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Barbie

Barbie


The origins of Barbiethe most popular doll in the world in the last half of the twentieth centurycan be traced to Lilli, originally a Das Bild comic strip character of a saucy blonde, later produced as a pornographic doll popular among bachelors in postwar Germany. While on a trip to Europe, Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler discovered Lilli, the prototypical doll she believed would enable girls like her daughter, Barbie, to imagine their future selves in roles other than that of mothers. (Baby dolls dominated the postwar American toy market.) Male designers at Mattel modified the German sex toy into a teenage doll they encoded with the prevailing feminine ideals of both purity and prurience and a consumer culture ethos. The eleven-and-a-half inch Barbie doll and her extensive miniaturized haute couture wardrobe were marketed to stimulate consumer desire among America's youngest shoppers. In turn these shoppers proceeded to make Barbie the most successful product in the history of the toy industry.

Although one billion Barbie dolls had been sold by the early twenty-first century, the doll was not immediately popular with consumers and social critics. Controversy developed shortly after the doll's marketing debut in 1959 at the New York Toy Fair. Mattel's claims about the doll's "educational value" did not convince many mothers at the time who detested the doll's exalted femininity and scandalous sexuality. Barbie's seductive figure, suggestive look, and provocative wardrobe designed to attract the attention of men like her boyfriend Ken led feminists to condemn the doll for its sexual objectification of women. Social critics denounced the doll's materialismas exemplified by her lavish lifestyle and shopping spreesand the slavish consumerism it fostered in daughters of hard-working breadwinners. Although Barbie changed with the times from fashion model to career woman, many still pointed to the preoccupation with body image in girls whose beauty ideal was defined by Barbie's unrealistic physique. (She would be ten feet tall if she were real.) On the other hand, scholars and others have shown that girls and boys, children as well as adults, play with Barbie dolls in ways that contest gendered norms.

As a quintessential icon of American femininity, the Barbie doll has served as the focus of countless satirical artistic works, many of which, like The Distorted $arbie website, Mattel has tried to censor. A Barbie doll starred in Superstar (1987), a movie by Todd Haynes that traced the anorexic life and death of singer Karen Carpenter. The iconic Barbie has been printed on faux prayer cards and has been crucified on the cross. In 1993, the Barbie Liberation Organization switched the voice boxes of three hundred Barbies with those of G.I. Joes, leading the Barbies to bellow, "Eat lead, Cobra! Vengeance is mine!" and the perky G.I. Joes to chirp: "Let's go shopping!"

By the early twenty-first century the average American girl between the ages of three and eleven was said to own ten Barbie dolls (purchased at a rate of two Barbies every second). However, a high-priced market developed for the dolls among adult collectors. Among the numerous collectors and dealers who specialized in Barbie dolls, the Barbie Hall of Fame in Palo Alto, California, with its ten thousand Barbies, was the largest collection in the world.

See also: Girlhood; Toys; Theories of Play.

bibliography

Boy, Billy. 1987. Barbie: Her Life and Times. New York: Crown.

Lord, M. G. 1994. Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll. New York: William Morrow.

McDonough, Yona Zeldis, ed. 1999. The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty. New York: Touchstone.

Miriam Forman-Brunell

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"Barbie." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Barbie." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved September 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/barbie

Barbie

BARBIE

During the 1950s Ruth Handler, one of the owners of the Mattel Toy Company, noticed her daughter putting dresses on her paper dolls and got the idea for making a three-dimensional fashion doll that girls could dress and undress. Mattel introduced their new doll, named Barbie after Ruth Handler's daughter, at the 1959 American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie was popular with girls right away, though some parents worried that she looked too sexy for a child's toy. The first Barbie came wearing a black and white striped bathing suit. Soon, dozens of outfits were available for her, including a bridal gown, tennis dress, and ballerina costume. Although Barbie was marketed as a "teenage fashion model," she had many of the clothes of the ideal 1950s housewife, such as a crisp party apron for cooking and entertaining, and a fashionable Paris gown. Within the next few years, Mattel introduced Ken, Barbie's boyfriend; Midge, her best friend; and Skipper, her little sister. Each had a variety of fashionable outfits.

