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  • Writer's pictureginaelisebradbury

The Evolution of Barbie & the Uplifting World of Barbiecore

A look into the rise of Barbie: what is #barbiecore and what does it represent? Also, what are the best all-pink fashion items available to buy now?



As a lover of pink I am currently spoilt for choice. With the approaching July 2023 release of 'Barbie', the amount of pink fashion items in stores is vaster than ever. This not only pleases me as a 90's kid who owned an Aqua 'Barbie Girl' cassette tape, but also because pink and nostalgia are uplifting. Like mermaidcore and spring '23s bright, on-trend colours, a rise in popularity of all things Barbie is an example of "dopamine dressing". (marieclaire.com, 2023) In a time of challenge we are turning to comforting, fun and imaginative forms of dressing as a form of escapism.


Margot Robbie in a bright pink western style costume during the filming of 'Barbie'.
Margot Robbie in a bright pink western style costume during the filming of 'Barbie'. (fashionmagazine.com, 2022)

The Barbie doll, introduced in 1959, was created by Mattel co-owner Ruth Handler. The first Barbie was marketed as a teenage fashion model, and it was the first children's doll to be sold with an adult shaped body. (historyhit.com, 2022) The design of Barbie has caused controversy in the past with many consumers disliking the doll's unrealistic, thin proportions and a lack of diversity and depth in the doll's representation. Over the decades, Mattel have faced their fare share of scandal surrounding Barbie including a 1992 "talking Barbie doll criticized by a national women's group for saying 'math class is tough'". (nytimes.com, 1992) However, the company have made gradual positive adjustments over the years with changes including the release of the first doctor Barbie in 1973 (creations.mattel.com, no date) and the introduction of the first African-American Barbie and Hispanic Barbie in 1980. (historyhit.com, 2022)

A 1959 Barbie.
A 1959 Barbie. (vogue.fr)

Mattel have also previously expressed their own distaste regarding the depiction of Barbie. In 2002 it was reported that Mattel had lost a lawsuit against MCA Records and others who had taken part in the production of Aqua's 1997 pop song 'Barbie Girl'. (billboard.com, 2002) Mattel had apparently taken offence as they believed the song violated their copyright. They also didn't want consumers to wrongly assume that they backed a song filled with innuendos (ig.ft.com, 2022) and featuring lines such as 'I'm a blonde bimbo girl in a fantasy world'. (billboard.com, 2002)


Singer Lene Nystrøm in Aqua's 1997 'Barbie Girl' music video.
Singer Lene Nystrøm in Aqua's 1997 'Barbie Girl' music video. (avclub.com)

However, regardless of past controversy, Barbie has gradually evolved into a doll with much more positive associations. In 2020, Mattel released inclusive Barbie dolls including a doll with vitiligo and a doll with no hair. (vitiligosociety.org, 2020) This shows that Mattel now acknowledge the impact that representations of beauty in toys can have on the self-esteem of young people. With such inclusivity in place the creativity and imagination of Barbie can be enjoyed without the burden of negative, restrictive stereotypes.

An inclusive collection of Barbies. Part of Mattel's 'Fashionista Range'.
An inclusive collection of Barbies. Part of Mattel's inclusive 'Fashionista Range'. (vitiligosociety.org)

Barbiecore has also been hailed as a Gen Z and millennial feminist statement. The idea being that the out-dated view of the bright pink Barbie aesthetic as a "bimbo style" is being flipped on its head. (businessinsider.com, 2022) With pink so strongly associated with femininity, the idea of a connection between pink and superficiality can be seen as a criticism of femininity itself. The wearing of pink can now be seen almost as the wearing of a flag that symbolises pride in femininity. According to The Take, "Barbiecore is a rejection of the pressure to avoid girliness in order to get taken seriously by guys – and it comes with a feeling of feminine power." (the-take.com, no date) Also, at the same time, the development of Barbie as a 3D, accomplished character and as an inclusive brand elevates the long associated colour pink.


