Saturday, July 8, 2023

35th Anniversary Barbie by Mattel

Hello and welcome back to more of Barbie Month here on TBP!  I may have gotten in over my head with this idea, which is pretty typical for me.  Barbie has a very rich history, and it feels like every day I encounter something new that I want to write about!  For example, Kenzie mentioned the My First Barbie dolls from the 80s in her comment, and that intrigued me because I love dolls from the 80s!  I also got an Instagram request to look at Gloria from the upcoming movie.  And then I feel like every time I do internet research for the review I'm working on, I come across a new Barbie doll or concept that I hadn't thought to include.  It's going to be a busy month!

For today, I want to go back to the beginning of Barbie's timeline and look at a doll that represents her roots.  Barbie made her debut in 1959, but the very first dolls from that year are expensive now, with prices as high as $10,000 or more.  However, there's a reproduction of the original Barbie that was sold in 1994 to celebrate her 35th anniversary.  These dolls are still easy to find on the secondary market and cost in the $50 range, so that's who I decided to feature in this review:

35th Anniversary reproduction Barbie by Mattel, 1994.
This doll was offered in both blonde and brunette.  I chose the blonde version because she represents Barbie's more classic look.  I paid $33 for my doll, without shipping, so she ended up being close to $50 total.  From what I've observed, the brunette is a bit less expensive.

This is not the only Barbie reproduction doll that's been made over the years, as you can imagine.  There was a similar reproduction doll to celebrate Barbie's 50th anniversary, in 2009:

50th Anniversary Barbie reproduction, 2009.
At around $100, this set is more expensive on the secondary market than the 35th Anniversary doll, perhaps because there's a full extra outfit.

There's also a Barbie from 2020 that was made to commemorate Mattel's 75th anniversary.  She looks similar to the 50th Anniversary doll, above, but has a Silktstone body:

Mattel's 75th Anniversary reproduction Barbie, 2020.
She's even more expensive, too, at closer to $200.  Her face looks really beautiful, though, and I've heard she's higher-quality (heavier, better facial screening, no seam lines) than the earlier reproductions.

Mattel's 75th Anniversary reproduction Barbie, 2020.
The most expensive reproduction that I found, at around $200-$300, is this platinum-haired Silkstone girl from 2009:

I'm sure there are other replicas of the very first Barbie, but these are the ones that I could find who are wearing the black and white zebra-stripe swimsuit.

I chose the 35th Anniversary doll for this review not just because she's the least expensive option, but also because she comes with a replica of the original box, and I'm fairly obsessed with packaging.

This doll doesn't actually come packaged inside of her replica box, though.  She's presented in a much larger plastic box with the smaller box on display next to her:

35th Anniversary reproduction Barbie, 1994.
The larger box has a silver cardboard backing and a full plastic window with some white text:

The text describes the doll as the "original 1959 Barbie doll & package!" but then qualifies that underneath with "special edition reproduction:"

I already love this girl's side-eyed sassiness:

The back of the box is almost entirely black and white, save for the Barbie logo and the first letter of the descriptive text, both of which are hot pink:

The text says, "She's back!  The most famous American Teenage Fashion Model ever, looking just as she did in 1959 when the world of Barbie dolls first began!  Now is a perfect time to start a Barbie doll collection for a special little girl in your life...or for the special little girl in you!"

That's very sweet, but I wish they'd included little boys.

There's also a large black and white photograph of the original 1959 doll, and it's pretty clear from glancing at this that the reproduction Barbie doesn't "look just as she did in 1959:"

She's pretty close, though.

At the very bottom of the box, in tiny letters, it says that the doll is not intended to be used with the original 1959 stand.  Fair enough:

I think that the original stands were bases with metal rods that inserted into the bottoms of Barbie's feet.

The box has a 1993 copyright, which is actually 34 years after 1959, but I'm guessing that this is a manufacturing date and the doll was actually released for sale in 1994:

The reproduction dolls were made in Malaysia, and the original 1959 Barbies were made in Japan.

Barbie and her accessories came attached to a shiny, metallic pink backdrop that I was able to slide out of the main box:

Hiding behind the backdrop were a few pieces of paper.  One of them describes how to assemble the waist grip stand (which was nowhere in sight) and the other one is a questionnaire from 1994:

The questionnaire is hard to read (even in real life) but here's a slightly closer look:

These are not questions that I would have answered and mailed back on a postcard--particularly the ones about how many dolls I own and how much I spend per year on dolls.  The reward for revealing all of this information is a collector's card....and being listed "on file as an official doll owner."

I think I'd probably be listed as "on file as an official doll hoarder," which I'd rather avoid.

