Mattel's Barbie, the timeless fashion icon, has captivated hearts for decades. From her storied history and dazzling wardrobe to dreamy dream houses, this article uncovers the enigmatic world of Barbie.
Discover her lesser-known history, iconic collaborations, and her influence on pop culture. Get ready to dive into the plastic paradise of Barbie's extraordinary life!
The Woman Behind The Doll
Ruth Handler, a visionary entrepreneur, forever changed the toy industry when she invented Barbie. Inspired by her own daughter's fascination with paper dolls, Ruth envisioned a three-dimensional doll that embodied fashion and ambition.
Ruth Handler's pioneering spirit left an indelible mark on the world of toys and the imagination of countless generations.
Barbie Had Risqué Origins
While paper dolls and baby dolls were popular with children, there weren't a lot of adult dolls on the market. One that Ruth saw that inspired her to create her own was one named Bild Lilli, created in 1952.
Bild Lilli was modeled after a call girl from a comic strip and was sold as a novelty for adults.
Barbie And Ken's Relationship Drama
The relationship between Barbie and Ken might seem like a fairy tale, but they've had their ups and downs over the years, like any couple!
In fact, in 2004, the couple officially broke up, and a few replacements for Ken were introduced! However, they were back together by Valentine's Day 2011.
Barbie Has A Birthday
Barbie's birthday, the momentous celebration of the world's favorite doll, falls on March 9th, 1959. This is because that's the date Ruth Handler debuted the doll at the American International Toy Fair!
That makes Barbie a Pisces, and it also makes her over 60 years old!
Barbie + Blaine
When Barbie and Ken were broken up, Barbie started a fling with an Australian boogie-boarder named Blaine Gordon, who looked exactly like you'd expect him to look.
Luckily, Ken and Barbie worked things out, but Blaine was a fun new addition to the Barbie storyline for a little bit of time!
Barbie Has A Full Name
Ruth's children were named Barbara and Ken, which is where the first names for the doll and her boyfriend came from, but Barbie actually has a full name, first, middle, and last!
Her name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. A classic, timeless name that has definitely aged with her as the years have gone by!
Barbie's A Cheesehead
If you think that Barbie's got the sweet, wholesome charm of a girl from the Midwest, you're exactly right! Barbie was born in the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin!
There's a real town in Wisconsin named "Willow," but Willows itself is totally made up. That's where Barbie spent her childhood!
In the 1960s, Random House Books released a book series about the story of Barbie's life!
The book series revealed that her parents are named George and Margaret, although those two have never appeared as dolls that you can buy on your own.
Barbie's Big Family
Barbie comes from a big family, but it's had some changes over the years! Officially, Barbie has three younger sisters: Skipper, Stacie, and Chelsea.
At one point, they had a younger sibling named Krissy, and at another point, there were twin siblings, Todd and Tutti, but these characters and dolls were discontinued.
Barbie Was A Pioneer On TV
Barbie was one of the first toys that was ever advertised on TV!
Mattel was the first toy company to buy spots and advertise during airings of The Mickey Mouse Show, which bypassed marketing to parents and decided instead to directly market to the kids themselves, a very effective strategy.
Barbie's British Cousin
From 1966 to 1976, Barbie had a cousin named Francie Fairchild, who was British!
She hit the shelves again in 2011 but never had quite the impact on the pop culture landscape as her more famous cousins did.
Barbie Isn't The Only Barbie
In 2021, another character named Barbara Millicent Roberts was introduced to the lineup — as Barbie's roommate! They separated themselves by referring to each other as Malibu Barbie and Brooklyn Barbie, and thus the first canonically Black "Barbie" was born!
Brooklyn Barbie shares many of the same interests and traits as the original.
Barbie's Controversial Bestie
One of Barbie's oldest friends, Midge, had quite the controversy surrounding one of her dolls!
In 2003, Midge was released as part of the "Happy Family" line, which included a tiny baby that could be magnetically fixed to be in Midge's pregnant stomach! Some Barbie fans found this controversial because she didn't have a wedding ring, but subsequent releases of the line painted one on her finger.
Barbie's Had Her Own Controversy
In 1992, a "Teen Talk Barbie" was sold as a young Barbie who would say various phrases when you pressed a button on her.
One of her phrases was, "Math class is tough," which some fans were upset about because they felt it promoted the idea that women were not good at math.
Barbie's Got Famous Friends
Lots of celebrities have been immortalized as Barbie dolls, but the first one ever was supermodel Twiggy in 1967!
