Monday, March 09, 2009

Happy Birthday Barbie!

On March 9, 1959, she was born Barbara Millicent Roberts, daughter of George and Margaret Roberts in the lovely little town of fictitious Willows, Wisconsin where she attended high school before transferring to Manhattan International High School to continue her education while pursuing her career as a fashion model.

Today, Barbie is 50 years old. Yes, that 11-inch beauty with the waterfall of golden tresses first appeared on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959. She was the first American mass-produced doll with adult features, touting a figure – 36-18-38 (at 7’ tall) – that would be controversial for decades to come.
Barbie was developed by Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, after seeing her young daughter, Barbara, ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women.

Barbie’s appearance was modeled on a doll named Lilli which was based on a German comic strip character and originally marketed as a racy gag gift for adult men in tobacco shops. After Lilli became popular with children, Mattel bought the rights to Lilli and made Barbie, named after Handler’s daughter.
Mattel became the first toy company to broadcast commercials to children and successfully used this medium to promote their new doll. The enormous demand for this new toy led Mattel to find a boyfriend for Barbie, and Ken was developed and named after Handler’s son. Midge, Barbie’s best friend, was introduced in 1963 and Skipper, her little sister debuted the following year.

Barbie has often been the center of controversy. On a positive note, many saw Barbie as providing an alternative to the traditional gender roles of the 1950s. She’s been a doctor, pilot, airline stewardess, astronaut, athlete – and even a US presidential candidate. Others, though, found the never-ending supply of designer outfits, sports cars and Dream Houses to seem materialistic, and a bad influence on youngsters. Her appearance, however, has been the greatest controversy, as many claimed that Barbie and her amazing measurements provided little girls with an unrealistic and harmful example, fostering negative body image.

Regardless, sales of Barbie-related merchandise have continued to skyrocket topping $1,000,000,000 annually in 1993. Since her debut in 1959, more than 800,000,000 dolls in the Barbie family have been sold around the world, and Barbie is now truly a global icon.

Now, no one has actually ever seen Barbie drinking tea, but she had many, many tea sets. There was a lovely tea room for the Dream House, and various tea sets including Victorian Barbie Tea Set, Twelve Dancing Princesses Tea Set, and Swan Lake Barbie Tea Set – even Ken got in on the action. Maybe he shouldn’t have …

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