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!)
Here’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 That was surely outdated by 1964–think about Jackie Kennedy’s soigne sleeveless sheath dresses, cut to the knee– but as anyone who was a girl in the late twentieth (or early 21st)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.
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