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ABC Doll Club

The Barbie® Doll appeared at the New York Toy Fair in February 1959. She was the result of many years hard work by Ruth Handler to create a 3-dimensional doll onto which girls could project their future hopes and dreams, such as her daughter Barbara did when playing with paper dolls. Heretofore, most dolls marketed for children had placed them firmly in the role of "Mommy". Barbie® broke that mould forever.

Although the doll initially met with criticism from those at Toy Fair, it was not long before they changed their tune. Barbie® was an instant hit with children (helped along, no doubt, by the canny advertising techniques employed by Ruth and Elliot Handler, founders of Mattel) and has evolved constantly throughout the decades to remain the best-selling doll world-wide.

The sixties saw Barbie® experiment with the latest hairstyles; a ponytail with bangs, a new swirly ponytail do, the famous bouffant 'bubblecut', a range of different wigs and the pageboy 'American Girl' style, while keeping the latest fashions in her wardrobe. Barbie®'s clothing was the very height of high couture fashion, with outfits inspired by fashion designers such as Givenchy, Dior and Balenciaga. From career girl in a tailored suit, lounge singer in tight fitting gown, to 'girl next door' in jeans and t-shirt, it was becoming apparent that Barbie® could do anything!

1964 saw two new Barbie® innovations: bendable legs and sleep eyes (which made Miss Barbie® look somewhat alien!). Two years later another innovation - 'colour magic' - allowed children to change the colour of Barbie®'s hair and clothing.

The biggest change of all (so far) came in 1967 when Barbie® was completely re-vamped as a very mod Miss. Barbie® now had a new face mould and real rooted eyelashes, a body with bendy legs and twisty waist (TNT or twist 'n' turn) and long straight hair with fringe in a variety of colours. Barbie®'s wardrobe also took on a dramatic new look, full of all the colour and sometimes 'way out' looks of the Mod influence. In 1968 with the launch of Talking Barbie®, we finally heard Barbie®'s voice, and not just in English, but Spanish too!

The seventies brought lots of action - literally. Living Barbie® arrived on the scene with the bendiest body yet! Jointed at the neck, shoulders, elbow, wrist, waist, hip, knee and ankle, her box states she's 'as poseable as you are'! Live Action Barbie® followed, fully poseable, she danced on her motorised stage; Walk Lively Barbie® walked and turned her head; Busy Barbie® had pose able arms and hands that grip; and Free Moving Barbie® had a switch on her back to allow freer movement. These dolls were followed later in the decade by action themed dolls such as The Sport Set and Olympic dolls. 1971 saw Barbie® finally look ahead - up to this point her eyes had always been glancing to the right. Hair play was also big in the 70's. Hair Fair Barbie® had short hair, wigs and hairpieces; Growin' Pretty had a retractable ponytail and hairpieces and Quick Curl Barbie®'s hair has special fibres that allow the hair to curled and restyled time and time again! Barbie® also hit the beach and got a tan in the 70's. Malibu Barbie® is one of the most popular and enduring of all the Barbie® lines. 1974 saw Barbie® celebrate her 16th Anniversary as Sweet Sixteen Barbie®. Quick calculation reveals that in fact Barbie® was only 15 in 1974, but the anniversary was calculated from the year she was patented - 1958 - and not the year she was released!

1977 was a big year for Barbie® - once again she was re-invented with a new facial sculpt and a new arm sculpt too. For the first time Superstar Barbie® had a big toothy smile and her arms were now permanently bent. She was more glamorous than ever, with shiny two-tone hair and fashions reflecting the disco era. Supersize Barbie® was also released this year. Eighteen inches tall, she had the same facial and body sculpts as the 11- inch version. Kissing Barbie® made her debut in 1979. Using a unique face mould with puckered mouth, this doll would lift her head and kiss, complete with smooch sound, by depressing a panel in her back.

The first book published about Barbie® as a collectible was published in 1977. The Collectors Encyclopedia of Barbie® Dolls and Collectibles by Sibyl DeWein and Joan Ashabraner was the first of it's kind, published only eighteen years after Barbie®'s debut and is still one of the foremost collector resources available!

1980 saw the Barbie® name given to a black doll for the first time! Barbie® had had black friends since 1969, but this was the first time Barbie® herself was issued as a Black doll. At first Black Barbie® dolls used what has come to be known as the Steffie face, but over the years this was changed to the Hispanic face and finally the New Christie face. Later even the >Shani, Asha and Nichelle faces were used. Hispanic Barbie® was also issued in 1980. Again this doll used the Steffie face but over the years Hispanic Barbie®s used the Hispanic face and the Teresa face.

