The other day I watched Barbie’s episode of The Toys that Made Us on Netflix and it reminded me that I’d been meaning to write about her in a sort of defensive manner, after a Sociology professor compared her to the likes of Satan in a class about a year ago. To him, she’s a brainwashing tool to make parents spend money and little girls turn into very feminine housewives with bad self esteem thanks to her unrealistic, uh, doll body. To me, she wasn’t so much a character I looked up to, but a way to play make believe and spend hours dressing up my own mannequin.
Barbie was created in 1959 with exactly that in mind: a way for little girls to play with a doll you could live through, not a paper doll to just dress up or a baby doll to be a mother to. Funny enough, she was based on a German doll called Bild Lilli, who was in turn based on sexy cartoons from a newspaper called Bild. Unlike Barbie, Bild Lilli was aimed at men who wanted gag gifts, even though with time she gained popularity with children. She was in essence, copied and cleaned up with kids in mind in the shape of Barbie and, so, history was made.
From then on, Barbie has become a fashion icon if there ever was one. As a kid, flipping through a book I still have about some of her famous outfits through the years was essentially a fashion history lesson, and with that of course comes learning about culture, beauty standards, trends and more. She’s documented decades of history with her makeovers and outfits, not to mention all the careers she’s had and how they reflected the change in women since the 1960s. To me that’s her appeal. Good or bad, she’s history and a part of my childhood that opened the doors to my love for fashion even more.
I’d say that in the last years she’s become a bit boring and not that fashionable. But then again she’s aimed at kids, not nostalgic adults! Either way, I hope they continue to keep ur her legacy and that there’s many more years to come of great outfits and reflections of our times.