Other celebrities who have become Barbies include Cher, Nicki Minaj, Zendaya, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. That's not bad company to keep! It must be a real honor to get a Barbie made in your image.
Barbie's Debut Outfit
Barbie's iconic debut outfit was a cinched black and white striped swimsuit that even made an appearance in the trailer for the 2023 movie! She looked great, and it was a much more mature style than the dolls on the market at the time.
Barbie sold 350,000 dolls in the first year that she existed.
Barbie's Impressive Sales
By 2009, over 1 billion Barbie dolls had been sold, and every three seconds, another one gets purchased somewhere in the world.
Barbie's impact on pop culture and on the little kids playing with her has only continued to grow over the years as more and more dolls get created and made!
Mattel Making History
In 1997, Mattel became the first company to create a fashion doll that was in a wheelchair when they released a new doll to the Barbie line named Share A Smile Becky.
Her wheelchair was, of course, a very cute shade of pink and purple, and she wore a cute denim-inspired outfit.
Up until Barbie's creation, most dolls for kids didn't have much of a figure.
Ruth Handler said, "If [a young girl] was going to do role-playing of what she would be like when she was 16 or 17, it was a little stupid to play with a doll that had a flat chest..."
Blonde Or Brunette?
When Barbie was originally created, you could buy the doll in both blonde and brunette hairstyles!
Since then, blonde Barbie has become iconic, but there are still brunettes in the franchise, including Barbie's younger sister Skipper, who often has a colorful streak of purple or blue in her darker hair.
Bestselling Barbie Ever
Barbie's had a lot of successful dolls, but none have come close to touching the iconic "Totally Hair Barbie," released in 1992.
Totally Hair Barbie had hair all the way down to her feet, and fans went crazy for the opportunity to get to style and play with that much hair!
She Wasn't Always Smiling
In Barbie's original release, Barbie wasn't smiling, and she was giving some serious side-eye with her eyes pointed to the side.
In 1971, her eyes were changed to look forward, but Barbie wouldn't be given a smile until 1977. Now it's hard to imagine Barbie without her signature mega-watt grin!
A Working Woman
Barbie has had over 150 different careers in her life, which is quite the list!
She's been an actor, a ballerina, a chef, a dancer, a music producer, a news anchor, a photographer, a fast food worker, a floral designer, a game show host, a babysitter, a farmer, a doggy daycare owner, and tons more.
But She Has Loftier Dreams
Despite her impressive and storied career, there's one job that she keeps going for: President.
Almost every election year comes with a "Barbie For President" doll for that year! I think she might be a little bit overqualified for the position, given her previous employment history, but I'm glad she doesn't give up!
2015 Was An Important Year For Her Shoes
In 2015, for the first time, Barbie was given adjustable ankles, which meant that she could wear both her famous high heels, boots, and pumps along with flat-footed styles.
Not everyone can rock stilettos 24/7, so it's nice that you can give your Barbie's feet a little bit of a rest.
Barbie's Measurements Defy Science
In 1965, Barbie was sold with an accessory that was a bathroom scale. The scale was permanently set to read the weight "110." That's not the most realistic weight for Barbie!
A 1996 study showed that if Barbie was 5'7" tall, her measurements would be 32-16-29, and her neck would only be inches thick.
But She's Working On It
Mattel has been pretty committed to being more inclusive in their body types for their different Barbie dolls, including race, height, weight, and different hairstyles too!
Every little kid out there deserves to see themselves represented in the toys they play with, and Barbie is definitely working towards that goal!
Barbie Pink Is Official
Barbie Pink is a Pantone color, officially! PMS 219 is the official name for the color we know as Barbie pink, and it's the pink that's used in all of Mattel's logos, branding, and marketing for Barbies.
The hot pink is iconic and has been associated with the doll line for over a decade!
Some Expensive Tastes
While most Barbies are pretty affordable, some can go for some crazy high prices!
Designer Stefano Canturi designed a necklace for a Barbie doll that featured emerald-cut pink diamonds. The doll ended up selling for over $300,000 at auction, but all proceeds went to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
A Lot Of Designers Have Contributed To Barbie's Style
Gucci, Versace, Bob Mackie, Oscar de la Renta, Dolce & Gabbana, and Christian Louboutin have all designed some iconic outfits for Barbie. Not a lot of celebrities can claim they've had custom outfits made by every single one of those designers!
Barbie's style has changed over the years, but it's never gotten less iconic.