The first Barbie doll released March 9, 1959, with the title Teenage Fashion Model Barbie. Dressed in a memorable black-and-white one piece and her signature blonde hair, Barbie was an instant phenomenon.
Two short years after Barbie’s debut, her longtime boyfriend Ken stepped onto the scene. He adorably matched Barbie’s swim look with a red-striped shirt and fiery trunks. He and Barbie might have split since their initial pairing, but they always find their way back to each other.
Barbie will have multiple stints as a space explorer, from her first “Miss Astronaut” outfit emerging in 1965, which resembled the classic American space suit, to the 2013 “I can be a NASA Mars Explorer." The first space edition of Barbie occurred two years after the world’s first female astronaut Valentina Tereshkova flew into space.
After nine years of silence, Mattel released a Barbie who could speak with a simple pull of the string. While her words weren’t extraordinary (“What shall I wear to prom?”), the technology brought her realism to a new level.
The first Twist N Turn Barbie released in 1967, but the line expanded into the new decade. This Barbie—with her movable waist, rooted eyelashes, and new face mold—was a nod to the “mod” era of fashion defined by modernist ideals and ever-changing silhouettes.
The most influential doll of the “mod” era was the Sunset Malibu Barbie, who sported the popular Stacey face shape and iconic California girl look. Enormously popular, this Barbie was sold up until 1977.
It’s no surprise that Barbie took the title of Miss America in 1974, as she was a visual representation of women’s beauty standards. Crown, scepter, and all, Barbie was pageant perfection from head to toe.
The late '70s transformed Barbie again when the Superstar face was introduced, defining Barbies for the next few decades. The Fashion Model Barbie had all of the Superstar features, including a big smile, flowing blonde locks, and wandering gaze.
Black Barbie, the first African-American Barbie doll to sport the Barbie title, was released in the ‘80s. Christie, released in ‘68, was introduced as Barbie’s friend and was also black, but she did not hold the official name Barbie. This doll used the existing Steffie face mold instead of creating an independent mold for the new Barbie.
The ‘85 release of Day-to-Night Barbie is a self-explanatory concept that represented the era’s workplace revolution for women. For day, she sports a classic pink power suit, briefcase, hat, and calculator. For evening, the outer layer strips away to reveal a spaghetti-strapped and sparkly dress for a party.
The Superstar Barbie line reached its apex with the ‘88 Super Star “Award-winning move star!” This Barbie epitomizes the ‘80s with huge bombshell hair, faux fur, and a dress that transforms into four different silhouettes.
After years of the Superstar face, a Bob Mackie collaboration resulted in the Mackie mold and beautiful collectible Barbies. The most extravagant creation was the Bob Mackie Gold Barbie, featuring a fitted gown adorned with 5,000 hand-sewn sequins, feather boa, and gold headpiece.
Everyone knows the Totally Hair Barbie, which is the best-selling Barbie ever with more than 10 million dolls sold worldwide. Her hair was the longest it had ever been, reaching her toes and held back with a pink headband. Here, Barbie represents the big hair craze and loud fashions overflowing from the ‘80s into the early ‘90s.
The Working Woman Barbie of 1999, like the Day-to-Night Barbie of '85, markets women in the workplace to young girls. Instead of merely embodying beauty and fashion, Barbie wears a practical pencil skirt for day and a reversible skirt for evening parties.
Barbie’s Presidential campaigns each election season started in 1992, and she only sat out in ‘96. For her turn-of-the-century White House bid, she sported pearls, a bob haircut, a blue power suit, and matching pantyhose.
Second in the series of new-millennium themed Barbies, the 2001 version spares no expense with an icy blue organza ball gown and “2001” tiara. This Barbie and her 2000 predecessor Millennium Princess Barbie are a force to be reckoned with in the resale and collector’s market.
The 2000s brought about a line of Career Barbies for kids to choose from. The Producer Barbie from 2005 is particularly unique with her cutting edge style, bold bangs, and retro face mold. Everyone knows that a briefcase means business, and Barbie’s never afraid of hard work.
During the initial push to encourage young women to pursue careers in S.T.E.M., Barbie joined the tech revolution as a computer engineer. Barbie, with her computer, glasses, earpiece, and coding-themed clothes, is at the forefront of inclusive workplace advocacy.
The 2015 FindYourStyle Barbies were revolutionary with the introduction of diverse skin tones, hairstyles, and face shapes, and the 2016 Fashionistas continued the trend of inclusivity. The biggest Barbie release in recent history, the Fashionista line featured four body types—the original, tall, curvy, and petite—that counters popular criticism of Barbie’s unrealistic body standards. 2017 also introduced different varieties of the Ken doll.
2017's release of the "Love Wins Barbie" won many people over to the Barbie brand mainly due to rumors that Barbie is bisexual. Official pictures of two dolls sporting muliticolored shirts saying "Love Wins" have recently resurfaced on Twitter, making fans go wild all over again. Unfortunately, we can't confirm or deny Barbie's sexuality, but we can confidently say that the Mattel donated 50% of profits for this Barbie directly to the Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQIA+ young adults.
2018 introduced a line of Barbies inspired by real-life female role models, including gymnast Gabby Douglas and artist Frida Khalo. These are by no means the first celebrity Barbies to exist, with the first occurring in 1967 resembling the model Twiggy, yet are incredibly cool nonetheless. Imagine growing up and becoming an inspirational Barbie doll!