Barbie was the fashion toy of the 20th-century. She introduced a new brand of sexy to dollhouses and toy chests across the United States at the end of the 1950s. Before Barbie Millicent Roberts (yes, that’s her honest-to-goodness real full name) hit the shelves, dolls didn’t have to be trendy. Your chubby baby fancied up in floral Victorian garb was the perfect companion and didn’t need to have any impact on your personal sense of fashion. After 1959, dolls slowly came to represent more than just a little one to take care of. They transformed into mini-models tweens could model themselves after and aspire to be. Barbie singlehandedly made the doll business a scion of the fashion world and introduced a whole new generation of children to the wonders of style and beauty. How did she do it? See what you can learn from the iconic Barbie fashion archive.
VINTAGE 50s STRIPES
When it first launched in the late 50s, Barbie fashion was all about Old Hollywood glamor. Her original outfits took the allure of famous movie stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor and consolidated it into little wardrobes for young girls to admire and aspire to. 2017’s own recent fascination with vintage fashion can also be served by these archival designs. If you can find a swimsuit like Barbie’s Chevron striped one-piece, you’ll nail retro beach fashion on vacation this summer.
GROOVY 60s OUTFITS
Throughout the 1960s, Mattel proved again and again that the Barbie doll was anything but safe. These toys were designed to bridge the gap between playtime and fashion. When miniskirts and short shorts became a signature part of the feminist movement, Barbie wore similarly revealing outfits. After the measured success of the Civil Rights Movement, Mattel introduced Christie, the first black Barbie. Complete with bubble-cut hair and mod prints, these dolls never missed a chance to stand out.
CASUAL 70s CHIC
When it comes to 70s Barbie, the theme is California ease. Having exhausted the fringes of edgy fashion and beauty in the previous decade, Mattel pulled back and focused on simple one-pieces and longer hair. There’s a lot you can glean from these girls for your own wardrobe this summer. 70s chic is alive and well, so why not let your hair down and don a one-piece that can double as swimwear and casualwear? One-piece suits are in. How else do you think the RompHim made it this far…
POWERFUL 80s WOMEN
Beach babes were fine for the 70s, but they didn’t work in the colorful, corporate world that was the 80s. To match that memorable decade, Mattel gave Barbie a suitcase and pink suit so she could go off and be a working girl by day. Introducing business girl Barbie was one of the toy’s finer moments, flirting a little with the proverbial glass ceiling. Don’t adopt pink as your office color today, but if you want a hint of vintage for work this skirt and blazer will do you proud.
COLORFUL 90s FUN
Embracing the wildest of 90s trends, Barbie fashion at the end of the 20th-century was anything but dull. Mattel’s favorite doll wore neon pink headbands, denim jackets, and even got busy with some new and different makeup looks. We’re just reaching the point where you can look back at these wardrobes to find something to repurpose. Want to give the loud and noisy headband a try?
NATURAL 00s ATHLETICISM
The 21st-century marked a new chapter in Barbie fashion. For the first time, designers put a real emphasis on giving the dolls a more realistic look. These were the first toys to feature belly buttons and a bendable, flexible waist. 2000s Barbie was still unnaturally thin, but at least you had a few more moves under her belt.
Throughout the decades, Barbie fashion has brought pop culture style to increasingly younger women. Now, it’s here to teach you the trendiest looks of days gone past. Thanks to Barbie, you can incorporate 60s tween fashion into your wardrobe with no trouble at all.— Scarlett Price