With the papers out of the way, you can see that Barbie comes with her box, a booklet, a pair of sunglasses, and a pair of shoes:

The amazing thing is that she was attached to the box with only clear vinyl bands and wire ties--no plastic ties whatsoever:

Good ol' 1994.
Here's everything that was in the outer box:

I don't see a stand.
I was very curious to see what was included in the thick special edition booklet:

I love vintage doll booklets.
On the back, there's a little trivia test that's pretty fun.  I deleted the answers so that you can take the quiz yourself if you want:

I only knew the answers to the first two questions.  Did anybody get more than two?  The last few questions seem especially hard to me--like, who would know those numbers off the top of their head?  I think the final question is just a set-up for some self-promotion.

Anyway, here are the answers:

Which 51 countries don't sell Barbie?
Indeed, 775 million is an impressive sales number.  But that was back in 1994.  Now that number has surpassed one billion.  Billion--with nine zeroes.  Sheesh.  And I've only bought about 50 of those.

Incidentally, when I was doing research online, I came across some of the world records for largest Barbie collection.  The Guiness World Record hoarder holder, Bettina Dorfmann, had 15,000 Barbie dolls in 2011, so imagine how many she has now!

The inside of the booklet has some text written by the late Ruth Handler, inventor of Barbie:

The text is tiny, but I've zoomed in on two of the sections here:

On the right side, above, there's mostly a repeat of the text from the back of the box.  The left side is more interesting.  Here Ms. Handler describes how she came up with the idea for Barbie.  She was watching her daughter play with paper dolls, and noticed that the fragile clothing was getting "tattered beyond recognition."  That gave her the idea to make a more durable, three-dimensional fashion doll.

I purchased some 1957 Elizabeth Taylor paper dolls on Etsy to see what Ms. Handler was talking about, and while they look very pretty and quite fun, they don't look like as fun as a Barbie doll:

No articulation, either.
What's not mentioned here is that Barbie wasn't the first fashion doll of her kind.  Ms. Handler actually drew strong inspiration from a German doll called Bild Lilli that was released in 1955.  Here's a beautiful 7.5-inch Bild Lilli doll that I found on eBay:

1950s 7.5 inch Bild Lilli doll, photo courtesy of philomene on eBay.
Lilli came in this small 7.5 inch size, and also a more Barbie-like 12 inch size.  Regardless of the scale, you can see a clear resemblance to the first Barbie dolls.  Mattel should have named Barbie's mom Lilli instead of Margaret!

There were also a lot of Bild Lilli clones, too, like this one from Hong Kong:

Bild Lilli Hong Kong clone
Bild Lilli clone doll (Hong Kong).
Lilli was made out of hard plastic, with painted earrings and a wig cap, so there are definitely some differences between her and Barbie, but most of the features are similar.  Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli doll in 1964, but not without some legal threats darkening the scene first.

There are so many tangents with this topic!  It's like following a maze.

The other half of the booklet has simpler information that's not as likely to send me off on another internet deep-dive:

These sections describe several of Barbie's attributes, like her classic ponytail, coy expression, zebra bathing suit, and blue-lens sunglasses.

The opposite side of the booklet has a warranty statement (and the trivia quiz) but also some small photographs of other 1994 collector dolls:

I found all of these dolls for sale online, and none of them are crazy-expensive.  I like the Bob Mackie Queen of Hearts doll best, and she can be found new-in-box on eBay for $60-$120.

The two sides of the booklet fold open to reveal a huge, silvery Barbie "family tree:"

More like a timeline.
The shiny metallic finish on this paper makes it hard to read, but I'll zoom in on a few areas.

The top line shows Barbie's family and their friends, starting in 1959 and ending in the 1990s:

In the 1960s, Barbie's family included Skipper (sibling), Francie (cousin), and twins Tutti and Todd (siblings).  Skipper's friends were Ricky and Skooter.

The 1960 names are pretty bad (Tutti and Skooter?) but the 1970 names are worse.  Here, Skipper adds three friends: Fluff, Tiff, and Ginger.  Okay, Ginger is fine.  But Fluff and Tiff?  Mattel, what were you  smoking thinking?

Skipper's friends Fluff and Tiff are adorable dolls, though.  Here's a gorgeous photo of Fluff that I found on eBay.  Thank you to rocket88 for allowing me to share this picture!

Barbie Fluff, photo courtesy of Daniel Faulconer and rocket88.
The names of Barbie's family and their friends get slightly better in the 80s and 90s, but also a little confusing:

For example, Stacie is Jazzie's friend...but also Barbie's sister?  And where did Tutti go?  She's hard to forget.  I think what happened is that the name Tutti was replaced with Stacie in the 90s, which was not a bad decision.  To make things even more confusing, Jazzie also had a friend named Chelsie, and of course Chelsea is the current name for Barbie's youngest sibling.

If you look at Wikipedia now, it says that Barbie has three sisters: Skipper, Stacie, and Kelly (a.k.a. Chelsea), and no brothers.  So what happened to Todd?  Did Todd become Kelly/Chelsea?  But that doesn't make sense because Stacie and Todd were supposed to be twins...or at least Tutti and Todd were...and Stacie is older than Kelly.  I guess Todd and Tutti were technically "discontinued."  Can you discontinue your family, though?!  Apparently Barbie can.

