I have the best dressed Barbie dolls in the tri-state region and then some. That’s because their vintage couture was hand knit with love by my mother. If I had unlimited discretionary funds I’d probably collect Barbie dolls just to model all the clothes she made. Strapless evening gowns and stoles, off-the-shoulder peasant dresses, sweater and skirt sets — my dolls are chicly dressed for any occasion.
Mom made most of my doll clothes in the 1960s and ’70s when I was a kid. She could be sly when she knit them, sometimes in broad daylight in the afternoon. When I’d ask what she was making, she’d say slippers or mittens or some other subterfuge. Whatever her response, it seemed reasonable to me.
She began a second round of doll clothes knitting in the late ’80s and early ’90s when her granddaughters arrived. She made a few more doll outfits for her daughters, too.
My Barbies are old school — a late ’60s Stacey, an early ’70s Living Barbie, and a few 1990s Barbies (that my kids gave me) along with her friend Midge. The beautiful clothes my mother made fit them all. However, the clothes won’t fit the new 2016 Barbie dolls, built to more closely resemble real body types.
The experts say the old Barbies damaged girls’ self-esteem because of their unrealistic body dimensions. I can’t confirm that from my own experience. I never thought I was supposed to look like Barbie; I just wanted to play with her. I also had a ’60s model G.I. Joe with well groomed molded plastic hair and a facial scare. I didn’t think I had to look like him either.
Instead I concocted stories in my head that my Barbies and Joe acted out. Because they were just dolls. I played with them and I had fun. That’s it. But those Barbies sure did dress well! (Joe not so much. The only clothes he has are his original dress uniform jacket and a borrowed pair of khaki pants from Ken, Barbie’s ex. Can’t say as I remember whatever happened to Joe’s pants.)
P.S. If you want to buy a new Barbie for your kid or yourself, go ahead. There are plenty of store-bought clothing options.