While Mattel has decided to review the measurements of its famous doll, she makes her first appearance in a Paris museum. Until September 18th, 700 Barbie dolls will be on display at the Museum of Decorative Arts.

A constantly changing icon

Stewardess, businesswoman, astronaut, veterinarian, dancer, policewoman, if Barbie’s silhouette defies the passing of time, the woman she plays evolves over the years. Criticised for depicting women as objects, the favoured doll of little girls everywhere quickly swapped her air hostess costume of 1961 for that of an astronaut in 1965, a surgeon in 1973 and even a presidential candidate in 2000. This didn’t stop her from being coveted by a host of top designers: Oscar de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Dior and Diane Von Furstenberg have all dressed Barbie!


A family story

Barbie was born from the imagination of one woman, Ruth Handler. Co-founder of the Mattel toy company, she created this feminine doll after noting that her daughter preferred dolls representing women to those representing children. When the doll was launched in 1959 she was given the name Barbie after Handler’s daughter, Barbara. She was a native of Wisconsin, lived with her family and could be a high school girl, nurse or student. Her boyfriend Ken appeared in 1961. Her history and the debates it has sparked, and still causes, are featured in an exhibition of photos, video, journals, sketches and documents. The exhibit also features 700 Barbies, in dozens of outfits that illustrate the passing decades.  A fascinating historical and sociological retrospective but also a colourful and festive one – after all, Barbie is first and foremost a child’s toy.


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