An Internationals series soon followed with Italian Barbie®, Parisian Barbie® and Royal Barbie®. The International series eventually became the Dolls of the World series and continues today as the Princess Collection.

Perhaps one of the most peculiar looking Barbie® dolls was produced in 1981. Western Barbie® had a winking action when a panel in her back was pressed. The eyes on these dolls just tend to make Barbie® look sleepy! Barbie® continued to be issued in fashions of the 80's era, taking in the fads of designer jeans, roller-skating, the western look and the aerobics/get fit revolution. Barbie® became an astronaut in 1986 and started a rock band Barbie® and the Rockers - when she came back to earth! 1988 saw the release of the first doll in the Happy Holidays series.

The 80's also saw the first dolls designed with adult collectors in mind. In 1986 Mattel issued the first porcelain doll, Blue Rhapsody and in 1987 Feeling Groovy Barbie® designed by Billy Boy was released. Although this doll was issued as part of the regular play line, it was designed with the collector in mind too and remains one of the most beautiful and popular dolls of all time. 1981 saw the first National Barbie® doll convention held in the USA and in 1988 Barbie® Bazaar, a magazine for adult Barbie® doll collectors was launched.

Barbie® began 1990 as an UNICEF ambassador, had outfits designed by Benetton and continued the 90's in a range of issues including Happy Birthday and several swimsuit editions. In 1991, she talked again in the Teen Talk issue. This doll caused some controversy as one of the phrases uttered by some dolls was 'Math class is tough'! This doll and two others - Rappin' Rockin' and Snap and Play also had a slightly different face sculpt than the usual Superstar face issue. The biggest selling doll of all time, Totally Hair Barbie®, was issued in 1992 and in 1993, for the first time, Bedtime Barbie® was issued with a soft, rag-doll type body. 1992 also saw the first of the My Size Barbie® dolls that stand three feet high.

Collector dolls came into their own in the 1990's. Mattel issued both adult collector dolls (with a disclaimer on the box 'collectors age 14 and over') including dolls designed by Bob Mackie, Christian Dior, Givency and Vera Wang, the Classique series, Enchanted Seasons, Great Eras and Pop Culture series, and children's collector series such as American Stories and Rapunzel. The first celebrity influenced collector dolls were released in the Hollywood Legends series and included Barbie® as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Scarlet O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. The first of the Nostalgic Reproduction Series was issued in 1994 in time for Barbie®'s 35th Anniversary. A great success, dolls in this series have included Busy Gal, Solo in the Spotlight and Poodle Parade. The Porcelain Treasures Series also continued.

The late 1990's saw some changes to Barbie®'s face and body. The closed mouth Mackie face was adapted to some play line dolls, while hard plastic fully jointed poseable body was used on some dolls. Mattel experimented with a body with slimmer hips (used on the Very Velvet dolls) and the slightly differently proportioned Shani body. In 1999, a new face was launched, not very dissimilar to the Superstar face but a little slimmer.

In the 21st century, Barbie® got two new bodies. The first has come to be known as the belly button body, with non-twisting waist and wider hips. The second is the fully poseable rubber body, which has a wire armature allowing a full range of movement. Barbie® was issued in fantasy colours for the first time - pink, blue and mauve - as fairies in the Fairytopia range. Barbie® also got yet another total revamp, this time in the My Scene range. A new bigger head sculpt, new friends and a new storyline has once again seen Barbie® evolve to keep up with the changing times.

The biggest news in collector dolls came in 2000 with the introduction of the Silkstone range - a new material with the weight and feel of porcelain, but in a vinyl compound. The Silkstone Fashion Model Collection began in 2000 with the launch of two FMC Lingerie dolls, one blonde and one brunette. Each year a lingerie doll has been released as well as dressed dolls and gift sets. These dolls incorporate the nostalgia of vintage dolls and fashion in a new medium for modern collectors. Their popularity will be recognised with the 2004 45th Anniversary dolls being released in both vinyl and Silkstone editions.

Barbie® has had many siblings, dozens of friends and thousands of accessories during her 49 years. She has taken on many careers and the changing values of society. She has proven that she really can do anything and her ability to adapt and change has cemented her position as the Number One fashion doll in the world. Happy Anniversary Barbie®!

 

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