Here's a great photo of a cute redheaded Tutti and Todd before they got...discontinued:

Barbie's siblings Tutti and Todd, photo courtesy of bevs72 on eBay.
Anyway, the next line on the tree gives details about all of Barbie's friends--and there are a lot of them!

In the 1960s there's Ken, of course, and Midge (who I love!).  But I also see Allan (who marries Midge), Christie, Stacey, P.J., Brad, Jamie, Kelley, Steffie, Cora, and Curtis!  Whew.

The Steffie character stood out to me from that list because I know that there's another fashion doll from the Simba company named Steffi (without the "e").  There are a lot of pregnant and mom-themed Steffi dolls:

Steffi has really tiny babies.
But Steffi-without-the-e is not related to Barbie in any way.

I'd actually forgotten that there's a Steffie in Barbie's world!  She was only around for a year back in the early 70s, I think, but her face mold still gets used--and it's really pretty!

The Steffie mold on Barbie Collector Basics #3.
Barbie's friends get out of control in the 80s and 90s, so I'm not even going to discuss that group (we'd be here all day), but there's one more thing that I found interesting.

Barbie didn't have any pets in the 1960s.  How sad!  But then, in 1971, she got her first pet--a horse named Dancer!

Maybe that coincided with her getting flexible knees?
I looked for photos of Dancer, and she's awesome!  She has tons of articulation.  I actually purchased the very horse in this auction photo:

Barbie's first pet, Dancer, photo courtesy of foundinanattic2 on eBay.
By the time 1980 rolled around, Barbie started to have a lot more pets.  This began with her Afghan hound, Beauty, and progressed through all kinds of cats, dogs, and horses.  I don't think any of the newer horses were articulated like Dancer, though:

Notice that there's a cat named Fluff!  Maybe she was named after Skipper's friend?  There's also a kitten named Tag Along Tiffy, which could be another nod to Skipper's old friend group.

I think that the best pet set, aside from Dancer, is Beauty and her puppies.  I wish I'd purchased this set years ago, because now it costs a small fortune on the secondary market:

But can they poop?
I could have spent a week reading that family tree and looking up all of Barbie's friends and family.  Imagine if the tree continued on through 2023?  I bet it'd be impossible to fit all of the information on a single page these days!  But I had a lot of fun exploring the timeline, and would like to thank all of the people who allowed me to share their lovely pictures.

Now, where did I leave off with the 35th Anniversary Barbie?  Oh--right.  I was just starting to go through everything that was included, and I was wondering about the stand.

I ended up finding the stand inside the smaller reproduction box.  That's good economy of space:

The stand comes in three pieces that are easy to assemble--even without directions:

The inside of the box has a cardboard insert with two leg holes at the bottom, and what looks like two arm holes at the top:

I wanted to put Barbie into this replica box, but at first I tried sliding her arms into the upper holes.  I don't think this was the right thing to do, because the cardboard wouldn't fit back into the box this way:

Barbie is looking at me contemptuously.
Maybe the holes on top are just to brace Barbie's shoulders, like this?

But when I gave it another try with the arms all of the way through the upper holes (and with a bit more determination) I was able to get everything to fit:

It's a really snug fit.
So I'm not exactly sure how that cardboard insert is meant to be used, but it works in both of the ways shown above.

I wanted to put Barbie back in her box so that I could try to approximate how it might have felt to de-box one of the very first Barbie dolls in the world.  Kids in 1959 couldn't have had any idea what a piece of history they were about to open!  This is really fun for me to think about.

Before I de-box my reproduction Barbie (for the second time), let's take a look at a few of the authentic early Barbies.  I was having a hard time finding pictures of a 1959 #1 Barbie that I could use here, but then a wonderful eBay seller from Barbie's Doll Shop came to my rescue!  She not only agreed to let me use photographs from her auctions, but she snapped a few comparison shots for me, too.  Doll people really are the best!

Here's a gorgeous, original, #1 Barbie from 1959:

Original #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
I love that she comes with her original box and paperwork!

Here's a close-up of her face:

Original #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
Here's another #1 Barbie who is actually hand painted--before facial screening was a thing:

Hand-painted #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
Here's a close-up of her face:

Hand-painted #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
These dolls are extremely rare treasures and are in the $10,000 price range...which is why I couldn't purchase one for this review. #JoinMeOnPatreon.

From looking at these older dolls, I'd say that the packaging on my 35th Anniversary girl was replicated extremely well!  I love the box art:

35th Anniversary replica Barbie box.
The colorful fashion drawings wrap around the two long sides of the box:

Here's a closer look:

I love that blue and white striped dress!
Update: I think these drawings represent actual Barbie clothing, too, which is great.  For example, RagingMoon pointed out in the comments that the blue and white striped dress is called Suburban Shopper and can be purchased!  There's even a reproduction doll wearing this set.

It's interesting to me how some of the clothing looks dated, and some of it would work perfectly well in 2023:

I'd wear the outfit on the right.
I like how the coat in the middle of this bottom trio is seen only from the back--that's very clever:

I also like how the text says "teen age fashion model" instead of "teenaged fashion model," the way we'd say it nowadays.

