Sunday, October 01, 2006

Barbie - A Young Girl's Obsession!

To say I love dolls is probably an understatement.  I've been in love with them ever since I can remember.  I wish I knew back then that my dolls would be worth a lot of money now - if only I had saved them.  Unfortunately, most of my dolls were well worn from playing with them and most were thrown away over the years.  Alas....

Since I was a child many dolls have come along that I have loved - like 'Blythe."  However, none have had quite the impact on me and held my attention for the longest period of time as "Barbie." did.

In a post from several years ago on my Linda's Blog entitled "Blythe Dolls - Where Have I Been?" I told you that I used to think that I was really "cool" as I had owned a Barbie doll when they first came out in the early 1960's. Mine had blond hair and a ponytail and worn a black and white bathing suit like the picture above.  She had holes in her feet to allow her to stand up in her doll stand.

During the early 1960's one of my Christmas present's was the Barbie's with the red short-bob haircut. I loved that doll with her red bobbed haircut.

When the Ken doll came out I had to have him, too. And, then the Barbie dream house, etc. Of course, my best friend had the pink Barbie car when it came out. I didn't so I had to concede my "coolest" crown to her for awhile. And, she got her Barbie dream house before I got mine.


My best friend and I would sit and play "Barbie" in her room for hours upon hours upon hours. We liked to play in her room as she had her own room and didn't have to share her room with a younger sister like I did.

We'd set up our houses and various other scene's and have Barbie cleaning house, going to school, out on a date, getting married (that was one of our favorites), and having children. Sometimes she'd be in the hospital after some horrible car accident or have some terrible illness or disease. Why we'd envision that I'll never know. Kids do the strangest things. Maybe we were working out our fears or the unknown.

Given that I was born in the fifties our playing Barbie emulated society's ideas of what a "woman's" life was and what she "did." Later my friend and I both came to realize over time that "women" could be and do a whole lot more than that. By that time it was the late 60's and early 70's and we were off to college and part of the "flower generation." However, the times we spent in her room playing Barbie were wonderful idealistic times and memories of a childhood friend that I will always cherish.

As I mentioned in my Blythe post - I am no longer "cool." "Fool" might be a better word. You see, if I still had the Barbie's they'd be worth a small fortune now. But, they were thrown out with the trash as I got older. A little insight back then might have been a good thing. Ya think!

Barbie is almost 60 years old or will be in 2019. We've aged together only she doesn't show any sign of aging. Me, on the other hand.....

So, given that I love dolls and given that I love to do research for my Linda's Blog I thought I'd do a little research on Barbie for all of you who are too young to remember her first birthday.

Shown below are a few excerpts of Barbie's history according to that I thought you might like:

Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy-company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.

Barbie is the figurehead of a brand of Mattel dolls and accessories, including other family members and collectible dolls. Barbie has been an important part of the toy fashion doll market for over fifty years, and has been the subject of numerous controversies and lawsuits, often involving parody of the doll and her lifestyle.


The first Barbie doll was introduced in both blonde and brunette in March 1959.

Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children's toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel's directors.

During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for the newspaper Bild. Lilli was a blonde bombshell, a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately.

Upon her return to the United States, Handler redesigned the doll (with help from engineer Jack Ryan) and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler's daughter Barbara. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959. This date is also used as Barbie's official birthday.

Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964 and production of Lilli was stopped. The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette. The doll was marketed as a "Teen-age Fashion Model," with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production.

Louis Marx and Company sued Mattel in March 1961. After licensing Lilli, they claimed that Mattel had “infringed on Greiner & Hausser's patent for Bild-Lilli’s hip joint, and also claimed that Barbie was "a direct take-off and copy" of Bild-Lilli. The company additionally claimed that Mattel "falsely and misleadingly represented itself as having originated the design". Mattel counter-claimed and the case was settled out of court in 1963. In 1964, Mattel bought Greiner & Hausser's copyright and patent rights for the Bild-Lilli doll for $21,600.

