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Barbie, Fashion Icon of the 60's

Teresa's Blog

Teresa's Blog

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Caveat Emptor! Barbie Shopping on Ebay ~ HINTS!

Posted by Teresa on December 29, 2012 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (65)

We’ve pretty much all purchased Barbie items on eBay, and we do it at some risk, because we can’t see the item in person, and we all know about the potential for scammers (many of us know it all TOO well!).  Having been discussing one of the scammers recently, I have been thinking--I have picked up some helpful ideas along the way, and thought I would share them  So, for those of you who buy vintage items on eBay:

Pretty obvious:

It’s best to buy from sellers who have close to 100% feedback, and a good history of selling--high numbers.  

Check their feedback as a seller.  

If you get to know a few good sellers, keep them on your fav list!


“Near Mint” or “Mint” can mean totally different things to different people!  

Less Obvious:

Look more closely and ask questions if they are not regular Vintage Barbie sellers.  

There are perfectly good sellers who have inherited something or buy different vintage items and happen to find a doll to sell.  But if they don’t know much about their item, ask, ask, ask!

Beware of blurry pictures, they can be just bad photography or purposeful hiding of important things.  Ask the seller to send you more pics--you can now do that right in the eBay “message” section.

Beware of sellers who post only ONE picture, especially if it’s not great quality.  Scammers rip photos off the internet.  Ask for more photos at different angles, close-ups, etc.  One good trick is, ask for a pic of something really specific even if you don’t even need that info--like the bottom of a foot.  They can only send more pics if they have the item.

In any case of a very expensive thing like a #1, (or anything that you feel you’re stretching to buy), look closely at the sellers other items, including completed listings.  I got burned once buying a very well-faked box.  When I checked back, that seller had listed 5 or 6 boxes with no dolls.  Unusual!  if you see something odd like that--they just sold five #2 Ponytails, other unlikely events--beware, and ask, ask, ask, verify!

Many sellers retouch and don’t admit it is retouched.  I usually ask if it is alcohol-tested original --if they don’t reply or will not test, and you want all-original, I would not buy.  In fact, today I asked that very question of a seller and she said “not to my knowledge” on retouching.  However, when I looked at her other listings, she had 4 or 5 dolls from 1961 or 62 that ALL had cheek blush.  Sorry, but how often do you find a #5 or 1961 Bubble who has her cheek blush?  Rarely!  Not five in one place.

(I own some retouched dolls--i have nothing against them in particular, I just want to know they are retouched before I buy!)

When you’re thinking of bidding on something unusual, like a Japanese exclusive, or “prototype”, etc--do as much research as possible!  Look in the Barbie in Japan book, check websites--send emails to experts (I have found Joe Blitman to be very helpful.)--anything to verify you are getting the real thing.“Near Mint” or “Mint” can mean totally different things to different people!

Once you buy:

A number of people have noted that sellers sometimes pack things poorly.  Especially if your seller is not a repeat vintage doll seller:

Include a message on your payment page, or better yet contact the seller and ask (nicely) for them to ship the doll (or outfit) in white tissue in a sturdy box with lots of packing material.  Then you may be less likely to receive a doll in an envelope with her head rolling around, or in newspaper, with ink on your doll.  

If the doll is not what you expected, I have found most sellers to be nice about returns, as long as you are nice in the way you contact them.  

Buyer Beware, but still have FUN! :)


The Mystery of the White Ginger

Posted by Teresa on September 28, 2010 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (106)

We all know the rarity of the White Ginger Bubblecut!  She has long been elusive and hard to find.  But is she, really?  This lovely pale blonde bombshell with the deep turquoise eyes and full pink lips was made in 1961 along with the other "first issue" Bubblecuts.  Those girls were Raven-haired, Titian, a honey Blonde, and the truly, truly rare Brownette.  All of them had big red lips except our Sandra Dee wannabe, White Ginger!  