A 1996 Workin' Out Barbie in her bright pink activewear. As a child this was my favourite one
A 1996 Workin' Out Barbie in her bright pink activewear. As a child this was my favourite one. (peopleofplay.com)
The all-pink world of barbiecore isn't only limited to dolls, the cinema and fashion, it has also made its way into interior design. According to House Beautiful, "barbiecore is the new design trend to completely obsess over". (housebeautiful.com, March 2023) So, if you want to make your home look like Barbie's Malibu Dreamhouse it will be easier now than ever before. I didn't realise, but apparently Barbie's Malibu Dreamhouse is a real place, owned by Mattel, in Malibu, California. In 2019, Mattel advertised the chance to stay for two days at the property through Airbnb. (news.airbnb.com, no date) Airbnb also made a charity donation to Mattel's Dream Gap Project, an initiative that seeks to close the Dream Gap, an issue revealed by research where "starting at the age of five, many girls begin to develop self-limiting beliefs and think they're not as smart and capable as boys." (shop.mattel.com, no date) Mattel have also stated that early indicators show the Dream Gap may be a more severe issue for Black girls and that they therefore plan to contribute to the research of this area. (shop.mattel.com, no date)

Inside the all-pink Dahl House. The designer of this Los Angeles home, Hannah Dahl, has stated " “The whimsical nature of dolls and Barbie really channels your inner youthfulness and kind of has you daydreaming”.
Inside the all-pink Dahl House. The designer of this Los Angeles home, Hannah Dahl, has stated “The whimsical nature of dolls and Barbie really channels your inner youthfulness and kind of has you daydreaming”. (houseandgarden.co.uk, 2022)

The Barbie® Malibu Dream House with a swimming pool.
The Barbie® Malibu Dream House. (news.airbnb.com)

A little girl holding a 'CLOSE THE DREAM GAP' sign.
A little girl holding a "CLOSE THE DREAM GAP" sign. (shop.mattel.com)

A stand out fashion collection that absolutely embraces vibrant pink is Valentino's Pink PP Autumn/Winter 2022-23 Collection. The many celebrities who have worn Valentino's bright pink clothing include Florence Pugh, Zendaya, Kiernan Shipka, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez, Jenna Ortega and Gigi Hadid.


An image of models in all pink at a Valentino A/W 2022-23 Collection show.
An image of models in all pink at a Valentino A/W 2022-23 Collection show. (valentino.com)

Next, as style inspiration, let's look at some celebrities who make perfect Barbies in their radiant, all-pink outfits:


Hailey Bieber, a regular wearer of pink, wearing a barbiercore pink halterneck dress.
Model Hailey Bieber, a regular wearer of pink, wearing a pink halterneck dress in February '23. (instyle.com)

Actress Kate Hudson wearing a barbiecore bright pink gown with a mermaid hem to an Oscars '23 after party.
Actress Kate Hudson wearing a bright pink gown with a mermaid hem to an Oscars '23 after party. (people.com)

TV presenter Maya Jama, another regular wearer of pink, in a barbiercore cut-out pink dress.
TV presenter Maya Jama, another regular wearer of pink, in a cut-out pink dress. (hellomagazine.com)

Queen Letizia of Spain looking radiant in pink during the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid.
Queen Letizia of Spain in pink during the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid. (express.co.uk)

Jenna Ortega looking pretty in pink at the 2022 Met Gala in barbiecore. Wearing Valentino and jewels from Chopard.
Jenna Ortega looking pretty in pink at the 2022 Met Gala wearing Valentino and jewels from Chopard. (eonline.com)

Singer Lizzo wearing a barbiecore look at a Prime Video event in June 2022.
Singer Lizzo wearing a barbiecore look at a Prime Video event in June 2022. (popsugar.co.uk)

Model Gigi Hadid wearing barbiecore Valentino at the 2022 Prince's Trust Gala in New York City.
Model Gigi Hadid wearing Valentino at the 2022 Prince's Trust Gala in New York City. (harpersbazaar)


Below are barbiecore items, available now, that particularly stand out to me:

























Let me know what you think of barbiecore in the comments: do you find it uplifting and empowering? If, like me, you love pink then let me know which of the shared outfits/items you like the most.



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