BARBIE & THE MAKING OF A BUDHAGIRL
I can’t help but want to resist the wave of Barbie-mania taking hold of all the social platforms. But I can’t. Barbie has been an inextricable part of my life as far back as I can remember.
Barbie was my absolute favorite toy, and today I understand why. She reinforced the tenants about feeling pretty, which was imparted to me by my mother and most likely influenced my passion for what would become my career in fashion.
What I loved most was how I was able to change Barbie; she wasn’t static. She could be a ballerina, a doctor, a banker, a movie star, and my best friend.
I was a lonely child. My brother was seven years older and not terribly interested in his little sister. My father was 60 when I was born and of a generation where children were to be seen— at times— and not heard. My mother was busy taking care of our homes and of my father.
Nobody played with me but Barbie.
Barbie was more than a doll; she encouraged me to imagine, to create, and to be curious. I play-acted countless different stories, even from books I was reading. I created fabulous backdrops for the stories. I always hated the awful, bright bubblegum pink color that coated her life, turned up further by the sunshine yellow and sky blue (ick) in the Barbie Dollhouse. I, in turn, created elegant, soothing backdrops— the Barbie house I created leaned towards an Angelo Donghia look— I would snag my mother’s left-over swatches of upholstery fabrics, silks and moirés, velvets and damasks, wools and leathers. I would cut, paste, and drape anything to hide that awful pink. Remember, there’s a big difference between Bubblegum and Budhagirl.
Today, I’m faced again with the image of Barbie. The impossible hip-waist-bust ratio, the 90˙ bent feet with arches that could support a stadium, the large eyes, and silky hair. I never felt less because of these attributes, nor did I necessarily want them, but they played an integral part in how I saw fashion and fit. In the early 80s, when I was in my twenties, I heard the first waves of anti-Barbie sentiment, which took the position that her image was harmful to girls. Today, as with everything, the pendulum continues to swing, and yet Barbie’s image hasn’t changed. So what has?
What’s changed is how we think. It’s how even though Barbie’s outside is as plastic as ever, her inside is what makes her a goal for the little girls in all of us.
Barbie’s true beauty is how she thinks, how she carries herself.
We can all be smart, ambitious, and talented, and virtually none of us will look like our beloved Barbie; but that was never her intention.
I feel better now that I’ve written this. For so long, I was afraid to be judged for my admission that I like Barbie. Today there’s a growing understanding that we must respect and love people for who they are, for exactly what they look like, and for who they strive to be. This understanding has made me realize that I should no longer hide my love for the doll that continues to be the picture of an utterly fabulous woman.
PS: Forget the guy doll. He’s just Ken.
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