When Barbara Millicent Roberts stood on display at the New York Toy Fair in the late 1950’s, nobody realized her potential. Her alluring figure and sultry facial expression drew both positive and negative feedback from buyers. The question at hand was whether or not this model of a fully-developed young woman, complete with breasts and a tiny waistline, was appropriate for the entertainment of impressionable children. In the years to come, she would prove to be the most highly demanded doll in history.
Although her full name has long been forgotten, along with her birth date (March 9, 1959) which commemorates her introduction to the public, “Barbie” has grown to be a worldwide sensation. For the past 60 years, nearly every little girl in the developed world has played with her in the form of an 11 1/2 inch fashion doll with a collection of stylish clothing. Barbie was originally created by American entrepreneur Ruth Handler. Rather than adding another baby doll to the toy market, this inventor wanted to create an adult doll much like Germany’s Bild Lilli. The result was a lovely replica of the typical 1950’s movie stars with all their glamour. The new doll had cherry-red lips and shaped eyebrows that complemented her unassuming, yet coquettish, glance to the side.
Her hairstyle reflected the time period of her debut with a neatly-placed ponytail and short, curly bangs. Buyers had a choice between blond and brunette hair. Some consumers were disturbed by the distinct nature of Barbie’s chest and her hourglass figure that was emphasized by a small, black and white-striped swimsuit.
Nevertheless, store managers struggled to keep up with the demand as the toy became more and more popular. Today, Mattel Inc. brags that more than a billion Barbie dolls have been sold since that fateful day in 1959. In fact, an entire line of personalities have been added to the collection including Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, her younger sister, Skipper, and a plethora of other friends and relatives. Barbie’s creator desired to give little girls a tool for projecting themselves into their future dreams. Therefore, Barbie had to roll with the changes as society evolved.
By 1962, she sported a short, full hairdo that soon progressed into a long, straight style with side-swept bangs in 1967. The producers at Mattel had decided that Barbie should be smart and ambitious, so she started a job as a fashion designer in her very early days. Soon she dabbled in music, dance, nursing, and flight attending as well. With the Space Race in full gear, Barbie became an astronaut in 1965. By the early 1970’s, the iconic doll had been transformed into a California-type beauty. Her suntan and full smile gave her a look of confidence, and her eyes were redesigned to look straight ahead instead of sideways as a result of the feminist movement.
Malibu Barbie quickly blended into the culture of the 1980’s with careers in teaching, news reporting, and athletics. She was ready to run for President by 1992. Her professional aspirations led her into more than 100 occupations through the years. Meanwhile, Barbie accumulated dozens of pets ranging from dogs and cats to a giraffe and zebra.
Her clothes and accessories, homes and furnishings, cars and other vehicles have made her one of the most well equipped, richest, and classiest ladies in the world. Even after her 2004 break-up with Ken, Barbie continues to live a full and active life while inspiring children to pursue their dreams.