There is a toy for girls, which has become not only an icon for generations but also a reference and symbol in the fashion world.
We are referring to the famous and highly recognized Barbie doll. It is one of the flagship products of the Mattel toy brand. And it was initially created by the American company Hub Inc. in March 1959.
Over the years, the doll has evolved. Not only with its image and physical appearance but also in its product mission. Its motto for a long time was: “You can be what you want to be,” responding to its creator’s desire. For Barbie to inspire girls to push themselves to achieve their dreams and be what they want in life.
Nowadays, although its popularity as a toy has diminished due to the arrival of other characters and options on the market, Barbie has changed its public and is becoming much more diversified. Since we can find the doll versioned in different skin colors and features, inspired by different cultures and professions, which have made her a doll for everyone.
But its most significant influence has been in the fashion world. Since it has not only served as inspiration for great designers but is currently an object representing good dress and modern style.
That is why today we´ll get to know a little more about this doll and how it has been a great inspiration for the fashion of past and present.
Ruth Handler, the wife of the co-founder of Mattel, raised the idea of creating a doll inspired by the figure of an adult woman that would serve as a toy for girls. All thanks to the interest shown by her daughter in dolls with adult characteristics instead of the typical childish toys.
This idea was presented to the company Mattel, rejected, until on a trip to Germany, Handler found a doll with the figure of a woman called Bild Lilli, which was not intended for children but adults. However, later it began to be marketed as a toy for girls, the main attraction being the change of clothes.
Its popularity crossed borders until it reached the United States, drawing the attention of Mattel, who proceeded to buy the rights to it and create a new doll they called Barbie, honoring Ruth’s daughter, Barbara. The doll´s full name was Barbara Millicent Roberts.
This way, with the product ready for launch, Barbie was officially presented to the world on March 9, 1959, at the American International Toy Fair.
At the time of its launch, Barbie had blonde hair and a typical hairstyle of the 60s.
And she wore a black and white swimsuit, whose pattern alluded to zebra skin, and with a made-up face and an elegant look slightly sideways.
Barbie’s appearance has evolved over the years, from her hair to her features. In 1971, an adjustment was made to the eyes so that the gaze was directed towards the front. And the hair was also modified to long, straight blonde hair.
Also, it went through a change in skin color when for marketing reasons, they launched a summer campaign where the doll was shown on the beach with a tan appearance. So, the tone of the material was a little darker than usual.
Today, we can find many doll models with variations in skin color, hair, facial features, and cultural and clothing aspects. Things that define and distinguish them from the rest.
Barbie is fashion since its creation
The simple fact that the main attraction of the doll is to change her clothes, counting for this with a good amount of merchandise available together with her accessories, made her a fashion object since its creation. This transmits style and a sense of fashion very entrenched.
The importance that the company has given to clothes and fashion in Barbie is so great that since its inception, a designer has been assigned to create the garments she has used for all these years, being marketed as a “teenage model fashion.”
Barbie, her influence and permanence as a Fashion icon
As we have already explained, Barbie has been synonymous with fashion since her birth. Because she has always been on par with the trends and uses of the moment. Thanks to this, the doll began to receive the attention of clothing brands and haute couture designers, who have dedicated their talent to dressing it.
Mattel has collaborated over the years with personalities such as Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, and Dior. Also, Givenchy, Armani, Lagerfeld, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Moschino; among others. All with miniature models have dressed the doll in the most elegant and sophisticated way. In addition to having slippers designed exclusively for her by Christian Louboutin.
Barbie, art, and representations
Not only designers have shown their interest in the doll. Plastic artists such as Andy Warhol, who in 1986 created the famous “Portrait of Billy Boy as Barbie,” thus immortalizing the doll as an icon of pop culture.
Likewise, the doll has been the object of emblematic representations honoring world and legendary personalities. Like the recently deceased Elizabeth II of England, Cleopatra, and Josephine Bonaparte. In addition to music and film stars such as Cyndi Lauper, Barbra Streisand, Marilyn Monroe, and Grace Kelly. As well as athletes, activists, and painters such as Frida Kahlo among other notables.
Currently, Barbie merchandise has endless objects, both for girls and adults. As well as movies, series, books, and magazines, which make the doll present in everything we want.
Without a doubt, Barbie is a cultural and fashion icon. One who has forged her fame over the years with her presence and style. Her role in fashion is undeniable. And this is why Barbie will always go hand in hand with the fashion world. Immortalizing every step and every outfit she wears.