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Barbie is the world's best selling doll and was first sold on March 9, 1959. The best selling Barbie was one released in 1992, Totally Hair Barbie , with stylable hair so long it reached from her head down to her toes.



Ruth Handler had noted that her daughter Barbara preferred playing with paper dolls that looked like adults rather than like children. When in Europe, she noticed a German doll named Lilli and bought it for Barbara.

Lilli was a gold-digging character from a "racy" comic strip drawn by Reinhard Beuthin for die Bild Zeitung , and the Lilli doll began to be sold in Germany in 1955. It was marketed to adults, not children: M. G. Lord, in her Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll, characterized the original doll as a "gag gift for men, a pornographic character."

Ruth Handler says that when she bought Lilli for her daughter, she was ignorant of its adult nature. Ruth Handler and Elliott Handler, the co-founders of Mattel, bought the rights to market Lilli: with a hair color change from blonde to brunette, and a name change to Barbie (after Ruth's daughter Barbara) she was sold in the United States starting in 1959 at New York's annual Toy Fair.

The first Barbie doll had a black-and-white striped swimsuit and signature ponytail. In the succeeding years, Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson based Barbie doll fashion designs on the Paris fashions.

Ruth Handler had stated that she thought it "was important to a girl's esteem that she play with a doll with breasts," and Barbie was certainly qualified to be that doll. If the doll originally marketed were human-sized, her measurements would have been 39"-18"-33". These measurements were not based on actual human metrics, and the unrealistic size of Barbie has been controversial, with many suggesting that playing with Barbie decreases rather than enhances a girl's self-esteem. In response to criticism, Mattel adjusted the chest measurement down, and the waist measurement up, though the proportions are still uncharacteristic of most women.

Redesigned by Jack Ryan and manufactured by Mattel, this one doll is a $1.9 billion dollar a year industry, with two Barbies being bought every second.

Biography of Barbara Millicent Roberts

Barbie's fictional biography has developed as her sales continued. She has been given the fuller name Barbara Millicent Roberts, and a family and friends have been manufactured for her, starting with her permanent beau Ken. Additions to the family tree included Skipper (debut 1964), twins Tutti and Todd , Stacie (1992), and Kelly (1995). Barbie has dated Ken since 1961, and after a long estrangement was reuinited with her best friend Midge in the mid-nineties. Other longstanding friends in Barbie's ethnically diverse social circle include Teresa , Christie , Steven (Christie 's boyfriend), and Alan , Midge's boyfriend whom she married in 1990 and now has two children with). Barbie is still said to attend Willows High School in Willows, Wisconsin.

Barbie has thirty-eight recorded pets, including cats and dogs, horses, a panda, a lion cub, and a zebra. Barbie has used her driver's license to the fullest, with pink convertibles, trailers and more. She also has a pilot's license , and operates commercial airliners, while not serving as a stewardess.

Barbie and Ken's Break-up

On February 12, 2004, just days before Valentine's, Mattel spokespeople announced the split of Barbie and Ken after 43 years of dating, saying in their press release that they "have decided to spend some time apart."

"BarbieŽ and KenŽ have always been an extraordinary couple with so much on- and off-screen chemistry," said the pair's business manager, Russell Arons, Vice President Marketing, Mattel. "In fact, they just finished wrapping their fourth movie together, 'Barbie™ as The Princess and the Pauper,' which debuts this fall. And now they feel it's time to spend some quality time – apart."

A Mattel press release ended saying "Although their future is yet to be set in "cement," one thing is for certain - BarbieŽ and KenŽ will always remain the best of friends."

2004 Campaign for Presidency

On August 12, 2004, Barbie announced she was running for the presidential office, as a member of the Party of Girls.

