Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Barbie Update

Having spent some time away from the lingerie history blog provided me with opportunities to try other things and to write about other topics--and to get a doctorate. Recently I developed a Pinterest habit that has not replaced my facebook habit, as I hoped it would.  However, there are a number of pinners who enjoy lingerie and lingerie history, which re-fired my interest in writing about underwear.  I like the art of fashion.  I like comfortable clothing.  I like to explore the evolution of clothing styles and fashions as it expresses culture and the layers of meaning that underlie cultural expression. [Well, it might take a lot of spandex to smooth that issue.] The purpose of this post is to survey the fashion icon and cultural touchstone doll Barbie since 2011.

Career Barbie

In 2014 Mattel launched Entrepreneur Barbie to encourage girls to see themselves as capable capitalists. Barbie has taken groundbreaking gigs before.  As many as 180 careers in 57 years puts her tops in job-hopping.  She even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue.

A Variety slideshow features Barbie and friends through the years, including some film and TV tie-ins.

Barbie in 2016

In 2016 Mattel released a major update to the look of Barbie to make her look more like a real woman.  She will come in a variety of body shapes--including curvy, petite, and tall--and hair styles, eye colors, and sizes that will mean doll clothing will come in different sizes.  Tall is my favorite body style!

The update is a long-awaited response to criticisms from moms who want their daughters to have more realistic toy options.  Barbie has long been a leader in women's empowerment, and this move marks a shift from the blonde and skinny sexy ideal to an all women are sexy and strong ideal.  For several years this shift has been taking place in the fashion industry, where plus size and real women models are gaining exposure.  All this should be good for boys as they begin to see women in a realistic way.

While Barbie sales are in the $300 million per quarter range there has been a noticeable drop in sales over the past 4 years. New body shapes will help with problem as people rush to buy "their" Barbie--and the clothes she needs.  The new types are not designed to have interchangeable outfits.

Barbie in the Movies

Two movie news items:
  1. My favorite real life Barbie, Reese Witherspoon, and her female-positive film production group, Pacific Standard, signed up in 2015 to produce a biopic of Ruth Handler, Barbie's mother.  The group owns the film rights to Robin Gerber's Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her.

  2. Another film is being discussed as a collaboration between Sony and Mattel that will bring Barbie herself to live action movie theaters featuring comedian Amy Schumer.

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