Easily my favorite toy as a little girl was Barbie. I look back now and ponder the effect she had on ‘shaping’ my life. I had several dolls and many more ‘Barbie’ suitcases used as portable closets for all her clothes. And man did I have clothes! Endless dresses—styles for day wear and for evening wear—play clothes and SHOES galore. I would sit in the middle of the floor and surround myself with my Barbie world, which was, essentially, an endless closet. One of my earliest memories was of being babysat by my cousin and having her leave the room only to come back with Barbie in a new bathing suit that she had whipped up in a matters of minutes on her sewing machine. I was three. By age 4 I had my own miniature but fully working sewing machine. It’s not too difficult to imagine where my love for fashion came from.
But Barbie’s influence didn’t stop there. All through my teens I always thought I was fat. Funny, now I look back and realize that the size 3 that I wore was hardly ‘fat’. Nevertheless I had this perception that I was not the ideal size. Back then, nobody ever talked about different types of bodies, shapes and heights being acceptable. I don’t even remember how old I was when I first went on a diet. But I can tell you I did it often. Grapefruit with cottage cheese and the like; I remember the low fat craze… then the Atkins ‘lots of fat’ diet, and so on.
Perhaps I thought I needed to look like Barbie, which would be totally impossible in real life. 6′ 0″ tall, weighing 100 lbs, and a size 4. Her measurements would be 39″/19″/33″. She would probably have had to have back surgery from being so top heavy. (By the way, the average woman is 5′ 4″, weighs 145 lbs., and wears between a size 11-14. Her measurements are approximately 36″/30″/41″. There’s also a fifty-fifty chance that she is on a diet right now.)
After spending my childhood playing with Barbie, I moved on to fashion magazines featuring models and actresses who stand 5′ 11″ and weight 117 lbs. It’s no wonder I had a complex… Barbie did, however, instill the idea of having a career and independence. Along with that came the need for material wealth and consumerism. After all, she did have the perfect wardrobe, convertible car, dream house, etc.
“Advertisements targeting children in the 1950s and 1960s sought to lay the groundwork for a lifetime of consumption… Mattel’s teenage Barbie with her closets full of fashionable outfits and accessories taught the importance of how you dressed and what you owned.”
Reflecting on my past, I probably spent a little too much money collecting ‘things’.
Let’s talk for a minute about shoes. Man do I love shoes! Barbie’s feet are permanently formed to wear high heels. I remember getting my first pair of high heels in grade seven—they were at least 3 1/2 ” inches high. All my adult life I’ve worn stilettos…until recently when my shortened Achilles tendon gave out (surgery and flat shoes ever since). I remember when I started wearing make-up too. Blue eyeshadow. Where ever did I get that idea??
It’s really quite astonishing to sit here and think the effect that a little plastic doll has had on my life. How has Barbie shaped yours?