Hurrah! Barbie Looks Like Us (What Took Mattel So Long?)

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Yesterday, parents up and down the country kicked their heels in celebration – the news broke that Mattel are, next month, launching a new range of Barbie dolls with three different body shapes, seven skin tones and 24 hair colours. Finally, our children can play with Barbie dolls that look like real people!

Like many mums, I’ve had a complicated relationship with Barbie. Having played with her through my own childhood (Peaches & Cream and Crystal Barbies were my ultimate favourites), I have this nostalgic attachment to her. My memories of playing with her in a hand-me-down Sindy doll house, popping her in a silver sports car (the best Christmas present ever, one year) and making her kiss my Ken doll are all tinted with a rosy-glow.

But – as I’ve talked about before – when I got older, I struggled with elements of Barbie. What kind of effect is this tiny-waisted, big boobed figure having on little people? Come to think of it, what kind of effect did it subconsciously have on me? As someone who spent her 20s going to endless Weight Watchers classes despite being a well-proportioned size 12/14, there’s no denying I had a skewed vision of what my body should look like.

So these new body shapes – tall, petite and curvy – will surely go a long way in reinforcing that all-important message that beauty comes in various shapes and sizes. The different skin tones in the new dolls is a massively welcome change too. Dora and Doc McStuffins aside, UK toy shops have, for too long, been filled with mostly white faces – something which just doesn’t reflect the world our kids live in. Of course, there still isn’t a Barbie doll to mirror every little girl, but this is a good start, isn’t it? And if it encourages other toy companies to think a bit harder about what they’re producing, then bring it on.

Mattel say they recognised that ‘Millennial Moms’ were looking for diversity. “We were seeing that Millennials are driven by social justice and attracted to brands with purpose and values, and they didn’t see Barbie in this category,” says Tania Missad, Mattel’s director of global brand insights. Which is great! But really Mattel? Us Generation X-ers have been crying out for diversity in dolls and toys for a long time. There’s a reason that Barbie sales have been plummeting for the past decade and I find it surprising that it’s taken Mattel until 2016 to address the issue that’s been killing their brand.

In fairness, I was a huge fan of Mattel’s Imagine The Possibilities campaign which showed girls playing with their Barbie dolls as if they were scientists, vets, sports coaches and more. But this move goes so much further to reflect what parents actually want from a doll.

So next month? I’ll be buying at least three or four of these dolls for my daughter. No longer will Merida (with her red hair and wider face) be the most realistic doll in her collection. She’ll be able to play with dolls that more closely resemble her and her friends. That’s something to celebrate.

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12 Comments

  1. January 29, 2016 / 9:40 am

    This is such a great move from Mattel – the new collection just looks brilliant, and so much more fun for kids to have a choice of doll. I can really see girls choosing the doll which most resembles them, I know I would’ve wanted to as a kid. Like you I was a barbie fan, and I’m glad to hear that Barbie may reign again after this, I’m already looking forward to when my daughter’s old enough to choose her own! Great post x
    Mum in Brum recently posted…Review: Brewhouse and Kitchen Sutton Coldfield. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      January 29, 2016 / 11:00 am

      I’m really interested to see which of these new dolls my daughter would choose, actually. I might show them to her and ask.

  2. January 29, 2016 / 10:21 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVED this story when I saw it. Aside from the fact that the body which represents me and most women in the UK is “CURVY”! I wish they’d make THAT one the regular Barbie, not the tall, freak one that is! I’d totally forgotten about Crystal Barbie! I remember LOVING that dress! x
    Katy Hill recently posted…BREATHE!. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

    • Alison Perry
      January 29, 2016 / 10:59 am

      Such a valid point Katy. It shouldn’t be labelled as curvy at all, should it?

      • January 29, 2016 / 1:16 pm

        Yup, I agree with Katy on that one – the curvy one is normal, so she should just be Barbie. In fact, did they have to give them labels, couldn’t they just be in their little packets and the kids just choose the one they like the most?
        Eleanor @ The Bristol Parent recently posted…a stay away from home | shoreditch by night. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  3. January 29, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    Love this. Realistic barbies and wheelchair Lego – it has been a good week for toy companies helping to normalise diversity. A cause for celebration. I loved my Barbies and made little couches of them out of socks and everything. Might be excuse to buy some morexx

  4. January 29, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    I’m so glad that Mattel are doing this! It’s nice for our children to get a doll that is more realistic and Lego making their move with the wheelchair lego as well – we are going in the right direction finally! xx

  5. Hester
    January 30, 2016 / 8:05 am

    Following the Fashionista range that finally let Barbie wear flat shoes, this is a much bigger step forward. My 6 year old daughter said she would choose the blonde one as she likes her outfit and my 4 year old son likes the one with blue hair! I’d love to see a bruenette, five foot tall one with lots of laughter lines and dark circles under her eyes!! Just started following you, great blog!

  6. January 31, 2016 / 8:08 pm

    It’s about time! It sure is a great start, but I’m hoping it’s just the beginning. I want my kid to know it’s okay to be who they are.

  7. February 4, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    Love this I was just reading about the changes to Barbie and glad it’s a step in the rigt direction x
    Lori recently posted…MOODBOARD AND MUSES 02. Why don’t you check it out?My Profile

  8. February 11, 2016 / 4:33 pm

    Finally something more realistic. In my time, we definitely wanted to be like Barbie and not being even close to what she is, was very disappointing. Not everyone got the idea that Barbie is juts a doll, not a real person. Finally the society wants to come back to realism and teach children the true nature of women.

    I believe girls will confused first to see so many Barbies, but eventually they’ll make up their mind about which they like best. Maybe someone similar to them, maybe some they would like to become.

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