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Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

As Barbie celebrates her 55th birthday, Reminisce highlights her most unforgettable outfits from the 1960s to today.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

Barbie anniversary: 55 years of style

Photo courtesy of Mattel, Inc.

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More than 1 billion outfits have been designed for Barbie since she debuted at a toy fair in 1959. Her high-fashion wardrobe includes contributions from more than 50 top designers, including Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein and Vera Wang.

Inventor Ruth Handler and Barbie’s first clothing designer, Charlotte Johnson, insisted on authenticity. As a result, Barbie’s outfits included features like tiny working zippers, luxurious liners and sparkly jewelry. Doris Day and Jacqueline Kennedy served as Johnson’s inspirations for Barbie’s early wardrobe.

Each year Mattel’s marketing team makes sure that Barbie gets recognized at New York Fashion Week via runway shows that highlight her evolving style. This year Barbie will model an updated version of her original black-and-white striped swimsuit in Sports Illustrated‘s 50th anniversary swimsuit issue. Work it, Barbie!

—Michael Q. Bullerdick

Barbie anniversary fun fact…

  • Barbie’s inventor, the late Ruth Handler (a former president of Mattel Inc.), named the doll Barbara after her daughter? Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Evelyn B. Empie March 9, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Let’s have more on Barbie. I remember my daughter and her best friend playing Barbies by the hour.

How about a page of nostalgic recipes from mothers or grandmothers of readers?

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DONNA March 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I played Barbie for hours with my little friends. Best fun ever!!

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Gerri Habitz March 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

My girls are 56 and 49, and we still have a box full of Barbies, Kens and the little sister, along with clothes, houses, cars, and other accessories.

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michelle March 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm

how interesting~i woke up this morning after dreaming about the doll box with Barbie in a blonde high ponytail that my sister had. how i wish some things were still shown the same way!! am glad i have at least the last Barbie and Ken dolls from the 20th century : )

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Rose March 11, 2014 at 7:10 am

Loved Barbie when I was young. However, Barbie has to be older than 55 because in 1962 she was already 16-18 years old. She is probably 68-70 years old if you take that into account. None the less, she looks pretty good considering all that plastic surgery.

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Mary Kay April 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm

No Rose, you are wrong. Barbie is 55 years old. I don’t know where you are coming up with the fact that she is 68-70 years old.

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Jeanette Ludmann March 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I have an orginal Barbie bought in 1959 but the box got mildew on it so I’m
wondering if its still worth anything without the box? Thank you.

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Sheryl Smith March 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

yes, it is. If you know how to use ebay look for #1 Barbie or Original Barbie. If you don’t you should let someone sell it for you on commission. It is my dream to own one but I can never afford it. Many people don’t care about the box.

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april March 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I had the same thing happen as well. My barbie box was ruined. I have a avid collector in my family whom told me that the value of my barbie had gone down. The box seems to be very important for some reason. Sorry to be the one to deliver the bad news. Good luck.

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Sheryl Smith March 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

The box does add some value but when it comes to vintage dolls, they can still be valuable.

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Lulu March 11, 2014 at 6:43 pm

The first Barbie came on the scene in 1959. I was nine years old and got one at a local shop. In 1959 she was meant to resemble a teenage girl and was marketed as “Barbie, The Teenage Fashion Model.”

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ann March 11, 2014 at 7:13 pm

never played with Barbie but now I collect her, have over 1500 of THE girl

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Barbara June 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I have a 1959 Barbie, Teen Age Fashion Model doll in original box; however one small part of the box is gone. Barbie is in her ORIGINAL black and white bathing suit, heels, sunglasses, pearl earrings, and ORIGINAL pony tail (never touched the hair in all the years I played with her). Excellent condition.
Would love to sell. Never had any bites on ebay and have tried to find a dealer.
Can you help? Or do YOU want to buy her? I also have MIDGE, circa 1962, in original box. Want to sell her as well.
Any info would be helpful. Thank you.

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Julie Cipale-Messerer March 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm

I definitely remember Malibu Barbie! I kept her & passed her on to my daughters. Unfortunately, Barbie met my cats & one of them chewed off the fingers on both hands.

My youngest is 9 & received a “more modern” Barbie (not like the one in the pink dress) that had the more realistic measurements for a woman. I had crocheted clothes for the other dolls based on patterns; the clothes did not fit the newer version (significant decrease in chest size & wider hips). I’m surprised that the body measurement changes were not mentioned.

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Sheryl Smith March 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

yes, I know the original Barbie outfits are too tight for newer Barbies. This article was nice but didn’t begin to go into all the nuances and trivia of Barbie.

