Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Barbie Barometer

It's Barbie's 50th Birthday today. I feel a connection with the diminutive fashion model, not because I have a 21 inch waist (I don't), but because I'll be reaching that milestone later this year.

Over a billion Barbies have been sold since her birth in 1959, and economists estimate that a Barbie doll is sold every three seconds. Over the last half century her clothing, hairstyles and careers have c
hanged to reflect current North American society. She traveled beyond our borders, taking in all cultures.

Her life reads like an epic Romance novel, with challenges, goals, love, marriage and tragedy. Barbie and Ken broke up in 2004, only to be reunited later.

I had one or two Barbies as a girl, but not enough to satisfy me. To feed my habit, I joined forces with my cousin Kim and together we sat at the bottom step of her back door and concocted complicated plots and adventures for our hapless heroines.

Our girls got into many scrapes a la Avengers -- they lived through danger and i
ntrigue. To protect the guilty, I'm not permitted to reveal the details of such plots. Let's just say our heroines were ultimately rescued by Ken.

I guess those early performances planted in my brain, only to spring forth as romantic suspense plots for my novels.

Here are fifty facts about Barbie's journey, borrowed from JSOnline:

1  She was born Barbara Millicent Roberts.

2  Barbie is 11½ inches tall.

3  If Barbie were 5 feet, 6 inches tall, she would have a 39-inch bust, a 21-inch waist and 33-inch hips.

4  Barbie is the brainchild of Ruth Handler, one of the founders of Mattel.

5  Handler was inspired by a European doll called Bild-Lilli, a doll for adults that Handler said she saw in Vienna or Lucerne.

6  Handler named the Americanized doll after her daughter, Barbara.

7  In a series of novels published by Random House in the 1960s, Barbie's parents were George and Margaret Roberts who lived in the fictional town of Willows, Wis.

8  Barbie attended Willows High School but graduated from Manhattan International High School.

9  Barbie's boyfriend is Ken. He's named after Handler's real-life son, who, incidentally, hated the comparisons.

10  Barbie and Ken split up in 2004. They reunited in 2006.

11  Barbie has had more than 40 pets in her lifetime, including a panda, a lion cub and a zebra.

12  Barbie, who started her professional life as a teenage model, has had several careers.

13  Barbie has a pilot's license and can operate a commercial airliner. She has also been a flight attendant.

14  Barbie found a best friend in Midge, who was part of the Barbie lineup from 1963 to 1966.

15  Doctor Barbie debuted in 1988.

16  NASCAR Barbie came out in 1998.

17  There are more than 500 groups related to Barbie on Facebook, including one called Tequila Barbie.

18  Another group is called Divorce Barbie. "Divorce Barbie comes with Ken's boat; Ken's house; Ken's car; Ken's money;" and, well, you get the idea. Last time we checked, there were eight members.

19  In homage to Sarah Palin, there are two different Facebook groups called Caribou Barbie.

20  The first Barbie cost $3.

21  Barbie Collector Doll Pink Label 50th Anniversary Barbie Doll costs $49.99; the most expensive Barbie sold on eBay to date fetched $7,999.99.

22  Barbie had her own show with clothing from 50 fashion designers at Fashion Week last month.

23  Mattel estimates that three Barbies are sold every second.

24  Barbie has had more than 1 billion pairs of shoes.

25  Barbie is on Twitter (although inconsistently) @BarbieStyle.

26  The year Barbie was born is the same year that Xerox debuted a commercial copier.

27  Barbie dolls were sealed in a time capsule in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial celebration to be opened in 2076.

28  Malibu Barbie was introduced in the 1970s. "The Simpsons" parodies Barbie by having Lisa own a Malibu Stacy.

29  The first annual Barbie convention was held in 1980.

30  The first commercials for Barbie ran on "The Mickey Mouse Club."

31  The first Barbie doll dress designed by Bob Mackie was called "Gold."

32  Totally Hair Barbie is the best-selling Barbie of all time.

33  In 1965, the only club for children whose membership exceeded Mattel's was the Girl Scouts of America.

34  In 1967, Mattel offered a Twist 'n Turn Barbie to girls who turned in their Ponytail Barbie dolls.

35  Sidepart American Girl Barbie is considered the rarest of the tan-tone vinyl bendable leg Barbie dolls.

36  Twiggy, the model, was Barbie's first celebrity friend.

37  Early market research suggested Barbie would never sell because she had breasts; little girls wouldn't like her and parents wouldn't buy her.

38  Barbie met Ken in 1961.

39  Barbie has five baby sisters. The first, Skipper, debuted in 1964.

40  A 1959 Barbie in mint condition is estimated to bring $27,450.

41  The first Barbies had white irises. The eye color was changed to blue in 1960.

42  The 1988 Happy Holidays Barbie is considered the first non-porcelain "collectible Barbie." When the 1988 Happy Holidays Barbie flew off the shelves and began commanding high values on the secondary market, Mattel realized there was a huge market for adult collectors.

