Kid-crack: Japanese "paper doll" fashion stickers

Last month, I took my daughter into town for lunch, and we ended up at a communal table with a couple of slightly older girls (and their mom) who were geeking out, pasting intricate Japanese "fashion doll" stickers into elaborate albums. Each sticker-sheet came with one or two blank bodies -- mostly girls, though boys and babies also featured -- and several fashion items that could be stuck and layered on top of the characters to play dress-up. Think puffy sticker versions of paper dress-up dolls.

We ended up dropping by the shop in Covent Garden where the kids had scored their booty, and buying a few sets and an album for Poesy. These have since become her most favorite toy. It's a good combination of free-play (since you can get funny effects like putting socks on their ears, etc) and collecting, with all the many different varieties of garments and bodies. There's also a less gendered version of these -- food toys like hamburgers and pizzas that you build up in layers.

These have been sheer kid-crack in our house. On our month-long family trip, they were a sure-fire cure for squirming boredom during the lulls and car-rides. They're cheap enough that we didn't mind the inevitable loss as we dribbled away a hanselgretl trail of puffy, minuscule shoes and socks and tu-tus in hotels across America.

Here's a video with the stickers' creator at a Japanese trade-show, explaining their origin. I'm not sure where to buy them -- ours came from Artbox -- but your local Japantown is a good bet.

Two summers ago we decided to create interchangeable apparel stickers for two-dimensional dolls. These stickers can be layered on top of each other to create a fashionable look. The 90 female dolls all have the same body shape, with only the face and hairstyles being different. Because the body shapes are all the same, their clothes are interchangeable, so if you collect a lot of different apparel, there are an infinite number of coordinating combinations. Initially there were 15 dolls, but due to their popularity we increased the number to 90 in two years.

The number of apparel stickers is limited to what can fit on a single sheet, so approximately six different coordinated combinations can be created from a single sheet. We first imagined the personality of each doll and what type of hairstyle and clothes she would probably wear, and from this we also matched her with a suitable name.  We adjusted the cosmetics, eye shadow color, and eye positioning according to what we imagined as the personality of each doll to bring out more individuality.


  1. These seem pretty cool. I’m sure my daughter and her best friend would love them. I do take issue with the fact that there are 90 dolls, and not a single non-white one among them, though.

    1. It’s true, though there are a ton of vendors doing similar (and sometimes interoperable) dolls in a large variety of options

    2. I’d actually say that the vast majority of them are intended to be non-white (namely, Japanese)– it’s my understanding that Japanese artistic conventions use “neutral” designs (even “neutral” designs with blonde hair and blue eyes, or purple hair and pink eyes) to represent ethnically Japanese characters. So, all the girls in kimonos don’t have to be racially distinguished from the girls in “normal” clothes because they’re already assumed to be Japanese.

      I’d say only the ones whose clothes evoke “traditional” European styles (I think I spotted a Dutch girl) are actually meant to be read as white. But by that same token, I’m pretty sure the girls in saris were meant to be read as Indian. And I think I spotted some Chinese and Korean girls too. And two Spanish girls. All in all, it’s a remarkably ethnically-diverse collection, as long as you remember that there are more ethnicities than white and black.

      Anyway, trust me, you don’t want to see a Japanese artist’s idea of what a black person looks like. It always ends in tears.

      1.  I assume you’re thinking of 80’s and early 90’s anime when you speak of horrible depictions of black people. They were often depicted very much like the blackface caricatures of American past, and therefore were quite cringe inducing. 

        This has changed, however, and you can find a lot of realistic depictions of black people in Japanese anime and other graphic arts nowadays. I’m curious to know the reason it’s changed, but thankfully it has.

      2. there are many dolls dressed in Chinese ethnic groups’ traditional costumes. These are dolls created by Japanese Artists,   the dolls wear pretty costumes that from different cultures.  so calling them Japanese paper doll fashion stikers is very misleading.

  2. I remember the virtual variant of these, which alas devolved into hentai rather quickly…. Nonetheless, on a tablet that might be easier on the money in the long run than the material variants :)

  3. Those look killer. My daughter would love those. Melissa and Doug have way less cool sticker dress-up sets, but those are mostly one and done – no layering and they aren’t reusable. If anyone can point me to a link to find these sets online, I’d appreciate it.

  4. My mom had something like this in the seventies and allowed me to play with them in the eighties. The stickers were vinyl I think, with sticky backsides, and they were in the shape of teddy bears. You could dress them up with various vinyl outfits, toys and props, and they came with a vinyl coated backdrop to put them on. I think she still has them. So the idea isn’t new but the execution might be. I think my niece would really like these so if someone knows where you can buy them in the US I’d love a heads up.

  5. I live in Japan and while at a party back in February a couple of young girls introduced my two daughters (5 and 9) to this amazing world of stickers シール and sticker books シール帳. While my girls’ interest has waned a bit in recent months, I can vouch that these stickers are huge out here and that some shops have entire rows dedicated to them. Kid-crack is accurate — for a while were making weekly trips to the local mall for new sheets of these things, and the girls would always have their sticker books with them to trade stickers with each other or other kids. The variety is endless, and the dress-up ones in the photo are just one genre. Food is popular (sushi, bread, pastries), as are animals, shapes, letters, mascot characters, you name it. Some are filled with liquid, others have smells, and some of the really puffy ones have plastic gems embedded in them. For a while my older daughter’s favorite was a small plastic “book” sticker that had actual pages. She could stick smaller stickers into it and then flip through its little pages. It’s a fad of course, but fads from Japan often work their way to the US. Therefore don’t be surprised if this catches on big time among 5-11 year olds in the States in the coming months. 

    1. Stickers were a huge thing in the 70’s in the U.S. So if anything, the fad sloshed over to the other side of the Pacific, and maybe it’ll slosh back again some day.

      1. It’s just in time for the original sticker generation’s kids to be old enough to play with stickers too! 

  6. Remember that strange little Kisekae program from years ago? Well P
    Works calls their puffy sticker doll line “Kisekae Girls Collection.”

    Here is a Facebook page for the P Works parent company:

    Look here! Holy cow:

    And here’s their Rakuten store (all links say ‘currently undergoing a remodeling’):

    (Rakuten itself is pretty mind blowing if you’ve never checked it out; they own…

  7. Wow–they’re kind of the same. I enjoy things that differ a bit. But it’s no good without examples, and for example: while visiting Alaska for the first time this summer, I saw two kayak guides wearing t-shirts with gorgeous curly smart octopusses across ’em. Which made me realize I dig octopusses. It would be so cool if there were e.g. tentacle heads to these designs.

  8. Brother, people and their ethnic wambity-pambity broo-broo-froo-froo. 
    Give these dolls to a group of kids and the rest of the adults get the hell out of the room.

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