Barbie's image has changed frequently over the years, in an effort to keep up with changing clothing styles and the changing image of womanhood. During the 1960s she wore stylish designer suits like those worn by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (19291994), as well as miniskirts and white go-go boots. During the 1970s the clothes for "Barbie and Ken Superstars" fit right in with the glitz and glamour of the decade. By the 1980s women's liberation had affected society's view of women, and girls could choose from a wide variety of careers for Barbie, such as doctor, police officer, or astronaut, all with appropriate outfits. The eighties also saw the introduction of ethnic Barbies, such as Black, Latin, and Asian Barbie dolls. Feminists grew angry with Barbie again in the 1990s when "Teen Talk" Barbie said things like, "Math is tough," which seemingly insulted the intelligence of a woman.

Even Barbie's face and body have changed with the styles. The first Barbie dolls had heavily made-up eyes that looked to the side, but by 1961 she had a more natural look, and her big, blue eyes looked straight out. Early Barbie dolls had feet molded in permanent tiptoes for wearing high heels, but by the 1980s a Barbie with more natural feet was available. Many people had criticized Barbie's figure as being impossible for a real woman, so in 1999 Mattel introduced a doll with a more realistic shape. Like the changes in her fashions, these changes reflected the changing look of women through the decades, evolving from the made-up and glamorous look of the 1950s to the more natural look of the 1990s.

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"Barbie." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Barbie." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/barbie

"Barbie." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved September 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/barbie

Barbie Doll

BARBIE DOLL

BARBIE DOLL. Perhaps the most famous name in doll-making history, Barbie has delighted children since 1959, and has become a magnet for doll collectors. The brainchild of Ruth and Elliot Handler, Barbie was modeled after a German doll, Lilli, a shapely, pretty fashion doll first made in 1955. Made of molded plastic with her hair pulled back into a ponytail, she was available in either 11.5-inch or 7-inch heights.

The idea for Barbie originated when Ruth Handler, part owner of the Mattel company with her husband Elliot and family friend Harold Mattson, noticed that her daughter, Barbara, enjoyed playing with adult female dolls more than with baby dolls. She decided, therefore, to create a doll that would allow young girls to envision what they might become as they grew older.

Her creation, named in honor of daughter Barbara and backed by Mattel, debuted at the American Toy Fair in New York City in 1959. Although Mattel had been hesitant to risk producing the Barbie doll, Barbie set a new sales record for Mattel after the first year on the market. At a cost of three dollars each, Mattel sold 351,000 dolls during the first year of production, and within ten years, the public had purchased $500 million worth of Barbie products.

The first Barbie featured a ponytail hairstyle, black and white zebra-striped bathing suit, open-toed shoes, sunglasses, and earrings, and also featured various accessories and clothing styles created by the fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. Over the years, Barbie has been joined by family and friends, beginning with boyfriend Ken, named after the Handler's son, Kenneth, in 1961; sister Skipper in 1965; and Becky, Barbie's friend, in a wheelchair, in 1997.

Over the years, Barbie has undergone various cosmetic alterations, including a change to reflect criticism that Barbie reinforced sexism by representing a young woman with questionable intelligence and a sculpted physique. Over the years, Barbie has appeared as a doctor, UNICEF volunteer, athlete, and businesswoman, and has enjoyed universal appeal as a collector's item.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Melillo, Marcie. The Ultimate Barbie Doll Book. Iola, Wis.: Krause Publications, 1996.

Valenti, Keni. Barbie Dolls. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1999.

JenniferHarrison

See alsoToys and Games .

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Barbie doll

Barbie doll trademark name for a doll representing a conventionally attractive and fashionably dressed young woman, used allusively for a woman who is attractive in a glossily artificial way, but who is considered to lack sense and character.

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"Barbie doll." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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