Ruth Handler believed that it was important for Barbie to have an adult appearance, and early market research showed that some parents were unhappy about the doll's chest, which had distinct breasts. Barbie's appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when the doll's eyes were adjusted to look forwards rather than having the demure sideways glance of the original model.

Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied widely by other toys. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second.

The standard range of Barbie dolls and related accessories are manufactured to approximately 1/6 scale, which is also known as playscale.The standard dolls are approximately 11½ inches tall.

Barbie products include not only the range of dolls with their clothes and accessories, but also a large range of Barbie branded goods such as books, apparel, cosmetics and video games. Barbie has appeared in a series of animated films and is a supporting character in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3.

Barbie has become a cultural icon and has been given honors that are rare in the toy world. In 1974, a section of Times Square in New York City was renamed Barbie Boulevard for a week. In 1985, the artist Andy Warhol created a painting of Barbie.

In 2013, in Taiwan, the first Barbie-themed restaurant called "Barbie Café" opened under the Sinlaku group.

In January 2016, Mattel announced that it will add tall, curvy and petite body shapes to its line-up of dolls. Alternative skin tones, hair styles and hair colours will also be added.

50th anniversary

In 2009, Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday. The celebrations included a runway show in New York for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The event showcased fashions contributed by fifty well-known haute couturiers including Diane von Fürstenberg, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Bob Mackie, and Christian Louboutin.

Fictional biography

Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. In a series of novels published by Random House in the 1960s, her parents' names are given as George and Margaret Roberts from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin.  In the Random House novels, Barbie attended Willows High School, while in the Generation Girl books, published by Golden Books in 1999, she attended the fictional Manhattan International High School in New York City (based on the real-life Stuyvesant High School.

She has an on-off romantic relationship with her boyfriend Ken (Ken Carson), who first appeared in 1961. A news release from Mattel in February 2004 announced that Barbie and Ken had decided to split up, but in February 2006, they were hoping to rekindle their relationship after Ken had a makeover.

Barbie has had over 40 pets including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra. She has owned a wide range of vehicles, including pink Corvette convertibles, trailers, and jeeps. She also holds a pilot's license, and operates commercial airliners in addition to serving as a flight attendant. Barbie's careers are designed to show that women can take on a variety of roles in life, and the doll has been sold with a wide range of titles including Miss Astronaut Barbie (1965), Doctor Barbie (1988), and Nascar Barbie (1998).

Mattel has created a range of companions for Barbie, including Hispanic Teresa, Midge, African American Christie, and Steven (Christie's boyfriend). Barbie's siblings and cousins were also created including Skipper, Todd and Stacie (twin brother and sister), Kelly, Krissy, and Francie. Barbie was friendly with Blaine, an Australian surfer, during her split with Ken in 2004.[18]

Controversies .......

Barbie has been involved in many controversies over the years.  If you'd like to read more about them please CLICK HERE for her page.

Fifty years ago I would never have imagined that Barbie would have been as successful as she has been. A billion Barbie dolls sold in 150 countries is just unbelievable!

Nor would I ever have imagined that she would have stirred worldwide controversy or gotten the ire of many a feminist. I didn't even know what a "feminist" was back then - let alone envision I'd become one.

She was a plaything that allowed my friend and I to get lost in our imaginations for a short period of time. I did not envision that I was her or that she represented me. She was never a role model. The lifestyle and activities of our imaginary Barbie's life mimicked our lives back then, but our own self-worth and confidence were already well intact and had nothing to do with our Barbie's imaginary life.

Even back then her figure was unrealistic to us. No one we knew looked like that and none of our friends ever wanted to have her figure. The only thing we wanted was for the dolls knees to bend as her legs struck straight out when she sat in a chair. Luckily several years into the manufacture of Barbie her knees finally became bendable.  And, of course, I got a bendable Barbie.

My friend and I eventually outgrew Barbie. However, I will always be grateful to Barbie for having provided my friend and I with a lifetime of sweet memories of a time of innocence and childhood play. Of a time long ago that can never be replaced. And, of a time when children could still dream of imaginary and idealistic lives.

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