Barbie Evolution - Positive Body Image Barbies make a splash in Australia

By Toy Tester Dad - June 02, 2016

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Barbie is undoubtedly the single biggest selling children's doll in the world with one sold every two seconds in the USA alone.

Arguably when Barbie was introduced in 1959 the world was a very different place. Since then much has changed for the better (and sometimes arguably for the worse) but Barbie has remained stuck in an image that reflected 1959 and not reflecting the changing reality of society, until now.

Mattel has now introduced the Fashionistas range of Barbie designed to reflect the society we live in today with its multicultural communities, families together with different body shapes and sizes.

The first of the Barbie Fashionistas range arrived in Australia just this week and Toy Universe was the first retailer in Australia to stock the new range. Magda de Berg from Toy Universe was excited by the new range when we visited their massive warehouse this week saying;

“This new range of Barbies has been hugely popular in the United States with parents seeing the range as relevant to today’s society and representative of the world our children live in whilst still retaining all the fun for children to play with that have made the Barbie range a bestseller since it hit shelves in 1959. We are excited to be one of the first retailers in Australia to stock this range.”

Barbie Positive Body Image Range

The range is officially 44 dolls in total however phenomenal sales figures in the USA has meant Australia has only 8 varieties of the doll available at the moment however this will grow to the full range of 44 dolls as world supply is replenished.

The 8 varieties available at the moment include Love that Lace Petite” along with “VaVa Violet” along with 5 other refined fashion looks. Everything about these dolls is traditional Barbie except their looks and we see no reason why some brothers won’t want to rip the legs of these dolls as much as any other Barbie.

Children playing with this range will still be able to mix n match fashion and move the dolls arms and legs just like a standard Barbie, but high heels have been swapped for going out boots or joggers and blonde hair is now purple, brown or red as well as blonde and cheek bones are where they should be and not adjacent to the eyes.

From a body image perspective Barbie has often been criticised with Australia’s Dr Michael Carr-Greg highlighting the issue in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun when he said;

There is no doubt that Barbie has been an important part of the toy fashion-doll market for almost 50 years. But, wasp-waisted with unlikely proportions, Barbie has always been the bane of feminists.

Not to mention dietitians, eating disorder specialists and psychologists, who want society to move away from conceptions of the female figure that do not correspond with reality.

The design flaw that Mattel really needs to address is that Barbie's legs are 50 per cent longer than her arms, whereas the average woman's legs are only 20 per cent longer than her arms

Rest assured Mattel have heard these complaints and created a range that addresses every one of these issues and more with Tall, Petite, Curvy, redhead, brunette, African, Caucasian and Asian dolls all featuring in the new range.

The kids and I didn't test the dolls as we normally do, we were too busy racing the forklifts around the warehouse but looking at these dolls it is hard to see how a child couldn’t relate to one or more of these dolls as being just like them, their mother or their aunt. Each of the dolls are well proportioned at least giving the impression that if they were full sized they wouldn’t fall over.

Is there anything wrong with Mattel’s original Barbie, not necessarily, as a fantasy toy it is fun and facilitates creative play. The original Barbie are still a strong and fun part of the range and will always hold a special memory for so many children who grew up with the Barbie range, the only real issue was that Barbie didn’t grow with society.

Now she has, let’s hope she keeps on reflecting society and we don’t need to wait another 55 years for the next update.



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