Barbie turned 60…and then what?
March 9, 1959 is the official birthday of the iconic doll named Barbie.
As a 7 year old, my world was rocked with my first Barbie doll. I was house-bound, covered with the chicken pox, when my Mom surprised me with a pink rectangular cardboard box that housed the blonde ponytailed fashion doll. The paper dolls that had inspired my fashion interests were filed away along with Chatty Cathy, Shirley Temple and Tiny Tears. Barbie retailed for $3.00 and her outfits ranged from 1$ to 5$ depending on the intricacy of the clothing and the amount of accompanying accessories like cool sunglasses, tiny clutch handbags and a wide range of hats. Even for a middle class mid western family, she was affordable.
Barbie came into popularity at the right time and place.
The teenage fashion model evolved with the women that were inspired by her. Her looks reflected what careers were available for women at the time. During the early ‘60s she appeared as a nurse, stewardess, secretary and student teacher. In 1965 she broke ground as Astronaut Barbie four years before the first “manned” moon landing and decades before Sally Ride became the first woman in space.
Barbie’s sideway demure gaze was replaced in the 1970’s with wide eyes, a bright smile showing a bit of teeth and more natural skin color. She was an Olympic star, surgeon, ballerina, and disco queen. The era celebrated nature, health and outdoor lifestyles. The ‘80s brought diversity with the first African American and Hispanic Barbies. She was influenced by Jane Fonda‘s workout videos and power lunches. In 1992, Barbie ran for President for the first of six attempts, was dressed by Bob Mackie, famed designer of the stars, and became a soldier, firefighter and a rapper.
Empowerment has been the theme for the first part of the Millennium…
…Barbie became more tech-savvy with her own blog and showed body diversity with the addition of petite, tall and curvy shapes. She has been interpreted as Wonder Woman, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and mathematician Katherine Johnson. In the Barbie Celebrity series, her star power has been established with the likeness of the famous including Twiggy, Cher, Grace Kelly, Joan Jett, Jennifer Lopez, and Audrey Hepburn. She’s even appeared as Princess Kate in a detailed replica of the Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen wedding dress worn in 2011 when she married Prince William, who is interpreted in his red uniform of an Irish Guards officer.
My love affair with Barbie has grown since I opened the pink box 60 years ago. Some of my most prized possessions are Barbie dressed by the top names in fashion. She has had the great fortune of being styled by Haute Couture designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Tommy Hilfiger, Bill Blass, Donna Karan, Christian Siriano and Oscar de la Renta. Knowing that I will probably never own Haute Couture, it’s a thrill to have it as part of my Barbie collection.
For the 60th anniversary of Barbie, Mattel is expanding The Barbie Dream Gap Project, giving girls the resources and support to believe they can be anything they want to be. The project dedicates worldwide funding to better understand the causes of the gender gap and introduce more role models, creating empowering content and products that will help inspire young women and their future. Fulfilling their commitment, the company recently joined National Geographic to create a new line of science Barbies that include marine biologist, astro-physicist, photojournalist, conservationist and entomologist.
If Barbie can keep it going in her 60’s, I’m there for her. Who would have thought an 11.5 inch doll could inspire generations to break the glass ceiling? Barbie in 2020!