According to a Mattel press release: "In preparation for hitting the campaign trail, BarbieŽ consulted thousands of loyal constituents through to help finalize a platform that includes three primary issues relevant to girls - create world peace, help the homeless and poor, and take care of animals. BarbieŽ encourages girls to log onto to learn more about the BarbieŽ for President campaign and to speak up on what is important to them. BarbieŽ is partnering with The White House Project, a national nonpartisan organization devoted to advancing women's leadership, and has entered into an exclusive partnership with Toys "R" Us.
"BarbieŽ is the ultimate ambassador for girls and this bid for the presidency reinforces the idea that it is never too soon to get involved and have your voice heard," says Russell Arons, Vice President Marketing, Mattel. "BarbieŽ has extensive background and experience that makes for an ideal candidate - including serving in the military, acting as a UNICEF ambassador and being a teacher; obviously, being well-educated, well-rounded and motivated is a huge plus."
"BarbieŽ for President shows girls that they can aspire to the highest levels of leadership, including the presidency. It allows girls to think about turning Barbie's dream house into the White House," says Marie C. Wilson, president and founder of The White House Project, which recently launched its "Go Vote. Go Run. Go Lead. Go Girl.™" campaign. "Since BarbieŽ is such a large part of girls' lives, we believe it's important to encourage them to become tomorrow's leaders, and BarbieŽ for President sends that message."

Cultural impact

Barbie has been used in an effort to promote gender equality, showing that women can work at anything. Career woman Barbie has taken up many occupations over the years, they include:

Many designers have been honoured with the opportunity to design clothing for Barbie. Included in the list of accomplished creators and labels are Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Bob Mackie , Nicole Miller , Christian Dior, Escada , Anne Klein , Ralph Lauren, Donatella_Versace and Bill Blass. She has also been portrayed as a tourist at Walt Disney World and a customer at McDonalds, in co-operation with The Walt Disney Company and McDonalds Corporation.


Barbie's Physical Evolution

Over the years, Barbie has evolved. Originally available as either a blonde or brunette, Barbie has changed the color of her hair many times since her introduction in 1959. Today there are ethnically diverse versions of Barbie that feature different skin tones, facial characteristics, as well as different hair colors and make-up.

One of the most publicized changes happened around the turn of the century, as Barbie's ultra-thin waist widened to more natural proportions. This change, rallied for years by some parents' and anorexia groups, is to encourage young girls not to be as hyper-actively concerned with their weight, and thus to eat more healthily and avoid eating disorders.

Other discussions

Barbie is often looked upon as an icon of Western childhood. Her popularity ensures that her effect on the play of Western children attracts unusual scrutiny.

The enormous range of available accessories relating clothes, hair, make-up, parties and looking pretty give rise to the accusation that Barbie encourages young girls to focus on shallow trivia. Her accessories reflect a lifestyle that is unobtainable for most of the girls who play with her. She also portrays an unrealistic body image; If Barbie were scaled to human proportions, she would be towering over most men and have an impossible breast size. For most of her life she was available only as a white woman of apparently European descent.

However at the time Barbie was released, most dolls were baby substitutes, rather than adult dolls, and it could be said that Barbie's very existence encouraged girls to play outside the traditional role of housewife and mother. The range of professions for which Barbie accessories can be bought has been expanded recently, including doctor, politician, US Marine and paralympic athlete. Barbies with different racial characteristics have also become available in recent decades.

Because Barbie is a cultural icon in the United States, and the dolls are inexpensive and easily obtained, artists have referred to Barbie and her accompanying products, either as homage or as parody. The Mattel Corporation disapproves of many of these uses for the dolls, and has used trademark and copyright claims to attempt to suppress them.

"Barbie" is often used as a derogatory slang word to mean that a person, particularly a girl or woman, is stupid, as in "Barbie brain", "Barbie bimbo" or "Barbie head".

The Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia outlawed Barbie dolls on September 10, 2003.

Pop-dance band from Europe Aqua gained worldwide recognition with multi-platinum international hit "Barbie Girl". It led to a lawsuit filed by Mattel. The lawsuit was later dismissed.


Mattel estimates that there are well over 100,000 avid Barbie collectors. Ninety-percent are women, at an average age of 40, purchasing more than 20 Barbie dolls each year. Forty-five-percent of them spend upwards of $1000 a year.

