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Barbie Birth

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 7 months ago

Barbie Home


The Barbie doll was conceived in the early fifties by Ruth Handler, co-owner and founder of Mattel.  Handler was initially inspired by her daughter Barbara's play with paper dolls.  She wanted to create a three-dimensional, adult doll that little girls could "project their dreams of their own futures as adult women" (Handler 3).  However, when she presented the idea to the designers at Mattel, nobody else jumped on board. 


A few years later on a trip to Lucerne, Switzerland with her family, Handler and her daughter stumbled upon a window display that "transfixed" and "enchanted" them both.  Six Lilli dolls, each about a foot tall, stared back at them.  This was the doll that Handler was trying to sell Mattel.  Though, Handler thought Lilli's face was "too hard-looking and cartoonish," but in essence it was the same idea (Handler 2).   


Lilli was a sexy, young secretary cartoon comic begotten by cartoonist Reinhard Beuthin and printed on June 24, 1952 in a German tabloid called the Bild Zeitung (similar to the National Enquirer).  She was aimed at adults, mainly men, and became a sort of novelty doll created by Max Weissbrodt who introduced her to the public on August 12, 1955 (Deutsch 8).


Although she was instantly a sensation among the children, Lilli was primarily found in tobacco shops and novelty shops.  Aside from Lilli's provocative appearance and stature, her construction also implied that she was meant to be gawked at, not played with.  Lilli's shoes and jewelry were molded and painted onto her body, and her hair was coifed in such a way that was not meant for brushing.  However, since she became increasingly desired by children, Lilli's wardrobe was altered.  


Nevertheless, Reinhard Beuthin's Lilli was the catalyst for the teenage fashion dream doll Barbie. 


While the Handlers were on vacation, Ruth bought one Lilli doll in Lucerne for her daughter, and two more in Vienna, one of them for herself to show the designers at Mattel. 


Ruth was told that there wasn't a manufacturer in the U.S. that could recreate her at an affordable price, so she sent Lilli along with Mattel designer Jack Ryan to Japan to be reproduced but with softer facial features and a softer plastic body.  In fact, it was B.F. Goodrich who provided the technology behind the casting manufacturing process of Barbie's soft, vinyl body (Handler 7). 


After three years of working out the final design of Barbie, she was finally born and ready to be presented to the public at the American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959.


Barbie was first introduced wearing a black-and-white striped bathing suit, black, open-toed heels, and white sunglasses.  She also originally had holes with metal cylinders inserted into the bottom of her feet to secure her to her stand (Deutsch 23).




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