Last week I bought my daughter a Barbie doll from an op shop. I stood in the store with the Barbie in my hand and hesitated. Would this plastic doll be a bad influence on my daughter and contribute to negative body image later down the track? Then I thought…she’s a beautiful black doll with a groovy hairdo, and so ultimately the hair won the day. All she was wearing at the time was a $1 price tag on her stomach, so I decided that I would buy her an outfit. I imagined something along the lines of a tailored grey pant suit with some groovy Converse style sneakers or ballet flats.
Later in the week while I was getting some photos processed at Big W, I ducked over to the toy section and headed to the Barbie doll clothing. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I was shocked. Let me take a moment to describe the choices that were before me:
Pink sequins, pink ruffles or pink diamontes?
The 5-inch twist your ankle heels or the 6-inch break your neck heels?
The barely cover your behind micro mini skirt or the wildly inappropriate for any real life occasion fluorescent pink ball gown with matching gloves and tiara?
As far as I could see, there wasn’t a single item that a woman would wear to the shops, a picnic or let’s say, to work. I had Barbie when I was a girl and I don’t remember her being like this. Has Barbie fashion changed over the past 30 years or am I simply seeing her now with ‘mum’ eyes? I left the store with a naked doll and a grudge against Mattel.
Later in the week when I was doing some grocery shopping, I stumbled across a little find in the baby aisle, hidden amongst a small assortment of toys. A blue astronaut space suit from the Barbie I Can Be range. Yes, blue! And it even came with practical, flat space boots.
I was surprised to discover that when I dressed Barbie in her astronaut suit, she became irresistible to my 2½ year old son. Barbie was suddenly elevated to the dizzying heights of Buzz Lightyear. My son spent the afternoon in the backyard flying Barbie around chanting “To Infinity and Beyond”.
Amazing what the right outfit can do.