29th 2008
Friday Barbie Blogging

Posted under: childhood, Dolls, fluff, women's history


It’s been a while since I’ve posted any photos of dolls, creepy or otherwise.  Here’s the Historiann Barbie family lineup, from left to right, according to the copyrights stamped on their bums:  Barbie 1958 (the original!), Barbie 1962, Barbie ca. 1977, and Malibu Barbie 1966.  (They’re not in chronological order, because Malibu Barbie is missing a leg and had to be propped  up against the window frame.  Malibu B. has other health problems–like the creeping melanomas that she’ll surely suffer now that she’s in her 40s and still sporting that kind of a tan.)  Barbie 1958′s skin has become discolored by the copper posts of the real earrings she’s worn for 50 years now, and her hair has to be worn on top of her head because she looks rather bald otherwise.  (Note her resemblance to Dare Wright and Wright’s creation, Edith, in The Lonely Doll.)  Barbie 1962 is holding up better than all of them–she’s a survivor.

Something that we girls of the 1970s and 1980s missed out on was the quality, high-fashion Barbie clothing that was the doll’s signature from her introduction in the U.S. in 1959 until the late 1960s.  These Barbies are wearing items from a hand-knitted couture collection from the early 1960s, courtesy of a co-worker of Historiann’s grandmother, whose name is lost to history but whose remarkably detailed handiwork has survived nearly 50 years of children tugging and pulling the garments on and off.  (She must have used Barbie-scale knitting needles!  And these items are less than a fifth of the entire collection, which includes a bathing suit, an ice-skating outfit, a peignoir, a caftan, and multiple skirts and tops.)  Of course, as a child I thought these clothes were dorky and old-fashioned compared to the sleazy, poorly manufactured but more contemporary fashions that Barbie ca. 1977 and Malibu Barbie came with, but then, I used to think Sean Cassidy and Leif Garrett were pretty great, too.


11 Responses to “Friday Barbie Blogging”

  1. Sisyphus on 29 Feb 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    Those knits are amazing! And the fit of them! Whoa.

    I too had the barbies kitted out in mylar and polyester crap with ravelly metallic threads fraying off them. With the occasional home-made piece. Unfortunately, because it was the 80s, I got the bright idea to magic marker new makeup on them all, Gem-style, both my new ones and my sister’s hand-me-downs from the 60s. Sigh. So I can’t sell them to collectors for the big bucks. Ah well.

  2. Historiann on 29 Feb 2008 at 3:02 pm #

    Hi, Sis! My favorite Barbie re-model was a punk Barbie I made, but which has long since been lost or destroyed. (And, I don’t think she was a Barbie (TM), but rather a cheap knock-off. Because she was a knock-off, it was easier to cut her hair into a Mohawk because her hair was rooted only down the center part and on top only, not all over the head like real Barbies.)

    Don’t despair that your re-models have deprived you of the E-Bay cash-in potential; Barbies who were actually played with (or out of the box at all, in fact) have little if any value for collectors. I think that’s a disturbing comment on contemporary gender, sexuality, and commercial value: the most sought-after Barbies are those still preserved in their original boxes, as though embalmed, never touched by children’s hands.

  3. Baudrillard's Bastard on 29 Feb 2008 at 4:17 pm #

    more new books

    A couple of days ago I received a little book catalog from the University of Georgia Press. Normally I skim this type of catalog and post a list of books that I find of interest. I do this so I will not forget the book titles. However, this time, I wil…

  4. Susan on 29 Feb 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    Love the outfits — that blue is to die for. My grandmother made clothing for my sister’s and my Princess Alexandra dolls. I still have them — a fur stole, “new look” dresses, etc. It’s terrific. If she’s really lucky I let my granddaughter play with them.

  5. Mother of ALL on 01 Mar 2008 at 9:28 am #

    If Historiann is a really good girl (playing well with others, etc.) she just may get a gander at another collection just remembered by Mother of ALL. I had a collection of Ginny Dolls which I belive still reside with my sister. The mention of a fur stole for the Madam Alexander dolls recalled this useless bit of info in my too-full head. (Where is the delete key when you need it.) Keep up the good and eclectic work.

  6. Vance Maverick on 01 Mar 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Historiann — collectors prefer untouched Star Wars merchandise, too, not just Barbies. It’s creepy, all right, but I don’t think it has to do specifically with gender and sexuality.

  7. GayProf on 01 Mar 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    Malibu B. has other health problems–like the creeping melanomas that she’ll surely suffer now that she’s in her 40s and still sporting that kind of a tan.

    This wins the prize for the most amusing thing that I have seen on any blog all week.

  8. Historiann on 01 Mar 2008 at 9:50 pm #

    Well, that is quite the compliment, GayProf! Thanks! (And perhaps a little revealing of Historiann’s health worries, she having had a few too many really bad sunburns back in Malibu B.’s heyday–when she had both legs!)

    Vance–you’re right about the resale potential other “action figures” made for children–it’s not a strictly gendered thing, although I think it’s odd to fetishize the pristine quality of the toy in the box. That old song by Aqua back in 1996 keeps going through my head, though: “I’m just a Barbie Girl, in my Barbie world/Wrapped in plastic, it’s fantastic!”

  9. Knitting Clio on 02 Mar 2008 at 5:45 am #

    Fabulous examples of fiber art! Do you have the patterns?

  10. Historiann on 02 Mar 2008 at 8:26 am #

    No–I don’t, and I don’t even know who might. They weren’t made by a family member, and I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else. I wonder if knitting the Barbie clothes was just this woman’s particular hobby?

  11. Wendy on 02 Mar 2008 at 8:45 am #

    Knitting Clio

    Try E-Bay for vintage Barbie patterns.

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