My Barbie Story from a Australian Vintage Barbie Doll Collector
by Barbie fan
In the sixties my mother bought me a Barbie doll after she noticed how much I liked playing with my American neighbour’s Barbie and Ken dolls - she had lots of the fashions and a special case to store everything. I thought they were marvellous! So Mum bought me a doll too.
I’ve seen a lot of info on what dolls were available in the early 60s but they always seem to mention the doll I had came in red swimsuit. Mine didn’t. In a book on Barbies I finally came across a photo of a boxed brunette swirl ponytail Barbie in the gold and white lame strapless costume (instead of the red swimsuit) – and THAT was the doll I had. The book said this doll in that costume was sold in Europe and (I think) Canada. So far I haven’t seen any references that say it was sold in Australia too….but it was! Still, there’s a lot of Barbie books and sites for me to check I guess. :-)
A few years later I got a blonde Skipper then a second-hand brunette bubblecut Barbie. Outfits were bought as Christmas and birthday presents, and I started making clothes for the dolls as well. Later I bought a Francie doll and it became my favourite as I liked her flip hairstyle….and she was very easy to sew for.
It’s the same old story though….I left home and didn’t take the dolls with me, so they were given away….to my regret. Making clothes for my Barbie dolls lead directly to me making clothes for myself. I still make most of my own clothes. Who knew playing with dolls could have such a marked effect?
In the late 1970s I really missed my Barbies so I bought a quick curl Cara doll and one of the superstar face Barbies (which truthfully in the end I didn’t like all that much – she had such a stupid expression). Discovering the joys of eBay in the 2000s I’ve since bought an original blonde Francie (just like the doll I used to own!) and a repro brunette Francie. Also a Barbie with long red hair, a repro 70s blonde Barbie and most recently, a doll with long black hair. I’ve also found a new home for the superstar face Barbie where hopefully she will be appreciated. I’ll admit I would have liked to get a doll with the same hairstyle and colour as the one I had in the 1960s but knowing how much of a mess I made of her hair back then, and knowing I’d be buying it to dress and not just leave in a box, I’d probably make all the same mistakes, so I have resisted the impulse.
One thing I have noticed is, though the dolls I have all look quite similar (large busts, small waists) they are slightly different sizes across the chest/back area. It makes sewing clothes that will fit all of them (excluding the Francies of course – they have their own outfits) quite a challenge. It also means if I want to buy ready-made outfits I have no idea whether they will fit the dolls or not. I’ve already had to adapt bought clothes to fit. Is there any info available on the actual chest or across the back measurements of the various traditional style Barbies - matched to their body type/location of manufacture? It would be a boon for anyone who makes their own dolls clothes to have this info. Also, if I wanted to get outfits (original or repro) like the ones I used to own, I’d like to know if they would fit any of my current dolls.
Also, there's a world of difference between the quality of my original Francie and some of the later dolls. She seems much more durable and doesn't have the manufacturing lines and marks etc you see in later dolls (especially on the legs). I wish they all looked as good as her!
I now have Barbies in all the hair colours I wanted….but it’s horribly tempting to buy more. So...how do you stop buying Barbies?
*Thank you so much for sharing your Barbie Story! To those who don't "get it" it is impossible to explain the joy and fun we get from our vintage Barbie dolls. And I have NO idea how to stop!