Careers and Colors

Over the years, too, Barbie saw expanding options in one type of costume that would generate praise, humor, doubt, and derision: the career outfit. In the early 1960s, Barbie's career identities were primarily traditionally female, like nurse; largely unattainable, like astronaut; or both, like ballerina. Barbie had less work, ironically, during the burgeoning of popular feminism in the 1970s.

The Lettie Lane Paper Family

Presenting Ltftte's -v.'e: ? Britto fcy

(tri Month W> Hoi Pttwnl Un»'i WhwYrtw u « (tan t< f«hlon

Presenting Ltftte's -v.'e: ? Britto fcy

(tri Month W> Hoi Pttwnl Un»'i WhwYrtw u « (tan t< f«hlon

Ruth Handler Family Life
Lettie Lane paper doll with clothes. Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler's desire to produce a three-dimensional version of paper dolls such as these was the genesis for Barbie. © Cynthia Hart Designer/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Her career life took off in the mid-1980s, however, with the Day-to-Night Barbie line. Its first incarnation presented Barbie as an executive, whose pink suit could be transformed into evening wear. She came with the slogan "We Girls Can Do Anything," a catchphrase relevant also to the range of careers that Barbie adopted into the 1990s, which included doctor, veterinarian, UNICEF ambassador, rock star, rap musician, teacher, chef, Marine Corps sergeant, and professional basketball player for the WNBA.

Besides addressing concerns about whether a girl with few apparent interests other than fashion, fun, and spending a vast amount of cash on clothes, cars (like the Barbie Ferrari), and real estate (like the famed Barbie Dream House) provided a good role model, career Barbies suited an important change in Mattel's marketing strategy. Initially, Mattel wanted consumers to supplement their first Barbie with outfits, accessories, and other characters such as Ken and Midge, Barbie's close yet dis

Barbies on display. Since her introduction in 1959, Barbie has been marketed with many different looks to entice children to buy multiple dolls. This strategy appears to have paid off, as the average number of Barbies owned per child grew to ten in the 1 990s. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

Barbies on display. Since her introduction in 1959, Barbie has been marketed with many different looks to entice children to buy multiple dolls. This strategy appears to have paid off, as the average number of Barbies owned per child grew to ten in the 1 990s. © Bettmann/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.

tinctly unglamorous friend. In fact, the promotion for the 1967 Twist 'N Turn Barbie even offered a trade-in deal. Later, promotions became geared to the purchase of multiple Barbies. In 1992, for example, a Barbie owner interested in the rapper outfit had to buy Rappin' Rockin' Barbie, or four of them to get each of the different boom boxes. Another trend sponsored by Mattel that catered simultaneously to sales and social consciousness was the increase in Barbies of color and Barbies representing countries outside the United States. Changing statistics about how many Barbies the "average child" owns suggest Mattel's success at shifting multiple acquisitions to Barbie herself, with the number climbing from seven to ten over the course of the 1990s.

0 0

Post a comment