In 1959, Mattel’s Barbie first stepped out into the toy market.
With her topknot and impossible figure stuffed into a zebra swimsuit, Barbie has been a dream come true for decades…for white, blonde kids.
Now, six decades after Barbie first set her impossibly tiny foot on the scene, Mattel has introduced a line of Fashionista dolls that give kids the chance to choose a more realistic experience. These dolls have a wide variety of facial features, hair color and textures, skin tone and body types.
Barbie can now be seen with a less defined waist and a smaller bust size than her unrealistic predecessor.
In addition, these Fashionistas are embracing physical impairments and now feature Barbies in wheelchairs and sporting prosthetic legs. The wheelchair Barbie had historically been the variation that fans most wanted, according to the manufacturer’s consumer hotline.
The company had attempted to create a wheelchair Barbie in 1997, but the doll’s chair didn’t fit into the Dream House elevator. Learning from the experience, Mattel worked closely with the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital and several wheelchair experts to design a more realistic chair.
Artificial Arm Glitter Canon
Culmone was also inspired in the creation of the new doll line by Jordan Reeves, the twelve-year-old who took the headlines by storm in 2017 with her DIY artificial arm/glitter cannon.
Reeves and her mother co-founded Born Just Right, a non-profit organization which has worked with Culmone on the more diverse Barbie lineup. On Reeves’ suggestion Culmone created a Barbie with a prosthetic that was removable, a concept that hadn’t occurred to the designer.
This lack of awareness has been running rampant through Mattel’s Barbie line for years, and until recently, the idea of a doll with an A-cup bust or wearing a size twelve was unheard of. This lack of diversity played a part in the 2016 sales decline of the iconic doll.
The company answered the call with a new line of dolls featuring body types such as petite, tall or “curvy” and seven different skin tones. In addition, the newer Barbies can be found with 24 different styles of hair and 22 eye colors.
In a Teen Vogue interview, Mattel’s vice president of Barbie design, Kim Culmone, explained that it was important for the company to listen to the consumer. “The feedback we got about the doll and the brand was not in line with what our intentions were,” Culmone told the magazine.
According to a blog post from Born Just Right, the hope is that the new Barbies are just the start of a movement to use dolls to better represent physical difference.
Culmone agrees that the new dolls are, as she explained to Teen Vogue, “a continuation of our mission to really show all girls they have limitless potential, that it’s not the end. This is just a continuing commitment that’s about the present and future.”