19th 2009
“Barbie’s Campus” is probably a lot like yours

Posted under: American history, Dolls, fluff, students

Remember when most college students went to college to learn?  Yeah, me neither.  Erica at the good old days sent me some Barbie links, and lookee here what I found, ca. 1964 (via Found in Mom’s Basement).  Erica is not a historian, but she’s led me to some images that perfectly embody the current historiography on American college life in the twentieth century, with its emphasis on good times and heterosociality:


Check out the matching bedspreads in Barbie’s dorm!  She and her roommate (Midge?) must have coordinated their decor carefully.  (Click to enlarge!)  The advertising copy for Barbie’s Campus promises “four true to life campus scenes in one cardboard unit!”  Here are the other three: 







Yes, that’s right:  “Now Barbie has her own campus sweet shop!”  And below, you can see on the reverse is the drive-in movie theater and the football stadium.  (Check out the marching band and cheerleader uniforms you might have purchased for Barbie, Ken, and all of their campus pals back in the day–the “Barbie, Ken, and Midge Pep Rally Gift Set.”)

Where is the Barbie Classroom?  The Barbie Library?  The Barbie Lab Section, complete with bunsen burner and graph paper notebook?  I can’t imagine.  The Ken Frathouse Kegger?  The Midge Take Back the Night march, accessorized with a rape whistle and mace?  (Don’t laugh–my parents bought me a keychain mace canister when I moved to Philadelphia for grad school–and I carried it for 3 years!)

barbiescampus3Here’s our final scene of campus life–the very important information about what to wear in the dorm, the sweet shop, the football stadium, and the drive-in movie theater, not to mention on a “special date” and graduation (again–click to enlarge.)  Poor old Ken–Barbie gets the fabulousness, but old Ken gets boring duds like #17, “Fountain Boy,” #18, “Sleeper Set” (when has a man EVER called pajamas a “sleeper set?), #19 “Fraternity Meeting,” #20 “Campus Hero” (who looks suspiciously like George W. Bush’s photos of his cheerleader days at Yale), and finally, the dopiest of all, #21, “Terry Togs.”  Yes, it’s Ken in a bathrobe, complete with “scuffs and accessories.”  I wonder how those sold, compared to the pink tulle “New Look” silhouette dress Barbie’s wearing as “Campus Queen?”  That was surely outdated by 1964–think about Jackie Kennedy’s soigne sleeveless sheath dresses, cut to the knee– but as anyone who was a girl in the late twentieth (or early 21st) century can tell you, big pink dresses are always in style for Barbie.


19 Responses to ““Barbie’s Campus” is probably a lot like yours”

  1. squadratomagico on 19 Mar 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I personally like the “masquerade ball” outfits, with parti-colored satin commedia dell’arte style costumes — undoubtedly in the school colors of gold and blue. How did I miss that party as an undergrad?

  2. GayProf on 19 Mar 2009 at 10:03 am #

    So, is Ken’s “Terry Togs” outfit for enacting him sneaking off to the gay bathhouse?

  3. squadratomagico on 19 Mar 2009 at 10:29 am #

    What’s that object Barbie is leaning on in the “knit separates” vignette?

  4. Historiann on 19 Mar 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Sq.–it looks to me like she’s holding a pair of orange trousers, which are listed as included along with the top and skirt (and scarf and shoes). Daring color choice! But then, if you’ll wear a harlequin costume, I suppose you’ll wear anything.

  5. squadratomagico on 19 Mar 2009 at 10:49 am #

    It’s true… I’ll wear anything.

  6. Penny on 19 Mar 2009 at 11:09 am #

    A dorm room made of cardboard is pretty realistic, though! (In the mid-80s there were dorms at Penn State that were still “temporary” quonset-style housing from the 1940s. Probably a lot of other campuses have equally dodgy structures.)

  7. Indyanna on 19 Mar 2009 at 11:29 am #

    This has got to be EARLY 1964 at the latest, when the numbness of the Kennedy assasination was still the controlling event. In February the Beatles hit the Beach (Miami) and took Manhattan, a Black Muslim became the heavyweight champion, some enemy speedboats ganged up on a U.S. destroyer, and the kids went crazy. I’ll bet the ’65 catalogue was even sneaking a few discrete roach clips into the background noise of the picture. Or not…

  8. Moria on 19 Mar 2009 at 1:35 pm #

    (Don’t laugh–my parents bought me a keychain mace canister when I moved to Philadelphia for grad school–and I carried it for 3 years!)

    Lady, you ain’t alone.

    I kinda want hopped-up-on-stims, hasn’t-showered-in-three-days, triple-major, psychologically doomed polymath Barbie who gets emotionally deader by the day and compensates by wearing peculiar (unwashed) clothing. Just by way of contrast, and so that the Wesleyan kids I undergradded alongside have something to identify with when they come to visit. You know. Don’t want to leave anyone out.

  9. Erica on 19 Mar 2009 at 3:02 pm #

    I love “entire campus fits into this case.” Don’t you wish it was that easy to walk to classes? (Or maybe it’s all distance learning — eek!)

  10. Janice on 19 Mar 2009 at 3:20 pm #

    Barbie didn’t get to do the labs, unless they were in the Home Ec department. Barbie got told that she couldn’t study Greek, because it was only “for men” (which made Barbie wonder what exactly it was that Greek women spoke). Midge was advised by the nice old professor to just focus on getting her Mrs. and not waste her time on that nasty ol’ B.S.

    Barbie also got a lot of nasty looks when it came to be game time. Most of these came from Ken because he wanted to be wearing the quarterback’s uniform, not stuck as a drum major! But then Ken thought better of complaining because, after all!, this was the 1950s and some nasty type in marketing could have made him wear a beanie, fergawdsake!

  11. Historiann on 19 Mar 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Janice, I think you’re right about Barbie and Midge, but on Ken, I’m with GayProf: Ken didn’t want to be QB. Ken was envious of his beard because her wardrobe was so much more fabulous!

  12. squadratomagico on 19 Mar 2009 at 5:05 pm #

    It appears from the advertisements that Ken’s clothes also fit a young gentleman named “Allen.” Coincidence? I think not.

  13. Ink on 19 Mar 2009 at 7:35 pm #

    This is fabulous and horrifying, all at once!

    How would Barbie’s sweet shop skirt *ever* fit into those student desks?

    Ken is not just “hard to recognize” when dressed as a harlequin–he’s freakishly scary!

  14. Tenured Radical on 20 Mar 2009 at 7:08 am #

    You forgot to post lesbian feminist Women Against Pornography Barbie.

  15. Historiann on 20 Mar 2009 at 9:06 am #

    Squadratomagico is very sharp-eyed! Here’s more on Allan–from the same website, under a tag called “homobilia.”

  16. Lilian Nattel on 20 Mar 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    This is why I’m glad that Dora is now going to middle school and still exploring intellectual territory.

  17. Historiann on 20 Mar 2009 at 1:33 pm #

    Lilian–I saw that. And it looks like most of her skin is covered, and she doesn’t have giganticly disproportionate breasts–so call it a victory for girls everywhere!

  18. Driving “Miss Barbie?” : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 21 Apr 2009 at 6:50 am #

    [...] treated you to Barbie’s Campus last month, courtesy of Found in Mom’s Basement (and thanks again to Erica at the good old days for the [...]

  19. Mary Lynn on 27 Jan 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    I had all of this stuff. It looked like when my big sister went to college in 1964. Let me tell you, that same campus looked very different by 1974.

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