Barbie is no longer one-size-fits-all

After almost 60 years, Barbie is receiving a makeover. New dolls are being manufactured to look more like “real people.” Women and girls of the past six generations have grown up either playing with or at least knowing about Barbie.

Barbie first made her debut in 1959 at the American Toy Fair.  Barbie was originally modeled after a German doll called Lilli, a prostitute, given as a gag gift at  bachelor’s parties, according to a Jan. 28 Time magazine article. As her audience shifted to younger girls, Barbie came to embody what a woman should look like.

Barbie has as many as 150 different careers, according to the product website, ranging from surgeon to astronaut (before any man even went to the moon) and presidential candidate to WNBA basketball player.  Her most recent occupation is a computer engineer.

Despite how embedded her presence has become in Western culture, most people are not aware of her exceptional resume. Barbie is best recognized her by her face and figure. In 1992, Mattel ignited controversy when their “Teen Talk Barbie” came equipped with phrases like “Math class is tough” and “Will we ever have enough clothes?” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Due to these types of messages, groups including the American Association of University Women have previously protested that Barbie taught girls it was more important to be pretty than smart.  Today, however, Barbie is changing her look, creating more diversity in size and shape.

Barbie is no longer one-size-fits-all
Barbie is no longer one-size-fits-all

“There isn’t this standard of what a beautiful body is supposed to look like,” Robert Best, Barbie’s senior design director, said about the doll’s redesign.

Barbie will “now come in three new body types and a variety of skin tones and hairstyles,” according to USA Today. “This is the first time the doll will be available in body types beyond its original stick-thin frame.”

However, this isn’t Barbie’s first makeover.  “Colored Francie,” a Barbie with a dark skin tone, was released in 1967. However, she was made using the same head molds as the existing Caucasian doll, with no other racially different characteristics aside from skin color, according to the

2016 marks the first year of a Barbie collection with a variety of body types, and it raises the  question – why now? Sophomore Matt Bonna thinks this is due to living in a much more progressive society than previous generations.  “This is more important in our time because people are more sensitive to certain things than they were in, say, the 1920s,” Bonna said.

Students have mixed feelings about the new Barbies. Although many agree that this change was needed, many think it’s not enough.

First-year Alex Fischer is enthusiastic about these new changes. “I’m excited! It’s pretty cool that they’re finally getting the message [out] that all body types aren’t the same,” Fischer said. “If Barbie looks like what little girls see [in themselves], they’ll feel less bad about themselves”

Sophomore Haylee Manktelow, mother of a 1-year-old, said she would “never” give her daughter a Barbie. She said Barbie’s looks may lead to “possible unhealthy body image development,” but agreed with Fischer.

Manktelow welcomed this change because prior to the makeover, Barbie represented an unattainable standard of beauty. “Barbies were really hard to look like,” she said.  

Fischer also sees how the dolls are still not totally inclusive. “My issue with the designated curvy Barbie is, the big-boned one still looks relatively thin,” she said. “Right now, they’ve got the skinny and midsize [bodies] covered, but still not any larger body types,” Fischer said.