Select your language:
English | Italiano | Ελληνικά

Barbie Vintage & Repro

(I first wrote this text in September 2009 when I decided to open the thread "The Barbie's doll history in Europe 1959-1980 " at the Greek Forum Retromaniax. Over time and thanks to the rest of the other collectors and friends, this thread has been filled with much more information. I added accents to the text, made some corrections and translated it into two other languages.)

In 1956 in Switzerland, the American Ruth Handler, a doll maker at a time when the emancipated women were very few, saw a BILD-LILLY in a shop. LILLY o LILLI was made of plastic and she was 29.5 cm tall. The doll looked a lot like another diva of the time, Brigitte Bardot. This doll was a 3D version of a clever and feisty heroine from a German comic book, designed by O.M. Hausser, and she was given along with a box of tobacco, cigars, or something like that, since it (she) was originally conceived as a decorative object for a man's office. Instead of buying him a belt, an aftershave, you could bought him a doll, dressed in lingerie.
Ruth Handler bought 3 Bild Lilli, and returned to America where she put the doll down, studied her and came up with her new project for Mattel: Barbie. No longer as a trinket to decorate a man's office, but as a child's toy for endless hours of carefree game!

source: German Federal Archives, Das Bundesarchiv (Nürnberg Toy Fair 1956)

Mattel's laboratory searched for the best material to use in the manufacturing of the Barbie doll, and ended up with the famous vinyl from Japan. Japan was an excellence in these materials. From 1957 onwards the manufacture of the doll spreads from Hong Kong to Korea.

The first Barbie was the Ponytail Barbie with the swimsuit, and appeared on March 9, 1959 at the New York Toy Fair. And as you can see she looks a lot to the German Lilli.
Ponytail No1 has her irises white, and her eyebrows have sharp angles. But the next release of the doll will have colored irises and eyebrows with softened corners, giving the doll a more calm expression.

In 1966, Barbie completely changes her appearance and make-up. She gets synthetic eyelashes, her eyes get bigger and her hair loose on her shoulders. A new patent allows the doll to rotate its upper body around its waist. She's the Twist 'n Turn Barbie. This body will be used for all the barbie dolls released from 1967 until 1999.

Barbie Ponytail & Barbie Bubbecut (1956 - 1961) | Twist 'n Turn Barbie 1966 | Repro dolls