Saturday, March 7, 2015


In 1938, Ruth married Elliot Handler.

In 1945, Mattel Co. was founded by Harold Matson, Elliot Handler and Ruth Handler to make picture frames. But in 1946, Matson sold his interest to the Handlers. Mattel started making and selling doll house furniture.

During early 1950s, Handler observed that her young daughter, Barbara, and her girlfriends enjoyed playing with adult female dolls as compared to baby dolls.

Handler returned from a trip to Europe with introducing "Lilli" doll which was modelled after a cartoon character in a German comic strip and in a daily newspaper called the Bild-Zeitung.

This character was known for her large breasts and sexy clothing, was originally created for adult entertainment as a symbol of sex and pornography for the men of Germany.

Ruth Handler encountered the Lilli doll on her vacation in Switzerland and now the toy company that she and her husband founded i.e. Mattel had started turning a profit.

While she watched her daughter, Barbara playing with adult dolls, Ruth Handler formulated the idea of creating an affordable adult doll for little girls.

Jack Ryan, executive of Mattel, purchased the rights for Lilli and negotiates with a company of Tokyo to create an inexpensive doll like Lilli for little girls.

American male designers challenged Handler that it would be impossible to make a doll with stylish clothing and accessories with an affordable price. But Handler accepted this challenge and created a new doll with softer look by the "rotation-moulding" process and named it “Barbie” as her daughter’s name.

Finally in 1958, Barbie was born with 11 1/2 inches height and weight 11 ounces. She debuted as a teenage model in a black and white striped swimsuit along with sunglasses, high-heeled shoes, and gold-colour hoop earrings.

Her body was shaped with movable head, arms, and legs. Barbie was the first doll in America with an adult body.

Barbie was used as a "teaching tool for femininity". As the ideal western woman with long legs and arms, a small waist, and high round chest, Barbie represented every little girl's dream of the perfect mature body.

Barbie was accompanied with an original box and a fashion booklet. The box is covered in haute-couture style drawings representing Barbie a very fashionable figure. The cover of the booklet is of Barbie's profile.

Her side-ways glancing look was set against a pink background creating an air of "remarkable sophistication".

Barbie has a pleasant attitude toward cleanliness. Barbie is seen in a Bar-B-Q outfit showing the homemaking skills required for being a good wife.

Barbie also wore undergarments that symbolized adulthood. She had a girdle, which was a necessary garment to encourage good posture in women. Barbie's first wardrobe also included two straps-less bras, one half-slip, and one floral petticoat. All private and embarrassing questions about growing up could be answered by dressing Barbie.

Another popular outfit of the first Barbie was the wedding dress. She also owned clothing for recreational activities such as playing tennis and dancing ballet.

Fashion of the 1950's was up-to-date in Barbie's wardrobes. Latest fabric innovations such as nylon tricot, nylon tulle, sheer nylon, and nylon net were used as materials for Barbie's clothing.  As women were purchasing tights, Barbie was given her first pair in 1961 to keep up with current feminine trends.

Mattel wanted to keep Barbie's image too perfect so they decided to create a more personal side of Barbie. Society's emphasis was on a family, therefore in the 1960's Barbie's parents were identified as Robert and Margareth Roberts from Willows, Wisconsin.

Along with parents, Mattel developed a boyfriend and female friend for Barbie. Ken, named after the Handler's son, was introduced as Barbie’s boyfriend in 1961 and Midge, Barbie's freckle faced friend, debuted in 1963.

Ken also came with teenage male essentials, such as a letter sweater, tuxedo, and a grey flannel suit. They believed that young girls did not need to know some realities of adulthood; therefore Ken was born with permanent underwear.

Midge was less glamorous and less intimidating. She had Barbie's body but a wider, friendly face covered in freckles. Her look was intended to be "thoughtful".

Barbie has been able to maintain her status as "the most popular fashion doll ever created". The talented staff at Mattel researches societal trends to keep Barbie current.

She has now appeared as a doctor, astronaut, businesswoman, police officer, UNICEF volunteer, and athlete. Over the years, Barbie had achieved the title of the most popular fashion doll ever since created.

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