According to Time, the original Barbie Millicent Roberts made her first appearance in public on March 9, 1959 at the New York Toy Fair.
Her premiere look was intended to reflect the sophisticated glamour of 1950’s stars like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth: high arched brows, pursed red lips, a sassy pony tail with curly bangs and a coy, sideways glance. During this time, Barbie only came with blonde or brunette hair.
Barbie’s creators believed the doll should be aspirational and a reflection of real women, so they set out on a mission to give the doll unique careers.
Barbie’s very first job? Fashion designer!
By 1961, Barbie was also working as a singer, a ballerina, a registered nurse, and an American Airlines flight attendant.
In 1965, Mattel even created an “Astronaut Barbie” – four years before America had actually put a man on the moon.
1968 — 1976
By 1971, Barbie had been re-imagined to reflect how America had changed since 1959.
She now sported a suntan, straight hair, and a California lifestyle. Her face was also re-sculpted with an open smile, pearly white teeth, and, thanks to a vocal feminist movement, eyes that looked forward, instead of seductively to the side. This version was aptly named “Malibu Barbie.”
1977 — 1985
By the 80s, Barbie had become a cultural sensation. Moreover, she was the first toy to have a primarily TV advertising strategy — which led to giant profits.
In 1985, the artist Andy Warhol even celebrated the iconic doll by committing her to paint.
In addition, Barbie’s careers also became more high-powered and humanitarian: TV news reporter, veterinarian, UNICEF ambassador, teacher, aerobics instructor, and proud Olympic athlete.
A multitude of new dolls were introduced in the late 80s-mid 90s.
In 1990, “Friendship” Barbie was put into distribution to commemorate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Two years later, Barbie was “running for president.”
In 1994, “Quincañera Teresa” debuted in Mexico to celebrate Girls’ Day, while an “M.C. Hammer” doll rocked the nation back home.
Barbie has had 43 pets to date, including 21 dogs, 12 horses, three ponies, six cats, a parrot, a chimpanzee, a panda, a lion cub, a giraffe and a zebra.
By the 2000s, Barbie’s look had taken on a sassier, edgier appearance — with more sophisticated makeup, glasses, and even a cell phone earpiece.
But in 2004, Mattel made a shocking announcement: Barbie was breaking up with Ken. Fans were devastated. Nonetheless, the makers wanted the doll to embody the confident energy of a modern single woman.
And by 2005, the iconic toy had enjoyed over 100 careers. That’s one busy lady!
Though the original Barbie cost a mere $3, the most expensive Barbie was recently purchased for $302,500 — the highest auctioned Barbie of all time.
Why was this doll so valuable? Mattel tapped Australian jewelry designer Stefano Canturi to create a special edition Barbie. The doll took six months to create, and debuted wearing a $300,000 diamond necklace. All proceeds, however, went to a great cause: the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Since her debut, Barbie has also had the luxury of a decadent wardrobe, with designers like Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior, and Oscar de la Renta creating gorgeous outfits for her.
She’s also worn exclusive wedding gowns by Vera Wang, Carolina Herrara, and Christian Louboutin, who designed her a special pair of shoes.
With fashion being such a large part of the doll’s identity, it’ll come as no surprise that Mattel is also the largest purchaser of dress fabric in the entire world.
In her 59 years, Barbie has had quite the impressive history, and she’s come quite a long way.
What’s your favorite Barbie doll of all time? Let us know in the comments.
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