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Barbie Quiz: Original Barbie Design

Updated on August 2, 2012
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Did you know Mattel wanted to sell more Barbie clothing than dolls? That's why her proportions were so wild—the clothes make her look human!

The original Barbie with Ken and snap-together furniture
The original Barbie with Ken and snap-together furniture | Source

Barbie Design Quiz

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Although the originally Barbie met with frowns and disapproving head shakes from toy buyers because of her womanly figure and face, she ultimately won the hearts and wallets of America and the rest of the world with her charm.

But Barbie is certainly not the first doll in the world to take the form of a grown woman.

Barbie as Ancient Plaything

The excavations of the sarcophagus of the Roman Crepereia Tryphaena contained an ivory doll sculpted in the form of an adult woman with accessories, circa 150-160 CE.

Throughout the centuries, young noblewomen and members of royalty were often painted with dolls in the form of adult women, whose fashions very closely mirrored the fashions of the day. So Ruth Handler's idea of a womanly-shaped fashion doll was really nothing new!

The head of a 7-inch Bild Lilli doll
The head of a 7-inch Bild Lilli doll | Source

Designing Barbie

Ms. Handler continued pitching the idea of doll production to her colleagues at Mattel, and one day, on a European vacation with her family she happened to stumble across a toy store where she found a doll similar to the one she had been dreaming of miles away. Her name was Lilli, and she had long, sculpted legs, blonde hair in a ponytail, and a sidelong glance guaranteed to inflame men's passion.

In fact, Lilli was not a toy for children. She had originated in the German gossip rag Bild Zeitung (think The National Enquirer for Germans) as a sexy young woman kept busy keeping the men in her life in constant check. Her escapades in the "love 'em and leave 'em" lifestyle made her a favorite with men who would bring receive them as gag gifts or bring them home from their favorite smoke shops.

The similarities between Bild Lilli and the original Barbie are unmistakable, down to the pursed red lips and upturned nose.

Barbie, Fashion Model

But if Lilli was for men, Barbie was for girls. So Handler and her group of talented engineers and designers created Barbie in Lilli's image, careful to change Lilli's overtly sexy features and style of dress into something much less provocative.

Handler and her colleagues (including Charlotte Johnson) designed tailored clothing and accessories for Barbie's closet that were true to the style of the day. In Japan, Johnson went in search of tiny zippers and other finishing items to complete Handler's dreams of quality clothes for this teenage fashion model.

Barbie had been born, and Mattel never looked back.

Did you ever have an original Barbie doll?

See results


  • Eames, Sarah Sink. Barbie Fashion. The Complete History of the Wardrobes of Barbie Doll, Her Friends and Her Family. Volume 1, 1959 - 1967. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1995
  • Collector's Compass: Barbie Doll. Bothell, WA: Martingale & Company, 2000
  • Tosa, Marco. Barbie: Four Decades of Fashion,. Fantasy, and Fun. New York: Harry N Abrams, Inc., 1998.


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