Barbie dolls have been around for over 40 years, and they’re just as popular today as they were in 1959.
Brief History of Barbie Dolls
In the 1950s, there were two types of dolls in America: two-dimensional paper dolls and cuddly baby dolls. A college-educated housewife named Ruth Handler bought a German fashion doll and was inspired to change the face of toys forever. The doll, Lilli, was fashionable and bendable, with brushable hair.
Deeply inspired by Lilli, Ruth gained a patent for her own fashion doll in 1958. The first doll was developed in 1959. Ruth and her husband, co-founders of toy giant Mattel, named the doll after their daughter Barbara. The doll’s little known full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
Despite an initially luke-warm reception, the Handlers continued marketing Barbie. The earliest dolls sold for $3. Within two years, orderings were pouring in so fast that the Handlers could not keep up.
Ruth had decided early on that Barbie would be a hopeful and optimistic figure for young girls, empowering them to dream and reach for the stars. Early Barbies were “social butterflies,” and spent their time attending parties and playing tennis.
Ken was introduced in 1961 and was named after Ruth’s son.
Ever-Evolving Career Woman
After her beginnings as a woman of leisure, Barbie went to college and embarked on numerous careers. In a quest to show girls that they can truly achieve anything, Barbie has worked as the following:
Diversity in Barbie Dolls
Mattel has aimed to promote tolerance and diversity in its dolls, and Barbie is an excellent example of that. There are Barbie dolls representing several countries of the world, including China, Korea, and Holland. Barbie has also been depicted in a wheelchair and with varying disabilities. Just as there are working Barbies, there are also Barbie dolls in more traditional stay-at-home roles. Despite ongoing criticism for her impossibly curvaceous figure, numerous studies indicate that playing with Barbies can actually be good for a girl’s self-esteem.
Today’s Popular Styles
Today, some of the most popular Barbie dolls are also stars of the small- and big-screen. From the Disney princesses to the beloved Barbie movies, television inspired Barbies fill the store shelves. Some favorites include:
Barbie dolls are a favorite item among collectors. While some focus on vintage dolls, others prefer the modern-day Barbies. Mattel releases collectible-quality dolls each year. The Holiday Barbies and Barbies of the World are particularly popular. Recent releases include: