Barbie is more than just a doll. She is a cultural icon that has influenced generations of girls and women around the world. But how did Barbie come to be, and what does she represent in our society? In this article, we will explore the origins of Barbie, her evolution over the decades, and her impact on fashion, beauty, careers, and diversity.
The Barbie brand was created by Ruth Handler, a co-founder of the toy company Mattel, in 1959. Handler was inspired by watching her daughter play with paper dolls of adult women, and realized there was a gap in the market for a toy that allowed girls to imagine their future selves. She modeled Barbie’s appearance after a German doll named Bild Lilli, which was based on a comic-strip character and sold as a gag gift for men. Handler wanted to give Barbie a more wholesome image, and named her after her own daughter, Barbara.
Barbie made her debut at the American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959, wearing a black-and-white striped bathing suit and a blonde ponytail. She was the first mass-produced toy doll in the U.S. with adult features, and she quickly became a sensation among children. Barbie also reflected the glamour and style of the 1950s stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. In her first year, Barbie sold 300,000 units, and soon became the flagship product of Mattel.
Over the years, Barbie has changed with the times, adapting to the social, cultural, and political trends of each decade. She has had more than 250 careers, from astronaut to doctor to rock star to computer engineer. She has worn outfits designed by famous fashion houses such as Dior, Ralph Lauren, Armani, and Versace. She has also introduced new friends and family members of different ethnicities and backgrounds, such as Midge (1963), Skipper (1964), Christie (1968), Teresa (1988), Steven (1988), Kayla (1989), Kira (1990), and Nikki (2006).
Barbie has also faced criticism and controversy for her materialism, unrealistic body proportions, and lack of diversity. Some parents and feminists have argued that Barbie promotes consumerism, gender stereotypes, and body dissatisfaction among girls. In response, Mattel has made several attempts to address these issues by creating more diverse and inclusive dolls, such as curvy, tall, petite, and wheelchair-using Barbies. Mattel has also launched campaigns to celebrate Barbie’s role as a role model and an inspiration for girls to pursue their dreams.
Barbie is not just a toy. She is a phenomenon that has shaped the lives of millions of people around the world. She is a reflection of our culture and our aspirations. She is a symbol of empowerment and possibility. She is Barbie.