Windy City Collectors BDC:August 2019 History of Barbie

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Want to find more about your vintage Barbies?

My 1959 no.3 Barbie 

This is Linda D's invite to our August meeting of Windy City Collectors BDC

"Barbie's 1959 Debut - Fun Night, August 8th! Come join your host's, Linda D and Nancy, as we travel down Barbie doll's history! Presentation starts promptly at 7:30PM.

Did you know Barbie took years to produce before she hit the toy market in March, 1959? You will learn her history and the Mattel employees behind the doll! 

You will see all 22 fashions for the first year including a #1 Barbie doll with her box and stand. Bild Lilli doll will make an appearance! The first Barbie commercial will be played as well as commentary from Gene Foote who was at the 1959 Toy Show! You will see rare marketing items used to promote the doll AND A LOT MORE!!! This is one fun night you won't want to miss!"

Our doll club is one of the most active in the nation and we have a facebook group that is free to join: Windy City Collectors BDC FB Group, join up tell us about yourself and your dolls. You don't have to live in the Chicago area---we also offer club membership to anyone who wishes to join in and be in the 'know' of the Barbie family and what the industry is up to.
Windy City Collectors BDC FB Group
Right: Barbie no.1 in her original  Zebra Swimsuit #850 same number as the original doll.
Thursday, August 8th

Linda and Nancy gave a wonderful presentation with all sorts of details on how Barbie was inspired by Ruth's daughter's playing with paper dolls, and finding Bild Lili in Switzerland, then in Germany while on a trip. Mattel (started by her husband and a partner) eventually took Ruth's ideas and after 3 years in planning and then presented Barbie at the NY toy show in 1959.


Here are a few sources on Ruth and Barbie:

Many books have been written on Barbie history and Ruth Handler, most are still available online. Check your library they might carry most of these titles.

Another interesting topic covered was the clothing designer Charlotte Johnson, who worked with Ruth in designing 'Barbie' from the panties up, LOL. Ruth insisted No Barbie was to be sold naked, which is why the iconic Zebra Swimsuit was born.

 Charlotte Johnson worked in collaboration with Ruth Johnson, who designed the clothes and packaging for many years. The goal was to provide a versatile and sophisticated wardrobe. Linda and Nancy, brought all of the original 22 outfits and many early dolls to model them. It was quite a fashion show. They even had some of the original 22  packaged fashions here:

Original packaging showed fashions to be displayed for sale. Compared to other companies, this was really a step up. The packages could be displayed on the wall, shelf, or the fashions, played with. Since dolls were marketed to children by a massive commercial campaign on Mickey Mouse Club--MOST originals were played with.

Back left to r: #965 Nighty Negligee 1959-1964
(my friends called it, Naughty Nighty, in 1960-it's very sheer.) 
 Suburban Shopper #969 (1959-1964)
Lower Left to right: # 921 Floral Petticoat 1959-1963-the
original 1959 version was white,
#911 Golden Girl 1959-1962 (dress in Evening Splendor-below)

Back center: #973 Sweet Dreams Yellow 1959-1963
left is Roman Holiday #968 and only made in 1959, 
Right is  Gay Parisienne #964 also only made in 1959

Back left to right: Cruise stripes(dress only from Roman Holiday)#918, Resort Set #963 1959-62,
Winter Holiday #965 1959-63, Barbie #962 Barbie-Q Outfit 1959-1962,
Front Left to Right: Gary Parisienne #964 1959, Barbie #961 Evening Splendor 1959-1962, 
Barbie #916 Commuter Set 1959-1960, Barbie 966 Plantation Bell 1959-1961

Back Right -#976 Sweater Girl 1959-1962,
Lower Left-Plantation BelleBarbie #969 Suburban Shopper 1959-1964, # 967 Picnic Set 1959-1961(originally came with white mules)

Left to Right,#915 Peachy Fleecy 1959-1961# 967 Picnic Set 1959-1961, #912 Cotton Casual 1959-1962

The Picnic Barbie outfit was one of my favorites, though while my friends and I had Barbies, none of us had nor could our families afford the outfits...but we sewed and shared so many homemade fun outfits and creations.

But, like all great fashion shows, the End is the BRIDE and a perfect going away outfit...?  1959.

Left: #972 Wedding Day set 1959-1962
Above R #917 Apple Print Sheath 1959-1960
also part of #971 Easter Parade 1959 

The little books that came with each of the fashions were ogled and passed around to be ooohed and ahhhed over. Very few of my friends had 'real' Barbie clothes.

Barbie cost $2-3 in 1959, the fashions were $1-$5. 
Median income per year was $2600 or 50-ish dollars a week. 
So one outfit could more than 10% of an average paycheck
--before taxes.
JUST to put it in perspective. But, Barbie flourished and Mattel struggled to produce enough for the first three years.

