Barbie turned 55 on March 9 of this year after being presented to the world on March 9th, 1959. In 1956, Ruth and Elliot Handler, owners of the Mattel Toy Company, were on vacation in Germany. While there, Ruth noticed a doll many girls played with named Bild Lilli. Originally, Bild was meant for adults, perhaps to be put on display. Ruth decided to create something similar for girls in the U.S. Ruth named her new doll Barbara, after her daughter, and introduced Barbie to the world at a toy fair in New York City in 1959.
The doll’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. In 1959, for only $3, she came complete with a back story. Barbie was born in Willows, Wisconsin, to George and Margaret Roberts. Barbie, a teen model, went to high school in Manhattan and had been dating her boyfriend, Ken Carson, since 1961.She also dated an Australian surfer, Blaine, in 1994. Barbie is 11 ½ inches tall and she never seems to age.
Since Barbie has been around for quite a long time her closet is full of fashionable clothing. Looking at her one could never tell that she is 55. She is a very hard worker and has had many interesting jobs, including a doctor, a pilot, an airline stewardess, an astronaut, and even a presidential candidate. Barbie has also owned 40 pets. When Ken is not around, she can be found spending time with her family, Skipper, Stacie and Todd.
Barbie has generated huge sales for Mattel, but over the 55 years the doll has been around parents have had mixed feelings about her. Some parents feel that she has had a very positive effect on their children. Barbie has had several different jobs in her long career, jobs that were ordinarily not given to girls, especially back in the ’60s and ’70s. Many parents feel that her positive you-can-do-it image has had a very positive effect on their children. Other parents feel that her obsession with designer clothing, her fancy cars and her dream houses will encourage children to be materialistic. Barbie’s true-to-life body measurements would be 36-18-38 and some parents feel that will foster feelings of a negative body image within their children. Some parents think that Barbie is too perfect, too good-looking, and not the norm but rather the exception.
In 1993 the sale of Barbie and Barbie merchandise topped $1 billion annually, despite any negative publicity. Since 1959, 800 million Barbies have been sold. Recently an original 1959 Barbie sold for over $27,000. More than 50 well-known clothing designers have designed her fashions, using more than 100 million yards of fabric. In 1992, Totally Hair Barbie was released, the version of Barbie that has outsold any other Barbie to date. After being around for 55 years some consumers are looking elsewhere for more unique dolls. Competition is stiff and her sales have dropped quite a bit in the last five years, as much as 11 percent in some markets. Other Mattel products are not doing as well as projected. Mattel is aware that Barbie is aging, and they are doing everything possible to try to boost sales and keep her going beyond 55.
By Dennis De Rose