Barbie Haute Couture

Image: Mattel

Barbie dolls came up yesterday on the trail, with a couple of gals saying they had never had them when they were growing up. It caught my attention because some new Barbies have been released onto the market this week, modeled after inspirational women, among them an Amelia Earhart, a Frido Kahlo and a Katherine Johnson.

This has made me think of my history with the doll. In my early years I was the oldest of two however my younger sister was born with a heart defect and didn’t have the corrective surgery until she was almost two.  She was frail up until that point and I wasn’t allowed to play with her much.  We also moved homes quite a bit during my childhood (some due to my dad’s work and some due my parents’ continual wanderlust).  I learned pretty early on to entertain myself and let my imagination go with whatever I was doing.

I had a couple of Barbie dolls – at least one of them was inherited from the older sister of a friend – and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Back then there wasn’t a mountain of plastic silliness to go along with the Barbies.  No Malibu Barbie houses or Barbie & Ken matching convertibles.  But what I did have was CLOTHES.  A friend of my mother was a big knitter and sewer and I was the beneficiary of that talent.  I had masses of clothing for my dolls and not the cheap little bits of cloth that you could buy for Barbies in the store.  I had knitted sweaters, a-line skirts with poodles, shorts, t-shirts, dresses with little stoles, a beautiful white wedding dress with a train.  No shoes, but lots of everything else.

Since I needed a place for my Barbies to live with their beautiful clothing, I turned my dresser into a Barbie house. I cleaned out the middle section completely for this house.  Because I didn’t have any “real” Barbie furniture, I drew and cut out furniture from paper and pasted it onto the walls of my two-story Barbie house.  My dolls were living the life of Riley.

I still have my Barbie house dresser – it’s in the attic. I haven’t used it as a dresser for decades but every time I think about getting rid of it, I look inside, see the remnants of my Barbie furniture and I can’t bring myself to let it go.

Did you have a favorite childhood toy?


49 thoughts on “Barbie Haute Couture”

  1. A Tonka fire truck. The ladder reached up to a cubby hole in my bedroom where I had a radio. Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio was playing when I rescued a toy soldier from hanging.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    From ages 4-6 my favorite toys were the items I mentioned yesterday–a red holster with two toy 6-shooters, a cowboy hat (also red), and a stick horse. I galloped around town pretending to be Annie Oakley, imitating the TV show on at that time. I desperately wanted cowboy boots to complete the ensemble which I did not get. At the end of that period, we moved to the town where we stayed for years, and I do not remember those toys making the move with me, but who knows if they did or not.

    PJ, you did not know what a Midge doll was. Midge was Barbie’s sister. My sister had one to accompany the Barbie doll that I found uninteresting. My sister co-opted my Barbie, giving her two naked Matel dolls, so she wrapped them up in Kleenex. I don’t remember what I was playing with by then. We tease my mom about being such a cheapskate about toys (but then she had many fewer toys than we did) and we tell her we had a string, a box and a stick to play with. Maybe that was my favorite.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As I remember it, Skipper was Barbie’s little sister (I had one – she had long straight hair) and Midge was either a cousin or best friend. Midge had a boyfriend but I can’t recall his name. My younger sister received what must have been a special edition Barbie because that one had a platinum “bubble” hairdo. My best friend got one of the original Ken dolls. Of course, we were disappointed to discover he was a eunuch. He had a headful fo black fuzzy hair. The first time we took Barbie and Ken swimming in the laundry tub, we were appalled when Ken’s hair came off! A different elementary school friend’s family had an old station wagon that no longer ran. We used the back of that vehicle for our Barbie house.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You must be correct about that. I had little interest in the dolls, so I probably do have that wrong. I know that the Midge dolls are hot collectors items because they did not sell many of them. My sister’s Midge was long gone by the time it was worth anything.


  3. My table hockey game! The one where the players are controlled by steel rods that slide back and forth and twist to shoot or pass the hard plastic or rollerball puck. My game had the six original NHL teams so my friends and I (and Dad more often than you’d think!) could choose our favorite team. The flat steel player “profiles” were easily interchangeable.

    But I was also a game geek too and cherished my Monopoly and Risk boards, along with my prehistoric computer chess game. I still have the originals for all three! I like Risk so much I played it by myself when no one else wanted to play against me. *Yes, I know, kind of pathetic.*

    Chris in O-town

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The boys that like table hockey would spend hours and hours playing that game. You must have been one of them. That table must be a collectors item.

      I loved Monopoly, come to think of it. We had particular methods for saving, organizing and hiding the money.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. VS, would have loved to see the inside of your Barbie house dresser back when it was fully equipped. I can imagine doing that, too.