Barbie had been marketed as a Teen Aged Fashion Model, not as a doll, but a real person who had dreams, a life, and a fabulous wardrobe. Here we are today--60's years later--with a doll that is multi-ethnic, multi-faceted, career minded, and still relevant.

Then our MEMBERS and guests shared their childhood dolls and stories. 
Jacquie shared her newly purchased, VINTAGE Replacement 1962 Barbie Fashion Shop, in such excellent condition. Her current dolls, moved right in!

Seems that 4-year old Jacquie wasn't treating the shop properly(the dolls kept falling out of the cardboard chairs) and she threw a tantrum. Grandma took the whole thing away
never to be seen again. SIGH
Jacquie said she has searched long and hard for this set at a comfortable price, and was ecstatic to find this, we were too. It's  really special to see all this vintage in such wonderful condition.
Molly told the story of her early Miss America doll, and her 60th anniversary dress on a different doll.

Molly's fabulous original song book, and 1987 Pink Sensations doll which originally came with a cassette, The blue dressed Barbie is from 1986.

I missed whose dolls they were, but left is a Sunset Malibu Barbie. and the right Early 1970s twist and turn (TNT)  has a red sheath pack dress on.
Beth shared how her original dolls were given away when she was 17 to the neighbor kids...she sewed an adaptation of Silken Flame for her current dolls, as that was her favorite outfit. Her other favorite, this gold dress is a designer original of the most fabulous fabric, very beautiful on an original Bubble-cut Barbie.
Cathy told the story of how she loved Cloris Leachman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. This Magic Curl Barbie in her original dress 1981 reminded her of Cloris and started her collecting.
The pink bag is a 60th anniversary find from the convention in KC.
So many members commented that their dolls were given away to cousins, sisters, trashed--and then disappeared. 
They then found replacements which rekindled their love for Barbie and started their collecting. 
An original #982 Solo in the Spotlight 1960-1964...and 978 Let's Dance 1960-1964. 

Sorry, I forget who shared these? 
Left to right "Doctor Kildare Not Mattel, had been popular TV character in the US since 1961, so it was inevitable that doll version was released. He came either alone or with a nurse. His box has a 1962 copyright date,(BEFORE KEN) but he first appears in the catalogues in 1963." source Vintage Clones

Next: Flocked Ken in #1414 Holiday (1965), 
Alan originally made in #1964-6 in #1404 Ken in Hawaii (1964)
Original Midge was made in 1963-7 unidentified dress
next Barbie in #1653 International Fair 1966-1967 without accessories
Far Right: Crisp ‘N Cool #1604 (1964-1965)

I brought my childhood doll received in February 1960, a Barbie no.3. I was an only child and she was packed away around 1964 and forgotten for 50 some years. So she is in remarkable condition. Only having her hair trimmed (she had been an avid swimmer,)
Left to right an original #943 Fancy Free 1963-1964 
on the rack:Pink Pajama Party 1963 
later blue clam diggers, blue linen pencil skirt, 
clone? red button skirt, white pants,
the red/white long dress I couldn't find (clone maybe). 
I did find a skirt attributed to Barbie in the same fabric.
Barbie wears the original, Resort Set #963 1959-62 without accessories, I do have the white glasses, somewhere though. 

I explained in my HFIM world, this Barbie or BMR is now 60, years in age, owns many properties and has ties to Chicago...she's and an active business woman. Packing for an East Coast business/vacation trip in vintage fashions, BMR is a practiced traveler and sticks to a color theme, so multiple outfits can be made from her picks.

I added for the meeting, 1967 Formal Occasion white/gold dress with a much later shawl, for any 'fund raiser' event, she might have to attend.
Lastly, the hit of the night brought back from the Barbie Doll Convention In Kansas City. A HUGE lipstick from Emily from London to Beth in WCCBDC.

Unscrewed, this Lipstick Cooler head 
a huge bottle of Champagne!
CHEERS and Happy 60th Birthday Barbie---!

Thanks to all who shared their knowledge and dolls for this program, it was really informative and entertaining and a great way to celebrate Barbie's 60th Year! If I have any of this information wrong---please let me know. I used multiple reference sites for dating and naming the fashions.

Thank you for visiting, I will try and respond to every question and comment. 

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  1. Wonderful follow-up to a superb Fun Night, Sandy!

  2. Sounds like it was a great night! I'm glad you could attend, thanks for sharing:@)

    1. It was fab, and thanks for viewing. Nice to know where/how it all started!


Thanks so much for each and every comment, and I will try and answer any questions you may have.