Monday, 9 March 2009

Barbie at 50

Today is the 50th birthday of Barbie! It's a huge milestone in the plastic-fantastic dolls life and there are lots of celebrations to mark the event. A few weeks ago at New York Fashion Week models took to the runway (above) in a special birthday show, complete with Barbie pink shoes designed by Christian Louboutin and outfits inspired by Barbie designed by the likes of Vivienne Tam, Monique Lhuillier, Peter Som, Patricia Field, Vera Wang and Reem Acra. The dolls featured in this post are all part of the 50th year celebrations. The special collectors edition in a gold gown is a new design, however the others are reproduced 'vintage' dolls. The 'original' in her monochrome striped swimsuit, thick flicked eyeliner and shades is just as adorable and relevant today as it was in 1959.
Personally I grew up collecting Sindy dolls, the UK's version of Barbie. I did own quite a few Barbies, but literally hundreds of Sindys. From the age of 2, I'd get one every birthday and Christmas and only really stopped when I was about 20 and it was harder to find Sindy dolls. I was never the little girl who wished for a bike, roller skates, or the latest gadget, I just wanted a dolly! I used to spend hours dressing and undressing them and giving them personalities. My happiest childhood memories are of playing in our back garden in the summer with real water in my Sindy bath and sink or when my Dad arranged flowers for a weddng and made me miniature bouquets for my dolls to get married with (I even covered my Sindy car in ribbon and flowers!). One Christmas I woke up to find Santa had given me an extension, garage and stable for my Sindy house. He had set up a new dining table and chairs in it with each place set with mat, cutlery, plates, bowls and glasses, it was amazing! Even on family holidays, I'd pack a few Sindys (painstakingly making the decision of which ones I'd take) and I'd pack their clothes in little bags too. I even remember using the polystyrene drinks tray (from the train journey) as a boat and the plastic spoon type things made fabulous oars. I would literally be entertained for hours with this.
I get really exasperated with the negativity surrounding Barbie and similar dolls. Picking fault with her size and how she would be extremely unhealthy and unable to stand on her tiny feet if she were a real adult is just ridiculous. Playing with a pretty doll doesn't instantly turn you into an anorexic striving for a similar 'perfect' Barbie body in later life. It's for kids, it's fun, that's it, no hidden agenda. Some say that this is your first interaction with a 'real adult' and so this is how you perceive adults to be; blonde, skinny and pretty. There's so many flaws in that theory, surely children see adults all around them (parents, teachers, people in the street etc), they can differentiate between a doll and a human for goodness sake.

Nobody says that playing with baby dolls as a child is the cause of early teenage pregnancies. If you had a plastic toy kitchen, it didn't mean you were destined to become a chef or adversely that you would burn yourself playing with cookers or turn out obese. You never have to explain to a child that bears don't really wear bows around their neck and if you met one they'd kill you rather than cuddle you. So why does Barbie take all the flak? Children are playing and having fun, it's what they do, it's not going to scar them in years to come. Personally, I see the time I spent with my dolls as my way of interpreting fashion and a way to use that styling ability at an early age. However that's not to say the same goes for all the other kids that played with dolls. I think it's fabulous that in 50 years this simple toy concept has appealed to so many and become such a global icon and industry in itself.

So over the next week or so, I will have much pleasure in putting together some Barbie inspired outfits from designers and high-street ; )

1 comment :

  1. Barbie has played a huge role in millions of people's lives as they were growing up, including mine


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