Wednesday, April 10, 2024

I is for I'm A Barbie Girl


#AtoZChallenge 2024 letter I

I am in the process of sorting through everything in my parents' home, and in so doing, I have been looking through all my childhood memorabilia, the majority of which I hadn't seen since my parents packed up my belongings and moved them from the home I grew up in to this house some 45 years ago. My 2024 A to Z Challenge theme is based on the treasures I have found in the boxes and the drawers and closets. Join me on my bittersweet journey back to my childhood..

I saw the Barbie movie with my daughter. She cried when it was over, so moved was she by the message of empowerment of women. I thought it was a nice movie (and I may or may not have dozed off for part of it, but we did go to a late showing), but my thoughts were very different from my 25 year old daughter's. 

My daughter grew up with the girls-can-be-anything Barbie. The original Barbie, which came out the year before I was born, was a teenage babysitter. I don't remember receiving my first Barbie, but I was probably around 5 when I got her. She had a bouffant hairdo, and my mom found her a whole wardrobe (including a nurse's uniform, complete with navy blue cape) at a garage sale. 

Poor girl. Think of all the time she spent under
the hairdryer to get that look! (not my doll)

Not mine, but the ones I had were just like this.

I got Barbie's little sister Skipper next, followed by my first Barbie with bendable knees. Malibu Barbie, Malibu Francie, and Malibu Skipper came along after that, along with a Stacy doll. Another couple of Skippers joined the group after that. 

Instead of the Barbies all living in their own homes and living their own lives as depicted in the movie, my Barbies were a family, and I played house with them (fyi: NONE of them were named "Barbie;" I renamed every one of them). I also added a few small dolls to be baby sisters, and I logged hundreds of hours playing with all of them. 

Barbie Dream House? I didn't have one. I took the four Barbie cases I owned and set them up in a semi-circle to be an open floor plan house. Barbie Convertible? I WISHED I had one, but it wasn't practical for such a large family anyway, so the larger Barbie case I used as a living room doubled as the family's station wagon.

I longed for a Ken to be the dad, but I didn't have one for a number of Barbie-playing years. I had to pretend Ken was at work, and when I finally received a Malibu Ken, he then had to double as the dad and as the boyfriend to the oldest sister. 

I made their wardrobes by cutting out wraparound skirts with tunic tops made from scrap fabric and tied at the waist with a piece of yarn. Eventually, I figured out how to make pants by hand sewing them, and Ken got a bitchin' new outfit.

And my original Barbie? I put baby powder in her hair and made her the grandma.

I wish I had my Barbies to show you, but they met an unfortunate end in the Great Sewer Pipe Break in my parents' basement many years ago. Here's what survived:

The living room/station wagon

Ken in his double-knit, houndstooth leisure suit.
Eat your heart out, Ryan Gosling!

I also found this book (it was never in the basement so it is in pristine condition!):

The inside cover of the book, inscribed to me
from my Grandma, who passed away in 1968
when I was seven years old.

My daughter and I may have played Barbies completely differently, but for each of us, they were just what we needed at the time.


  1. You have such wonderful memories. My youngest brother used to sneak my Barbie and Ken and take their clothes off and put them in a shoebox together, saying they were taking a bath. Little stinker.

  2. I must get one of those houndstooth leisure suits. I never had a Barbie doll, but my sister did and you know what big brothers do to their little sisters' Barbies? Boys are bad. ha ha

  3. Hi Dyanne, Barbie was a staple for my sister and me. As a dressmaker Mom made so many beautiful gowns. My daughter (now 37) has a collection of Barbie dolls and again Mom made her outfits too - some of them works of art. Lucky Barbie. haha

    With smiles, Jenny

  4. Barbies came out as I was about to go to high school, so I totally missed that. I did have other dolls though and made lots of clothes for them and even made my own dollhouse dolls. None had quite the flamboyant flair that your Ken has in his suit though.