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By LuAnn Schindler
Publisher 

-Isms

 

September 5, 2019

One of my childhood icons celebrates 60 years of entertainment and controversy in 2019.

Barbie® originally featured strawberry blonde hair, pulled back into a ponytail, with a tightly curled poof of bangs. Her painted on blue eyeshadow, cherry red lipstick, black and white striped one-piece swimsuit and cat eyes mascara were on fleek for the time period.

By the time I received my first Barbie® as a gift, she'd grown up a little - or at least her clothing choices kept evolving with the times. I vividly rememeber Aunt Joyce, sister Laurie and me dressing up the dolls when we'd visit grandma's house. She owned an original Midge doll, Barbie's best friend. We would spread out every article of clothing on the living room floor and send the doll on her way to new adventures based on her dress choices.

We didn't view the plastic females as anything but dolls, didn't question if she was too sexy - I'm not sure we'd even heard that word then - with her curvy hourglass figure.

Later, we were gifted with Barbie's dream house, a Winnebago-style camper and her famous red corvette.

The best part, though, were the clothes. We had all kinds of outfits - go-go dressings, fancy ball gowns, pants and shirts, sleek white gloves.

And, we owned plenty of accessories, including white knee-high boots, slip-on tennis shoes, handbags and jewelry.

It was our introduction to the fashion world, a glimpse into a young woman's make believe life, a reflection of goals and dreams from out own lives.

I mean, really, when you're six or seven, who doesn't want a mansion, fancy sports car and a walk-in closet filled with the latest fashion trends.

Oh, wait. That's my 50-year-old dream.

Maybe Barbie® was a continuation of the allure of paper dolls, the kind we'd cut out in elementary school and fold the tabs on a piece of paper to create a shirt or slacks outfit.

Sure, we owned other dolls: Betsy Wetsy, a frumpy Mrs. Beasley, maybe Raggedy Ann. But, they didn't fit in the jetset crowd Barbie and Ken ran around with.

For us, Barbie® represented no-nonsense career women, a reflection of what we believed we could have when we matured: career and family.

Sure, I get the controversy. She has a size 19 waist, if she were real; that flawless skin doesn't weather in the sun and she's always impeccably dressed.

If you consider when the idea behind the doll was conceived, women were evolving and breaking barriers. She's a reflection of that changing world.

Through the years, Barbie® has been a nurse, flight attendant, astronaut and executive. She's toyed with plaid shorts-clad Ken and added more friends.

She's been relegated to an old suitcase, filled with doll clothes and her friends, tucked away in the attic at my parents' house since my girls were young and played with them, inventing new adventures. Now that there's a granddaughter in the family, she may come out of retirement in a few years, preparing for another round of make believe.

Barbie® has adapted to the times and still never gained an ounce. Too bad that doesn't happen in real life.

 

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