    I do remember a cap gun, when my best friend and I played Roy Rogers (on neighbors’ porches). I was Dale Evans, she was Roy, our little sisters sometimes played but were relegated to being Pat Brady and Trigger. 🙂

    Still thinking, I know there’s something else.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My oldest sister made all us kids be horses. She was crazy about horses and she liked to play “horse show.” She was – what do you call it? the ringmaster? – and would call out “Canter! Gallop! Trot!” and we were supposed to do all those while we went around in a circle. It was definitely not my favorite game. No wonder I preferred to just wander around outside by myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Favorite toys: Lincoln Logs (the original wood ones – not the cheap plastic of today), Chatty Cathy, a “Have Gun Will Travel gun that had a built in ricochet, my dad’s Erector Set, the Game of Life, Twister. But my most cherished toy was, and is, a small, floppy, brown stuffed dog that I received for my first birthday. I never could decide if it was a boy or girl and never had a name except for Brown Dog. Most of the fur has rubbed off and the nose has been sewn on several times, but it still has a functional rattle in its short tail. It still lies on the end of my bed. I’ve told my sisters that if I am ever hospitalized in an unresponsive state, the dog should be brought to my bedside for me to hold. When the time comes, I’ll probably have it cremated with me (if allowed) – can’t imagine leaving it to some undignified end once I am no longer here.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Only the woods and the tree houses and forts and trails we made.
    Spending day forcing right arm and hand to type a couple guest blogs. Maybe only one.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My dad’s sister was quite a seamstress and sewed Barbie clothes for my dolls. She even made a Barbie wedding dress.

    She did a lot of alterations for years

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My cousins and I liked explosives. We made cannons out of our fathers’ beer cans and used firecrackers to lob things at one of our youger cousins. We sat him in the farm yard with an army helmet for protection

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I also liked my Johnny West action figure. He was a cowboy the size of GI Joe who came with horse, girlfriend, and Indian friend.


    1. Thank you for providing the name I was cudgelling my brain to think of. I had one inherited Barbie (who is probably worth a good bit if I restored her) and a new one of my own. It never occurred to me to wonder at the time why my blonde self was given a brunette Barbie. I do ponder it a bit now.

      I never had my own Johhny West and friends, but I must have had a friend who did, because what I remember thinking was so great about those was all the little accessory bits and pieces.


  10. The toys changed as I grew up: teddy bear, cap gun, Fort Apache cowboys ‘n Indians playset, fiberglass reflex bow, the boat my dad made me, Daisy Model 25 BB gun, and so many others.

    Is a bike a toy? I had what might have been the first European-style bicycle in Ames with brakes that pinched the wheel hubs and a cable gear shift. That bike took me everywhere (“to infinity . . . and beyond!”).

    Liked by 5 people

  11. I did have a “Toni” doll (came with hair you could give a Toni permanent to) that I got a lot of mileage out of, and my mom had sewed several outfits…

    And the great outdoors has been mentioned: I loved making “houses” out of piles of leaves raked into rows – like a floor plan drawing of a house. A gap in the row for the doorways… and you could build around a tree stump, etc. for a table or chair…


  12. I remember many of the toys you all mentioned — but never had a Barbie doll I don’t think. With 6 girls and 1 boy in the family, it just wasn’t possible. I remember doing lots of cut out dolls and clothes. Of course, there was always a ball to attend, so we needed lots of fancy dresses.

    Speaking of fancy dresses, I watched the Oscars on Sunday and totally dig all the beautiful designer gowns. My guilty pleasure watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Can’t really think of a favorite toy. Guess I’m fickle enough that my affection for a certain toy didn’t last long. I like variety, so anything new would have been my favorite at the moment only to be replaced with something new. That said, we didn’t have anywhere near the amount of toys that kids have today.

    At the boarding school we had a large playroom with lots of toys, books, and games that we all needed to share. I recall being particularly enamored of a doll theater. I would put on performances for the other kids, playing all of the characters myself and making up the story along the way. Also, I could spend hours drawing and coloring clothes for my paper dolls. I also liked to play church. I would be the priest, and would mumble a bunch of Latin prayers, cross myself a lot, and sprinkle my “parishioners” with holy water. Surprised that the nuns let me do that, but I don’t recall ever getting in trouble over it.


  14. I loved my dolls, but being the only girl in the house, I spent a lot more time with Legos, Lincoln logs, hardwood blocks and Hot Wheels cars and that bright orange track. Not one of us has become an engineer, but we certainly all had that inclination, and might have gone that route had we been given encouragement in that direction.

    In my case, I am afraid that while girls could certainly become doctors, “real” girls did not become engineers of any sort. At least not where I came from.

    OT- for those of you who want to see the s&h running, check out the livestream of the DIII men’s 3K National Championship race at 4:30 tomorrow.

    I’m going to the coffee shop I used to have him hike up Randolph hill every morning before school so he could maybe sit through 1st grade to watch on their WiFi. I figure that will make a good scene in the movie someday 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The response to the Barbie doll culture of the 50’s and early 60’s was probably the proliferation of trolls in the mid-60’s. While Barbie was supposed to be lovely to look at, trolls were beloved for being homely. You could dress them, and it was somewhat easier to make clothes for trolls. My sister and I made little skirts and tops for our trolls out of felt and bits of lace. I regarded most of my trolls as female, since they had long hair. I had one troll that I thought was a boy, because some misfortune had given him a short haircut. He had a robe with a rope belt. I don’t recall where the robe came from – I’m sure I didn’t make it, because it was made of some kind of brocade fabric and had actual sleeves.

    I’m pretty sure I still have the trolls packed away somewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

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