This year Barbie celebrates her sixtieth birthday and she has dominated the scene since March 1959, when it was first presented to public. Not many products can claim such a huge success!
Who is Barbie?
The real name of the American icon, produced in Japan, is Barbara, and was designed by Mattel Inc. The company aimed to give girls a doll to play with that could also be a source of inspiration for them. In fact, it was the ensign of femininity and embodied the ideal woman of those years.
Barbie’s early life
Since the beginning, everybody fell in love with the total pink doll. In one year only, 350.000 items were sold, both blonde and brown. Barbie was born as a model and she continued modelling even after getting married: in 1961 Ken, her beloved husband, debuted in shops and the family started growing. At that time, it was inconceivable for a woman, Barbara included, not to marry anyone and still wear a wedding dress.
The poor Ken was only a mere justification for the launch of a new fashion line.
Some didn’t positively look at her independence (she was supposed to be a housewife to conform to reality), but Mattel addressed this issue by letting Barbie cultivating some passions that were typically related to the females’ world. She participated to balls and organized charity events, as every good mother would have done.
First steps towards emancipation
In the 70’s, women seriously approached to higher education and started to gain economical stability on their own, hence Barbara had to keep up with such changes, not to be forgotten. She hence became a surgeon and an Olympic skater, then a business woman and a Rockstar.
The power of change
Girls could be whoever they wanted thanks to their friend. Over the years, not only she came with different dresses, but also changed her physical characteristics. In 1998, her breasts reduced a bit and she became thinner.
Barbie was capable to adapt to, if not to anticipate, trends, at the point that in shops you can now find different formats (tall, curvy), hair colours, hairstyles….
According to many people, she is more than a simple toy, otherwise it would not make sense to become collectors. There are thousands of people in the world that share this passion but, maybe surprisingly, the biggest admirer is not one of Barbara’s compatriots, but an Italian man.
He’s Antonio Russo, Neapolitan urologist, whose collection has been created over 26 years and amounts to 10.000 pieces. He has agreed to contribute to the “Barbie The Icon” exposition by lending some of his items.
As a child, he was fascinated by this adventurous girl, completely different from the others, he could invent stories on (despite being his cousins’), in a never-boring game.
A real passion
He started collecting them in 1992, when he bought a Barbie as a present for a friend’s daughter and memories came back to his mind. Being an extremely precise person, he decided to purchase them historically, to see how they changed over the years and across countries.
Antonio is firmly convinced that each version reflects a milestone in women’s history (see for example the evolution previously mentioned), but he moves some critics to the few movements latest versions allow, especially if compared to the flexibility of the models of the 80’s, which makes it more difficult for little girls to play with them as they would like to. But this is just a negligible flaw and, as everybody know, perfection always needs a bit of imperfection.
The real gift people get when receiving a Barbie is that they can be whoever and go whenever they want. She speaks all the languages you can think of and even celebrities have been honoured to have themselves reproduced in a physical doll.
Finally, the most important message that Barbie conveys is gender equality: everybody can play with it, because what matters is how the game is conducted and to have fun.
Cover picture by https://www.etsy.com/shop/ISewForDoll