Thursday, July 13, 2023

Tea with Lena: Barbies Great and Small

It's only one week from tomorrow until the Barbie movie comes out!  My husband and I bought our tickets the other day and are getting really excited.  Opening night had already sold out at our closest theatre, so I'm glad we secured seats for the weekend.  I really hope this movie is good!  While we wait to find out, I'm hosting Barbie Month here on the blog.  This week will be a little different because I'm trying to squeeze in two shorter reviews so that I can cover more ground.  We'll see how it goes.

Barbie Month wouldn't be complete without Lena hosting her own review, though, would it?  That's what Lena keeps telling me, anyway.  So today I'll be the assistant while Lena introduces the size extremes in Barbie world:

Lena holding a World's Smallest Barbie doll by Super Impulse.

Do you remember in my last review how I mentioned that the 35th Anniversary Barbie and Lena would either be best friends or worst enemies?  Well, they've turned out to be really good friends.  In fact, Barbie (who Lena calls Babs) has been staying at Lena's house for the past week, and this is a typical scene:

Lee-na!  Can you refill my drink?
The two girls have bonded over a lot of things, like fashion and their excitement about the upcoming movie, but they also both enjoy collecting dolls, and Lena wanted to use that as inspiration for today's post.

You guys want to see my doll collection?
Lena has created a little doll corner in her room.  She has a nice assortment!

Let's just say it's more reasonable than Emily's ridiculous collection.
Here's a closer look:

One of the dolls claims to be the World's Smallest Barbie doll:

Look how cute she is!
Babs has been admiring this particular doll a lot recently, so Lena hatched a secret plan:

I'm going to surprise Babs by letting her keep this doll!
Before Lena goes off in search of Babs, I'll tell you a bit more abut the World's Smallest Barbie doll:

World's Smallest Barbie Doll, $7.99.
I found this set on Amazon for about $8.  It comes with a carrying case and two 2.5 centimeter mini dolls, one of which is on display next to the case, and one of which is a hidden surprise:

I already know what the mystery doll is.
I didn't realize that there was a mystery doll when I bought this set, so that adds another dimension of fun.

The back of the plastic package has a cardboard insert with a photo of all six possible dolls.  They're really hard to see, but I can tell that there's one in a zebra swimsuit who looks like Babs!

I wish we'd gotten Ken.
There's a whole series of World's Smallest toys, including lots of working games, and they're all made by Super Impulse.

I covet this World's Smallest (working!) Mouse Trap game, but I don't think it's 1:6 scale:

There's also a 2.75-inch Barbie from World's Smallest, but since she's larger than Lena's doll, she can't actually be the world's smallest, can she?

World's Second Smallest Barbie?
But she looks like she might be articulated and she comes with a stand, so I'm kind-of wishing I'd gotten her, too.  Some other time, perhaps.

I cut the case and the mini doll out of the packaging:

The case's design is a near-perfect replica of an actual 1977 Barbie carrying case.  Here's a picture of the full-sized vintage case:

Full-sized vintage Barbie case.
And here's the mini case:

World's Smallest Barbie case.
The white handle at the top of the mini case even lifts up so that it can be carried:

The doll herself is less impressive than the case.  She has a pink painted outfit, but no painted face!  And not much of a molded face, either:

I think she looks sad.
She has long molded blonde hair that almost reaches her feet:

And looks like corn on the cob.
In profile you can see that her large bangs and hair are a separate piece from the rest of her body:

Helmet hair!
At 2.5 centimeters tall (or just under an inch), this doll is much, much smaller (and less detailed) than a Bratz mini:

World's Smallest Barbie (left) and mini Bratz doll (right).
She's about the same height as an LOL Surprise Miniverse doll (but way shorter than the OMG mini):

LOL Miniverse (left), World's Smallest Barbie (middle), and OMG Miniverse (right).
It's true that Lena and I already know which surprise doll was in this case (and maybe you saw her in an earlier picture) but let's peek in and see...

Ooh, there she is!

We got Black Malibu Barbie!

She's turned her back on you, Emily.
The case has room for six dolls, in total, but to get enough dolls to fill a case, you'd have to buy three sets...and then have two extra cases laying around.  That didn't seem worth it to me, especially because each set would have a duplicate of the blonde Barbie, and maybe a duplicate of the surprise doll, too.

Here's a closer look at Malibu Barbie, who also does not have any painted facial features:

She looks happier than the other one, though.
She has a painted one-piece bathing suit and no shoes.

Her hair is also molded right onto the rest of her body--not a separate piece like on the other doll.