On the side of the box, there's the Mattel company logo, which has changed a lot over the years:

The back of the box is plain white:

But the top and the bottom have some text against an orange background:

And this text matches the early boxes really well, too!

Vintage Barbie box, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
It's nice that the reproduction box says "special edition reproduction" on it, though, otherwise it could get hard to tell the reproductions from the originals--especially as the years go by.

The reproduction box is very easy to open.  The top slides off--and there's the doll!  I know you've seen her before at this point, but try to forget that.  Maybe even try to imagine that you're seeing a Barbie for the first time:

She makes a great first impression!
I didn't find a good way to squeeze the stand into the box with Barbie, but the stand fits her well, and she definitely needs it for balance:

Here she is from the back:

I've never owned a Barbie from the 50s (or pretending to be from the 50s) and I wasn't sure if I'd like the older style, but this doll is fantastic.  I can tell already that she has very little in the way of articulation, but when I think back to what Ruth Handler said--that Barbie was basically designed to be a replacement for paper fashion dolls--then the articulation seems great.

She has so much personality, too.  Her face is epic:

Here's the #1 Barbie's face again for comparison:

The reproduction doll is really well done, from what I can tell.  The newer doll's hair is very different, though.  It's darker, and doesn't have the tight curls in the bangs that the first Barbies had.  But the eyebrows and side-glancing eyes are perfect--as are the earrings.  I think the lips on my doll are thiner than the original, but it's hard to tell with the different camera angles.  She has a bit less eye makeup, too.

Barbie's Doll Shop also took a comparison photo for me that shows another reproduction doll (Voyage in Vintage) alongside the #1 Barbie:

Voyage in Vintage reproduction (left) and #1 Barbie (right), photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
This reproduction is more faithful to the original, with the curly bangs and lighter hair, but she doesn't come in the striped bathing suit.

One thing all of these dolls have in common is a very extreme side glance!  It takes some work to get this sly girl to look at me:

She has stylized eye paint, too, with very pale irises and rectangular pupils:

This shape of pupil actually occurs in nature--as strange as that might seem.  Humans don't have rectangular pupils, but horses and goats do!

Rokvitt oga
Horse eye.
Here's an absolutely beautiful picture of a baby goat's eye, too:

Baby Goat in Margarita Island, Venezuela

In this well-lit photo of the #1 Barbie, you can see that she has the same angular pupils:

#1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
I think that the elongated pupil makes it easier for Barbie to focus her gaze to the side.  Or maybe it creates the illusion of movement?

Reproduction Barbie's wavy hair is pulled up into a high ponytail, with a section of hair looped around to conceal the rubber band:

This is also a good view for appreciating Barbie's metal hoop earrings.  They're not removable, but they look great.  Metal earrings seem high-quality and awesome, but metal can oxidize and cause staining over time.  You can already see a few small dark marks on the side of Barbie's face that were caused by the earrings.  I hope it doesn't get too much worse in the future.

This doll's profile reminds me of the secret Barbie profile hidden underneath My First Barbie's skin!

I flipped the shot around so that Barbie is facing the right way to mimic that silhouette:

With this angle we can also compare her to the #1 Barbie's profile:

#1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
Here's a side-by-side comparison:

The molds look extremely similar to me, right down to the pointed nose and lidded eyes.  The mouth on the older doll looks more opened, but again--this could be a camera angle artifact.  I assume that the reproduction doll shares a mold with the original.

I have one more fun comparison to show you before I put all of my focus back on the reproduction doll.  I might be taking advantage of the Barbie's Doll Shop's generosity with picture use, but their range of rare Barbie offerings is fascinating.  I really love this beautiful #3 Barbie from 1960:

#3 Barbie from 1960, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
You can see that after only one year of production, Barbie's features had started to change slightly:

#3 Barbie from 1960, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
Here's a side-by-side comparison to the reproduction doll, for those of you viewing on a laptop:

The differences that I notice right away are that the 1960 Barbie has darker eyes, larger lips, and less severe eyebrows.  I love the charisma in the reproduction doll's face, but I also like the soft beauty in the 1960 face.  She's really lovely, and at around $2,000, she costs significantly less than a #1 Barbie.

I adore comparisons, but that's probably enough for now!  Let's take a closer look at the reproduction Barbie's face.

It's hard to appreciate the full details of her face paint with those thick, curled-under bangs:

So I clipped her bangs back for a minute to expose the whole face:

Her eyebrows are extremely dynamic--almost to the point of making her look diabolical...but not quite.  She's just fierce.  

Her lips and nostrils are a bright, true red, which looks great on her lips and a little alarming in her nose!

The older Barbies don't have nostrils that look quite that red.