Related Merchandise

The mid-1990s saw a line of early novels, featuring her adventurous exploits. By the late-1990s, Mattel had moved to featuring her in interactive 3D video games for both gaming consoles and personal computers. In recent years, she has taken the computer animated movie industry by storm, guest appearing in Toy Story 2, and later her own direct-to-video movies, Barbie's Nutcracker , The Princess and the Pauper and Rapunzel Barbie , all of which were accompanied by small product lines, including dolls of Barbie in the costumes portrayed in the shorts. Though not feature length, they are fairly abundant in plot, for the younger audience, of course.


Collector Edition - Dolls produced in limited quantities. Designed for collectors and display. Usually they come in showcase packaging [a stand and a Certificate of Authenticity].

Customized - Dolls created exclusively for a specific store. Usually they come in showcase packaging [a stand and a Certificate of Authenticity].

Limited Edition - Dolls produced in limited quantities worldwide. Limited to specific retailers. Featuring special fabrics and details. Designed for collectors and display. They come in showcase packaging [a stand and a Certificate of Authenticity included].

Modern Barbie - Dolls produced after 1972.

OSS - Dolls with original swimsuit.

Ponytail - This denotes the age and type of Barbie a particular doll is. There are five types:

#1 - 1959; original; white irises; blue liner; feet holes; body aging whitens material.
#2 - 1959; white irises; blue liner; body aging whitens material.
#3 - 1960; blue irises; softer curved eyebrows.
#4 - 1960; body vinyl retain color.
#5 - 1961; hair texture new; lighter in weight; hollow body.

Timeless Treasures™ - Celebrity or character dolls.

Twist 'N Turn Waist - A movable waist of mid-1960s and later Barbie doll [or a variation].

Vintage Barbie - All dolls produced before 1972.