That looks much better.
Here are the two micro dolls together:

World's Smallest Barbie dolls, 2.5cm.
I wish they had more detail in their faces, but we can fix that:

Omg, Emily, just stop.
These dolls aren't big enough to be standard Barbie size in relation to Lena.  For her, they're more like a 6-7 inch doll:

About the same length as my hand.
The case is a nice size for Lena, though, and is easy to carry:

It's actually pretty heavy, thanks for asking.
Okay!  Now it's time for Lena's surprise.  She found Babs reading in the living room:

Hey Babs, are you up for some tea in the kitchen?
The two girls, ah, tucked in at the kitchen table:

You'd better not be making fun of how I sit again, Emily.
And Lena pulled out the doll!

So, Babs, I'm featuring the doll you like in my review today.
And when I'm done, I want you to keep her.
Oh, my gosh, Lena!  I don't even know what to say.
It's actually funny that you did this, because Emily and I have a surprise for you, too!
I'll be right back. I have to go get something...
What's this all about?
Babs came back with a doll box for Lena!

This is a thank-you for letting me stay here.
It's a mini reproduction Barbie doll!

Oh, Babs.  I...uh...sniff.  This is amazing.
While Lena composes herself, I'll give you a closer look at the gift:

1959 miniature reproduction Barbie doll, ~$20.
This is a miniature reproduction of the original 1959 Barbie doll--and so it's basically a miniature of Babs!

The doll comes in a working replica of the original box, too, which is unbelievably accurate:

Here's a reminder of what the actual 1959 Barbie and box look like:

Original #1 Barbie from 1959, photo courtesy of Barbie's Doll Shop on eBay.
The mini box has the same printed design, with teeny, tiny lettering!

Mini reproduction Barbie box.
The top and bottom of the box are decorated, too:

Mini reproduction Barbie box.
And there's even a replica of the pamphlet!

Unfortunately, the pamphlet is blank in the middle:

I wish I knew what was in that booklet!
Me, too.  Now I'm dying to know what was inside the original pamphlet!  Mission for another day, I guess.

...or a mission for now.  I found a nice YouTube video that goes through the entire book.  There's an introduction to the first Barbie, and then descriptions and sketches of the fashion sets that were available in 1959:

There's even a drawing of the Cotton Casual outfit that I bought for Babs!

You paid a lot more than $1.00, Emily.
The booklet concludes (like all good fashion shows) with a dramatic wedding dress:

It would be fun to have an original copy of this booklet, since I really love the drawings.  But that really is a mission for another day.

The doll herself has way more detail than the World's Smallest Barbie, with a painted swimsuit and a painted face:

She looks a little grouchy.
This doll can't balance on her own two feet, so I had to create a makeshift stand out of a decorative bead and some eye putty.

Here she is from the back:

Even her hair is molded in the correct style--complete with little curls in the bangs:

And no helmet.
This doll is two inches tall without her stand, so over an inch taller than the World's Smallest Barbie:

World's Smallest Barbie (left) and 1959 Reproduction mini Barbie (right).
She makes an amazing gift!

This is my new favorite doll, Babs.
But then, just as everything was going so nicely...  

Eeeeek! It's Barbzilla!!
The biggest Barbie in the world showed up at the window.

After Lena calmed down, she told the oversized Barbie to meet her outside where they could chat more easily.

Let's be real.  You can't fit inside this kitchen.
While Lena is heading outside, I'll tell you a bit more about the big Barbie.

She's not actually the largest Barbie in the world, of course.  I'm not sure how big that doll might be (a quick internet search came up empty), but I've seen a larger Barbie with my own two eyes:

And she's seen me.
I think I shared these photos with you before once upon a time, bit it's been a while.  

I saw this life-sized Barbie mannequin at a restaurant in Cambridge about seven years ago.  She has major attitude and looks a lot like the 1960 Barbie that I showed you the other day:

These mannequins were made in 1959 and were used as store displays.  They originally came wearing the zebra-striped swimsuit and had glasses.  Here's the brunette version from a really old eBay auction:

There was also a mass-produced "life-sized" Barbie doll toy made in 1992.  She was called My Size Barbie and was 37 inches tall (which is around three feet).  I found a beautiful example being sold by yet another lovely and generous person who let me share some pictures:

37-inch My Size Barbie (1992), photo courtesy of rr0401 on eBay.
37-inch My Size Barbie (1992), photo courtesy of rr0401 on eBay.
So Lena's visitor isn't the largest Barbie doll in the world, just the largest one that I could find for sale currently...for under $100.