Barbie has a thin line of blue eyeshadow over each eye, but her eyelids themselves are what fascinate me. The eyelid and eyelashes are an actual molded ridge that sticks out over the eye.  This ridge is painted completely black, so it creates a very dramatic appearance--especially when combined with Barbie's icy stare and arched brows:

That stare is the G.O.A.T.
Here's a better view of the eyelash ridge:

And the earring stains.
The back of Barbie's head has a v-shaped hairline and a 1958 Mattel copyright, confirms that she shares a mold with the original:

Another interesting thing about Barbie's hair rooting is that her bangs are rooted behind the hairline on her forehead.  I like this technique because it thins the bangs while maintaining a smooth line of hair in front:

This technique creates a few bumps in the hair that's pulled back on the top of the head, but they're not very noticeable:

Maybe you can also see in that previous photo that the rubber band in Barbie's hair had crumbled with age and was starting to fall out in sticky little pieces.

I knew I was going to have to take the hair down and address the rubber band situation, but before I did that, I wanted to snap a few pictures of Barbie in her sunglasses with her original hairstyle.

The sunglasses are made out of plastic and have translucent blue lenses with white painted rims:

The ear pieces have simple folding hinges that look and feel fragile:

But the glasses look great on Barbie!

They grip her head quite tightly, so they don't rely on her ears for balance:

The glasses also look good and stay in place on top of her head:

Once I'd gotten a good look at the sunglasses, I felt free to take Barbie's hair down and rid her of the icky old rubber band bits.

It's clear that this hair has been in a ponytail for thirty years, but the fiber actually feels nice:

There's something about Barbie.
It's not silky and smooth, but really soft and shiny--a bit like synthetic mohair.  It's not soft enough to be mohair, though, so it's probably saran.

I'm tempted to boil wash this hair to see what it looks like laying flat, but it'd be sad to lose the wave in the classic ponytail style.

I'm also hesitant to straighten the hair because the rooting is not very dense in back, and without the extra body from the curls, the scalp might start to show:

Ya think?
As a compromise, I used some dry heat to straighten the back of Barbie's hair a little.  I think this looks nice:

And the back looks much better:

But the scalp shows a bit on the top:

After my little hair experiment, I tied Barbie's hair back up into a ponytail:

Next, I remove her hand tag.  This says "Genuine Barbie by Mattel" on one side and "35th Anniversary" on the other side:

Barbie is wearing her famous black and white striped swimsuit.  I'm hoping that we'll see this classic look in the upcoming Barbie movie, and some of the promotional photos suggest that we will!

The doll version of the swimsuit is made out of jersey knit, with a strapless top and modest bottoms that we'd probably call "boy shorts" these days:

I don't speak 'boy short' Emily.
The suit is cut low in back, so there's no need for a seam that opens and closes:

The swimsuit pulls off easily...maybe a bit too easily.  It doesn't stay in place at the top because the band of vinyl around the neckline, which should create some friction against the doll's body, has disintegrated:

I picked at the remnants of this gungy stuff, but couldn't get it completely cleared away:

The suit has a nice shape, with a seam down the front and some tucks at the bodice:

In addition to the swimsuit, Barbie is wearing a pair of flexible black vinyl heels:

I think they're a size too small.
The vinyl sticks to the feet better than plastic shoes would have, and so the shoes don't fall off very often.

And their open-toed design allows Barbie's red nails to show!

Here are the shoes on their own:

They're extremely simple, but an essential staple for Barbie's wardrobe.

Underneath her clothing, Barbie has a plastic torso with smooth, shiny, vinyl arms and legs:

This hourglass shape earned Barbie criticism in 1959, with some parents thinking that it was too mature for little kids, but apparently this didn't impede sales.

The body looks like it shares a mold with the #1Barbie:

#1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
And, just for fun, here's what the Bild Lilli body looks like:

7.5 inch Bild Lilli doll, photo courtesy of philomene on eBay.
The reproduction Barbie doll has a factory mark on the small of her back:

35th Anniversary reproduction Barbie.
This has both 1958 and 1993 copyright dates, and acknowledges the Malaysia manufacturing location.

The copyright on the early Barbies is a little different:

#3 Barbie from 1960, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
It doesn't suggest a manufacturing country anywhere in that mark, but for all dolls made in Japan (1959-1972), "Japan" was molded onto the bottom of a foot.

Barbie has only five points of articulation, and all of them are rotational--with no hinge action.  This means that she can spin her head around, but not look up and down:

However, as her head turns, it looks more and more upwards, so by the time she's looking behind her, like an owl, she's staring up at the ceiling:

Her arms can spin around and around, but can't hinge away from her body:

She can't do side-to-side splits at all, but she can do very elegant front-to-back splits:

And she can sit on the ground with her legs together:

With this view, you can see that she still has the holes on the bottoms of her feet that would have been used to attach her to the old stand.  I wonder why she's not still compatible with that stand?

