Playgrounds and schoolyards have always been and still are merry places where little girls mimic their mothers and take care of their dolls as if they were their own child. As a kid, I never was interested. However when my mother came back from London in the 70’s with a B-doll and some glamorous outfits and accessories, all of a sudden, a whole new world opened up to me.
Changing outfits during hours became my passion. Making up stories was pointless. All I wanted was to collect fashionable clothes.
Her creator Ruth Handler believed « that through the doll, little girls should be able to imagine a multitude of possible lives for themselves. » How right she was… Mine was about making different silhouettes for different occasions. I also asked my mother to make dresses, sweaters… This started the story of a B-fan with 3 B-dolls and loads of clothes, bags, shoes… And as an adult, I work in fashion.
Going through this huge and widely documented exhibition, I realized I was a small player. Apart from a beauty parlor, I never owned any vacation van, car, horse, house nor any snowboard outfit… I’m glad for that when looking at it today …
Just a huge wardrobe. Back in those days Oscar de la Renta’s were my favorite. As a matter of fact he was the first fashion designer to dress B. The first of a long series of collaborations. My doll never had any friends, brothers or sisters, cousins or pets. So I discovered a massive world of enchantment and was truly impressed with Barbie’s genealogy tree.
In her early life, Barbie had men’s jobs: president, dentist, surgeon, car racer, football player, servicewoman, archaeologist… Today this might look outdated but back in those days it was a major step. However what remains untarnished is her wardrobe.
To me, the exhibition reaches its climax when Barbie is set in « an atelier de couture »
or in a Fashion Salon that could be Christian Dior. That is exactly what Barbie is and should be to me. Probably a short-sighted vision but somehow the true meaning of this doll. Glamour!
I won’t get into the figure controversy about how B should look in the 21st century: chubby, bulky, fat, wearing flats…
Barbie is blond with an amazing slim figure. Blond doesn’t really matter to me (a proud brunette) but figure does! She cares about herself. She wants to feel fit and good. She was into aerobics in the 80’s and now probably into yoga and eating vegan. Who really cares? She looks confident and that is what matters these days when you are a woman.
Last but not least, I discovered the work of a French photographer, Olivier Rebufa, with « Coiffeur Pour Dames » and « le Psy ». But there are more Barbie pictures done by this fantastic artist to be admired. Who could imagine Barbie as a shrink or going through psychoanalysis?
Barbie is THE American success story. She is THE pop-culture icon. She is every woman. Whether you like it or not.
Long Live Barbie!