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Barbie mania

Published: 17/08/2023 By The Abode Team

I haven't seen the film and didn't like the song but, as a child, I did love my Barbies! Or to be more precise, I loved the 'outfits'; many of which I still recall in glorious detail after nearly half a century.

I am not sure how the dolls are made these days but in the early 70's they had twisty, angled waists, rather rubbery bendy legs and teeny tiny feet with holes in the soles that I could never understand the purpose of. I had four or five dolls plus, for some incomprehensible reason, a spare head which was kept in the Barbie wardrobe along with the shoes and the clothes which were on colour-coordinated hangers. The wardrobe was not a branded plastic Barbie wardrobe, it was made of wood and painted blue and matched a dresser and a bed in which my Barbies rigidly 'slept'. I made the pillows myself and the sheet was one of my father's cotton hankies. There was also a lacy bedspread of some sort if I remember correctly. What I remember best though, are the clothes.

The first outfit that comes to mind was yellow, made of micro pleated chiffon and consisted of wide leg trousers and a matching smock top with angel sleeves - the outfits had names and the name of this little number was 'Lemon Kick'. There were little yellow shorts to be worn under the trousers which, as mentioned, were chiffon and therefore somewhat transparent.

Another was a gorgeous, Jackie O inspired matching shift dress and coat in substantial, horizontally striped satin. The stripes were cream, maroon and magenta with a fine metallic silver thread at intervals. The dress had silver spaghetti straps (matching the thread!) and ended just above the knee with a little ruffle in tulle. The simple coat was edge to edge with long sleeves and there was a tiny hook at the neckline, which was collarless, the coat ended just above the ruffle on the dress. There were a pair of matching stiletto heels, also in maroon. It was perfect, and I would happily wear a similar outfit even now.

I was given a doll with weird flexible wrists and thumbs (allowing her to grip and release) she came dressed in a full length sparkly, evening gown vertically divided into two panels of silver and teal at the front and back. I think it was strapless or it may have had thin straps to support the curved neckline. It came complete with a teal faux fur boa, bicep length silver gloves and a pair of high heels. It was very glam; I think it was labelled as 'Nightclub Singer Barbie' or something of that ilk. In addition, to justify the gripping hands, there was microphone and stand, a suitcase, a portable TV (with Barbie, dressed in the outfit described, on the screen) a suitcase (I think) and oddly, a tray with six holes into which you could fit six tiny beakers. Loved the dress; didn't care for the doll. I also had a doll with hair (some of it wiry) that you could curl by wrapping it around a plastic tong thing. Sadly, the wiry hair started to fall out after a number of hair dressing attempts SO I swapped the heads of the two dolls and put gripping/balding Barbie on the top shelf of my wardrobe out of the way, and then joined the body with normal hands to the head with hair. Job done. Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on me!  

The final outfit was truly lovely. A pencil skirt (so knee length) in a tweedy, checked material of yellow and orange and, a yellow, sleeveless, skinny rib sweater with a turtleneck. This was topped by a fitted coat in the tweedy material. It had a 'patent' orange belt with a tiny buckle and a dramatic, orange faux fur collar (see photograph!). It also came with a orange faux fur hat and a pair of orange, flat, knee length boots. They were the only boots I ever had for Barbie. One sad, never to be forgotten day, my sister, who is three years younger so she will have been six or seven at the time, grabbed one of the boots and dashed into the bathroom locking the door behind her. I heard the loo flush. For years (and I mean years) she said that she hadn't flushed the boot away, and I lived in the hope of one day finding it hidden somewhere: perhaps in a drawer or a cupboard. I should have known better as my mother is meticulously tidy and the chances of an object, even a small one, being out of place, was ludicrous. There was no chance of ever 'coming across' it. Nevertheless, I kept the remaining boot, which stood on its own on the bottom shelf of the Barbie wardrobe until my sister finally admitted, about ten years later, that the boot had indeed been flushed away. Thankfully, another outfit came with a pair of orange wedge sandals with long ties which wrapped up and around the ankles. Even though the wedges were clearly summer footwear, they were a good alternative and to be honest, the Barbies didn't go far.

The outfits always came with a little paper booklet packed with a variety of dolls and outfits that could only be purchased in the US. I used to study these little books assiduously, picking out my favourite outfits and compiling what we now call a 'wish list'. I also wished I could get hold of Barbie's friend Francie (who was black) or her little sister (Skipper? I think) who was a smaller doll and definitely would not have flushed anything down the loo that didn't need to be flushed. Ken's clothes were of no interest to me and therefore neither was Ken. There was also a camper van I also was very interested in; it was a bit like the Mystery Machine from 'Scooby Doo'. On the back page of every booklet there was a form you could fill in and post to the US, presumably to receive Barbie fashion up-dates by post or to join the fan club. I didn't ever do that a) because I didn't have 2 dollars to send and b) because I didn't know what a ZIP code was.

 I'd love to have an afternoon with my old Barbies and their clothes but perhaps its best to leave them in the past to avoid disappointment!