Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Barbie's Story

She's a successful businesswoman, a member of a rock band and a Women's World Cup Soccer player. Who is this superstar? It's none other than Barbie® doll. Commemorating her 40th anniversary in 1999, Barbie doll is further expanding her versatile and limitless roles to inspire girls' dreams as she prepares for the new millennium.

The world of the Barbie doll today is a great deal more than a doll and accessories. Barbie doll is keeping in step by allowing girls to use their computers to program and personalize their Barbie doll and design, create, play and dream using exclusive Barbie software. The Barbie line has also developed into a broad array of exciting licensed products for girls, including publishing, apparel, food, home furnishings and home electronics.

How It All Began

It is the 1950s. Americans are reaping the benefits of a strong, post-war economy. They like "Ike" in the White House and Milton Berle on TV. Ben-Hur commands Best Picture while teen idols like Fabian and Frankie Avalon break thousands of hearts. Alaska and Hawaii join the Union, and Detroit's new cars feature big, bold tailfins. Teenagers are setting trends by the music they listen to, the movies they watch and the clothes they wear. Little girls dress up paper dolls and make believe with baby dolls.

It was then that the Barbie doll came as an inspiration to Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler as she watched her young daughter, Barbara, playing with paper dolls. Barbara and her friends liked to play adult or teenage make-believe with the dolls, imagining them in roles as college students, cheerleaders and adults with careers.

Ruth immediately recognized that playing make-believe and pretending about the future is an important part of growing up. In researching the marketplace, she discovered a void and was determined to fill the niche with a three-dimensional fashion doll. Her all male design staff, however, had their doubts.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

Several designs later, Mattel introduced Barbie, the Teen-Age Fashion Model to skeptical toy buyers at the annual Toy Fair in New York in 1959. Never before had they seen a doll so completely unlike the baby and toddler dolls popular at the time.

Undaunted, Mattel used innovative television advertising to reach its audience and instantly had a hit! Thus Barbie was born, and 40 years later, this 1.9 billion-dollar-a-year industry is stronger than ever.

Four Decades of Barbie

Over the years, Barbie has indeed achieved the title of the most popular fashion doll ever created. She's held that title by changing with the times. With fashion and teenage lifestyle trends evolving at a startling rate, the hundreds of people who have worked to keep the Barbie doll current have had their hands full as styles changed from Paris couture, to the inspired elegance of the Jacqueline Kennedy years to a more free-flowing, youthful look.

Mattel's design and development staff has kept current by identifying trends for the Barbie doll that relate to the lives of teenagers in America. For instance, in 1964, the Beatles led the "British Invasion" and along with a new sound, brought hemlines way up and hair way down as teenagers adopted the "Carnaby Street" look. Barbie went "Mod" a few years later with new face sculpting in 1967, which brought her current with the next generation of little girls who adored her.

In the 1970s Barbie wore up-to-the-minute fashions reflecting the "prairie" look, the "granny" dress, the "California Girl" suntan craze, and the glittery styles of the "disco" years. By the end of the decade, Barbie doll's face was again resculpted to a wide smile and sunstreaked hair that showcased the beauty trends of the day.

In the 1980s Barbie kept current as an aerobics instructor, a briefcase-carrying power executive, and a couture-inspired sophisticate reflecting the popularity of nighttime soap operas.

And now, in the late 1990s, the Barbie doll has stepped into the world of women's sports as she takes on roles in the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association) and NASCAR®racing and as a Women's World Cup Soccer player.

From Fashion to Friends

The first Barbie dolls, with their roots in the early 1960s, reflected the Paris couture and high fashion image of top fashion models. But it soon became apparent that little girls wanted Barbie to have more of an identity. In just a few short years, Barbie became a friend and confidante to an entire generation of girls who saw her as the ultimate "best friend." In fact, she helped open the door to young imaginations.

The public has come to think of Barbie doll as its dream girl. Barbie has the unique ability to inspire self-esteem, glamour, and a sense of adventure in all who love her. She has been a role model to women as an Astronaut in 1994, 1986 and in 1965 – nearly 20 years before Sally Ride! As a college graduate in 1963, surgeon in 1973, business executive in 1986, "Summit Diplomat" and airline pilot in 1990, a presidential candidate in 1992, and a dentist in 1997, the Barbie doll has opened new dreams for girls that were not as accessible in the early 1960s. As a matter of fact, the world's most popular fashion doll has actually had 75 careers since her inception in 1959.

Through the years Barbie has had a supporting cast that began with boyfriend Ken® in 1961. Her best friend Midge®, who was first introduced in 1963, returned in 1988.

Family and friends hold an important place in the history of the Barbie doll, including Barbie doll's little sister Skipper®, introduced in 1964, sister Stacie®, introduced in 1992, and baby sister Kelly®, new in 1995. She also has friends from a variety of backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of the real world. In 1968, Barbie doll's black friend Christie® was first introduced, in 1988 Teresa®, a Hispanic doll was introduced and in 1990, an Asian friend, Kira®, was introduced. In 1997 Share a Smile™ Becky®, Barbie doll's friend in a wheelchair was introduced for the first time. Barbie doll's circle of friends just keeps growing!

Barbie Goes High Tech

As children have embraced technology as a new way to play and dream of the future, so has Barbie. Heading into the new millennium the Barbie doll is fully techno-savvy with many software titles and some digital and interactive endeavors under her belt. One of the first Barbie software products, "Barbie® Fashion Designer®," was the best-selling software title of 1996, followed by "Barbie® Magic Hairstyler™," the top-selling new children's title in 1997. She entered the digital world in 1998 with the Barbie® Photo Designer Digital Camera and CD-ROM. Most recently, the Barbie doll went on-line with My Design™, which allows consumers to go online to customize and order their own Barbie® doll friend.

The Collectors' Market

Barbie doll's popularity today does not rest entirely with little girls. There are thousands of adult collectors worldwide – some united by clubs, conventions, magazines, newsletters and the Internet – that show the devotion these women (and men) have to Barbie!

Barbie fans of all ages can also enjoy the line of special edition and limited edition dolls designed specifically with the collector in mind. Exquisite fashions designed by Nolan Miller, re-creations of Barbie dolls from the early years, and Barbie and Ken as characters from popular films such as The X-Files™ are helping the world of Barbie Collectibles to grow.

The value of the older dolls is rising as more and more adults discover the world of Barbie. Today, in her 40th year, Barbie reflects the dreams, hopes and future realities of an entire generation of little girls who still see her as representing the same American dream and aspirations as when she was first introduced in 1959.

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