Sunday, February 22, 2009

what a doll

Barbie in a box on the shelf at FAO Schwarz in New York City, pve photo.
Barbie is celebrating her 5oth birthday.   This doll has been a huge part of my life.  As a young girl, I loved playing dolls, on hours ad nauseam.  This post is a long one, so stay with me.

Illustration by Robert Best, hired to infuse a new look to Mattel's -"Barbie."
I had a simple collection kept in a signature pink plastic doll case and would find many things to make for them.  I would design clothes for them and several of my child hood friends remember what fun we had playing for hours with our Barbie-dolls.   I recently ran into an old childhood friend and we reminisced about those days and the countless hours we spent playing with dolls. 

If only this special doll of grace existed back then.  She is "Judith" dancing "Revelations" from the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. I danced for 13 years and had the pleasure of meeting Mr.Ailey as he was a guest at the University of Louisville where I took an intensive summer dance camp. He taught a class and was mesmerizing.  I will never forget his voice nor his words that it had to come from the core, for the leg extension.  If you have ever danced, you know that is the truth.  He lifted "my leg" which I shall never forget. 

Today, girls can play and design the outfits on-line.  Just think of all the possibilities.  My daughter and her friend loved playing at FAO Schwarz in New York on a recent shopping play day.  The Barbie area seemed to be a popular spot for mothers and daughters of all races which shows just how far we have come.  

I have always loved all the accessories, the bags, the shoes, the gloves.  

Especially the fur trimmed ensembles.

There was something so elegant about them, especially all the fur trappings.  From NY Fashion week, a nod to Barbie and her elegant look and tiny waist.  I fathom trying to belt a fur around this waist.  How about you?

Getting them ready to go out required work, the gloves were not easy to slip into nor the glass slippers.  I fondly remember having a clear slippers and thinking every girl needed a pair.
Sling-back heels were also on the list of must haves for a trip to the beauty parlor.  Note I did not use the word "salon."

One of my favorite things about Barbie was her hair.  I loved styling chic chignons or the quintessential ponytail like that of a horses tail.  I used them to model a style and then mirror that style.   My big sister sent me the above photo just yesterday.  Now that my hair is short, I long for a pony-tail like these gorgeous dolls.  I even had the doll which you could lengthen or shorten the hair length.  I also cut the hair in short sassy styles like "Twiggy" to give them a modern edge.  I hated that the feet of the dolls was already posed for high heels.  It ruined it for a day of ballet flats or those mod white patent leather go-go boots.  

Then "Skipper" came on board and she saved the day with flat feet and a flat chest, all ready for a crafty and active life.  Skipper and Barbie are all ready for their weekly knitting group.

Barbie even learned to cook.  My Mother had a pink and avocado green kitchen.  

But after a hard day of work over a hot stove in the kitchen sporting a shirtwaist and heels, how about slipping into something for the Oscars or perhaps serving your guests Oscar Mayer products, like pigs in a blanket or bologna and saltines.  There are always "takers for classics." 
Love to know what dolls or toys filled your child-hood with joy.


Michelle said...

Oh, I love Barbie...we used to use double and triple record sleves to build barbie was all fine, until we decided to use to maxi pads out of my mom's bathroom cupboard for mattresses. Who knew?

Debra said...

This all brings back memories. My Uncle had a toy store and gave me one of those very first Barbie's- with the black and white striped bathing suit. I loved playing with my Barbies too. I sure wish I had her now. Your Mom's kitchen sounds very, very stylish for the day.

pve design said...

brilliant, love that your creations for "interior" from the go for barbie. I never ever thought of that for a mattress! (hence mouse mattress) lol.
too funny.

oh I have to see if my Mom has any old photos from that kitchen with the formica "boomerang" pattern countertops and the plastic "eames-ish" looking chair. the cabinets were metal that I think she painted. lots of things were avocado green. wonder why green is my favorite color?

heidi said...

Sweet post! My girls cherish their Barbies. And we still have an avocado kitchen. -xoh

Formerly known as Frau said...

I loved Barbies growing up, I had the Barbie TownHouse with the elevator I thought I was so special! I also had a barbie like doll named Dusty and she could play sports loved that doll until my sister bit her nose off! I gave all my Barbies "Dorthy Hamel" haircuts I thought my mom was going to kill me!
PS My sister went to High School with Robert Best small world he is from SLC I wonder if he admits it?

Kwana said...

Yay! I love Barbie. And she doesn't look a day over 20. I used to spend hours playing with mine. Of course I designed outfits for her and sewed them by hand out of scraps of material we had around the house. So much fun.

Joyce said...

Ahhh... thanks for the memories! I loved playing with my Barbies. I still have my first one. She is vintage now! LOL... And the poor girl is losing her head! Actually a small crack is happening around her chin, could be the sign of age. Some day I will have to bring her out and see if I can get her fixed.
Thanks for the walk down memory lane! A perfect post for me!

Karena said...

Patricia, I loved Barbie, my aunt Janie would make outfits for her. Of course, I would still be a little jealous of friends who could buy the "complete" ensembles with shoes and accessories!!

By the way check my site, I have a surprise for you!

simply seleta said...