1958: Ruth Handler develops the idea of Barbie.
1959: Barbie debuts. The vintage era of Barbie begins.
1960: Barbie dolls number 3 and 4 are released.
1961: Number 5 is released featuring different hair colors. Enchanted Evening debuts. Barbie boyfriend Ken debuts.
1963: Fashion Queen Barbie debuts with three interchangeable wigs. BarbieŽ soon-to-be best friend, Midge, is introduced.
1964: Barbie is marketed in a pink swimsuit. Barbie doll eyes open and close. Skipper, Barbie's little sister, is introduced.
1965: Barbie "American Girl" is introduced. Fashions inspired by the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy are marketed. More lifelike with legs that bend. Miss Astronaut is introduced.
1966: Color Magic Barbie debuts. Lunch on the Terrace, Pretty as a Picture, and Shimmering Magic are marketed. Barbie’s cousin Francie introduced. Barbie’s little sister and brother, twins Tutti and Todd, debuts.
1967: Twist ‘N Turn Barbie is introduced. Fashion Shiner and Braniff Boarding Outfit are marketed.
1968: Barbie speaks for the first time (English and Spanish). Six different phrases are said, including "I have a date tonight", "I love being a fashion model", and "Let's have a costume party."
1969: Ken is reintroduced with muscles and a new head, knees that bend, and the ability to speak.
1970: Living Barbie is introduced. She has elbows, knees, and ankles that bend. Her head, waist, arms, hands, and legs swivel.
1971: Malibu Barbie debuts. Growin’ Pretty Hair Barbie debuts. BarbieŽ doll's demure side-glancing eyes now look straight ahead.
1972: This is the year that the modern era of Barbie begins. Walk-Lively BarbieŽ and Talking Busy Barbie are introduced. Talking Busy Barbie can communicate. Talking Busy Barbie has rotating wrists and hands can hold accessories.
1973: Quick Curl Barbie is introduced. Ken doll's hair comes with straight or curly hair and a removable beard, sideburns and two moustaches.
1974: Barbie turns sixteen. A section of Times Square in New York City is renamed Barbie Boulevard for a week.
1975: Barbie Olympic skier, gymnast and skater are marketed poseable with a "gold" medal. Barbie Get-Ups 'N Go new careers as a doctor, surgical nurse, ballerina and a flight attendant. BarbieŽ Dream Boat is introduced.
1976: Ballerina Barbie debuts. BarbieŽ of the Century for the bicentennial celebration is dressed in a red, white, and blue dress. Her red skirt is decorated with the American flag. A line of revolutionary soldiers in uniform are also supplied.
1977: SuperStar Barbie is introduced. Eighteen inches tall Super Size BarbieŽ debuts.
1978: SuperStar Barbie gets the SuperStar Stage Show. Fashion Photo BarbieŽ has photo shoots posing on a modeling stand.
1979: Pretty Changes Barbie debuts.
1980: Black Barbie, Hispanic Barbie, and the International Collection are marketed. The International Collection initially including Italian Barbie, Parisian Barbie, and Royal U.K. Barbie. The first Barbie doll convention is held.
1981: Western Barbie doll goes country with Westward Ho and Classic Cowgirl. Dallas, her palomino horse, debuts.
1982: Pink & Pretty Barbie debuts. Black Magic Curl Barbie debuts. Eskimo Barbie and India Barbie are added to the International Collection.
1983: Twirly Curls BarbieŽis marketed. Dream Date Barbie dates Ken. Angel Face Barbie has her own makeup line. Swedish Barbie and Spanish Barbie are added to the International Collection.
1984: Barbie doll's 25th Anniversary. Barbie & Ken Day is declared by New York Mayor Ed Koch. Tiffany's creates a sterling silver Barbie doll. The International Collection becomes the Dolls of the World Collection. Swiss BarbieŽ and Irish Barbie are introduced.
1985: Day-to-Night Barbie debuts. Andy Warhol releases his Barbie painting. Barbie doll exhibition finishes its travels from France and nine U.S. cities.
1986: Barbie joins a band, The Rockers. Dream Glow Fashions that glow in the dark is marketed. Blue Rhapsody Barbie is introduced. It is the first Limited Edition collector Barbie doll. It is the first porcelain doll. Astronaut Barbie travels to space. Peruvian Barbie and Greek Barbie debut.
1987: Barbie's wild Concert Tour fashions take a cue from pop star Madonna. The World Collection adds Icelandic Barbie and German Barbie.
1988: The Happy Holidays Series debuts. Benefit Performance 1967 BarbieŽ is added to the Limited Edition porcelain dolls. Mardis Gras Barbie debuts. Canadian Barbie and Korean Barbie are introduced.
1989: Barbie doll's 30th Anniversary. 1200 Pink Jubilee Barbie are given to invitation-only attendees. Army Barbie is marketed.
1990: Sophisticated Lady Barbie is added to the Limited Edition Porcelain Collection. Bob Mackie Gold Barbie is introduced with over 5,000 golden sequins and beads. It is Dolls magazine's "1990 Award of Excellence" and Doll Reader magazine's "Doty Doll of the Year Award." Air Force Barbie debuts. Nigerian Barbie and Brazilian Barbie join the Dolls of the World.