Could White Gingers be floating around right under our noses, and we simply don't recognize them?  I think they are!  For one thing, their hair almost always changed to a darker blonde shade, making them look more like the other blondes.  They are also often designated "Platinum" although they might better fit the WG bill.  So the real rarity is finding a WG with anything close to her original platinum-blonde hair color.  Here is one of those rarities, colormagickid's WG:

 (Photo courtesy of colormagickid)

The above rare beauty is a "classic" WG with tight bubble that is very light in color, turquoise eyes with teal liner, and huge candy-pink lips. 

Here is a full view of one of my WG's, also the classic one (not quite as perfect as kid's, but with very light hair).

Next is a classic WG with slightly oily complexion and tight hairdo of 1961, but the deep turquoise eyes of 1962!

Here is my latest WG acquisition, with nearly un-oxidized hair, those deep turquoise eyes and a rather full bubble!

Just because she's so pretty, here she is full view in "Garden Party".

Now, one of the criteria that supposedly determine whether you have a WG or a Platinum is that the hair of the WG is in a tighter bubble, and has a duller sheen than the later Platinum.  Below is my WG with amazingly pale hair, with the so-called 1961 duller sheen.

Well, just to throw another conundrum into the soup, here's a pic of the WG above (the one in Suburban Shopper) next to another gal (on the right) who looks nearly exactly the same, came in a 1961 WG box, and has a small bubble--but her hair is very shiny, just like the Platinums! .

Here's another MIB White Ginger with very shiny hair and lo and behold, she has BLUE eyes instead of turquoise!  Just goes to show, Mattel didn't always make 'em standard!  I think the sheen may have had to do with the type of hair fiber, and perhaps one batch reacted a little differently over time than another.

I got into a WG detective mode and have managed to find several examples of definite classic WG's whose hair had oxidized.  So I concluded they are not rare, just rare in retaining their original whitish hair!   Here is one of my WG's, hair a bit oxidized, but with unmistakeable dark turquoise eyes and green liner!  And look, her bubble is also quite big! 

And...was there a sudden switch by Mattel from WG to Platinum?  According to Krista's website, the WG's had Barbie-only bodies and were made only in 1961, and the Platinums began coming out in 1963 with plump faces and large neck-knobs on Midge-Barbie bodies.  

OK, so where did they go in 1962?  (This was the year of watermelon lip dolls.)  Another mystery!

Well, in true Sherlock Holmes style, I have looked at the evidence and come up with a theory.  We know that Mattel was producing kids' toys and not collectibles in the 60's.  They didn't have any issues at all with using up their parts to make dolls!  You know they had bodies, heads, and limbs lying around the factory after they made a decision to label the new boxes "Platinum Bubble Cut" and change the name "White Ginger" to "Platinum".  

Meanwhile they had produced Midge.  So they put Midge's name on the dolls' butt along with Barbie's.  At first they were still making these Midge-Barbie torsos with small neck knobs, so now and then you find one with this odd configuration.  But soon they changed the neck knob to the large one, and the faces became plumper.  

What happened to White Ginger?  She never disappeared--she slowly turned into a Platinum by the using up of parts until she was the "classic" Platinum!  Look at the evidence right here in pictures:

This MIB WG/Platinum has bigger hair, a WG face, but a Barbie body and coral nails.  Her box is labeled "Platinum".  My assessment?  She came out in 1962, and Mattel still had some Barbie bodies, but was already making coral nails. (They look red in pic, but are coral.)

This somewhat-oxidized WG has the WG face and small bubble, but her torso is small-neck-knob Midge-Barbie with coral nails.  A close look reveals her eyeliner is bluer than the teal of the classic WG!  But the eyes are unquestionably turquoise! (You can tell when you look at the classic Platinum farther down the page.)

The next girl has the same M/B torso, coral nails, and WG face with turquoise eyes (the pic is slightly overexposed, so the eyes look a bit lighter than they actually are) and bluer eyeliner like the girl above, but has a HUGE bubble.  both these gals, I believe are 1962 WG/Platinum transitional dolls!  

Now check out this "classic" Platinum definitely from 1963.  She has a huge bubble, powder blue eyes with blue eyeliner.  For the first time, she has the plump face and large neck-knob on Midge-Barbie body.  Coral nails, as expected. 

