How Barbie’s Style Has Changed From 1959 To Today


The iconic Barbie doll is a staple for many generations of children. Mattel has a stronghold on the market, as it is the world’s largest toymaker in terms of revenue. The company has sold over a billion Barbie dolls, making her the brand’s largest and most profitable line. Mattel has followed trends and kept with the times, redesigning Barbie’s style and shape as fashion and pop culture so dictate. At times, this meant a wardrobe change, and at other times, the entire doll mold was redesigned.

Here’s a roundup of the many changes that have taken place over the years.


12. The Original Barbie

The first Barbie doll, released in 1959, came as a blonde or brunette with hoop earrings and a striped swimsuit. The doll only cost $3 when it was first released, but today, an original is worth tens of thousands of dollars. The highest-ever auctioned price of a mint condition doll was $27,450.
11. Bubblecut Barbie

The 1962 “bubblecut” Barbie kept the same makeup as the previous doll. Four hair colors shipped to retailers at this time, and the first Ken doll hit stores just one year earlier. This edition features the signature sideways glance that early Barbies all sported, which gave the doll its supermodel vibes.

10. 1971 Changes

The 1971 Barbie release featured a very notable design change. The doll’s eyes were adjusted to look straight ahead instead of the sideways glance of the original model. This doll also featured style changes that were very reminiscent of the hippie era. The doll had tanned skin and long blonde hair.

9. Smiling In 1977

The 1977 Superstar Barbie brought Hollywood style and red carpet glam to children’s bedrooms.The doll shipped with a bright pink ballgown, jewelry, and boa, and sells for around $100 today. The doll also underwent a change to her smile and she began showing her teeth for the first time.

8. Magic Curl Barbie

Magic Curl Barbie hit stores in 1981 and featured hair that could be straightened or curled up with a liquid solution that came in the box. The doll came with pants as a wardrobe option, which was a new thing. In this same year, Mattel also released an Asian ethnicity Barbie.
7. Early 90s

The 1991 Barbie came with a massive amount of hair and trendy clothing. This year, Barbie partnered with plenty of brands—she even drove a Ferrari. By this time, Barbie’s friends had been through decades of production as well. Skipper, for example, was introduced in 1964, and underwent scores of changes over the years.

6. 1994 Funk

Mattel gave Barbie these long braids in 1994 and looked like she could have stepped right out of an MTV music video. Other 1994 dolls included Astronaut Barbie, which shipped with a spacesuit and helmet—one of the many various career Barbies that the brand has produced over the decades.

5. 2004 Style

The doll’s 2004 release featured pigtails, tweed, fur accents, a halter top, and sunglasses. Mattel ended the Barbie and Ken relationship this year—the day before Valentine’s Day, no less—and soon produced new male models. Barbie and Ken had been a pair for 43 years at this point.

4. Single Barbie

Barbie began production separated from Ken at this point. “They had grown apart,” Mattel explained. Barbie stuck with a glamorous look featuring plenty of jewelry and defined makeup. Barbie’s holiday editions had been in production since the late 1980s at this point, too, so Mattel had a stronghold on the market.

3. 2010 Barbie

Barbie’s 2010 look was on point for the year. Her pulled back bangs and hot pink bandage dress were exactly what was in style at the time. By this point in time, Mattel had faced much backlash for Barbie’s unrealistic proportions, and major overhauls would soon be underway.

2. Average Barbie

While Mattel never licensed or produced this item, in 2013, “Average Barbie” was created by artist Nickolay Lamm. The doll at right was created with body measurements of a normal American 19-year-old girl, shoving criticism in Mattel’s face that their Barbie doll looks more than unrealistic in comparison to what’s truly normal.

1. Going Forward

In 2014, Mattel released Entrepreneurial Barbie, who came with a LinkedIn profile and tech accessories. Barbie then turned 57 in 2016, and Mattel unveiled a new line of Barbie bodies with the hashtag #TheDollEvolves. The doll shipped with three new body shapes in addition to the classic slender frame, as well as seven skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 33 hairstyles.

For nearly six decades, Barbie has been a mainstay of toy chests and Christmas lists for millions of children. Mattel’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Richard Dickson, said that Barbie’s “ability to evolve and grow with the times, while staying true to her spirit, is central to why Barbie is the number one fashion doll in the world.” And he’s right: Mattel is still the number-one toy manufacturer worldwide.

After four consecutive years of decline, Barbie sales finally began to grow again to $328 million in 2015’s fourth quarter. It surely has plenty to do with their newly released Barbie updates that feature so many different shapes, sizes, and colors!