43  In 1986, Andy Warhol was commissioned to paint a portrait of Barbie.

44  The 1999 "Generation Girl" series was considered controversial because one doll had a nose ring and another had an ankle tattoo.

45  Teacher Barbie was recalled in 1995 because she wasn't wearing panties.

46  The first black and Hispanic Barbies were introduced in 1980. (Barbie's African-American friend, Christie, had been introduced in 1968.)

47  There was a Miss Astronaut Barbie in 1965.

48  Barbie made a brief appearance in the movie "Toy Story 2."

49  Sales of Barbie were outlawed in Saudi Arabia in 2003.

50  In 1997, Barbie was redesigned and given a bigger waist.

I found this amusing version of Barbie at 50. I like to think I don't look like that. I have no bags under my eyes, nor those little lines above my lips. I do have grey hair but I have the sense to hide it under vast quantities of L'Oréal Excellence Cream, Medium Brown.

I would, however, kill for that swan-like neck.


Stephen Parrish said...

My daughter ended up accumulating 30 Barbies, 28 more G.I. Joes than I had as a boy.

Barbara Martin said...

I never had a Barbie doll, but my girl friends did. Though, once, I did date a Ken.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Was he anatomically correct?

McKoala said...

Ah, memories. I had a Barbie and Princess has one too. I think she is more fond of the Bratz dolls, though.

LOL, the Ken!

cindy said...

omg. barbie would never let herself go grey! and no way you are going to be 50! you look much much younger. congrats on such a great milestone!

Michelle H. said...

I was never into Barbie, although my sister was totally into them. I heard a news article recently that the governor in Virginia is trying to ban Barbie because of the "dire implications the doll has on American girls which focuses on beauty instead of brains." Unbelivable!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

But... but... Barbie was an astronaut! Doesn't Gov know that?

Cindy... aw, shucks!

McKoala, those Bratz dolls are scary looking. If they were life size, the eyes would be as big as oranges.

BernardL said...

My daughter enticed my son into playing Barbies with her by allowing him to make Ken into a purse snatcher, burglar, car-jacker, and secret agent. Luckily, he didn't carry any of his make believe Ken ideas into his adult years. :)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...


This isn't at all about Barbies, though my one daughter love Barbie and another hates her with a passion. No accounting for taste I guess.

This is to say thanks for the nice words over on Janet Reid's blog and to ask a favor ...

My non-fiction writing partner is teaching creative writing to some very young students. I've posted a rough draft from one of them on a class blog. (

Would you mind dropping by the blog and leaving a gentle but helpful critique? Just remember she is very young.

Please sign your name to the crit and tell what you've written. Parents will read it, and those who help might as well plug their books.

Please. Thanks. and Thanks.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I should have also said that anyone else who reads your blog is welcome to critique her story too. Just remember that our writers are children.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

Helllooooo, Sha'el! My daughter's not a big fan of Barbie, either. As a matter of fact, dolls scare her.

I'll be happy to visit your pixie nest and help out any way I can. My kids may not think they're going to be writers, but they have that gene!

I also encourage any grownups here to nuture the seeds of writing in their kids and teens. So many younglings have the talent but decide to take other roads.

I'm not saying they should ignore other paths, but heck, you can fit writing into any schedule!

Wendy said...

I thought Bernard's story about his kids is hilarious!

I never had any barbies either. I just wasn't a doll person, no interest.

Isn't it amazing, though, the whole barbie industry? So fascinating!

Queen Of The Road said...

I think our 50th bdays are mere weeks apart. I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out what to do. I don't want a party, I don't want a nice dinner (I get those a lot - hubby's a great cook). What're you doing? I need ideas.

Great doing down Barbie memory lane with you. Doctor Barbie. Who knew? If I had, would have brought her to anatomy class. Might have come in handy.

wordtryst said...

We're almost the same age, Sandra. No bags or lines here either, but my poison is Revlon Colorsilk in Medium Soft Brown.

Seeing Sha'el brings back memories of my Snark-addicted days. I haven't had to actively encourage the youngsters around here to write; my niece just started doing it for the fun, and my nephew because he thinks I'm going to be a gazillionaire and he wants piece of the action. That kid's in for a rude awakening!

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

It's nice to see I'm not the only one in the half century rowboat, leaks and all.

I don't have any plans, Doreen. A half dozen colleagues at my newspaper are also reaching this milestone together. Maybe we'll all meet for drinks sometime this summer, mostly for support!

My husband turned 50 a couple of weeks ago. Alas, I couldn't afford to rent him a Porsche for the weekend, but I know he'll be enjoying a week of camping with his buddies. They're all turning 50 this year.

coffee said...

Barbie continues to be a genius toy, especially since girls like to imagine themselves grown up and Barbie helps them do that