Barbie Through The Ages: The History Of The Most Iconic Doll

All the best iterations, and the most controversial.
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Today when you take a stroll down Barbie Lane, among the classic blonde-haired blue-eyed dolls you can find Barbies with disabilities, more realistic body proportions, a more diverse range of skin tones and their latest addition to the line: a Barbie with Down Syndrome. By making Barbie more inclusive, Barbie is certainly everything, but she’s also for everyone and, as such, she’ll capture hearts and imaginations for generations to come.

To celebrate the new film, we look back on some of the moments that made Barbie an icon.

Dream Dates

Ken [above] met the blonde bombshell on the set of a TV ad in 1961 and the pair became a couple. Their relationship was steady for more than 40 years until a shock split was announced in 2004. The culprit? A body-boarding bronzed Aussie named Blaine. In 2006, Ken won back his girl.

(Credit: Getty.)

Ditzy Teen To Madam President 

The controversial Teen Talk Barbie was introduced in 1992. A programmed voice box that uttered such phrases as “Math class is tough” and “Want to go shopping?” brought into focus outdated gender stereotypes. The same year, however, Barbie became the first female president of the United States, and has achieved the same feat every election year since (except ’96) – something yet to happen in reality.

(Credit: Getty.)

Doll’s House

Bettina Dorfmann with a fraction of her Barbie collection in her home in Dusseldorf, Germany. With more than 15,000, she owns the largest private collection in the world. Dorfmann has written books on the values of sought- after Barbies and repairs vintage dolls.

(Credit: Getty.)

Noughties Icon

The icon was given the Saturday Night Live treatment by guest host Britney Spears in 2002 (right). Pop group Aqua had a 1997 hit with “Barbie Girl”, a song Mattel tried to sue the band over but has since embraced.


King Karl

Released in 2014, Barbie Lagerfeld was made in Karl’s image, with a tailored black jacket, white high-collared men’s shirt with French cuffs, a black satin cravat and fitted jeans. She is adorned in accessories that include black fingerless gloves, sunglasses, black ankle boots and a black leather purse with silver metallic accents

(Credit: Getty.)

J’adore Dior

Barbie has been dressed exclusively by fashion house Christian Dior several times throughout her life. In 1997, she wore a wasp-waisted Dior “New Look” outfit (circa 1947) in cream and black with gloves. Under her pleated wool skirt are a mesh crinoline and black stockings with garters. Topping off the look is a pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings


Mackie Models

Celebrated costume and gown designer Bob Mackie made Barbie history with the first of his designer collaboration collection in 1990. Mackie Barbies are still created today and are highly popular with collectors. Pictured right is the 45th anniversary Bob Mackie Barbie.


Check Her Out

In 2001, Barbie wore British Burberry for the first time. Lisa Gaudio, Mattel vice-president for Barbie Collectibles, said, “Burberry is one of fashion’s most respected houses and we are honoured to have Barbie dressed in its signature plaid.”


Barbie Core

All-pink everything is so hot right now but it’s largely thanks to former Moschino designer Jeremy Scott, whose 2015 collection (left) was a homage to the plastic princess. “Like every girl and gay boy, I loved Barbie,” Scott said. “It’s hard not to; she’s practically perfect.” Singer Kacey Musgraves (below) wore Moschino to the 2019 Met Gala.
(Credit: Getty.)

Icon Status

After TV host Giuliana Rancic critiqued Zendaya’s Oscars hair in 2015, Mattel created a doll in Zendaya’s honour. The actor said, “When I was little I couldn’t find a Barbie that looked like me … how times have changed. Thank you Barbie for this honour and for allowing me to be a part of your diversification.”


Barbie Is For Everyone

In recent years, Mattel has created a more diverse range to ensure every child feels represented. In April it introduced Down Syndrome Barbie (right) after working with the US Down Syndrome Society. There are now also wheelchairs, prosthetics, 35 skin tones, 97 hairstyles and nine body types.

This article originally appeared in the July issue of marie claire Australia.

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