She doesn’t look a day over 19, does she? And no plastic surgery!
The ever-youthful fashion doll was first introduced at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9, 1959, so that day is considered her date of birth.
Since the early days, Barbie has undergone many transformations, changed races and faces, run for President (six times!), been a paleontologist and a rock star. She has had over 150 careers and broke the plastic ceiling when she reached the moon four years before Neil Armstrong.
It’s the very earliest years of Barbie’s fashions that intrigue me the most. She started her life with a miniature wardrobe worthy of Best Dressed lists. With names like “Gay Parisienne” and “Golden Elegance,” Barbie’s outfits from 1959 to 65 were detailed and coordinated. The fashion designer at Mattel (can you believe they even had a fashion designer?) was Charlotte Johnson. The original dolls were manufactured in Japan, and their clothes were hand sewn by Japanese homeworkers.
Is it weird to extol Barbie doll style? The reason I ask is because I was not allowed to play with Barbies (et al.) when I was a child—my parents thought they were too “adult” to be right for a child. I do get that, but then every single time I saw a Barbie at a friend’s house, I dropped everything to play with her clothes. I eventually got a fashionable doll that looked like a girl my age, in something like 5th grade. For me, the dolls were not emotional friends like my teddy bears and other stuffed animals, but I loved their clothes. I ended up getting a lot of fashion ideas almost out of the corner of my eye. The moral of this story? I don’t really know. But I do know Barbie fascinates me to this day.
Ever wished you could dress like Barbie? Recently I photographed vintage clothes that I picked from my inventory to most adhere to early Barbie sensibilities, complete with plenty of accessories. I have worked with a number of very talented models in the past few years, and the one that stood out as having just the right look for Barbie is Roxy Lang. I was thrilled that she is a fan of Barbie. She told me her grandmother has a collection of the dolls.
Find all these items, while they last, in my Etsy shop (P.S. A few are yet to come):
Happy Birthday Barbie!