She's called Unicorn Party Fashion Friend and is a 28-inch Best Fashion Friend doll.  She cost $39.99 and came in a plain cardboard box:

This box tests the limits of my photography set-up!  It's also marred by shipping labels, and wouldn't make a great gift like this.  The same dolls appeared in stores in more decorative boxes, I think.  I vaguely remember seeing them around Christmas time last year.

There's a bit of information on the very bottom of the box, but it's mostly a plain shipper.

These dolls are made by Just Play, not Mattel, and this one has a 2022 copyright date.

The doll came wrapped in a plastic bag, and was secured to a rectangle of brown cardboard:

Creepy packaging.
She was very easy to remove from the packaging, and while she's surprisingly lightweight, she can balance on her own:

Her dress was wrinkled right out of the box, which looks especially bad in the back, where there are no frills to distract the eye:

With so many Barbies on the blog this month, I need a new name for this girl.  I think she looks like an Ashley: 

Ashley has a glamorous, symmetrical face with eyes that can't quite look straight ahead.

Here she is in profile:

Despite the wonkiness in Ashley's eyes, I think her eye design is pretty.  The paint is crisp and unpixelated, with graceful eyelashes and some subtle eyeshadow:

There's even some hair line detail in the dark brown eyebrows:

I'm not a big fan of Ashley's lips, though.  The whole mouth feels oversized, and I really don't like the bright opaque pink lipstick:

I wouldn't be caught dead in that shade of lipstick.
I also feel like the lips were painted too far outside the mold of the mouth or something.  It just doesn't look right to me.

There are two other dolls in the Unicorn Party lineup, and the promotional photos make it look like both of them have better mouths:

I'd wear that color.
Does she have a completely different mouth shape?
I think the blond has a different mouth and different eyes.  Very strange.

Anyway, Ashley's hair is medium brown, with blond highlights and pink streaks.  There are also some tinsel accents that make brushing a little harder than it needs to be:

I brushed the hair for a while, which adds a fair amount of volume:

Here's the hair from the back:

The hair fiber is reasonably smooth and shiny, although the wavy texture and tinsel strands add some coarseness and might contribute to tangles over time.

The rooting is very specific to the hairstyle, with a part line that runs across the head to accommodate the top ponytail:

The rooting pattern at the back of the head is quite sparse:

With the hair parted like this, you can see a 2017 Mattel copyright on the back of the neck:

I took the top ponytail down so that I could check out the rooting pattern on the top of the head, too. This area is also sparse, and there's no center part:

Oh, dear.
The hair looks very dramatic and flowing when it's let down like this:

But I had to photograph Ashley carefully so as not to expose the obvious exposed rooting on the top of her head.

It was fairly easy to get Ashley's hair back into its original style, which is really the only style that will work for her--expect perhaps a plain single ponytail.

The limitation here is a real shame, since larger dolls can be great for hair play.

Ashley comes with one accessory, which is a bright pink plastic tiara:

The tiara is small and is meant to fit around the ponytail on top of Ashley's head:

I wouldn't mind having a tiara some day, Emily.
Ashley's outfit consists of a multi-colored unicorn dress with a net overskirt:

The detail in the bodice is fun, with a unicorn design in the middle and ruffled trim all around the neckline.  I also like the look of the sheer netting over the rainbow fabric of the underskirt:

But it's disappointing that the entire back of the skirt is plain pink.  There's no rainbow pattern and no netting:

You could have ironed out those wrinkles for her.
In general, I don't feel like play doll clothes should have to be ironed.

I turned the dress inside-out to look at the construction:

None of the edges are enforced, but the seams look sturdy and neat overall:

The bodice is a stiff synthetic, and the skirt has more drape...but is obviously prone to wrinkles.

There's a simple serged hem at the bottom:

Ashley's bright pink shoes are molded to her feet:

And she has a cute toe mold peeking out:

I was encouraged when I saw all of Ashley's arm joints in the stock images, but underneath that dress she's hiding some very long, very rigid, hollow plastic legs with only hip joints:

All in all, she has nine points of articulation.  That's not a bad joint count, to be fair, but all of the joints are consolidated in the upper body.

She has a hollow plastic torso with painted white underwear:

And there's a molded mark acknowledging both Just Play and Mattel:

Ashley's head can look from side to side:

It can also tip from side to side a little bit:

And she even has some up-and-down movement in her head, but in order to keep her face looking upward, I had to pull down on her hair:

Ashley's shoulders are rotating hinges, but she can only lift her arms up and away from her body to about forty five degrees:

But she can spin her arms around for a wider range of positions:

Her elbows and wrists are also rotating hinges, and these can bend just shy of ninety degrees:

Almost all of Ashley's body is hard plastic, except for her head and hands.  Her head is ridged vinyl, but her hands are actually made out of flexible vinyl.  This adds some extra movement.

