The Barbie wardrobe was always flashy. There’s Barbie in slinky dresses. There’s Barbie the foxy stewardess from the Pan Am days. Even Barbie Rodeo Cowgirl! had a come-on look, with bell bottoms and cropped red sparkly vest.
I recall an 8-year-old who came to visit carrying her “box of Barbies.” It was a shoebox containing heads, legs, naked torsos and tiny boots made of gold Mylar. The young visitor saw nothing macabre about the contents. I think she planned to assemble a whole Barbie — or most of a Barbie — as the afternoon went on.
An aunt in Houston, fearful of leaving her house, would sit all day at her sewing machine and make spectacular sun dresses for my cousin’s Barbie. Nowadays, home sewers and foreign sweatshops alike churn out Barbie outfits.
As an international phenomenon, Barbie was not free of controversy. In 1994, Kuwait’s College of Sharia and Islamic Studies supported a fatwa against the she-devil doll, joining Iran’s ayatollahs, who had long banned her.
In 1998, sensitive souls in Puerto Rico objected to the Puerto Rican Barbie as too Anglo. This took Mattel by surprise. The toymaker had proudly presented one of the dolls, in a traditional white ruffled dress, to the wife of the Puerto Rican governor. Whatever. Come Christmas, Puerto Rican Barbies flew off the store shelves in San Juan and environs.
This summer’s Barbiecore craze has spawned parties for which grown-up women dress in the pink spandex and platform shoes covered in glitter. Has anyone found a pink Corvette?
In a 1977 interview, Barbie’s creator Ruth Handler explained why she felt girls should have a doll with puckered lips and thick eyeliner: “Every little girl needed a doll through which to project herself into her dream of her future.” If she says so.
Anyhow, it’s nice to color our world pink, if just for a few summer weeks.