Barbie: A Cultural Icon Exhibition
contributed by Debbie Hall
While some cultural toys that have become collectibles have lost favor (think Beanie Babies), the Mattel doll line of Barbie remains relevant with new dolls being added and sold. Barbie: A Cultural Icon Exhibition at The Shops at Crystals celebrates this transformational journey that began in 1959 and continues today. Pop culture and fashion trends are examined with an interactive experience of how one doll has shaped this global phenomenon from the Greatest Generation to Gen Z.
Barbie’s birth could be considered March 9, 1959, when she was introduced at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc. with her husband in 1945, observed that her young daughter ignored her baby dolls to play with paper dolls of adult women. Handler discovered an important niche in the market for a doll for little girls to imagine the future. Developed using the prototype of the German Lilli doll (based on a German comic strip), she named the doll Barbie after her daughter Barbara.
Mattel was also one of the first companies to grasp the importance of sponsorship by placing ads on the television show “Mickey Mouse Club” in 1955. Promoting Barbie on the show, the enormous consumer demand led to other dolls, including Barbie’s boyfriend Ken, best friend Midge, and little sister Skipper.
But it is Barbie that has transcended time with the company updating her image as well as releasing many versions of Barbie, including women of color.
“Barbie has an amazing and inspiring history. There is a real sense of nostalgia when you see what was happening in the world, and in Barbie’s world, when you were a kid and then follow the story to how she’s impacting our world today,” said Tim Clothier, CEO of Illusion Projects Inc. in a press release.
The exhibition celebrates Barbie showcasing a reflection of culture with an up-close look at vintage dolls, career depiction, and fashion trends from each era. Guests can listen to exclusive interviews while observing the multi-million dollar collection of hundreds of artifacts from the 60 plus years of the history of Barbie, including the Original 1959 Barbie and an original Barbie Dreamhouse. Photo ops throughout the exhibition, including a life-sized Barbie Mirror Pink Corvette, take guests into the world of Barbie.
“Barbie is a brand that has evolved through generations, and we can’t wait for fans of all ages to take a journey through time with us,” said Julie Freeland, Senior Director of Location Based Entertainment at Mattel.
Pete Housley, exhibition Executive Director, said, “So much of the entertainment and fashion culture of Las Vegas is mirrored in the generations of Barbie. The Barbie Exhibition is perfectly positioned in the middle of The Shops at Crystals alongside many of the world-famous fashion brands that Barbie has worn through the decades.”
Barbie: A Cultural Icon Exhibition continues at The Shops at Crystals through March 30. To purchase tickets or for more information on Barbie: A Cultural Icon, visit www.barbieexpo.com.