During the madness of lock down and the stressful times that have kept us away from our families and loved ones I have had to keep myself busy doing something and i turned to browsing Amazon & Ebay day after day aswell as watching way too many You tube videos but it gave me an idea,i have decided to start collecting Barbies from my childhood. The nostalgia connected to this time in my life and things i used to enjoy doing really does fill me with so much peace and happiness i just thought why not!
Barbie kept me quiet way back when to the joy of my parents im sure, i loved to play & use my imagination creating little stories for Barbie and her all of her pals. I used to enjoy doing her hair,changing her clothes ,i would take them everywhere with me even on holiday. I would not let her out of my sight and i would end up convincing my mum & dad in to play along too. I even remember still being so excited about getting new Barbies when i was going into Senior School.
I developed an obsession with the TV show The Tribe one year and i set out on a mission to recreate the cast with my Barbies ,i gave them new hairstyles with wild make up to match the characters in the programme not realising this would probably annoy my future self when i came to find them years later and they looked like all of Sids toys from Toy Story.
Although i will not be playing with them like i used to they still give me the same feeling of joy when i see them. Looking deeper into the origins i found out some really cool things about Barbara Millicent Roberts who was born in the fictional town of Willows,Wisconsin to Margaret & George Roberts. Produced by Mattel created by Ruth Handler after a trip to Europe with children Barbara and Kenneth (i see what she did there) where she discovered a Bild Lilli Doll who actually originated in a 1953 cartoon in German tabloid Bild by Reinhard Beuthien then sold from 1955, Bild-Lilli was actually referred to as a sex doll by many including American author Ariel Levy. It turns out Lilli was sold in newsagents ,kiosks & tabacconists as a gift for young men to buy for their girlfriends rather than the gift of flowers. Later on being sold to children in several European counties later including the UK but under the name Lilli Marleen. This didn’t put Handler off infact she went ahead and bought 3,1 for her daughter and the others to act as inspiration for a new doll that she would later create with husband Elliot.
At first the suggestion of an adult-bodied doll didn’t really go down too well some changes had to be made ,Handler decided a re-design was needed and to do this so Mattel hired Jack Ryan who actually started his career as an engineer making missiles for the pentagon but with his knowledge of materials and his ‘Space age savvy he was soon designing Barbies twistable waist and Click Click Knees.
Barbie was marketed as a teen fashion doll and was officially born on 9th March 1959 named after Handlers daughter Barbara and revealed at the American International Toy Fair. Mattel went on to sell 350.000 dolls that year.
All the success did not happen without some controversies though like Mattel being sued by the Louis Marx and company in 1961 after they claimed Mattel had infringed on Greiner & Haussers patent for Bild-Lilli’s hip joint and also claimed Barbie was a direct take- off & copy of Bild Lilli,they also claimed Mattel falsely and misleadingly represented itself as having originated the design ,Mattel later counter claimed this and the case was eventually settled out of court in 1963. In 1964 Mattel bought the copy right and patent rights for the Bild-Lilli doll for $21.600 that would have been almost £18.000 today.
Barbie has been through many changes over the years most notably 1971 Malibu Barbie being designed with forward facing eyes rather than the previous sideways glance. We have been introduced to so many incarnations of the doll and her friends over the years that include Colour Magic Barbie (1966) Talking Barbie (1968 ) who said things like ‘Lets go shopping’) 1968 introduced the first African American doll in the line Christie. Ballerina Barbie (1976) Superstar Barbie (1977) followed by Superstar Ken in 1978 and Teresa was introduced in 1980 who was the lines first Hispanic doll.
1985 we said Hi to Day to Night Barbie and in 1986 Barbie formed Barbie & the Rock Stars rock band,in 1987 Barbie became a Doctor. Air Force Pilot Barbie was introduced in 1991 with Totally Hair (Ultra Hair) following in 1992 becoming one of the biggest selling Barbie of all time and one of my absolute favourites that i distinctly remember playing with,i loved how long her hair was ,it really did provide me with hours of fun. Another of my number one dolls was Sparkle Eyes Barbie who we got to see for the first time in 1991 ,i am pretty sure she was my first ever Barbie. When i look at pictures of her it instantly takes me back to being 3 or 4 years old and playing on the living room floor with all my toys. In 1993 i got Gymnast Barbie who was an instant favourite aswell as it was the first doll i had owned with articulated limbs,id enjoy flinging her around and pretending to do back flips and cartwheels. In 1994 i got Cut and Style Barbie then Butterfly Art Barbie in 1998. In 1999 we saw the introduction of the Generation Girls who i remember being very popular and one i always wanted but never got.
In 2004 there was Presidential Candidate Barbie and in 2010 Barbie became a Computer Engineer. In 2012 William & Kate got their first dolls and in 2016 Barbie introduced the first dolls with a range of body shapes,Hair colours eyes colours and skin tones. Last year Barbie was introduced with a wheelchair,Prosthetic limb , Vitaligo and a Barbie without hair. There have been many reproductions of classic dolls over the years with the Vintage,Mod and Superstar eras all being produced. The first vintage reproduction was issued in 1994. Each repro includes a remake of the doll aswell as her ensemble. There are over 80 reproduction dolls in the Barbie Family and there are several collections that include Celebrity Dolls (2009) Anniversary Dolls(2012) aswell as a collectors request collection
Facing more controversies In 1992 The Teen Talk Barbie was produced each doll programmed with a few different phrases including ‘Math class is tough’ which did not go down well with parents and while Mattel chose not to change this feature they went on to offer a swap for customers who wished to change the doll.
One of Barbies more sinister moments came early on in 1963 when Baby Sitting Barbie was introduced to the world she came equipped with a doll sized book that was titled ‘Dont Eat’ A study in 2006 in the Journal Departmental Psychology found 5-9 years olds exposed to Barbie had less confidence in their own bodies and expressed a stronger desire to be than than those who did’nt play with the doll.
I think Mattel have more than made up for this,some may say too little too late but at least they got there. Its not about how they are designed or even how they are dressed ,its how they make you feel weather it be as collector or just a super fan ,if it makes you smile it is worth all the time you are willing to give to it. My hobbies may be different to some but i look past what others may think of me and remember how i felt as little one opening the box for the first time all those years ago. These days i would love to see Drag Queen Dolls,i know Ru Paul has a doll ,but Imagine how cool it would be to have all our favourite Queens too,i would love to see Sharon Needles, Adore Delano and ofcourse a Trixie Mattel doll!
Mattel may not have made them just yet but if you head over to Youtube you can see artist,doll painter & collector Mark Jonathan create some amazing looks as he repaints dolls into our favourite queens. With 100 dolls being sold every minute in 150 countries worldwide its safe to say that Barbie is a force to be reckoned with and the possiblities are endless and with a total of 58 million sold annually i think Barbie is one of the most Awesome Queens ever!