A REAL DOLL: Barbie turns 60 next year, but somehow the doll’s fashion choices haven’t gotten old with shoppers.
Nearing a year into an 18-month collaboration with Mattel, Unique Vintage Clothing is still racking up sales for its Barbie-inspired clothing. The Burbank, Calif. boutique and online store reached out to the California-based toy maker with some preliminary designs, “thinking it was a long shot,” according to a Unique Vintage Clothing spokeswoman. “But they were thrilled with the idea and excited to bring the collection to life. We couldn’t believe that it had never been done before.”
Bestsellers include the $134 strapless black Solo in the Spotlight Wiggle dress, which has removable spaghetti straps, a Barbie pin and a layered tulle mermaid flair. Plus-size shoppers are also buying the $198 Suburban Shopper dress, a princess-seamed flared design that borrows from the one created for the doll in 1959. Another classic style that is ringing up sales is the $88 My Barbie Collection Swing Skirt — the voluminous high-waisted separate has hidden pockets and a border print featuring images of Barbie in her many incarnations. Contrary to Unique Vintage’s name, the Barbie collection is made from new fabrics — some of which are sourced, while others are made from scratch by the in-house design team “in order to be as identical to the original dolls as possible,” the spokeswoman said.
Unique Vintage Clothing’s sales have increased by 35 percent this year as a result of the alliance. The company has sold more than 8,500 units from the Barbie collection to date. The doll’s creator and Mattel’s cofounder Ruth Handler created the doll to allow girls, like her then-young daughter Barbara, to play out their dreams. The first mass-marketed doll not to be a baby or young girl, Barbie made her debut at the New York Toy Fair in 1959. Handler once explained, “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything that she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
To date, Barbie has had 180 professions — astronaut, firefighter, scientist, nurse and airline pilot among them. The Unique Vintage Clothing spokeswoman said, “Barbie is so nostalgic and played a huge role in many women’s childhoods, spanning several generations. It’s been so fun to see the overwhelming response on social media and to hear stories of women who bonded with their mothers or grandmothers, who collected these dolls as children, and can now bond over wearing the same dresses themselves. There’s just something so fun about playing dress-up in these iconic Barbie fashions.”
As for why so many women prefer to dress like Barbie, the spokeswoman said, “I don’t think the blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll is part of the equation at all. Barbie represents a woman who can be and do (and now look like) anything she wants. Unique Vintage is all about inclusivity and fabulous clothing for every woman, and we wanted to bring that spirit of empowerment and representation to everyone. It’s not about looking a certain way anymore — it’s about feeling confident and gorgeous as your very own self.”