She can almost fold her arms across her chest:

And she can touch the top of her head and rest a hand on her hip:

I'm not sure what the mechanism in Ashley's hips is like, but she can only move her legs from side to side very slightly.  She can do front-to-back splits, but because she can't sink all of the way down to the ground, she needs an arm for support:

She can sit solid and upright on the ground, though:

The only other dolls that I've owned who come close to Ashley's size are probably my Smart Doll, Monday (she's 23.6 inches), or something like a My Twinn which is in a dramatically different scale.   Monday no longer lives here, though, so I can't offer you a comparison photo with her.

I can show you a comparison between the World's Smallest Barbie and Ashley, though!

That doll is like a toothpick for her.
And of course Lena herself is a valuable size comparison, too.

Let's go meet Lena and Ashley outside:

Sorry I scared you in the kitchen, Lena.
Lena quickly found some good uses for Ashley's size, like carrying her into the shade for some more pictures:

This is the life.
Here are a few quick shots of Ashley on her own:

Ashley is an awkward doll to handle, and I feel like her joints are fragile--especially those long hollow legs.  But I found her surprisingly photogenic at times, thanks to her dramatic hair and pretty face:

After chatting with Lena for a little while, Ashley set off to find another house where she might fit in a bit better:

See ya, Lena!
Back at the house, Lena added the new reproduction Barbie doll to her growing collection:

And Babs settled back in with her book...and her new tiny, faceless reading companion:

I have enough face for both of us.
Bottom line?  As you probably know by now, I love miniature versions of larger things, and so I was really looking forward to investigating the smaller interpretations of Barbie.  The World's Smallest Barbie is a fun novelty.  I especially like the miniature carrying case, and think it works reasonably well as a prop for 1:6 dolls.  The micro dolls themselves are a little underwhelming, though.  They're so small that they don't even have facial features, which definitely compromises my ability to enjoy and relate to them.  It's also tempting to try and fill that carrying case with six dolls, but with so many inevitable repeats and $8 a pop, it wouldn't be worth the money.  In contrast, the 1959 reproduction miniature is an absolute treasure.  Not only does that doll have a fully-painted face (with some personality!), but she comes in a perfectly-replicated working box, too.  There's even a little pamphlet!  My only complaint is that the doll cannot balance on her own and does not come with a stand.  A mini stand would have made her mind-blowingly cool.  I wish there were more of these mini reproduction dolls, because Lena and I would probably buy them all.

I'm less excited about the other end of the size spectrum.  The 28-inch Best Fashion Friend Barbie makes a powerful first impression because of her size and her visible arm joints, but her stiff, hollow, fragile-feeling legs diminish that effect.  I have to admit that Ashley's face was more attractive in person than I expected it to be, and I enjoyed taking close-up portraits of her, but her wonky eyes and bright, oversized mouth frequently distracted me.  A doll of this size could be really great for hair play, and Ashley's wavy hair certainly looks dramatic and even feels pretty good.  But the tinsel strands snag on my brush, and the rooting pattern is sparse and oddly-placed, with no center part.  This severely limits the hairstyles that will look good on her.  In retrospect, I wish I'd saved the $40 that I spent on Ashley and contributed it towards one of the 37-inch My Size Barbies from 1992.  I guess this is one of those cases where they don't make 'em like they used to.

This is Lena's post, though, and she would like me to conclude by reminding everyone that it's not every day you meet a cheerful 28-inch friend who will carry you around the yard and let you perch on their shoulder.  So there's that.

I'm gonna need a bigger house.


  1. so excited for the barbie movie and barbie month on this blog! already planning different outfits-yes, plural, cuz i hope to see this film several times lmao

    the unicorn party dolls actually dohave different eyes and lips because the faces are based on the 1:6 face molds, millie (blonde) and daya!

    if you love the giant barbies, there's a fun instagram page (giantbarbiewillkillusall) that makes these amazing life-size recreations of iconic dolls! immediately thought of them after reading the title lol

  2. The miniature reproduction is amazing! I saw these dolls online, didn't know they come with the box, too! I would definitely buy one if the price were in single digits. The smallest Barbies I have are from Kinder Surprise, they are about 5cm/2in. The advantage/danger of tiny dolls is that you can hoard a ridiculous amount before you run out of space... The oversized dolls, you can only have a couple before your house starts looking like a horror movie. Extra point in favour of smaller dolls: much less scary if they ever become possessed XD

  3. Great post with some really lovely photos, but that Ashley looks like she's used to much filler in her lips. 🤣🤣

  4. It's funny how the standard barbie size seems to hit the sweet spot. Too small and you lose the detail, too large and the details no longer seem realistic with all the plastic. I do love the picture with Ashley looking in the window of Lena's house. It's nice to know that Babs has settled in well.
    They are more figures than dolls, but the dollar store often has two-inch Barbies permanently attached to a base. Usually it is the sports doll replicas.