For comparison, here is the 1963 gal on left, and two 1962's :

So...My solution to the Mystery of the White Ginger--she was under our noses all the time, sometimes disguised as a honey blonde, sometimes as a transitional in 1962 and now renamed "Platinum" --and finally, she became the true Platinum, and was reborn no more.

I propose all Barbie lovers recognize a new designation--"Transitional WG Platinum", so these little darlings can find their niche!  

Whaddya say?

~ Teresa

The Evolution of Barbie from 1959 to the Present: Will She Come Full Circle?

Posted by Teresa on August 8, 2010 at 6:19 PM Comments comments (1506)

There have been many articles on this little fashion icon discussing her evolution as it relates to the pervading pop culture milieu. But I have never seen an essay on her evolution physically and how it might relate to not only pop culture, but to the “selective breeding” process.*  

When I say selective breeding, think “dogs”, for example. They were once all wolves some tens of thousands of years ago! Now look at them--from Chihuahuas to Poodles to Great Danes, we have created a dog to fit every customer. We’ve done this through selective breeding, that is, taking the characteristics we were looking for, like teensiness in Chihuahuas, or glossy auburn fur in Irish Setters, and we’ve bred those males and females together that were the closest to our ideal. And voila--puppies who get closer and closer to what we think is “the perfect Poodle”, or whichever breed you please.

So Barbie doll’s evolution has also been through our “selective breeding”, sort of--clearly Mattel didn’t produce Ken to breed him with Barbie, that would be--well, more than strange, and just would not work. (Recall Woody of Toy Story’s comment to Buzz Lightyear: “You...are...a...TOY!” ) No, it’s more of an interaction between driving forces in marketing: What the customer wants, what’s going on in pop culture (which drives what little girls want, as we all know), what the parents are willing to buy for their children, what Mattel’s marketing people have come up with...and so on.

It won't go unnoticed that all the Barbies in this discussion happen to be Caucasian.  None of the early dolls were persons of color due to the marketing milieu of the mid-century.  Mattel produced a cousin for Barbie called "Francie" who came out in an African American version in 1967, and subsequently more diverse Barbie dolls began to appear.  But that is the subject of another essay.  

Having said all that, let’s look at how Barbie has evolved. In 1958 or thereabouts, Ruth Handler took a look at a popular German fashion model doll, Bild Lilli, and realized this was something that had not been seen in the U.S.--most dolls were baby dolls or variations of them. (Keep that in mind as the story progresses.) So Handler invented Barbie, named after her daughter.  

Bild Lilli


This was no baby doll; this was a sultry, sexy grown-up girl who exuded a sophisticated insouciance in the style of Bild Lilli, all the while being touted as a “Teenaged Fashion Model”.

#1 Barbie

She resembled Bild Lilli in her ponytail, heavily-lined eyes, and inscrutable side glance. The eyebrows and lips were modified to look a bit less pouty. Barbie’s face also reflected Asian/Kabuki influence--she was made in Japan, after all. (Here I will credit Christopher Varaste's book "Face of the American Dream".)  Her figure was impossibly hourglass, with a wasp-waist, pointy breasts which were in fashion in the 50’s and early 60’s, and slim hips. In fact, the first body molds had formed nipples, a feature that disappeared within the first couple of years of production. (More about that later.) Her long, long legs ended in tiny feet permanently on tiptoe to accommodate spike-heeled shoes.

The American response to this new siren, with all her couture clothing made to fit like a glove? Little girls loved her, but their mothers had a few reservations. This doll looked, at least to them, just a little too much like a sexpot--nothing like the baby dolls they were accustomed to buying for their children!  Those black-lined sultry eyes, those pointy brows and red, red lips--that body! Those were very adult characteristics. And the nipples--they had to go. (Mattel got rid of those quickly, but a few of the 1959-60 dolls circulating among collectors today have them.)