1991: Starlight Splendor Barbie and Platinum Barbie are added to the long line. Navy Barbie doll is introduced. Gay Parisienne Barbie doll is marketed. Czechoslovakian Barbie debuts.
1992: Stacie is introduced. Marine Corps Barbie debuts. Barbie store opens at FAO Schwarz in New York. Crystal Rhapsody Barbie debuts is the first mail-order Barbie doll. It is part of the Presidential Porcelain Barbie Collection. Neptune Fantasy Barbie and Empress Bride Barbie are marketed. Benefit Ball Barbie of the Classique Collection is introduced.
1993: 1920s Flapper Barbie and Gibson Girl Barbie of the Great Eras Collection are introduced. The First Edition Native American Barbie debuts and is added to the World Collection. The Masquerade Ball Barbie debuts.
1994: Barbie doll’s 35th Anniversary. Mattel reproduces the original number 1 Barbie. Limited Edition Jubilee Barbie is introduced and only 5,000 were made for domestic distribution. Kenyan Barbie and Chinese Barbie join Dolls of the World. Hollywood Legends Collection begins with as Scarlet O' Hara Barbie. Queen of Hearts Barbie is marketed.
1995: Mattel’s 50th Anniversary. Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Barbie is released. Kelly is introduced. The second doll in the Hollywood Legends Collection with Dorothy Barbie from The Wizard of Oz is introduced. Goddess of the Sun Barbie debuts. Rapunzel Barbie debuts as part of the new Children’s Collector Series.
1996: Barbie web site is available. Moon Goddess Barbie debuts. Barbie Millicent Roberts Collection debuts. Limited Edition Vintage Reproduction Poodle Parade Barbie is introduced. Hollywood Legends Collection features Barbie as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.
1997: Harley-Davidson Barbie, a Toys 'R Us and Harley-Davidson dealership exclusive, debuts. Official BarbieŽ Collector’s Club debuts. Marilyn Barbie is added to the Hollywood Legends Collection. Grand Premier Barbie doll, the first doll for club members only is marketed. Limelight Barbie is introduced. Billions of Dreams Barbie debuts. Classic Ballet Series with Sugar Plum Fairy Barbie.
1998: Sunflower Barbie, second in the Artist Series, is marketed. Happy Holidays Barbie doll series ends. Timeless Sentiments Collection is introduced with the Angel of Joy Barbie. Nolan Miller's Sheer Illusion BarbieŽ and Vera Wang's bridal gown Barbie debut. Harley-Davidson Barbie #2 is released.
1999: Silken Flame Barbie doll selected as a 1960s lifestyle for the U.S. Postal Service's Celebrate the Century™ stamp series. Le Papillon™ Barbie and Crystal Jubilee Barbie debuts. Barbie doll's 40th Anniversary. New face sculpting is used on Coca-Cola Barbie, NASCAR Official #94 Barbie, and Barbie in the Barbie and Kenny Country Duet Set. Collector Edition 40th Anniversary Barbie is released. Gala Edition 40th Anniversary Barbie has a very Limited Edition of 20,000 dolls which are given to Toy Fair Gala attendees.
2000: Barbie for President debuts. Limited Edition dolls production is reduced to quantities of 35,000 or less. Barbie celebrates the year 2000! BarbieŽ 2000, Millennium Wedding™, and Sydney 2000™ Olympic Pin Collector become part of the Most Collectible Doll In The World series. Hollywood Movie Star™ Collection with Barbie as part of the Golden Age of Hollywood is marketed. Barbie Fashion Model Collection debuts. Barbie Silkstone™ is introduced
2001: The Cher Barbie doll debuts. Jeannie Barbie From I Dream of Jeannie™ and The Munsters™ Barbie Lily and Ken Herman Munster are introduced.
2003: Saudi Arabia's "Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" (the muttawa or "religious police") declares that Barbie's provocative clothing is offensive to Islam. The doll is already banned in the kingdom as a "Jewish" toy, but are available as contraband. "Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful."


In Sweden, more Barbie dolls have been sold than the country's current population.

There is a gene in the Drosophila fruit-fly called the "ken and barbie" gene (abbreviated ken). When this gene is absent, the flies form without external genitalia.


The ken and barbie gene encoding a putative transcription factor with a BTB domain and three zinc finger motifs functions in terminalia development of Drosophila. Lukacsovich T, Yuge K, Awano W, Asztalos Z, Kondo S, Juni N, Yamamoto D. Arch Insect Biochem Physiol. 2003 Oct;54(2):77-94.'

External links


  • Official Barbie from Mattel
  • Official Barbie Collectibles


  • "Religious police take after Barbie " by Paul Martin
  • "Saudis don't like Christians, Jews, and Barbie " by J. Grant Swank, Jr.
  • "Coverup girl " by Susan Taylor Martin
  • "The Littlest Harlot " by Tracy Quan
  • "Barbie Anthropology " by Xah Lee.

Last updated: 02-08-2005 15:33:44
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38