Saturday, April 24, 2010

Style lessons from Barbie

Taking a break from the regularly scheduled outfit post, I thought I'd share with you some of my childhood favorites: Barbies.

 From l. to r.: Barbie Loves Elvis Barbie, "I Love Lucy" Barbie, Wedding Day Redhead Barbie, Sugarplum Fairy Barbie and Scarlett O'Hara "Gone with The Wind" Barbie.

This past Easter, I visited my mom's house, where I rediscovered my Barbie dolls and decided to save some of them from their closet confinement. Growing up, they were my first obsession, much like anyone collecting baseball or Pokemon cards. I loved dressing them up and creating complex personalities and life choices for them. Some of them were doctors, journalists, actresses, gymnasts, surfers. Sometimes they would ride in the Barbie RV and go camping, until something went horribly wrong (the Kelly doll would mysteriously go missing) or soap opera-ish (Ken would propose to Barbie; she would break off their monotonous relationship to elope with the Prince from "Beauty and the Beast."). The Barbie Birthday Party at Disney World got played ad nauseum in my home VCR ("In Barbie's world, there's nothing you can't do!"). It was a lot of fun with this collection growing up, as cheesy as it sounds.
I had quite a few, but many met their destiny during the Great Migration To The Attic of 2000 and the Great Purge of 2003 (done by my parents while I was at summer camp -- good thing I wasn't there because I would have hoarded like crazy). These are the only ones I have left from those days, mainly because of their collectible status and that they were in original packaging throughout most of my childhood. In a fit of impulsiveness in my teens, I took them out of their boxes and haven't regretted the choice because I can't see myself ever selling them.
Though they get more shelf time than play time as I've grown up, they've served as good childhood reminders and sartorial inspiration over the years.
I thought it would be fun to take a look at them again:

Acquired in 1998 as a birthday gift from my grandfather. I think I had spotted her at the toy store and wanted her for months. I think a few Lucy-inspired Barbies were introduced that year, but this one is based on the iconic Vitameatavegamin "Lucy Does a TV Commercial" episode. I adore this doll because of the classic, always-in-style  items she's wearing: pearls, suitdress, peeptoes and hat. I love the 1950s aesthetic here and especially love the asymmetrical design of her dress. This Barbie also introduced more of Lucille Ball's work to me, which was a huge plus. 

 Acquired in 1998 as a birthday gift from my parents. This doll came with a dancing partner -- specifically, the aforementioned Elvis with a guitar, microphone and swiveling hips. I couldn't find Elvis in my closet when I visited home, but I know he hasn't left the building and he better still have his guitar. Anyways, about Barbie. She's obviously based on the classic, vintage style-doll with the cat eyes and bangs, and I think she looks a bit like a Hitchcock heroine (would look even more so if she swapped outfits with the Lucy Barbie). I love her cashmere sweater, pearls, scarf and saddle shoes and think all of those items could work in various ways today. I covet her whole outfit.
I love this one. I got her probably around Christmas 1997. She's based on the original 1961 bridal Barbie. I loved her dress so much growing up that I had it in the back of my mind when I went dress shopping for my own wedding (although I ultimately went with something else). I love that she incorporates something old, new and borrowed with her pearl necklace, earrings and veil. Her something blue is a flowered garter (see above photo). That seemed so provocative in my 10-year-old eyes. Nevertheless, she was the star of many jilted, "will-they-or-won't-they?" soap opera episodes in my anthology of Barbie tales.

Acquired around 1997. I think she was originally Nikki's doll, which would explain why she isn't wearing her original dress. Nik was more into costume swapping than I was. Anyways, I love her show hair and ballet slippers. For some reason, her chest is a different color than her body, and I think it was like that when we bought her and not due to aging. She looks a little like Taylor Swift in the "Love Story" music video.

I saved the best for last. I got her for my 10th birthday as a gift from my parents. I spent six months or so scoping out this particular doll at KB Toys. I am a pretty big fan of the "Gone with the Wind" book and movie (I even visited Margaret Mitchell's home recently), and loved Vivien Leigh's work as the female protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. There were many versions of Scarlett made in the Hollywood Legends series, and my sister had the Barbeque Scene Barbie (whose head popped off at one point). This particular Scarlett is based on the scene in which Scarlett has to confront the town at Ashley's birthday party after some unsavory gossip about her and the birthday boy. She doesn't want to go, but her husband Rhett Butler forces her to go and makes her wear the most dramatic, seductive dress in her closet. Of all of my Barbie collection, she was always the Queen Bee; the doll just seems to ooze authority and beauty all at once. Mattel got every detail right from the movie with this doll -- the chandelier earrings, satin gloves, bejeweled gown and curled updo. The only downside to this one is that her dress of "feathers" likes to shed red fluff around the house, but other than that she is still a great doll. Maybe one day I'll get her a Rhett Butler doll to bicker with...

Do you have any Barbie or favorite toy memories?

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  1. This is AWESOME. Not only am I a huge Barbie fan, but I had that same Sugarplum Fairy Barbie. So pretty!

    You should do a theme of outfits inspired by Barbie clothes. I'm kind of tempted to myself...

  2. I looooved playing with Barbies when I was little! I think they're all up in my parents attic...

    I really enjoyed reading about each one of yours - such nice stories. I especially love the Scarlett O'Hara of my favorite characters ever (and one of my all time favorite movies!)

  3. Awww, I love Barbie! I used to have this Barbie store play set. It came w/ counters and little Barbie plastic shopping bags. I must still have it somewhere...

  4. These are wonderful! I only had more modern, nothing special barbies. But I did have about a million different possible outfits for them! Ahh so fun!

  5. Oh I loved playing with Barbies! My mom says I put together cute outfits now because of all my experience creating Barbie outfit! lol
    I really want one of those Lucy dolls for my mom--she's such a fan and she'd love it!

  6. I LOVED barbie growing up - although I had Sindy's too - I spent hours playing with them :D

    The Wedding Dress Barbie is wearing looks v similar to my wn wedding dress hehe.

    The I love lucy barb scares me a little - not sure why though!!



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