  5. It seems like 17 inches is the largest scale Mattel is willing to go with fully-articulated dolls, such as the Frightfully Tall Monster High dolls and giant EAH Maddie Hatter. I'm not aware of them making anything larger with full jointing...though I imagine that's done to allow kids to stand their mega-dolls up without them buckling under the weight of the torsos and heads. Even the 17-inch dolls need stands to be upright! It would be cool to see really giant dolls with more joints, though, impractical though they may be.

    1. American Girl dolls are made by Mattel, of course they aren't fashion dolls but they are 18".

    2. They are larger, but they're not as articulated as an 11-inch MH doll or the 17-inch dolls that have even more. 17 inches seems to be the largest size Mattel has gone with really robust articulation.

  6. The Disney Play Date dolls are actually taller than the Best Fashion Friend Barbies! Probably along the lines of the My-Size Barbie (which I remember from back in the day but never had, lol). They also have better articulation.

  7. Yes--another post! And a Tea with Lena one, no less! So cute how Lena has her own doll collection. Those tiniest Barbies remind me of the old Polly Pocket figures, except they had faces and a hip joint. Do you think there's any chance of Lena getting a pet someday? Having a dog or cat around her house would be cute!

    Rebecca Z

  8. Love love love funny scale comparisons like this. In my own collection the tallest doll is Monster High's Goolliope and I find she looks adorable with my much smaller Jun Planning Hestia doll, so I often display them together. Something that delights me about doll collections is how they can distort one's sense of scale in a very silly way, when dolls a bit (or a lot) out of scale are displayed as friends. I like to play with this effect sometimes when I'm not avoiding it. Also, at first I didn't like Ashley's makeup, but the further I read, the more the lipstick color grew on me. I think it suits her girly, pretty style. I agree the painting itself could be better. I agree that the mini dolls without faces would be cuter with a bit more detail. My favorite part of this review was seeing Lena and Babs give each the little dolls as gifts, so freaking adorable. Thanks for yet another awesome post!

  9. Have you ever heard of fashion fidgets? It’s a surprise doll that has a fidget gimmick. They have stuff like pop it hair, buttons, rollers, and things you can twist!

    1. If I recall right, Emily reviewed them not too long ago in a multi-doll review post, alongside other dolls. Look for a review of multiple dolls together. The fidget dolls were cute but the fidget toy parts seemed to be integrated a bit awkwardly. I loved the concept though! I'm not sure if you're referring to another brand because I think there's a mini-fidget doll line that was different, this was the Rainbow High-ish line.

    2. No those were fidgie friends, fashion fidgets I think are made by different company. They’re smaller and aren’t really fashion dolls.

      This is the Amazon link:

    3. Oooh!! It would be cool to see a review comparing these to the ones reviewed before, if Emily was interested. They look cute in the pictures.

  10. Thanks for a great post! I would love to see a review of the giant 24 inch Rainbow High that shows up at Target around Christmas... I love giant dolls!

  11. I got hold of a My Size Barbie as a teenager and called it my life-size hobbit. 😉 Once I took it to college and pranked my roommate by tucking it into her bed while she was in the bathroom. 😂 She retaliated by setting it next to my bed so when I got up I found it staring at me. From what I remember, My Size Barbie stood up pretty solidly, though of course if you bumped her she would fall over.

  12. I love Lena's collection! I note her home is looking much cozier and well furnished now too.

    Very surprised they didn't so much as give teeny tiny barbie eyes. I have a world's smallest bumblebee transformer, and he got much more paint and detail attention then poor barbie seems to, at a similar size. Like the larger one based on Babs, if I was going to compare. (The doll exchange was so sweet!)

    The boxes and varying case were amazing all around though!

    On the giant barbie, I loved her entrance! No way was she fitting in that house, lol. Poor thing deserved better on her dress though, especially at that size, it's a glaringly obvious cop out to leave the back so plain.

  13. I’m a year late reading this, apologies…but I do love your posts. When I was a child I had a tiny Barbie in a red bathing suit, she was one complete mold, but relatively well painted (if I remember rightly) I don’t know where she came from and certainly, sadly, don’t know where she went, but others might remember that tiny doll, she was a Barbie for my Barbie which as I child I thought was enchanting. (Still do!)