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The Barbie Story: How a Fashion Icon Was Born

Barbie_StoryThe moment Barbie® doll was introduced to the world, an icon was born. Debuting in 1959 as “The Teenage Fashion Model,” Barbie allowed girls to experience fashion play and to explore various dreams, fantasies and aspirations without ever leaving home. 

Over the years, Barbie doll has always been a reflection of the times, whether following style trends or blazing her own fashion trail. But when she began, she was a maverick.

Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel Toys, had watched her daughter Barbara and friends play with paper dolls of grown-up women, and imagining themselves in grown-up roles. Finally, the idea hit her — why not make a teenage doll that little girls could play with? She set out to investigate the possibilities.

The market research came back – lots of three-dimensional baby and toddler dolls were available in the 1950s, but no older dolls were on the market. Despite initial skepticism from her husband and Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler, Ruth pursued her vision for three years, finally unveiling Barbie in 1959. Her historic debut took place at the New York Toy Fair, shocking industry pundits and toy critics. They’d never seen anything like Barbie, and didn’t realize the world had been waiting for someone just like her.

Buoyed by Ruth’s unerring instincts, and thanks to an innovative television ad campaign, the doll quickly caught the attention of little girls across the country, proving all the skeptics wrong.

With the mothers and daughters of America making The Teenage Fashion Model and subsequent dolls such a runaway success, Barbie expanded her range with new outfits, and even new careers. “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be,” Ruth said. “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”


Today, Barbie is the most popular doll in the world. She is a worldwide fashion muse and pop  culture icon for girls of all ages.

Barbie Collector is proud to continue the tradition of superb quality and attention to detail that began over 50 years ago, and to expand on her fashion heritage with new dolls and designs for adult collectors. Haute couture, fantasy creations, and famous designer collaborations have all helped to raise Barbie doll’s profile with new generations of fans.

From her humble beginnings as a teenage fashion model, Barbie has since transformed into best friend, confidante, and fearless adventurer. And while the doll’s next exploits continue to unfold, one thing’s for sure. The Most Collectible Doll in the World® has cemented her place in pop culture history—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.


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