Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Barbie dolls and breasts

1 Billion (Estimated): Articles of Clothing Manufactured for Barbie and Friends Since 1959

The Barbie doll is celebrating her 50th birthday this year. And yes, I am old enough to have been around when that first one in her striped swimsuit, high heels, and heavy eye liner hit the store shelves. My mother was appalled -- $3.00 for a doll that had breasts and no clothes to speak of -- no way. So I do not own nor have ever owned one of those antiques now worth quite a bit more than that original price.

$27,450: Current Estimated Selling Price of the Original 1959 Barbie in Mint Condition

Several quilters have celebrated the birthday with quilts. I particularly like what Carol Thompson, art quilter and member of the Quilt Art list, created. (See her tribute to Barbie quilt.)

She made a journal size tribute and wrote of her own Barbie experience: "I didn't play with Barbie but myyounger sister did. I can remember her stuff spread all over her bedroom. I was older and had outgrown dolls. Or at least I thought so."

I was aware that NOW (National Organization for Women) thought that Barbie was a bad icon for young girls -- "promoting unattainable expectations." Well, I can't remember having the kind of measurements or knowing anyone, except maybe Dollie Parton, that Barbie boasts, so there is some truth to that.

I had also heard the story behind Barbie's creation. But I didn't know that Barbie's 'mother,' Ruth Handler of Mattel, "devoted her later years to a second, trailblazing career: manufacturing and marketing artificial breasts for women who had undergone mastectomies."

Handler was herself a breast cancer survivor and when she went to find a prosthesis, there were none to be found. She was told to take a bra and stuff some stockings in one side. For a more complete history of Barbie's life and times and beginnings, visit the article by Elaine Woo of the Los Angeles Times Daily Mirro.

Perhaps the push to cure breast cancer may have gotten a start with the buxom little doll. If breasts were not ummm front and center before in the minds of boys and girls and their parents, they certainly were after millions of naked Barbies populated almost every household for the past 50 years.

Kyra gives a different perspective on the Barbie phenomena in her Black Threads blog along with links to a variety of 'Barbie' quilts. That blue-eyed blond icon of feminine beauty didn't seem to leave any room for brunettes, let alone ethnicity. Kyra's own quilt speaks volumes of the impact of that little doll.
And a rather interesting group who 'alter Barbie' and associated dolls into new and amazing ways have a blog and an entire show of their work in San Francisco -- where else?!

Happy Birthday Barbie -- you definitely changed our world. For the better or worse -- I think the jury is still out on that one.

105 Million: Yards of Fabric Used For Barbie and Friends' Fashions Since 1959

But she does put alot of people to work and these days employment speaks loudly. "Evelyn Viohl, senior vice president of Barbie design for El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel, says that the process through which the latest Barbies come to life does mimic a traditional ready-to-wear label. "We like to call it the House of Barbie," says Viohl. "

Here are a few other links you might enjoy at Barbie's expense. The first site speaks of the trouble Barbie has caused -- 'boob jobs' and other body alterations and refers to uses for the dolls rather than put them in landfills.

If you have a link to other Barbie sites, I'd be glad to include them.

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