10 stunning facts you never knew about the Barbie doll
The doll that billions bought graced a million-dollar Andy Warhol painting.
Nearly 60 years ago, kids everywhere got their first look at the doll that would take over toy shelves every decade since. When Barbie debuted in 1959, she was a total novelty. Where most dolls were made to look like infants, Barbie was instead the model of the perfect woman. Since then, Barbie's gone through hundreds of outfits, dozens of sidekicks and sold billions of dolls.
Most recently, the makers of Barbie, Mattel, announced the newest line of Barbie dolls. To celebrate International Women's Day, these dolls are designed to look like powerful women from history, including Amelia Earhart and Frida Kahlo, as well as modern "sheros" like Wonder Woman filmmaker Patty Jenkins and A Wrinkle in Time filmmaker Ava Duvernay. See all the new inspiring women Barbie dolls here.
Over the years, Barbie has morphed to respond to trends. Her faces has been altered, her outfits have stirred controversies and her commercials changed the way toys were sold forever. Ready to learn more about the doll that has it all? Check out these fascinating facts below and see if you can keep up with Barbie, the ponytailed queen who fits into every scene for almost six decades.
1. In her first year, it's estimated that 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold.
Barbie's been a gotta-have-it toy for kids since the doll first debuted at the American International Toy Fair in 1959. That's all it took for Barbie to take off, and it's estimated that 350,000 dolls were sold in Barbie's first year. Mattel claims that every second still today, three Barbie dolls are sold.
2. The first Barbie doll came in your choice of blonde or brunette.
Although Barbie is often thought of as a blonde, the very first Barbie doll wore the doll's signature top-knot ponytail in either blonde or brunette, leaving it to every young lady's choice. And although the doll has countless outfits now, for Barbie's first time stepping out of the box, she wore this zebra-striped bathing suit.
3. Parents protested Barbie's adult proportions at first.
When the Barbie doll was introduced in toy stores, parents were not too keen on the idea of kids playing with dolls that look like adults. In fact, it was Ruth Handler's observation that most dolls were modeled after babies that led her to specifically design the doll to look like a grown woman.
Barbie's clothing designer Charlotte Johnson was so devoted to making Barbie realistic that she never allowed the doll to be sold without appropriate undergarments. Someone should remind those parents back in the day that Barbie was plenty modest about her figure but not bending over backwards to hide it (as limber as the plastic figure was). One of the very first pieces of clothing Johnson made for Barbie was actually a girdle.
4. Barbie has a role model of her own.
The inspiration for Barbie came from a character in a popular German comic called Bild Lilli. The story goes that Ruth Handler saw a Bild Lilli doll while traveling and considered how her own daughter Barbara loved to play with paper dolls. She decided to make a doll like Bild Lilli, but design it for kids, and when all was said and done, she decided to name it after her daughter, calling it Barbie, as we fondly know the doll today.
5. Barbie was once sold with a book on how to lose weight.
One of Barbie's most controversial outfits was "Barbie Baby-Sits," which in 1963 was packaged along with accessories including a book called How to Lose Weight. Actual advice in the book told kids, "Don't eat!" Another controversial outfit came two years later when Barbie "Slumber Party" included a tiny pink scale that was stuck on Barbie's "ideal weight" of 110. Parents took issue with the unrealistic goal since at Barbie's supposed height of 5-foot-9-inches, that's a full 35 pounds underweight.
6. You can catch original Barbies giving the new Barbie side-eye.
The original Barbie doll was painted with a secretive side-eye, suggesting Barbie knew a fun secret. But in 1971, Barbie's design changed significantly when the doll was altered to instead face forward. Kids never looked at Barbie the same after that, literally.
7. The same designer who created Barbie was the brains behind Hot Wheels and Chatty Cathy.
Inventor Jack Ryan designed Barbie in the 1950s while he was working at Mattel. He's also responsible for the mechanics of those Hot Wheels cars you shot up and down the driveway, as well as the Chatty Cathy doll that begged, "Please take me with you." The guy knew how to crank out popular toys.
8. Barbie was one of the first toys that relied heavily on commercials to generate buzz.
All the buzz about Barbie likely is due to the fact that the doll is one of the first toys ever marketed predominantly based on TV commercials. After that, tons of toys copied Barbie's strategy, and Saturday mornings were never quite the same after that. Watch the first Barbie commercial ever below.
9. There was an Andy Warhol Barbie doll.
In the mid-'80s, Andy Warhol created a Barbie painting that ultimately sold at a Christie's auction in London for $1.1 million. Nearly 30 years later, in 2015 Barbie paid tribute to this iconic art moment by creating an Andy Warhol Barbie doll that sported all leather and the artist's shaggy white bob. It also came with accessories like paints, brushes, a palette and tiny Warhol paintings.
10. Barbie is not from Malibu. She’s from Wisconsin and her middle name is Millicent.
Throughout the 1960s, Random House put out a bunch of Barbie novels that gives a fairly comprehensive back-story to one of the world's most popular dolls. In these books, we learn that Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She's from the made-up town of Willows, Wisconsin, daughter of George and Margaret Roberts. Much later, Golden Books took over the Barbie storyline and moved her to New York. What we want to know is: When do we get to read about Malibu Barbie?
See also: Here's what Barbie has looked like through the years
Barbie has always been changing, albeit very slowly. Read more.