Nevertheless, little girls always love to play grown-up, and Mattel must have gotten feedback on what would sell (and after all, parents buy the toys) and what wouldn’t. So not so many of the first issue (only a few hundred thousand) were produced and sold. Not to be deterred, by 1960 Mattel came out with a new face for Barbie. The mold was the same, but Barbie now had new makeup. Her pointy brows were now softly arched, her heavy black eyeliner and white irises replaced by black eyelash ridges only, with blue or brown eyeliner that was far lighter and more youthful in appearance. Her red lips remained, as well as her hourglass figure. 

#3 Ponytail

Barbie changed again by the end of 1960, when Mattel started using an improved vinyl (the previous dolls had a tendency to fade in color), and along with that, made some more face changes. Her brows became a bit lighter, and her eyeliner became exclusively blue, and less dramatic. These changes gave her a subtly younger appearance due to the look of less heavily-applied makeup. 

#4 Ponytail

From 1961 through 1963 Barbie had more hair colors and new bouffant hairdos to choose from. Her face didn’t change too drastically, continuing to have the same mold, although her lip color went from deep red to shades of pink and coral along with the fashions of the 60’s. Barbie stayed in the more youthful crowd with the light lip colors and hip bouffant hair style. By 1963-66 Barbie’s face became plumper-cheeked. She had a new, larger knob that held her head on her neck, which necessitated the plumper face--or did it? In any case, a plump face is more typical of a teenager, and confers youth. Her eyes became larger in appearance due to the way the eyes were made up. By 1965 her legs could bend, too. 

Platinum 1963 Bubblecut

Pale Blonde 1964 Swirl Ponytail

American Girl 1966

In 1967 Barbie became an entirely new girl with the advent of a new face mold and a twist-n-turn waist. She quickly gained real rooted eyelashes, bigger eyes, a somewhat rounder face, and plump pink or coral lips. Her hair was now in the new long, straight style that would usher in the 70’s. Barbie had the same face mold essentially through 1972, although there were a number of variations that walked, talked or could be contorted into more poses.

Twist 'n Turn Barbie

The Malibu Barbie that came out in 1971 and persisted through 1977 broke the mold--the previous face mold, that is--with a new, even plumper face sporting a cute pug nose, big blue eyes and a coy but definite smile complete with teeth. And she had a tan (considered youthful and healthy at the time!). The side glance, which had been persistent for a dozen years, finally gave way to a more straightforward and innocent gaze.  

Malibu Barbie

It becomes easier to see the trend that has been working here since Barbie’s inception, doesn’t it? No longer the Mona Lisa-mysteriously smiling, side-glancing, sultry adult; now we see a plump-faced, wide-eyed, pug-nosed, glowing surfer girl with a cute California smile! In the space of 12 years, Barbie has “reverse-aged” by at least that many years, if not more!

(There have been countless “collector” Barbie dolls for some years now, and these are still being produced; these are marketed primarily to adult collectors rather than children, so they are not in the same category as the ones discussed here.)

The most recent Barbies are well represented by this picture:

So, what’s the point? It looks as though Barbie has gradually become more childlike in appearance. Is that not what moms everywhere prefer their little girls to play with? But why do they want this? After all, Barbie was not made to be a doll to be placed in a toy pram and given a toy bottle; she was designed to be a fashion model, although she subsequently took on many careers. They want it because of biology. That’s right, these moms (and maybe even their daughters to some extent) are slaves to their own biological predispositions. The process, in the animal kingdom, of adults retaining the look of the juvenile of the species is called “neoteny” (Stay with me here).

In the biological world, neoteny happens when the development of the individual is slowed at certain points, and the baby features, instead of becoming more and more adult-like, stay more baby-like. Baby people, like baby animals, all have this quality as babies and juveniles. Think about it. Big foreheads, huge eyes, small chins, small or button noses. Human babies have all those qualities, and so do kittens, puppies, and pretty much all other baby mammals. Most species of mammals will lose most of those baby features as adults, when their snouts lengthen and their eyes look smaller. Humans are something of an exception, but obviously even we lose some of that baby-faced appeal! 

