Ever evolving Barbie turns 65

The iconic Barbie celebrates her 65th anniversary on the crest of an ongoing wave of success. Source: Getty Images.

Barbie, the iconic doll that has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions worldwide, stands as a testament to the enduring power of innovation and adaptability.

Now celebrating her 65th anniversary since her inception in 1959, the popular doll who represents 250 job types, 35 skin tones, 97 hairstyles, and nine body types is showing no signs of hanging up her high heels.

Following the huge runaway commercial success of the eight-time Oscar nominated Barbie movie starring Australian actress and producer, Margot Robbie, the timeless toy brand seems to be riding a stunning wave of success.

However, it wasn’t always that way for Barbie. As reported by Reuters, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem said in the 2018 Hulu documentary Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie, “I’m so grateful I didn’t grow up with Barbie.”

“Barbie was everything we didn’t want to be, and were being told to be,” she added.

Over the years, the doll and manufacturer, Mattel, faced intense criticism due to associations with unrealistic body types, gender stereotyping, and pushing Euro-centric beauty standards.

However, staying in tune with the zeitgeist, the brand has managed to overcome the stereotypes to offer a world of vast doll diversity we see today.

“Barbie used to be a more singular reflection of beauty and more one-dimensional. Today, there are many Barbies, and we’ve got multiple views of the brand,” Mattel’s executive vice president and chief brand officer, Lisa McKnight, told Reuters. 

In addition to updates to her external features, Barbie now embraces inclusivity with the introduction of dolls featuring a wheelchair, Down Syndrome, vitiligo (a chronic condition causing skin pigment patches), and gender-neutral representations.

There is even a doll of the late Queen Elizabeth II which was launched in 2022 to much applause. The regally inspired replica of the late Queen was part of Mattel’s The Barbie Tribute Collection which celebrated visionaries whose incredible contributions have helped and impacted culture.

Senior vice president (SVP), head of design for dolls, Kim Culmone said, “What’s most important for us is that we take on board consultation from all kinds of communities when we’re designing.”

“If we continued to do the same thing that we’ve done before, over and over again, Barbie would not be the success that she is today,” Culmone said.

While the brand has evolved over the years, the toy brand still uses the same sewing machines from the 60s and their faces continue to be hand-painted.

The dolls that mark Barbie’s 65th anniversary evoke the very first Barbie ever created. Created by Filipino lead designer, Carlyle Nuera, the new version reimagines Barbie’s original black and white swimmers as a black and white gown accessorised with white cat-eye sunglasses.


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