Barbie is a make of fashion doll, produced by American toy company, Mattel Inc. It is one of the most famous and popular brands of doll in the world. History
Created in 1959 by American businesswomen Ruth Handler, Barbie (named after Handler’s daughter) was allegedly inspired by the design of German doll, Bild Lilli.
At the time, children’s dolls were primarily representation of infants. After encountering Bild Lilli on a trip to Germany, Handler recognised a potential gap in the market – ‘adult’ dolls for children.
Available in either blonde or brunette, 350,000 Barbies were sold in the first year of production. It is now estimated that a billion have been sold in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming three are sold every second.
Barbies have been sold accompanied with a variety of clothes as well as other accessories. The brand has transferred to books, cosmetics, video games and film.
Barbie has also been embroiled in controversy on a number of occasions, mainly due to issues inevitably linked to the representation of an adult female in a child’s doll.
Most notably, Barbie has been criticised for promoting an idealised and unrealistic body image for young girls.
The doll was also condemned for sexism when its 'Teen Talk Barbie' range (which allowed the doll to ‘speak’) said the phrase “Math class is tough!”
There have been nearly 50,000 different types of Barbie, with several famous models.
Vintage Barbies are generally considered to be the first wave of the doll produced, between 1959 and 1966. The most well-known of these were the ‘ponytail dolls’.
Mod Barbies were produced between 1967 and 1972, including the long-haired ‘Twist ‘n’ Turn’ model and the first Talking Barbie.
The famous Malibu Barbie doll was produced between 1971 and 1977, which featured an open mouth and tanned skin.
This was followed by Superstar Barbie; influenced by stars like Farah Fawcett, the doll featured large amounts of blonde hair and a large smile. The first Black Barbie was produced in 1980.
In the early 1990s, the Mackie Barbie (named after designer Bob Mackie) became the dominant model. In 2000, Mattel introduced a Barbie aimed at collectors, named Silkstone.
In 2006, a 1965 Vintage Barbie in ‘Midnight Red’ cloak sold for $17,091 at Christie’s, London. This set a world record for the sale of a Barbie.
However, this record was smashed in 2010, with the sale of a Stefano Canturi-designed Barbie for $302,500, again at Christie's. The doll wears a choker containing a 1 carat, square-cut pink diamond.