...And one thing the 1959 Barbie lacked to some degree was that baby face. Sure, she had a small nose and chin, and big eyes--but those eyes were clearly not so innocent-looking, and the nose was pointed, becoming softer in later editions. Mattel was following the market demand by moms that Barbie evolve into a more childlike, innocent-looking creature, at least partly because of biology. We and other animals are hard-wired to want to protect and nurture little helpless creatures that look like...babies.

So, to get to the question posed by the title of this essay, will Barbie come full circle? Will she eventually keep going on the same track and in another 20 years or so, look like this? 

~ Teresa

*  With all due credit and apologies to my late friend and noted biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who, in his essay "A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse" (reprinted in The Panda's Thumb", 1980)  described a similar evolution of Mickey with far more panache and rigor.  In his essay Steve  said "You may, indeed, now ask what an at least marginally respectable scientist has been doing with a mouse like that."--and after you read what followed, you didn't have to ask!  I ask the same withholding of judgment about why I'm spending time with a doll like that!  


Lives of a Secret Barbie Addict

Posted by Teresa on July 30, 2010 at 8:09 PM Comments comments (13)

This is my first post in a blog, any blog.  And I would never have believed I would be blogging on my own vintage Barbie site!   I was NOT a doll collecting person, not at all whatsoever, no way, never considered it.  In fact, my main hobbies have been music--classical piano--also I've written a novel which actually had the rights bought by a film producer, but then never to be produced.  (I suspect I'm in good company there.)  I also love science, especially evolutionary biology.

What happened?  A smattering of history: As a little girl of 6, I received a blonde Barbie doll, Ponytail (that's all they made at that point around 1960).  I think she was a #4 in retrospect, as I seem to remember soft poodle bangs.  I loved her, drove my mother crazy with my incessant asking for the newest fashion that Mattel would come out with, and played with her until, no doubt, her eyebrows came off and her hair was a disaster.  Nevertheless, she managed to attract a Ken--the one with black fuzzy hair.  (He later began balding in a most peculiar pattern.)  Also a brunette Midge became Barbie's best friend.  Midge was always sporting freckles and a goofy grin, and was clearly not a competitor for Barbie's sultry, side-glancing model's face.  However, she could wear the same outfits, fortunately!

I probably whined that my blonde Barbie was beginning to look a bit the worse for wear, so my mom finally gave in to buying me a new one, a Platinum Bubblecut with the latest look--pink lips, and a huge bouffant hairdo befitting 1963.  She was the sole survivor of Mom's streak of generosity when, probably around 1970, she gave all my Barbies away except the Platinum.  

Whom I discovered in Mom's old cedar chest, along with several outfits (I had "Modern Art"--!) about two years ago.  I took her home, marveled at how fab she looked for being 46 years old, and later sent her to have her somewhat worn lipstick and her brows retouched by Krista.  She returned to me looking absolutely new!  (Her portrait is in the "Close-Up" page, and she models "Mood for Music" on the Runway "Bubbles" page.)  

...So I started to watch "Mad Men" on AMG every Sunday, and noticed all those same fab fashions on those incredibly gorgeous people--and I was hooked.  I discovered ebay has a huge Barbie section, and off I went.  I now have about twenty dolls (not so many, really), and they are as close to mint as I can afford (oh yes, you can spend $7000 on one dolly if you want).  

Every one of them is different, despite their being the same or similar in terms of the molds their little heads were made from, or the stencils they did the faces with.  Each one personifies a fashion look all her own, from 1959 to 1966.  

I never would have predicted this.  A Barbie collector, moi?  I'm even a little embarrassed to say, I have at times considered my self at least a wannabe intellectual, and Barbie simply  does not seem to fit that mold.  Note I say "seem", because while one does not have to aspire to the wisdom of the sage to appreciate Vintage Barbie, when a good close look is taken at the fashion doll icon and her surrounding hype/pop culture/milieu, much can be gleaned!  (Really!)

Not an excuse for sheer silliness or indulgent play, but a good reason to collect, drink in the beauty of "retro" midcentury fashion and have just plain fun.  

~ Teresa