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So Who is Barbie , Anyway?

Barbie came into being in 1959 when Ruth Handler took inspiration from a German fashion doll, "Bild Lilli", and adapted it through Mattel, whereupon the new creation became "Barbie", named after Handler's daughter.  This was a new idea for a doll who was at once a teenager and seemingly a sophisticated fashion model, having all sorts of potential careers and avocations!   

Barbie was manufactured in Japan, and there is visible Japanese influence in the appearance of early Barbie dolls.  The #1 Barbie's face shows definite resemblance to Kabuki or Geisha, and also refers back to the pouty, "naughty" face of the German Bild Lilli! 

Bild Lilli 

 

The #1 Barbie was only made in 1959, and only 300,000 or so were produced.  She had her hair in a ponytail and curly "poodle" bangs, and came in Blonde and Brunette, with Blondes outnumbering Brunettes 3 to 1.  Barbie had the now famous "Barbie TM" marking on her right buttock, and "Japan" on one foot.  She had holes in her feet with metal tubes in them for strength to fit and stand on her black pedestal which had two prongs.  

#1 Blonde in "Gay Parisienne" 

 

Some early #1 Barbie dolls were painted lovingly by hand by Mattel artists!  Then they developed a stencil that made the features more uniform from doll to doll.  Below is a hand-painted Brunette.  The brows have brush strokes and the irises are slightly different from the stenciled ones. 

 

 

RARE Hand-Painted #1 Brunette 

 

The #2 Barbie came out that same year, looking identical to the #1, except that the metal tubes/holes in the feet were gone, and the stand now supported her with an upright holder rather than the prongs.  

 

#2 Brunette in "Roman Holiday" 

The #3 Barbie, who made her debut just before 1960,  still had the same hairstyles and colors, and the same body as the #2, but her face was new!  So many moms must have thought the original doll had too much of a sultry, sophisticated look, with heavy black eyeliner, pointy brows, and a sort of "come-hither" look.  So her face was softened, and she now had gently arched eyebrows, blue irises instead of black-and-white, and blue or brown eyeliner.  (Only the #3 dolls had a choice of eyeliner, with more brown than blue being produced.) She still had those luscious red lips popular in the late 50's.  Some of the later #3's had the TM mark changed to R after Mattel had the patent. 

 

#3 Brunette w/ Brown Eyeliner in "Cotton Casual" 

The #1, 2 and 3 Barbies were made of a vinyl that ended up fading over time to various shades of pink, beige, ivory or white.  The very pale lass in the above pic has faded entirely to a delicate eggshell!

Later in 1960 Mattel changed the vinyl formula and came out with what we now call the #4 Barbie.  Much like the #3, she had blonde or brunette hair in the ponytail, but her skin retained its lovely natural tone.  Her facial features were softened a bit further, with lighter brown eyebrows and the eyeliner was now exclusively blue.  

 #4 Brunette in "Apple Print Sheath"

By 1961, Barbies were being mass-produced in much greater numbers, and the new dolls had hollow torsos instead of solid, as the first four issues had.  And so the #5 Ponytail was born.  She now had 3 choices of hair color--Blonde, Brunette, or Titian (redhead)!  Her bangs changed to a coarser, curly style.  She still had full red lips, sometimes called "Lucy Lips".  

 

 #5 Titian Ponytail in "Senior Prom"

And this year marked the debut of the Bubblecut! Hairstyles of the 50's were giving way to the new bouffant styles which became popular throughout the 60's.  The 1961 Bubblecuts came in Blonde, Brunette, Titian, and the rarer White Ginger (which was a platinum shade) and the extremely rare Brownette.  In 1961 their lips were full and red like the ponytail dolls, except the White Ginger who was given candy-pink lips!

 If you note the eye colors you can see that some of the 1961 Ponytails and Bubblecuts had a turquoise iris and a lovely teal green eyeliner (note the redhead above and the White Ginger below).  But some of them had blue eyes and liner like the Brownette pictured.  In 1962 there was still some eye color variation, but by 1963 they all had blue, blue,  blue.

 

 White Ginger Bubblecut

 

 

 

Brownette Bubblecut

 

The 1961 Bubblecuts came in Blonde, Brunette (Black), Titian (Red), Brownette and White Ginger.  Most of them had a "tighter" bubble 'do than the later Bubblecuts, some of whom had huge hair!  But sometimes Mattel gave an early one huge hair, like the next gal, a pretty Blonde. 

 

 1961 (possibly early '62--see my NEW page "1962") Blonde Bubblecut in Best Bow variation 

 

By 1962 Mattel had followed the trend toward light-colored lipstick and this year all the dolls had "watermelon" lips except the Platinum (no longer called White Ginger) who had bubblegum pink.  This pink sometimes faded to white over years.  

 

1962 Titian Bubblecut with watermelon lips, in "Debutante Ball"

 

Ash Blonde was another hair color in Ponytails and Bubblecuts as of 1962 on, and by 1963 the dolls sometimes had thinner lips and various shades of lip color, usually coral.  Due to the advent of the "Midge-Barbie" body with its bigger neck knob, the dolls' faces started to look plumper-cheeked.

 

Did I say something about "Midge"?  Well, she appeared around 1962-3 as Barbie's best friend.  She came in Blonde, Brunette and Redhead, and had a cute flip.  She couldn't overshadow Barbie in the glam department, so she has a cute pug nose and freckles--the quintessential "girl next door"!

A beautiful Blonde Midge in "Movie Date", belonging to Yvette.  (Photo courtesy of Yvette)  

 

 In 1964 all sorts of new variations came into being, including the Swirl Ponytails who now had instead of bangs, a "swirl" of hair that swept over their foreheads and around the side of the head, to be wrapped around the ponytail and tied at the bottom with a yellow ribbon.  The Bubblecuts began to have "bigger" hair in 1963 and 64.  

 

Pale Blonde European Swirl Ponytail in "Black Magic" 

 

By 1965 a new Barbie came about, the Miss Barbie, who had bendable legs for the first time, and her eyes opened and closed.  She didn't sell too well, apparently because she frightened some children!  Also new was the bend-leg doll we now call "American Girl".  This beauty had a pageboy hairdo that came in colors like Blonde, Titian, Brunette, Ash Blonde, Cinnamon/Brownette.  The lips were full and coral in color, but often faded to buttery yellow.  By 1966 Mattel had begun making "High Color" American Girls with deeper coral or raspberry lips and lots of cheek blush, and these did not tend to fade.  The Butt cheek marks were now not "Barbie" but began with "Mattel" and were indented,  becoming raised in 1966.  

 

 Cinnamon Long-Hair High Color American Girl 

Some American Girls were rooted with unusual "Side Part" hair, and these are prized by collectors because of their rarity.  Some were marketed only in Japan and had new "mod" pink skin.  

 

There were also some with the usual bend-leg bodies marketed in the U.S., and they had the same color vinyl as the regular American Girls.  Their hair was said to be difficult to manufacture, so only few of them were made!   

 

 

Brownette Sidepart American Girl in "Disco Dater"

 

 

 

As 1966 gave way to 1967, the "vintage" Barbies gave way to "Mod" Barbies such as the "Standard" and "Twist 'n Turn".   

Please check out other pages to see more  pictures of lovely Vintage and MOD Barbies!   

 

 

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