She can sit in a chair, but this is not how I would choose to sit in a chair:

It's good leg exercise, Emily.
Barbie is 11.5 inches tall, so the same size as a modern Signature Looks Barbie like my timeless assistant, Lena:

Signature Looks Barbie (left) and 35th Anniversary reproduction Barbie (right).
It's fun to see these two together, but I'm not sure who is sassier!  They're either going to be best friends or worst enemies:

These two have practically nothing in common except for their size and their attitude, which says a lot about the evolution of Barbie over the last 64 years.

Okay, another thing they have in common is really tiny feet.  I guess some things never change: 

Their hands are very different, though, which is interesting.  Lena's hands are bigger, with longer fingers, no nail polish, and more realism:

The body proportions have changed enough over the decades that Lena can't wear Barbie's swimsuit.  It's too short in the torso and isn't supported by the bust:

What are you saying, Emily??
Barbie can make it look like she fits into Lena's outfit...

Oh, I'm absolutely making this work.
But it doesn't fasten in back:

Why do you have to tell them that?
She looks good in all white, though, doesn't she?

That's what I'm saying.
Not to get ahead of myself, but I also thought it would be fun to see if this Barbie could fit into the outfit from the core Barbie movie doll, since that doll has a different body type than Lena:

It looks great from the front, but again, it can't close completely in back:

Some of the clothing that I purchased for Lena on Etsy fits better, mostly because there's a lot of stretch in the fabric:

I really like this modern look on her!

I put Barbie back into her original outfit for a few quick portraits:

She can't strike a lot of different poses, but she looks really good in the poses that she can strike:

And those sunglasses add the perfect touch of glamour:

This Barbie might not be from 1959, but I wanted to buy her one item of clothing from that era, so that there would be a physical connection between her and the very beginning of Barbie's history.

I chose this classy, blue and white striped dress from the early 60s:

This dress is called Cotton Casual and was part of the original 1959 Barbie fashion line.  I can tell by looking at the tag that this exact dress was made a little later, between 1960 and 1962.

I love how it looks on Barbie!

And I think she's happy to have something other than a swimsuit to wear.

I especially like how the blue stripes bring out the blue in Barbie's eyes and eye makeup:

I took a few portraits with Barbie's hair let down, just because it's not very common to see these dolls with their hair loose:

I think this hairstyle makes her look a bit older:

Are you calling me old, Emily?
But still young and beautiful!

That's more like it.

But I had to restore that iconic ponytail for the last few shots:

I'll close the review with one more photo of Lena and Barbie: two cousins with 27 years separating their manufacturing dates, and 62 years separating the origin of their design:

You've come a long way, Barbie.
Bottom line?  It would be impossible for me to be critical of one of the early #1 or #3 Barbies, since those are such rare treasures.  And frankly it's a little hard to find fault with a doll that's replicating one of those pillars of doll history.  But the 35th Anniversary reproduction Barbie is still affordable and easy to find, so she warrants an almost-normal assessment.  Before I get into all of that, though, I want to take another moment to thank all of the sellers and collectors who generously agreed to share their photos and expertise with me.  They added depth to this review that I could not have achieved on my own.

First of all, as somebody who really enjoys the modern Barbie face molds, I didn't expect to love this Barbie's face as much as I do.  I've seen a lot of photos of the older dolls throughout my collecting years, but I've never interacted with a doll of this style face-to-face until now.  The personality in the side-glancing eyes and arched brows is captivating, and I really like the unique style of the pupils--they give Barbie an almost cat-like (or maybe goat-like?) gaze.  I've never seen an eyelash design like Barbie's, either, with the solid ridge of vinyl above the eye.  It gives the pale blue eyes a bold presence with a bit of hooded mystery.  The only thing that I find odd about Barbie's face is that her nostrils are painted bright red.  The color matches her lips, which keeps the facial coloring simple and coordinated, but it's an unnatural shade for a nose.  Barbie's metal earrings look good and dangle nicely, but they can't be removed and one of them has caused some staining around the cheek and jaw.  From looking at photos of the original #1 Barbies, I feel like this doll's face is a faithful reproduction.  The only differences I noticed are that with the original, the lips are painted to be more full, there's slightly more dark eye makeup under the eyes, and the nostrils are more pink than red.

I don't think that this doll's hair is a very good replica of the original Barbie hair, though.  First of all, the color is darker--more of a light brown than a true blonde.  Also, the style of the bangs is noticeably different, with none of the tight curls that grace the original doll's forehead.  However the hair is nice in its own right.  The fiber is soft and shiny, with gentle curls that look good and don't tangle easily.  The kinks from the ponytail can be relaxed with a little bit of dry heat, however the styling options are limited because of the sparse rooting in back and the lack of a rooted part.

Barbie's body shares a mold with the 1959 dolls, with only five points of simple articulation and tiny hands and feet.  I have to admit that I found myself wishing that there were more joints to play with, so that the body could keep up with the personality in the face, but I appreciate that for the time period--and especially in comparison to paper dolls--those five joints were impressive.  And the face has enough character to make up for the paucity of joints.

