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Barbie through the ages

Updated on April 3, 2014

Ruth Handler and her husband Elliot co-founder of Mattel Toy Company were the creators of the iconic Barbie. Ruth saw that her daughter and her friends often played with paper dolls and gave them adult roles. She insisted Elliot to manufacture adult looking dolls but he was unenthusiastic about the idea. Finally when Ruth went to Germany she saw an adult figured doll, Bild Lilli and bought some sample dolls back to Mattel. Elliot decided to give it a try to asked Jack Ryan to design the doll. The doll was then named Barbie after Ruth and Elliot’s daughter Barbara.

First Barbie Doll (1959)

Barbie doll made her debut on 9th March, 1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York. This date is also used as Barbie’s birthday. Barbie’s first look portrayed high arched brows, pursed red lips, a sassy ponytail with curly bangs and a sideways glance. She wore a white and black bathing suit, accessories for which were sold separately.

Barbie's first career (1960)

Barbie’s instant popularity was a boon for Mattel. Soon after one year in 1960 Barbie got her first job as a fashion designer. Since then Barbie has got over 130 different careers. Different Barbie dolls wear different clothes and accessories best matching the career they portray.

Ken is introduced (1961)

The year after her first job, Barbie’s boy friend Ken was introduced in 1961. Ken was named after the name of Ruth and Elliot Handler’s son, Ken Handler. Ken was the first member introduced in Barbie's family. More family members and friends have followed as the decades progressed.
Later in 2004 on Valentine’s Day Mattel announced Barbie and Ken’s break up. And two years later Mattel introduced a more muscular looking doll as Ken.

Astronaut Barbie (1965)

Barbie has always had the hottest trends and careers. She has been the trend setter. Even before a man set on moon Barbie was an astronaut in 1965. This doll encouraged girls to shoot out for the stars.

Malibu Barbie (1971)

In 1971 Barbie got a completely new look. The creators of Barbie redesigned her look keeping in mind how America had changed since 1959. Barbie's face was re-sculpted with an open smile and pearly white teeth. She acquired straight hair and a California personality. A major change was the eyes that looked forward instead of the sideways look.

Barbie changed her skin tone (1980)

With the turn of the decade Barbie diversified adding African, American and Hispanic Barbie dolls in 1980. Barbie does come in different skin tones now.

Holiday Barbie Dolls (1988)

Most of us have childhood memories of Barbie dolls as Christmas gifts. Mattel thus started a Happy Holidays Barbie Doll which became the first "Collectible Barbie"

The first Holiday Barbie Doll was launched in 1988 (1st doll in the image above) and the dolls were immediately sold out. Mattel then realized that there was a huge market for adult Barbie doll collectors and introduced a Holiday Barbie doll each year. This has been one of the most popular Barbie series and most of the girls now receive the Happy Holiday doll as their Christmas present.

The 2012 Holiday Barbie is the latest in the series and wears a gorgeous red gown. (2nd doll in the image above)

1992 the year for change

In 1992 Mattel made some changes to Barbie's iconic figure. In addition to that they introduced the Totally Hair Barbie Doll. The doll had long hair and soon gained popularity with little Barbie fans then. The Totally Hair Barbie doll turned out to be the highest selling Barbie doll for Mattel.

In 1992 Mattel also created the Teen Talking Barbie which said phrases like, "Math is tough!" and "I love shopping!"

Barbie I Can Be President Campaign (1992)

Barbie I Can Be President Barbie Campaign started in 1992. This Presidential Barbie encourages young girls to aim high.

The 2012 Barbie I Can Be President (3rd from the right in the image above) broke a new ground as she is the first doll in Barbie's 53 year history to stand upright on her feet. The doll is also designed by Chriz Benz who is one of the first ladies favorite designer.

Barbie Doll today (2013)


Barbie doll today looks like the one in the image above. She looks stunning in the various fashion outfits that she portrays. She still continues to be the most popular doll among kids.

World's First Barbie Cafe (2013)


Sinkalu restaurant group in Taiwan opened the world's first ever Barbie themed restaurant in Taipei, capital of Taiwan on 30th January, 2013.

Yes, you think it right! the world's first Barbie cafe is all about pink. And that's not all to give the feel of a real Barbie fantasy world the waitresses wear pink tutu skirts, glittery tiara and a Barbie arm band. Male waiters try to look like Ken.

Dress-Up play for the 21st century with the Barbie Vanity


Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror holds an iPad and uses augmented reality technology for girls to enjoy dress-up play. Girl's can use the mirror to apply eye shadow, lipstick, color and glitter on to their face. The digital mirror uses facial tracking technology to keep the digital makeup in place on a girl's face. Kids can also save their looks on a scrapbook and later share it on Facebook or other social tools. The Barbie Digital Makeover is up for release in August 2013.

The launch of the First Barbie Doll was backed by an innovative television ad campaign that caught the eyes of little girls across the country. Soon the small, sophisticated doll became a worldwide sensation. From 159 till date in 2013 Barbie doll remains the top fashion doll today.

With such a wonderful beginning as a teenage doll, Barbie has explored the entire world in different personalities and over 130 careers.

Barbie today has transformed into a best friend, adventurer, trend setter and an iconic model. She continues to be the most selling dolls in the toy industry. Mattel claims that every second two Barbie dolls are sold somewhere in the world which makes for 172800 units per day or 63,072,000 dolls per year, these figures say it all!

Barbie Learning Laptop

Barbie is not only a collector doll but also teaches kids through various toys. The Barbie Learning Laptop is an educational toy that features A-Z alphabet buttons and 1-10 numbered touch buttons. Barbie in her peppy voice takes your little one on a learning journey and teaches all about the ABCs, 123s, logic, vocabulary, shapes, music and more.

Barbie Pink Bed and Bath Set

Barbie Hairtastic Color & Wash Salon

Toy manufacturers are constantly innovating Barbie doll play. The new Barbie Hairtastic Color & Wash Salon allows girls to color, wash and re-color Barbie’s hair. The toy comes with a real working sink – just like in a salon.

Got a little Barbie fan at home?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Good hub. Interesting to see Barbie through the ages.

    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 

      4 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      Bought and sold some vintage Barbies. Can never have too much knowledge.

    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      5 years ago from Tennessee

      Enjoyed this very much. My daughters were big Barbie fans. I think I've seen some of these dolls before.

    • Toytasting profile imageAUTHOR

      Toy Tasting 

      6 years ago from Mumbai

      Thank You Vespawoolf, glad you liked it. We are happy to make you a doll lover now.. :)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      What an history view of the history of barbies! You chose some nice photos for this article, too. I was never much of a doll lover as a child but after reading this Hub I wonder why!? Thank you for sharing.

    • Toytasting profile imageAUTHOR

      Toy Tasting 

      6 years ago from Mumbai

      CyberShelley, glad you enjoyed the hub. Thank you for stopping by and the vote up. Cheers :)

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      6 years ago

      Wow, that was a wonderful walk through fashion history. Never cared much for dolls when I was young, but I knew quite a few girls who loved Barbie and all her trappings! Voted up, interesting and beautiful.


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