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Barbie steps into new era

Nia McMillon, Fashion Editor, Puma Press

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On Jan 28, 2016, Mattel announced its release of the Fashionista Barbie. These dolls include three new body types: curvy, tall and petite. With the release of these three new body styles, up to 33 new dolls were released with over 30 hair colors, 24 hairstyles, 22 eye colors, 14 face shapes, and 7 skin tones.

In an official statement Barbie Media said, “…these new dolls represent a line that is more reflective of the world girls see around them.” With changes in diversity and body structures, Mattel has taken a big step by including every ethnicity and feature of today’s modern woman.


According to the official Barbie website, Barbie has been around since the 1940’s when she was created by Ruth Handler, based on her daughter’s love for fashion dolls. “My whole philosophy of Barbie,” said Handler,” was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

It was not until 1968 that Mattel released Christie, Barbie’s first African American friend. Christie was featured with a brown short Afro, hot pink lips and brown eyes. Many of her outfits were similar to that of Barbie, but varied in colors and patterns. In 2009, the recreation of the original Christie still featured her short Afro hair, but in black with two ‘80s inspired outfit looks.

Barbie released more African American dolls as time progressed, and in 2009 Mattel released every skin tone and key features for all ethnicities.

As Barbie continued to evolve in her looks and theme ideas, she progressed to feature dolls in over 180 careers. During her debut in the 1960s, Barbie worked as a fashion model, a fashion editor, a singer, an executive career woman, a teacher, and her most popular one of all as an astronaut. To add to Barbie’s extensive career background, she has even been released as a spy.

Though she has been criticized for an unrealistic body image, Barbie still shows young girls that they can be anything they want to, no matter their sex origin.


Barbie hasn’t been the only popular doll of the 20th century. When the release of Bratz came out in the new millennium, Barbie had finally met her match. Bratz was released in 2001 by MGA Entertainment, introducing five dolls with a unique sense of fashion: Chloe, Jade, Yasmin, Sasha and Roxxi.

At that time Barbie had only come out with Caucasian and African American dolls. By comparison, Bratz offered a wider range of ethnicities and personalities .

Aside from ethnic diversity, Bratz dolls were more concerned with fashion than their place in the career world. Their image did bring controversy to parents, since the style choice showed more than the reserved Barbie wardrobe.

Though Bratz’s intended audience was preteens, an increase in the dolls’ popularity brought more girls from ages 6 and up to the Bratz fanbase.

In recent years their popularity has decreased due to brand change and development. Nevertheless, Bratz continued to change their image and style with every collection, even including a line especially made for young girls undergoing chemotherapy.


How are women responding to Barbie’s new body types?

At Paradise Valley Community College, one member of the Women’s Rising Club said she wishes there had been more diversity in Barbie dolls when she was younger, along with a body size she could relate to.

Dr. Caron Sada, PVCC behavioral science faculty, said that at a young age, she was not allowed to play with Barbie due to the unrealistic image displayed. Growing up in a gender traditional household, her mother preferred for her to play with baby dolls that gave a more realistic role for little girls.

In regard to Barbie bringing a more empowered image to women in the workforce, Sada believes that Barbie sends just one of many messages that woman are able to be whatever they choose. She agrees that Mattel has made a small effort to expand women’s perception of beauty and the acceptance of every woman, no matter the size.

Sada believes there should also be progress in encouraging young men to display their nurturing and caring attributes with the same acceptance. She suggests that Mattel’s next move could be an evolution of the Ken doll in terms of appearance and nontraditional career options.

Barbie turns 56 this year.

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Barbie steps into new era