What a fun post! I see where the beginnings of your fashion forward illustrations may have been inspired.

I played Barbies until I around 13, while most girls that age were out chasing boys. I would spend countless hours at home in our hallway arranging the ultimate Barbie penthouse. Most of my playtime was dedicated to designing furniture groupings and figuring out which part of the "house" allowed the most natural light into Barbie's chic master bedroom. I used cloth napkins for her bedding. And small potted plants as accent trees in her foyer.

Thanks for bringing back such fond memories!


pve design said...

heidi, frau, kwana, joyce, karena, seleta-
what fun we would have had playing barbies, but hey, we are so lucky to have found each other via blog land.
amazing how so many of us had them and have our own unique memories.
thanks ladies -

ps- guys, you can comment too! my brother even played with me. (sorry doug, but you know you had fun!)

CashmereLibrarian said...

I love this post. I loved my Barbies: making clothes for her, playing house, organizing her closet... Sometimes I think I should try harder to live a Barbie life--why not!?
I think I still have most of my dolls packed away somewhere. I remember looking through the boxes in high school (I guess I packed them up finally in late middle school?) and, sadly, finding a dead mouse in with poor Farrah Fawcett. Traumatic.

pve design said...

oh, poor farrah.
love to see your vintage dolls!

Maria Killam said...

I remember being envious of friends of mine that had all the barbie extra's, like the camper or beauty parlour. I just had the barbies. I had 3 sisters to play with though so we would build all kinds of play houses outside, it was fun!

pve design said...

Maria -
Oh, I hear ya, I had friends who had the entire house, the combi traveling home and all the trimmings - I was thankful for the dolls and the boxes and the vision to create imaginary homes and lives.

Leciawp said...

I was never into Barbie, but I have an appreciation for how so many people were and are. Wonderful post!

pve design said...

I can imagine that you were making incredible things, exploring and photographing it all then too.

Liz said...

When I was into Barbie 50 years ago, my friends Shelley and Patty and I devised a great game. We would bring all our Barbie clothes and accessories and a spinner. We put all the clothes we were willing to trade in a pile. Then we would take turns spinning the paper spinner and whoever had the highest number got first pick from the pile. We entertained ourselves quite well and simply. I acquired my Barbie's wardrobe by wahsing all the dishes after the family dinners (for nine people) for which I was paid $3.00 weekly(no small sum in those days. Off to Thornbury's i would go. To supplement her wardrobe, I would lay a dinner plate on a piece of fabric and cut around it, fold it in fours and cut the pointy tip for her tiny waist. Then cut two strips - one for bodice and one for sash! Instant gratification!!!!!

pve design said...

you could make one of those fancy dresses of which you speak for a little barbie here.
you know who would love it, bring it on sistah!

Julia said...

I remember playing with my mom's ancient barbies when I was a little girl. I also remember seeing White Christmas and thinking one of the girl dancers looked an awful like Barbie :)

inkWELL Press said...

Barbies brings back so many memories - so fun to start my own daughter out with Barbie now!

Rachel said...

I had a full Barbie kitchen, complete with a refrigerator with little tiny pieces of food. I think I loved the accessories even more than the dolls.

pve design said...

I can just see you making great things for your barbies
and lovely spots for them to live.

Oh, no wonder you love to create and cook with the little pieces-it does show that it begins in our formative years, the love of play.

Susan said...

I was just six years old when Barbie burst on the scene--so I have one of the very early ones---she's a blond and lives in her box now. My mother made clothes for her--because the "store bought" ones were so expensive. I have an early Ken also.

My husband always laugh when I choose his clothes for him. He says that I am treating him like a Ken doll.

pve design said...

Glad you still have your barbie and real life Ken to dress!

So Haute said...

Love this post! My mom taught me to sew when I was little and I used to "design" and sew little shift dresses & skirts for my barbie using my mom's leftover fabric scraps! Interestingly, this is the 50th anniversary of Barbie....they just released this insane coffee table book with Assouline. I've seen it in person and it's stunning. Also fashion week just passed and the Barbie show was one of the most anticipated shows. They had 50 designers create 50 looks inspired by Barbie and the show was one of fashion week's highlights. It got a ton of press. if you google you can probably even find a video of the runway show. Thanks again for such a fun post! And here's the link to the Barbie book if you're interested in checking it out:

pve design said...

so haute -
thanks, yes I saw that in the NY Times and my sister sent me those fashion photos. barbie sure looks good for 50 - even if she is only plastic! :)
be chic and swell,

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

Such a great little Barbie homage! Ahhh....a trip to the beauty parlor does sound so nice...

pve design said...

welcome home from the wild west and come on up and ski, yes you can!
we can play barbies too, lol.

Live In Full Color said...

I too was ga ga for Barbie as a young girl. Since my sisters were 10 an 11 years older, when I inherited their Barbies her doll clothes were 'vintage'. When everyone else was playing with Malibu Barbie, mine were clad in go- go boots and mini/maxi dresses

I remember really liking that my Barbie looked different....Its probably the reason why I've always been drawn to things 'with a past'.

What a fun post! Thanks for bringing back those memories!

p.s. I can't believe you met Alvin Alley... that is so incredible!!

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