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Sheryl Smith March 13, 2014 at 10:30 am

I fell in love with Barbie the day she was released at our local store in 1959. Now I have 1,000+! I have played with them, restored them, gone to conventions about them, sewed for them, bought and sold and so much more. So Barbie has been a part of my life for 55 years now.

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JParker March 13, 2014 at 11:16 am

The 2013 Barbie’ s eyes look abnormally large. I like how the older ones look.

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Gale A. Wheaton March 16, 2014 at 7:19 pm

At least 20 years ago now I had a yard sale at which I had a box filled with old Barbie dolls. My daughter Bernadette was helping me while playing with her favorite Barbie doll at one of the tables. At one point she rushed in to use the ladies room and at this point a mother and her daughter came along and without my realizing it picked up Bernadette’s favorite doll which I promptly sold to them as one I thought had come from the box. At a moment later Bernadette came back to the table looking for her Barbie doll. She has still not been able to let go of the memory of her loss. I have shared this site hoping she will find some happiness in it.

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pam franco March 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

i remember all of the dolls from way back, skipper and midge, my sister and i had all of it and i never knew what happend to it all, i think we gave it to our neices at that time, i am now 59 and i regret giving it away, when you are a teen you never think that you want to keep it. it feels childish, you are driving now so why would you want a doll to play with and you are buying yourself all the cool clothes it just made sense to hand it all down, i found in our parents attic a few years back after searching for years, the old barbie vanity complete with transistor radio and princess phone and furry red cushion on bench and the white canopy bed with pink canopy cover and spread with the pillow all made out of plastic, that was amazing to find, i have the vanity on a desk in my office and the bed packed carefully away. i could not believe it was just sitting there for over 40 years:)

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Maggie March 30, 2014 at 12:49 am

When Barbie debuted in 1959, I was 11 years old. My love for dolls was still intact, and I told my mother I wanted a Barbie for Christmas. I was emotionally thrown for a loop, when she said to me, “You’re too old for dolls!” Well, I never owned a Barbie, BUT, when my two daughters were old enough to enjoy them, I bought Barbies for Christmas….complete with storage trunks. Their dolls were extra special, because I got patterns and sewed ALL their pretty dresses! What a delight that was (for me, too!) :D

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Brenda Johns March 31, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I was 8 years old when I first saw Barbie advertised on a TV commercial. I fell in love with her at first sight ! I loved all of the wonderful detailed fashions and especially the accessories. I begged for a Barbie for Christmas that year, but I think my mother felt the doll was a little too “grown up looking” for my age. I still dreamed I would get one for Christmas that year. To my disappointment, I received a “Saucy Walker” Doll instead. I believe from my research she was from the Patty Play Pal line of dolls, her name is Sandy. I tried my best to enjoy her, but she just couldn’t compare to Barbie ! I finally got my first Barbie when I was about 9 or 10. My mother purchased her for me when we were visiting relatives in Akron, Ohio. We went shopping at a big department store called O’Neils, that’s where my first Barbie was purchased. She had a black ponytail and was wearing the black striped swimsuit with black shoes and white sunglasses, I still have her to this day. Unfortunately, she has the oily type skin. My best childhood friend and I spent many hours playing with our Barbie’s and later Ken. I had the first Barbie car, the Barbie Queen of The Prom Game, and the first Barbie Dream House. I still have my Dream house and the Suzy Goose doll furniture. Also, the Deluxe Reading Kitchen I used with my Barbie. I now have a granddaughter who is a Barbie lover, so I am now able to share these things with her. I became a doll collector years later after I married and have a variety of dolls, plus lots of Barbie’s.
As, there were very few girls my age in my neighborhood (I lived in the country) when I was growing up, I spent many hours playing with my dolls. Lots of great memories of those years !

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Jenifer Cook May 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

I remember a time in the 60′s I believe, when there was a rebate offered to “trade in” an old Barbie and you would get a $ amount off the purchase of a new Barbie. I have never gotten rid of any of my Barbies, BUT my cousin had an old Barbie that I thought was ugly (probably one of the first Barbies with the black and white striped bathing suit and short reddish hair that I found at my Grandmother’s). I thought the chance for a new Barbie for the discount was wonderful and have ever since I was older wished I had never traded it in, due to the now vintage Barbie’s worth!!! I wonder what the Mattel Company did with all those traded in Barbies?

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Jeanne Siers May 26, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Hi: Does anyone know if there are any Barbie Clubs or places that buy or sell, trade Barbie Dolls? I have the orginal, and some from 60 and 61 if anyone is interested? Please let me know. Thank you!

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