In 1959, Barbie Millicent Roberts from (fictional) Willows, Wisconsin was introduced to a skeptical toy industry at the New York Toy Fair. A gallon of gas was 25 cents, the average annual wage was $5,000 and the #1 Ponytail Barbie sold for $3. Additional fashions based on the latest runway trends from Paris ranged from $1 to $5. In the first year, 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold.
The very first Barbie doll (shown above) made a splash at New York Toy Fair sporting her famous ponytail hairstyle, eye-popping black-and-white bathing suit, stylish open-toed shoes, too-cool shades and golden hoop earrings. Fabulous fashions with delicate details were sold separately– priced from $1 to $5– so girls could truly play fashion show with their “teenage fashion model” of a doll.
Barbie’s debut as the “teenage fashion model” mirrored the sophisticated glamour of 1950s stars like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Elizabeth Taylor, donning high arched brows, pursed red lips, a sassy pony tail with curly bangs and a coy, sideways glance. Even her figure was high fashion and model-esque, with pale, ivory skin, long slim legs and a narrow waist and hips. Barbie– though well known for her blonde locks– was sold as both a brunette and blonde.
The first female astronaut, Russian Valentina Tereshkova surfaced in 1963 and Barbie soon followed, celebrating the excitement of the space program while showing girls that any career is within reach. Four years later in 1969, the first American man landed on the moon.
As the Beatles led the “British Invasion,” Twist N Turn Barbie could twist at the waist for dancing fun and her British cousin Stacey joined the following year and even “spoke” with a delightful British accent.
As fast as 60s fashions evolved, so did Barbie from her famous bouffant bubble-cut hairstyle and fashions that mirrored First Lady Jackie Kennedy to the sleek hair and clothes of the multi-colored, swirling Mod era.
In 1967, Twist ‘N Turn Barbie doll’s new, moveable body donned a stylish bright orange bikini similar to the one model Marilyn Tindall wore in that year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
The 60s were a beauty trifecta for Barbie. At the dawn of the decade and a social revolution, her chic, stylish looks echoed that of strong, internationally renowned women like Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy. In 1960 Barbie sported softer looking eye makeup, a less arched eyebrow and blue irises for the first time. Also, Barbie was offered in a third hair color – “Titian”, a popular term for red hair at the time (1961).
From beehive to bob to wigs, the elaborate hairstyles of the mid-60s were reflected through Fashion Queen Barbie (1963) and Miss Barbie dolls (1964) who both featured molded hair and three stylish wigs. Her long lists of “firsts” also began with the introduction of Miss Barbie who featured “sleep eyes” that opened and closed, as well as the first time Barbie had bendable legs.
By 1967, Barbie put another stake-in-the-ground, choosing evolution, not revolution, with a new, younger looking face sculpt. Twist ‘N Turn Barbie had lighter makeup, rooted eyelashes and straight shiny hair.