Barbie Turns 65

Often, Barbie is a designer’s first introduction to fashion – as they dress and style her, they discover the power and delight of storytelling through her closet. This is how the iconic doll secured her place in fashion history, by Yolanthe Fawehinmi.

A few ingredients are needed for a classic Barbie doll: confidence, bravery, legendary status, and impeccable style.
When inventor Ruth Handler first introduced the pint-sized plastic doll (made in the likeness of an adult) to the world at the 1959 Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, Barbie – whose full name was Barbara Millicent Roberts, named after Handler’s daughter, Barbara, and was from (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin – was wearing her now iconic black and white striped chevron swimsuit, with a pair of white retro cat-eye sunglasses in her hand.

Handler, who died in 2002 aged 85, had a revolutionary take on dolls and wanted to change the way children played with them.
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be,” she said of her revolutionary invention. “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
Now, Barbie turns 65 – and there has been a whole host of incarnations over the years, including the 1977 Superstar Barbie and 1985 Peaches ‘n‘ Cream Barbie. Inspired by the milestone birthday, the 2024 Spring Fashionistas dolls pay homage to Barbie’s evolving fashion through the years by replicating her iconic looks into modern-day outfits.

The Barbie 65th Anniversary collection also revisits some of the most popular careers and fashion looks from Barbie’s archives.
The latest career dolls include a farm vet, pop star and astronaut – three of the most popular careers held by Barbie since her creation. One of the 65th Signature Anniversary dolls is inspired by the original 1959 Barbie, dressed in a classic white and black stripe scallop-edged ballgown, with a sheer underskirt paired with black gloves, in a nod back to that iconic swimsuit.

A lot of outfits are inspired by female trailblazers across various industries.
“This is seen through Barbie’s impressive closet and repertoire of 250+ careers – Barbie is never afraid to try new things and inspires her fans to live out their limitless potential,” said Kim Culmone, senior vice president and head of design for dolls at Mattel.
“We are committed to using her platform to share a multi-dimensional view of beauty with kids across the globe. We’re proud of our journey with Barbie to be reflective of the world children see around them– and we will continue to add representation through careers, fashions, hair textures, style and more.”

How would Culmone describe Barbie’s evolving and effervescent style?
“Barbie’s style is about self-expression, aspiration and living authentically. Power dressing inspires confidence and empowers you to be unapologetically yourself.
“Barbie has played a role in the cultivation of personal style and expression across generations. Countless designers have used Barbie as a muse and likewise, Barbie is inspired by pop culture and fashion,” she added.

“Often, Barbie is a designer’s first introduction to fashion – as they dress and style her, they discover the power and delight of storytelling through her closet. Her style is unique as not only does she follow the trends, she sets them. One thing stays the same though – she is always a source of inspiration and creativity.

“She evolves with the times, never allowing her style to go stagnant. Her wardrobe is limitless. All in one day, Barbie can rock a glamorous designer gown to breakfast, wear an astronaut suit to space for work, and then transition to the latest street style for dinner. Barbie is at her best when her looks are reflective of what’s happening now in fashion.”

When Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie – starring Australian actress and producer Margot Robbie, Canadian actor Ryan Gosling, American stars Issa Rae and America Ferrera, among others – came out last year, there was a sharp rise in the ‘Barbiecore’ trend, with hot pink having a moment.

The trend, which encapsulates Barbie’s largerthan- life pink aesthetic and idyllic way of living, often paired with nostalgic accessories, was sported by celebrities such as Florence Pugh, Lizzo and Vanessa Hudgens, and even made a mark on fashion runways – including the Valentino 2023 autumn/winter show in collaboration with Pantone Color Institute, which featured the bright Pink PP hue created exclusively for the Italian fashion house.

“I loved seeing fans lean into Barbiecore,” said Culmone. “We are seeing the world reclaim hyper-femininity, and Barbie is here for it. I’ve always said pink is not a passive colour; it’s a power colour.

“Pink has always been Barbie’s favourite colour – she even has her own signature ‘Barbie Pink’ Pantone shade (PMS 219). In the 1970s, the team strategically began to prominently [use] the colour pink in packaging. This creative shift contributed to the pink association with the brand. For Barbie, pink stands for limitless potential and is a symbol of empowerment,” adds Culmone – noting that a book, Barbie: The World Tour, will also be published on March 19, commemorating how movie star Robbie and stylist Andrew Mukamal brought some of Barbie’s most memorial outfits and curated vintage pieces to the red carpet during the film’s press tour.

“Barbie first stepped into the fashion scene 65 years ago,” Culmone continued. “Since then, she’s secured her place in history with her incredible wardrobe, amazing resume, and has been dressed by the world’s most famous designers – inspiring millions as their first fashion muse and strong female role model.”

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