Ever wonder about the Barbie Doll? Having two girls, I always worried about them growing up and trying to look just like Barbie. So many girls of the past few generations have done just that—tried to look just like Barbie. Physically that is an impossibility. The proportions are just all wrong. If the first Barbie were real today her measurements would be 38-18-36. Only in our dreams……… Nonetheless, girls have grown up thinking that is how they are supposed to look. Many deaths can be directly linked back to striving to look like a doll from someone’s imagination. Many young girls end up with a case of anorexia. Let’s see what we can find out about Barbie Dolls.
Ruth Handler, one of the co-founders of the Mattel toy company, watched her daughter Barbara playing with her paper dolls and noticed that she often pretended that the dolls were real adults. At this time most dolls represented babies. She mentioned the idea of making an adult-bodied doll to her husband, also a co-founder of Mattel. He as well as Mattel’s directors were not impressed;
During a trip to Germany in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler saw a German doll called the Bild Lilli doll in a shop window. The Lilly doll had an adult figure and was exactly what she had in mind for her new doll, so she bought three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The German Lilli doll was a working girl that knew what she wanted and how to get it. It was first sold in 1955 and originally sold to adults. But, soon kids were buying her and dressing her up in outfits that were sold separately.
When Ruth Handler returned to the United States, she reworked the design of the doll and gave it a new name, Barbie, after her daughter. Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. This date is also counted as her official birthday. Mattel bought the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964, and production of the Lilli doll stopped.
The first Barbie doll had a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and wore her hair in a high ponytail. Her hair was available in either blonde or brunette. Barbie was first marketed as a teen-age fashion model, and her clothes, created by Mattel designer Charlotte Johnson, could all be separately bought.
In 1968, the first African American Barbie was created and named Christie. Black Barbie and Hispanic Barbie came about in 1980. Barbie got a boyfriend in 1961, and he was named Ken after Ruth Handler’s son.
Barbie has had a few changes over the years. One change was that her eyes were adjusted to face forward in 1971. They had been directed sideways. Barbie’s measurements finally underwent a change in 1997.
Her waist was made bigger. Mattel explained that this would make a doll more suited to contemporary fashion designs.
Throughout the years, Barbie has had much criticism aimed her way. In 2003, Saudi Arabia outlawed the sale of Barbie Dolls, saying that she did not conform to the ideals of Islam. In the Arab World there is an alternative doll called Fulla who is similar to Barbie but not made by Mattel. She is designed to be more acceptable to an Islamic market.
The Jewish Committee for the Propaganda of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated that, “Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West” and warned of the dangers.
Today the Barbie industry is a mega-billion dollar industry and includes not only the dolls, their clothes and accessories, but also a huge range of Barbie branded items such as books, fashion items and video games. She has been in animated films and even made an appearance in Toy Story 2. Barbie is a cultural entity and has been given honors rarely given to a toy. In 1974, a section of Times Square in New York City was named Barbie Boulevard for a week. Andy Warhol, the artist, even painted a picture of her in 1985. Barbie was the first toy to be advertised extensively on television.
Today countless collectors scramble to buy dated Barbie’s to add to their much-loved collections proving that adults as well as kids love these dolls with the more-than-perfect figures.
So, there you have it… a bit about Barbie dolls. And, millions will be sold this year to families everywhere. God bless you.