expo 67 lounge

Mid-century fashion, vintage pop culture and retro cool... from Expo 67 and beyond.

10 November 2006

The Barbie Doll

Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959.

The doll was the idea of Ruth Handler, the wife of a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. She was inspired by watching her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, giving them adult roles. It occured to Ruth that the toy market lacked an adult-figured fashion doll. Initially, her husband didn't like the idea and neither did Mattel's board of directors.

On a trip to Germany in 1965, Ruth Handler discovered the Bild Lili doll in a shop window. The adult-fugured Lili was exactly what Ruth had in mind. Lili was modeled after a sassy comic strip character in a daily German newspaper. Interestingly, the original Lili dolls were cigar store items aimed at an adult male audience.

Ruth Handler brought 3 Lili dolls back with her to the United States. She reworked the doll's design and named her after her daughter Barbara.

Barbie, the teenage fashion model, was born.

The late 50's and early 60's is my favorite era of the Barbie doll. The dolls and clothes of this time were of superior quality, with tiny buttons, zippers and an amazing attention to detail. In fashion, this was the Jackie-O era, and this look is reflected in the Barbie dolls of that period.

images: (top) morganhilltimes.com
(bottom) personal collection

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