Barbie was one of my favourite toys of the 1980s. Ever since I received ‘My First Barbie’ I was hooked and inspired by the idea that she could be anything she wanted to be. The toys were great to play with and came with a range of fashion, accessories, and playsets to create your own little ‘Barbie World’. It was one of the first toys to include TV advertising in their marketing strategy and has been in the media ever since. In Summer 2023 a blockbuster movie is to be released and will no doubt delight old and new fans of this timeless doll alike.
I had Barbie dolls growing up in the 1980s which were one of my favourite toys. I kept my favourite doll, Day to night Barbie and still have her to this day. She did for me what was intended with the creation of Barbie dolls in the first place which was to inspire girls to be who they wanted to be.
This is epitomised in the story of why Barbie was created. Her inventor, Ruth Handler, noticed her little girl Barbara only had baby dolls to play with, which reinforced traditional caregiver roles. In comparison, boys had toys that encouraged them to explore different roles and careers in life such as astronauts, soldiers, doctors etc. Ruth wanted to change this for her daughter, hence Barbie was born! She was launched in 1959 to great success.
Day to Night Barbie was launched in 1985. She came in a signature pink flock double breasted skirt suit, white hat with pink banding, pink chiffon scarf, pink tipped white heels, plus briefcase and accessories for her ‘Daytime’ look. This outfit could be transformed into a ‘Nighttime’ look by reversing her skirt revealing a shocking pink net skirt, and underneath her suit was a sparkly pink leotard. Adding some pink mules completed the outfit ready for a night on the town! In fact, I liked this Barbie so much that I have kept her all this time and you can see some photos of my own original doll below.
I knew from a young age I wanted to be a career woman and Day to Night Barbie helped me to imagine that for myself. In fact, when I did start work, if there was a night out after the office, I did tend to wear an outfit that day which could easily be transformed into a night look. Women of the 80s and 90s were supposed to be able to do it all, and little hacks like this ensured you could compete with the men and still look good!
Wherever Barbie went Ken followed and there was also a Day to Night Ken, complete with daytime office suit which could be transformed into a nighttime tuxedo. The ‘Home and Office’ playset completed this scenario. In signature Barbie pink, one side had a home office, the other a bedroom and mirror to get ready in.
Barbie has been criticised over the years for promoting an unobtainable beauty ideal and for lack of diversity. Whilst this may have been true in the earlier dolls, they have more than made up for it now with a much wider range available. There are different body shapes, ethnicities, hair styles, gender identities and even ones representing ‘disabilities’, and skin conditions. All of these allow children to see themselves represented in a doll, which can have a great impact on who they wish to be in the future.
I also love the Role Models range of dolls celebrating the achievements of strong women. These enable young girls to not only see themselves in a greater variety of roles, but can also be inspired by those trailblazing women who have made a difference.
Long live Barbie! Which one was your favourite and why? Let me know in the comments below…