Barbie's accessories include her swimsuit outfit, sunglasses, black heels, and a reproduction box.  All of these items are well done and near-perfect replicas of the originals.  The swimsuit is made out of a sturdy jersey knit, and is easy to pull on and off.  It might slip down more than it would have in 1994, since the vinyl edging has degraded, but it still stays in place reasonably well.  The sunglasses look great, but they feel a little fragile--especially around the earpiece hinges.  However, they grip Barbie's head well, and stay in place in several different positions.  The heels are tiny and flexible.  They're simple to get on and do not fall off easily.  I'm not sure if the original shoes were vinyl or plastic (I'd guess plastic), but I like the added friction of the vinyl design.  For me, the box is a real highlight of this set.  It's a beautiful copy of the original, and I love the assortment of colorful fashion drawings.  The styles take me back in time, while also reminding me how certain elements of Barbie are timeless.

I'm really happy to have the 35th Anniversary Barbie in my collection, although she's making me want one of the originals, which is dangerous.  But, honestly, I never thought I would like this style of doll as much as I do.  In fact, I originally thought that this would be a fairly simple review, and I included it just to inject a bit of history into Barbie Month.  But of course there's no way to simplify or downplay the 64 years of Barbie's evolution.  In the course of a week, this little doll has taught me a lot...but mostly she's shown me how much more there is to learn and discover about America's beloved, enduring, teenaged teen age fashion model.


  1. What an incredible review! Thank YOU for putting all this together! You’ve created such a fascinating illustrated history here. I’m so glad you included the 1960 Barbie, how incredible to see such a change in the face so quickly! That face looks a lot more like other dolls of the era you’ve shown us. The 1959 face is really striking!

    When I was a child I was given one of these reproduction style Barbies and she was my favorite, precisely because of her special molded eyelashes, painted nails, and piercing gaze.

    I had such a nice morning reading this wonderful review thanks to you. And btw, cool horse!

    1. Thank you so much! What a lovely comment! It's neat that we appreciate many of the same things about this doll. And I'm *so* excited about that horse! I might have to do a mini review for her. :)

    2. Thank you for this great review.

  2. Thanks for another interesting review! I've seen plenty of photos before but the comparisons were super helpful.
    It's really interesting how Barbie has gone from glamorous teen fashion model to everygirl over the decades.

    1. Hi Rebecca! That's a really good observation: the difference between Lena and Anniversary Barbie is especially striking in that respect, although Lena thinks she's a glamorous teen fashion model, too...

  3. The light blue and white dress that you liked on the reproduction box is called Suburban Shopper. It's not too rare on its own, but if it's got all the pieces your pocketbook will be weeping bitterly.

    1. Oh, that's SO COOL! And now I see that there's a reproduction doll wearing that outfit, too! It didn't even occur to me that those drawings were turned into real fashions! That's going to be a few more hours of research for me, lol. Thank you so much for the information!

  4. Barbie really started off strong, didn't she? Not only did she make history, but she looked eye-catching and distinctive while doing it. That face and that swimsuit probably helped so much in making Barbie the titan she is today, and the good idea that came out on top rather than inspiring something else that became more famous.

    That being said, there is a very good argument that Barbie was inspired by the German Bild Llili doll (often mischaracterized as a naughty adult creation herself) and that Lilli was the good idea who got covered up by Barbie. There's a YouTube creator called Darling Dollz who has a great history/reappraisal video about Bild Lilli if you want to find out more. I don't know how much her dolls go for, though, so I can't rigthfully ask her to appear on this blog someday!

    1. Yeah, I read about the Bild Lilli lawsuit, but didn't really want to get into all of that with this review. There's definitely a huge resemblance between the two dolls. I think Mattel bought the Bild Lilly copyright in the end, correct? Anyway, it's interesting to think what would have happened if things had gone differently...and I'd love to get my hands on an original Bild Lilli doll! :)

  5. Ohh what a lovely review. My mum bought the exact same doll when she was released in the 90s and she‘s still in the box. She also has a porcelain version and one with the black sparkly evening dress. These dolls remind me so much of my childhood :)
    I also love the comparison with the original Barbie :) Something I always wondered: why did they left her eyes without Iris colors? Hmmm….
    But yes, she really looks like Bild Lilli :) (one day I own one, haha).

    PS: Thank you for mentioning Jazzie :) She‘s my new favorite:)

    1. Hi Séverine! Now I'll have to look up some Jazzie dolls, too! There are so many paths to follow with this topic--I've had such a fun week! After both you and DB brought up Lilli, I decided that I should add a blurb about her into the review, too. I'd love to own one of those as well!

      Also, I thought that the irises were faintly blue, but I think you're right! There's no color whatsoever. Very odd.

