LIFE

The Incredible Way Barbie Has Actually Transformed, From 1959 To Now

by Ariana Seigel
Ariana lives in NYC but grew up in FL. She loves comedy, strong coffee, and impromptu performances by the mariachi bands on the subway.

The Barbie doll has been a childhood staple across the globe for the past 60 years. Whether you’re a grandmother, mother, or child, chances are you’ve probably owned one.

Some people are so inspired by this iconic doll that they’ve even decided to become her, like this woman who transformed herself into a living, breathing Barbie.

And when I saw the incredible story behind the evolution of Barbie, I was totally blown away.

To date, over one billion Barbies have been sold worldwide, with Mattel claiming that one of their dolls is sold every three seconds. That means that enough Barbies exist to physically encircle the entire planet!

Barbie was created in 1959 by American businesswoman and inventor Ruth Handler, who wanted “a doll through which [a little girl could] project herself into her dream of her future.”

Scroll though below to see just how Barbie became one of one of the world’s most beloved toys.

Did you play with Barbies growing up? Let us know in the comments.

1959

1959

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.

1960 —1967

1960 —1967

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

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

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. 

1986-1994

1986-1994

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.

2004-2012

2004-2012

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!

2013-2015

2013-2015

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.

Today

Today

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.

Please SHARE if you’re a devoted fan of this iconic toy!