The new Barbie has new curves, new sizes, and new colors
Last month, Mattel responded to critics complaining about Barbie’s unrealistic proportions with a new batch of Barbies coming in three sizes: petite, curvy, and tall, beginning February 4 online and in stores March 1.
With sagging sales due to a backlash against Barbie’s stick-thin figure, Barbie once again changed its iconic image. Fifty-seven years ago, Barbie was a housewife. When Barbie’s popularity among children began to suffer in the 1960’s, Mattel introduced the working Barbie, who pursued any career imaginable. Barbie became an astronaut and a doctor when those fields were dominated by men. Sales boomed, and Barbie’s reputation was salvaged for a while.
However, Barbie recently became the unofficial spokesperson for body issues. Moms began to steer their kids away from the Barbie section in the toy store, and English classes began to dissect the flaws of the “perfect” Barbie figure. After a 20% sales drop in 2015, Barbie changed its strategy again, appealing to both moms and young girls through diversity. Barbies have now branched out to include seven skin tones, twenty-two eye colors, and twenty-four hair colors.
Mattel did not stop there. They needed a product to remind the world that the goal of Barbie dolls is to empower girls. For too long, Barbie has been associated with standards of American beauty, which are ideal, but ultimately unattainable. Now that curves are attractive and big is becoming beautiful, people are embracing their natural body structures. Kids are demanding dolls that they can proudly point to and say, “She looks like me.” Mattel has answered with a new collection of dolls that will be sold side by side with the original.
While some are applauding Barbie’s huge transformation, new problems have also risen with this development. Body size is troublesome for both Mattel and its customers. Like with normal bodies, different-sized clothing are needed, which means that Mattel will need to produce the same set of clothing for each body size. Also, with weight being a sensitive issue, handing a curvy Barbie to a child could be taken the wrong way. Now that Barbie is more representative of the population, Mattel has to maintain equality and parents have to find a way to show this change.
With an international reach, Barbie breaking its own stereotype sends a powerful message that had been erased by years of heavy negativity. It is more than a doll or a fashion icon. It has always meant to and still defies society’s limitations on girls through its various outfits, shapes, and sizes. Barbie conveys the belief that all girls can be successful in whatever path they take and look beautiful all the while.