Podzilla 1985

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Fall of a Fashion Icon?

Something was brought to my attention about six months ago, and it has been bothering me ever since.

It began with a phone conversation with my mom. We were talking about how the past Christmas went and she brought the troubling issue up with me. My cousin's daughter had been complaining about how she didn't have any extra clothes for her Barbies. That alone boggled my mind. We never had a lack of fashions for our Barbies as kids. My mom then pointed out that you couldn't really find any fashions on their own in the stores, and if you did they were rather pricey for something that was arguably mediocre.

I made a point since that conversation to check out the Barbie displays at several stores, including Toys 'R Us, Target, and Walmart.

My mind was blown.

There actually weren't very many extra fashions to buy separately. What I did see was boring and looked cheap, yet they still wanted about $8 for a single dress with no accessories. Even the Disney princess fashion sets come with two looks and extras for only about $10.  Even more depressing about the section was the lack of variety among the dolls. They were all so generic and half of them had the easy out of having their top molded as part of the torso, so the only fabric was a simple tutu of sorts.

What has happened to the doll that was the queen of girls' toys back in the day?

Today I made another trip to Toys 'R Us. I was happy to see there has been a small increase in fashions for Barbie, but they are still far from the level I remember as a kid. When I was younger, you'd have a row for dolls and another for nothing but clothes and play sets. Now the "pink" row has been reduced to one side of the aisle and it is a little more colorful. The only boxes that seem to make a big statement are the ones meant for collectors, which often play on pop culture and nostalgia.

Barbie has always had other dolls to compete with. While my friends and I had our share of Disney princesses, Maxi and Jem dolls, Barbie was the one that everyone had and rarely did you have the same ones.

Bratz gave her a run for her money, but her lawyers took care of that little problem.

She has two creative rivals now though. Both the Monster High dolls and Ever After High dolls are very appealing in design and packaging. They are more colorful, have more interesting looks, and a greater variety of clothing. Plus they both have TV shows to keep the attention of kids with money to burn. Even as an adult, I'm more drawn to these dolls than the current state of Barbie.

Could she finally be losing the battle?

Barbie debuted in 1959 as a basic fashion doll sporting a striped bathing suit, gold hooped earrings, cat-eye sunglasses and high heels. She could only be found as a blonde or a brunette and the former outnumbered the latter two to one. She has always been a fashion icon of the times, and has changed her look as the styles and seasons change.

Barbie has also been a role model for little girls, helping to show them that they can be anything they want. She's worked in nearly every field, including but not limited to a doctor, an astronaut, a rock star, a movie star, a business owner and a rancher. She excels in sports and loves animals. She's been a home owner and has a garage full of awesome vehicles.  Fashion, however, has always been the staple of her existence. Be it causal wear or a Bob Maki gown, Barbie knows how to make it work.

I loved my Barbie dolls.

I still have several of them, though most of the extras have been sold at yard sales over the years. I did continue the hand-me-down cycle a little and gave most of my extra fashions to the aforementioned cousin's daughter. Funnily enough, some of the clothes I had gotten from her mom originally were in that mix.

I'm a proud child of the 80's, and in those days Barbie had her hands in everything.

Every new doll that was released had a theme, and at least three dolls other than Barbie herself. Barbie came in both black and white skin tones for every set, and both Ken and Skipper received great amounts of attention.. Then you had all of Barbies friends, and depending on the set, there was any where from one to four of them.

And it wasn't a problem if you grew tired of the same old blondes. Miko was one of my first ethnic Barbie dolls, and will always be one of my favorites.

When it came to Barbie though it wasn't just about the dolls. There were play sets, extra clothes, lunch boxes, coloring books, paper dolls, and a plethora of other products. I even had a Christmas record with Barbie! There was so much diversity within her world that I feel like there was truly something for everyone.

I wouldn't get everything I wanted, but I had quite the collection. It didn't take much to talk mom into a new outfit for Barbie, since most of the simple ones were only two to three dollars each. If I had a weekend together with my cousins or friends, we'd have massive piles of clothes and play sets for the imagination to run wild with. I had a lot of beach related play sets, and with us the Hawaiian fun hut and a swimming pool set got the most play.

My oddball set was a TV station. I have no clue what happened to most of it, probably got lost, broke and pitched, but I still have the large main camera in all it's neon pink glory.

One of my favorite product lines of Barbies were the Jewel Secrets set.

These dolls were the best.

They were all about multiple looks within one outfit. They'd come in one dress with a couple of accessories that you could swap around to change the look. The best part however was a bag that would double as a longer skirt for yet another look. Almost all of the other fashions in this line came with a bag and would advertise them as a cute carry pouch for the child.  I personally used it to take all of my other clothes with me whenever I went to a friend or cousin's house. It was perfect for the girl who didn't have the massive doll carrying case. I only had Barbie from this set but I had a good three or four extra fashions from it and I made use of all those little bags. I crammed them full to the point that they almost couldn't be closed.

The last Barbie that was bought for me as a kid was Roller Blade Teresa. Roller blades were the cool new thing and though I didn't partake in the sport myself, I very much wanted that doll. I wanted her even more than Barbie, and I made a point to remind my mom every time we went to Jamesway or K-Mart. Needless to say, I was a happy camper come Christmas morning and proceeded to make her skates, that were nothing more than plastic and lighter components, spark on the edge of the fire place. She remained my favorite doll until I packed away my Barbies in the attic. Being the last she's also probably in the best condition, as I played a little hard with my dolls at times.

I think that part of Barbie's downfall is that they tried to compete with the Disney princess dolls too much. There has been a long run where it's been nothing but princesses, fairies, and mermaids. That's all fine and dandy, but Barbie has always been more than just that.

Yes, little girls like fantasy themes and they're easier to make crappy CG movies out of, but is it worth losing the roots that created an empire?

I would rather see a Barbie that can't make up her mind on what she wants to do, than a cheap whore that's just trying to make an extra buck.

Yeah I said it.

It may be a little cliched, but Barbie needs to get back to her fashion roots. Give the little girls something to get excited over. Give them the clothing options that Barbie should have always had, and don't half ass them just because it is a kids toy.

Mattel, I'm disappointed in you. Get your act together again and redeem yourself. I'm afraid that if you don't, Barbie is on her way to the grave.

Don't worry, kids. If that happens, there are already some cool ghouls to take her place.
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