hairstyles.
Hasbro took over the brand in 1986 and Sindy was given a makeover: Her face was slimmed down to resemble Barbie, her hair was bigger and blonder, her waist smaller, and the clothes skimpier. In fact, she grew to look so much like Barbie that Barbie’s American makers, Mattel, sued and Hasbro had to alter its doll.
Eventually, in 1999, the franchise passed to Vivid Imaginations who gave her a new boyfriend called Robbie, but it wasn’t a long relationship and the company ceased production in the early 2000s.
In 2003, a company called New Moons took over the range and shrunk the doll to just 6″ high. The franchise then passed to Chad Valley who sold the dolls exclusively through Woolworths, but with the closure of Woolworths in 2009, Sindy disappeared from the shelves again.
Since then, US-based company Tonner Dolls has issued several collectable Sindy dolls, extremely close to the originals. They had limited availability in the UK and are now highly sought after.
In 2016, Cindy was re-launched again, exclusive to Tesco, as a baby-doll style creation for younger girls. Unrecognisable from her 1970s heyday she wore more child-appropriate creations with comfy trainers.