  6. Welcome to the wide wide world of Barbie where every purchase is a new discovery that takes you down many new paths of wonder. I acquired several of the 90’s reproduction dolls a few years ago. Then I began looking for vintage fashions to dress them in. Then I found myself buying lots of TLC vintage Barbie heads, and bodies, and dresses and then I had to have vintage Ken, and Skipper, and Francie, and Midge and it never stops. Now my Vintage collection of Barbie dolls (and friends) from the 60’s and 70’s is quite large. When I first started collecting Barbie I didn’t really like the original face, but now I appreciate it so much more. Have you purchased any Silkstone Barbies (The Barbie Fashion Model Collection)? They are high end collector dolls with beautiful fashions that use a face mold that’s very similar to Barbie’s original face. The line was discontinued a few years ago, but an announcement was just made at the Barbie Convention that they are bringing this line back!
    - Korglady

    1. Hi Korglady, you're not kidding! It was so hard to limit the tangents in this review, because I kept wanting to go off on another search for a specific vintage doll. It truly is a fascinating topic, and it's great that so many of the older dolls are still available and in good shape. I really love the Anniversary Barbie in that vintage dress, so I suspect I'll go down a similar path to you, picking up vintage outfits for newer dolls.

      I should have come to you for pictures of the other characters! I wish I'd known. I'd love to see your collection and know who your favorites are.

      I was just reading about the Silktstone revival! I've never purchased one before, but I'll certainly be interested now! ;D

    2. I would love to show you some pictures of some favorites from my collection. My favorite vintage Barbie with the original face mold is a red haired swirl ponytail that I managed to find on eBay this year for a really good price. My favorite reproduction with the original face mold is the Barbie Signature Silkstone Series After 5 Doll that Mattel Creations released last year. You would love her - she too is a gorgeous redhead. My favorite vintage Barbie friend is Francie. She had a really sweet face and a different body type from Barbie. This doll was made from 1966-1976 and there’s been a few reproductions made as well. You should check her out.
      - Korglady

  7. Oh, she's lovely! I grew up playing with my grandmother's early 60s redheaded Bubblecut Barbie and blonde Midge dolls, as well as several of their stunning fashions, as a child, so the original Barbie face has always had a special place in my heart.

    I recently purchased a 90s reproduction Barbie (the blonde Enchanted Evening one in the pink gown with the fur stole), and she's stunning! I boil washed her hair, just a very quick dip, and it actually retained a lot of curl, while straightening out the bumps from the ponytail, if that's something you're interested in trying!

    I'm looking forward to the rest of Barbie month, we're only two posts in and it's already been a lot of fun.
    - Cole

    1. Hi Cole! I looked up Enchanted Evening and she's beautiful! That dress! And reasonably affordable, too. Too many temptations. That's great to know about her hair, too--thank you. I really don't want the hair to be poker-straight, but the ponytail bump is a pain.

      How wonderful that your grandmother shared her dolls with you! I have similar memories and they make certain dolls so much more special, that's for sure. :)

  8. I really enjoyed this review, although it's dangerous reading your reviews because I often end up buying something. (I had to get Dancer.) I'd love to see a review of Dancer. I bought Barbie's afghan hound Beauty, and I'm really impressed with that dog's articulation. She's so posable and expressive, and now that I've painted teeth in her mouth she's just about perfect (aside from being a bit scruffy with all that hair). I was impressed with how nice Barbie looks with her hair down. Glad you showed her that way. Thanks!

  9. Early Barbies have beautiful faces. Loved your detail photos of the pupils! I didn't notice the odd shape before. Enjoying these Barbie reviews quite a bit.

  10. I saw a big display of vintage Barbies in a toy museum once. I didn't like their style in photos either, but they are really impressive in person! And those outfits with no construction shortcuts have an Etsy vibe. I was considering getting a reproduction after that visit, but I'm hesitant because she would stand out like a sore thumb in my fairly homogeneous collection. Thanks to your review, now I feel like I interacted with her enough! And big thanks to the sellers for contributing, knowing they were not making a sale.

  11. I bought the dark haired reproduction doll when they were released. I loved her dearly, and bought some wonderful outfits for her. I loved how heavy she felt in my hand. Then for some stupid reason I sold her. I now regret it bitterly. I miss her so much. By the way, Obitsu brand doll pumps fit these dolls very well. Suzy. Australia.

  12. According to (I'm not sure how to make the hyperlink work) it appears that the "canon" explanation is that Tuttie was just Stacie's old nickname, which she (understandably) stopped using when she got older. Thus explaining why both Tuttie and Stacie have been Todd's twin sister. No explanation for where Todd himself went, though...

    I'm not entirely surprised that Mattel didn't mention Bild Lilli; legal issues aside, she doesn't exactly have the most family-friendly reputation. Maybe she's more like Barbie's cool, glamorous aunt that her mother doesn't really approve of.

  13. This review was a fascinating history lesson! It's interesting to see how much she's changed, and how malleable and transformative the character is now. Doctor and vet Barbies are definetly not teen aged, though I'm sure they'd still rock the fashions on that box art. What a time capsule.

    I didn't know all those family names either, or about the mysteries disappearances of certain members. Pretty sketch, miss Barbie.

    I also never knew about that horse, or the Afghan Hound. That's leagues better than the ones available when I was a kid, wow! Both are impressive.

  14. I want that Barbie so bad