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TWEAKS+inspiration : Barbie Bandwagon, 2

Today, it's about Barbie one last time. Did you watch the HGTV series, "Barbie Dream House Challenge?" I found it sugary fun. I loved their take on the original Barbie Dream House (1962, $8). Most of the men designers had Barbie Dream Houses as little boys which helped form their love of interiors. I never had the real cardboard Barbie house, but, maybe like you, I tried to make my own.

"Released in 1960 by Mattel, 'the Barbie Game, Queen of the Prom' relies on a series of clichés and politically incorrect attitudes towards girls that today seem cringe-worthy, but which permeated and defined culture 50 years ago." - Wikipedia. So true. But as the proud owner of the Barbie game (1960), I loved this game. When I opened it up years later, I was dumbfounded at how far we'd come. Let's take a closer look.

The board game had Barbie cash, Surprise game cards and the orange and pink dice.

I found this in my Barbie game. Looks like I was counting Barbie Money.

Barbie Pink wasn't a thing when I was a kid. In the mid1970's, everything in Barbie world seemed to turn pink. In 2011, Pantone designed and trademarked Barbie Pink (219C) for Mattel. Besides Tiffany Blue, few brands have such an identifiable color.

This summer, much has been written about how Barbie was the first adult fashion doll. So not true! Ruthann still has her Toni doll ( Ideal, 1949-53) and all her handsewn outfits.

And I had Little Miss Revlon (Ideal, licensed with Revlon, 1956-59) and a whole wardrobe of mom's handmade clothes. Miss Revlon had red lips, nails, pierced ears and high heels. Just like Barbie. I still treasure Miss Revlon, but it was game over once the more modern Barbie came out in 1959.

In 1959, little girls had their blonde ponytailed Barbies. When would all girls have a Barbie that looked like themselves? It was a long wait. In 1968, Barbie had her friend, Christie (above), who was African American. The Christie doll is widely considered the first true African American doll in the Barbie line. But it wasn't until 1980, Barbie's circle of friends widened with the "official" African American and Latina dolls. And it was a very long wait for Asian dolls, too. They were also introduced in 1980 in a series called the "Dolls of the World" which including dolls representing Japan, India, Mexico, France and England.

It always comes down to money, doesn't it? In 2023, Mattel president Richard Dickson spoke about 2015 being a tough year: "The business was declining and the love affair with Barbie was waning." Mattel studies showed moms and girls didn’t find Barbie relatable anymore." This led to Mattel moving from a "monologue to a dialogue with consumers.” Mattel's response was creating dolls in 22 ethnicities, 35 skin tones, 97 hairstyles, 9 body types (and still counting). More realistic bodies, a Barbie with Down Syndrome, one with hearing aids, one with a prosthetic leg. Finally, Barbie has figured it out,

When I had my first Barbie, she wanted to be Queen of the Prom. By 1960, she had her first career as a fashion designer. In 1961, she was an R.N., an airline stewardess and a ballerina. Since her creation in 1959, Barbie has had over 250 careers ranging from astronaut to robotics engineer and everything in between.

PhD candidates have written dissertations about the Barbie evolution, including possible impacts on body image. There are documentaries, books, articles and now a feature movie. A lot has happened since Barbie 1.0 (1959). At least, now in 2023, little girls can play with Barbies that look more like themselves.

Happy Labor Day weekend! Rest up as the best is yet to come!


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