Hard Times in the Barbie Aisle

A browse through the Barbie aisle today left me with the usual disappointed feeling.  Collectible Barbies are beautiful and have incredibly detailed clothes but they cost an arm and a leg and I can’t afford to buy them. Besides I like to take them out of their boxes, change their clothes and photograph them in different outfits and settings. (OK I like to play with them) I would feel very guilty doing that to a doll that had cost a lot of money.

Instead, I have bought playline dolls, not too expensive and often just as pretty. Until now that is. It’s not just that most of the dolls seem to be fairies, princesses or pop stars. I understand that little girls like those. It isn’t even that most of the clothes and accessories they produce for them are pink and glittery; or even that they often come with painted limbs instead of clothing. What I really dislike is their bland expressions; nearly every doll is like this. The hairstyles and makeup may change but the doll has no personality. I also feel the quality of the dolls is not as good; they are lightweight and their clothes look cheap and trampy.

Some years ago Mattel made a series of dolls called “Fashion Fever” Barbie. There were several dolls in each issue and they looked different from each other. They had lots of clothes including a lot of mix and match items which made them a lot of fun to redress. I have quite a few of these Barbies in my collection and I think that they are probably some of the nicest ones that have been made as play dolls.

After they stopped appearing Barbie collecting became rather boring for me for a while. Then the Basics series of dolls came out and I got excited again. For the first time in a long time, I was desperate to get a doll. These dolls were more elegant looking and seemed halfway between a play doll and a collectible, exactly right for someone like me.

Now they too have stopped and the Barbie aisle is a bleak place once again. I keep going there in hopes of seeing something special and new but I never do.

I can’t help wondering why this has happened. It seems that Barbie is being marketed to younger children now but don’t younger children like realism and variety too? Don’t Mattel and other doll manufacturers think it worthwhile to make good quality dolls for them? Are we dumbing down dolls too much I wonder, lowering our expectations of what young children can manage?

I am sure that today’s little girls love their dolls as much as I loved mine but don’t they deserve better ones than they are getting? I think they do.

Image-basics and fashion fever
Some of my redressed Barbies


  1. Hi 🙂 You make some very good points – I too find the current-release Fashionista face sculpts unattractive, and their outfits are often “samey” and cheap-looking (I get annoyed when doll clothes have patterns on the front that do not continue round the back). I have a couple of the first wave Fashionistas that I like, but now I only really bother with the recent releases because I like to steal their pivotal bodies for my older Barbies so that they can pose nicely. However, I do think that there are some exciting current-release playline Barbies. I particularly like the So In Style range, they are very beautiful and their outfits are stylish, reasonably modest and very detailed. There’s also the Tim Gunn and City Shopper ranges, which are being touted as the sequels to the Barbie Basics ranges. My problem with these latter collections is that, living where I do, there are no decent routes of supply and it would cost me a fortune to import them. I don’t know if it might be different where you are?

    As for de-boxing – I admit that I sometimes find it a bit intimidating too, but usually I just take the plunge and do it! I figure, its MY doll, and I am allowed to do whatever gives me the most enjoyment and therefore the best value for money. I only leave dolls in the box if I am not sure whether I want to keep them or not.

    I love your banner by the way – I can see some marvellous Sindys and even a Skipper or two!


    • Thanks for your comments Barbielea. I’m in the same boat as you. Some of the Barbies I do like, like the Tim Gunn ones are not available where I live so I use eBay but now postage from the USA has become so expensive that the postage costs more than the dolls so I look for Australian sellers who have imported them but still it takes them out of the playline price range. I haven’t tried re-bodying as yet, I’m always a bit worried about breaking their necks! You are quite right about the de-boxing of course, we buy them for ourselves so if we want to play with them why not? I remember once I bought “Spring In Tokyo” Barbie and kept her in the box for ages but I really wanted to see how she would look in something else so eventually I took the plunge and de-boxed her. I felt quite naughty but I was glad I did it.


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