Friday, March 27, 2009


Barbie has officially turned 50 and I have to ask myself, "What does that mean?" When the iconic Peace Sign turned 50 in May 2008, it was a celebration that began a good year or more before it's actual birth date and continues to remain a pop culture phenomenon even now. It represents peace, of course, but it is also associated with President Obama, the hippies, the 60's, the modern youth culture and more. It can be found on jewelry, tee shirts, fashion runways, store windows and in home decor. It is a message and a movement and a fashion statement all at the same time. So when I started thinking about Ms. Barbie I had to wonder if this Barbie thing will have wings and take off. Will her image create a trend? She is an American icon, first introduced in 1959 by toy giant Mattel. She is a controversial figure - both loved and hated by girls and women. Feminists think she sets women back to a time when they were only appreciated for their bodies. (Have we really stepped that far away from this stereotype of women? Look at the celebrities that are idolized for their youth and beauty.) Barbie is an ideal. But whose? Does she represent modern women? Has she ever? Yet little girls love her and collect her. As a young girl, I owned a Malibu Barbie, a Skipper, a Francie and a Ken doll. I didn't look like any of them - thin, tan, blonde - but I still played with them for hours. I was dark-haired, pudgy and fair-complected but I loved my Barbie dolls. They were an escape from my reality. Is playing with Barbie any different from watching "The Hills" or "The Housewives of Orange County?" It's all make-believe. So how is Barbie being celebrated this year? Sephora commemorates Barbie's 50th birthday with a makeup collection by Stila. There are five Barbie Loves Stila paint cans filled with everything you need to get that signature Barbie look. Each can includes a "Barbie Look Book" that includes a history of each top-selling Barbie doll over the last five decades. Mattel has released a 2009 Golden Anniversary Barbie and a collectible replica of the 1959 Barbie doll. I have to admit, I bought the 1959 re-release at Toys R Us a couple of weeks ago. It is so retro and cool. I just wanted it! I also wanted the commemorative Barbie that was available for a limited time for the original price of $3. The store was all out of those pretty fast. But I didn't really like that version of Barbie anyway. She was in a two-piece black & white striped swimsuit with pink accents. I like the 1959 version with the original one-piece suit. One of my favorite artists using Barbie as a muse is Margaux Lange. She deconstructs Barbie to make jewelry that is definitely a conversation piece. Bloomingdale's NYC is featuring an in-store display of 120 historic Barbies. I love the one of Barbie as Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's, The Birds.Did you know that Barbie has her own Facebook page? Check out her 50th Anniversary website to get the scoop on all the exciting happenings as well as exclusive content from the last 50 years of Barbie and celebrity bits on how Barbie affected their lives. Now back to my question, What does it all mean - for fashion, for retail, for motifs and images and for the Barbie doll herself? I guess my job is to stay aware and take the 'watch and see' approach.

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