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Barbie is 50


Mattel’s Barbie doll, the beloved ingénue role model of every little girl, is 50. If she were a real person, she’d undoubtedly have strands of gray hair, a hint of midriff flab, and hot flashes. Given her propensity for the latest fashion, by today’s standards, she would also be considered shallow – the Paris Hilton of the doll world. Fortunately, Barbie will forever be the fantasy woman of our youth.

From a commercial perspective, Barbie is as successful and enduring as Oprah. She has outlasted Cabbage Patch kids, Beanie Babies, sock monkeys and Raggedy Ann.

Invented by Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, Barbie debuted on March 9, 1959, at the American International Toy Fair wearing a black-and-white zebra striped, one-piece swimsuit. Handler’s inspiration for Barbie was a German doll called Bild Lilli. The German comic strip character upon which the Lilli doll was based was a seductive and sassy secretary who loved to hang out in bars and unabashedly pursued rich men. One cartoon strip had her saying, “I could do without balding old men, but my budget couldn’t.” As a doll, the curvaceous Lilli came with a wardrobe, sold separately, that mirrored the fashion of the 1950s.

Handler’s persona for Barbie was more wholesome than Lilli, but no less fashion conscious. Barbie’s eternal commercial appeal is her constantly updated clothes and accessories. Barbie’s wardrobe ensured that little girls who loved playing dress up would continually buy new outfits to make sure Barbie was appropriately dressed for any occasion, from beach parties to prom night. This wardrobe changed from culture to culture and era to era, seamlessly evolving from psychedelic to disco to punk.

Handler named Barbie and her boyfriend, Ken, after her two children, but it was designer Jack Roberts and his partner Ralph Carson of the legendary ad agency, Carson/Roberts Advertising, who created the dolls’ girl-and-boy next door identities and bestowed them with their own names – Barbara Millicent Roberts and Ken Carson.

To date, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold to kids around the world, not to mention billions of teeny dresses, swimsuits, T-tops, sportswear, purses and accessories for every occasion.

Happy birthday, Barbie. You go, girl!

5 thoughts on “Barbie is 50

  1. Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday with the launch of her first flagship store in… Shanghai! It's a multi-floor building that celebrates everything Barbie and makes no apologies for being all about girls. Interestingly enough, all of Barbie's political-correctness baggage from the West is seemingly absent in China. Here, she embodies everything that is glamorous, fun, fantastical, and ultimately, a very optimistic future. Kind of like China itself.

  2. Barbie is 50 now, and yet she's still the same, pretty as every young girl wishes to be.
    I think barbie dolls will stay good for long, kids most especially girls have these as their favorite toys.

  3. Coloring pages for kids are a popular item, because they can be found in any library or store for kids. They can also be printed out from the internet in any size and can be used as posters or wallpapers for a room. These coloring pages for kids can be of many different types. With cartoon characters from famous cartoons, such as Disney's cartoons, Pixar and many others like it. They can also represent famous children's stories and fairy tales.

  4. Look around you and you will likely find a lot of grownups who really love to pull out the Crayons and stay within the lines. One of the greatest delights of childhood is one of the ones that starts very early for most kids – coloring. There is just something magical about placing colorful pencil or crayons to a piece of paper and making magic with color.

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