What's next for 50-year-old Barbie?Barbie just had a milestone birthday. The little doll is 50 years old.
Barbie just had a milestone birthday. The little doll is 50 years old.
Born standing on tip-toe with an 11½-inch grown-up body, Barbie was brought into the world in February 1959 by Mattel Toy Company at the American Toy Fair in New York. She was completely different from the bigger and more typical baby and little girl dolls.
The original Barbie sold for $3. She came dressed in a zebra-striped swimsuit. Her clothes sold separately – the latest in designer fashion at, some thought, designer prices.
Barbie was the hottest toy on the market that December. I bought one as a Christmas present for my 1st grade daughter; so did my friend Donna for her little girl. We found patterns and went to work on wardrobes.
We played Barbies while our daughters were at school, sewing such outfits as tiny toreador pants in leopard print, pink taffeta party dresses, and my finest effort, a white satin wedding dress with seed pearls all over the lace overskirt.
When Donna’s mother shortened her mink coat, we got the scraps and were in heaven. We had the first Politically Incorrect Barbies, with their real fur coats, hats and muffs.
Today our Barbie is retired; she still lives with my daughter. She was the No. 2 Barbie. We looked up her worth in the 1980s and found that with the original box, which we had, she was valued at $500.
Worth considerably more is an easily identified No. 1 Barbie. When the doll first appeared, she had holes in her feet, to fit prongs on a special stand.
From the beginning, little girls loved Barbie. Not everybody shared their feelings. National magazines wrote stories, quoting psychologists and lifestyle experts. The doll “tempted little girls into adulthood.” She was a “sexpot” and a “tart.” As a cultural icon, she became “America in miniature [with] an unhealthy emphasis on possessions and appearances.”
Feminists scorned Barbie’s impossible figure and refused to buy one for their daughters. Humor writers adored her and parodied her. There was a Very Berry Barbie flavor of Jell-O (artificially flavored). Songs were written about her, one so raunchy Mattel filed a lawsuit. The court ruled in favor of free speech.
Over the years, models of Barbie appeared in every ethnic skin color. New Barbies kept up with the trends – she got a tattoo and had plastic surgery to expand her waist. One of the first models was Prom Barbie, a teenager. She grew up and had multiple careers, including Doctor Barbie, Military Barbie, Astronaut Barbie and in 2000, Presidential Candidate Barbie.
It seems logical now that she’s 50, we’ll see Menopausal Barbie or Hot Flash Barbie.
Children are fine with Barbie’s advancing age. A friend recently told her three kids it was Barbie’s 50th birthday. Eight-year-old Adam asked, “Is Barbie a grandma?” His siblings were delighted. “Is there a Grandma Barbie? Can we get one?”
Actually, Mattel introduced Grandma Barbie in 2003. Maybe that little doll will give back some of the love we’ve always given her.
Barbie trivia quiz
Creating the tiny tiptoed Barbie doll in 1959 started an era of Barbie mania in which Mattel Toys would explore almost every play possibility.
When she needed an escort, Ken was introduced in 1961 as her boyfriend. Then came still more dolls – best friends, family members, toys and pets.
How much do you know about Barbie’s history? Test your memory of the early years with these questions.
1. Mattel Inc. manufactured the Barbie doll. What was the company’s slogan?
2. How much did the original Barbie cost?
3. What was the name of Barbie’s impish, freckle-faced best friend?
4. What was the name of Ken’s best friend who joined the scene in 1964?
5. How was Skipper related to Barbie?
6. Barbie got a new friend in 1968 named Christie. How was she different?
7. What was the Barbie game marketed in 1961-62 called?
8. What was the name of Barbie’s first white kitten?
9. Who was Dallas?
10. What has been Barbie’s best selling item of clothing?
1. “You can tell it’s Mattel. It’s swell.”
3. Midge, 1963.
5. Her little sister, 1964.
6. She was black.
7. “Queen of the Prom.”
8. Fluff, 1983.
9. Barbie’s 1980 Rodeo Pal, a golden Palamino, with a mane and tail for brushing.
10. Wedding dress.