Barbie 65 years: always a doll moment

Ever seen more than 1200 Barbie dolls together? Stedelijk Museum Almelo celebrates Barbie’s 65th birthday with the largest Barbie exhibition ever in the Netherlands. The exhibition shows how Barbie has evolved from a dumb blonde to an emancipated working woman. You might not think it, but as the recent popular Barbie film shows, themes such as emancipation, inclusivity and diversity have been associated with the Barbie doll for decades. Because Barbie was far ahead of her time from the start, sometimes with a different skin colour, with rounder shapes or in a wheelchair. It is precisely because of this inclusivity and diversity that the exhibition in Stedelijk Museum Almelo reflects the social development and emancipation of the last decades.

The exhibition in the textile city of Almelo will of course also discuss the fashionista Barbie and her various fashion lines in detail: from underwear to beachwear, from sportswear to bridal fashion. The clothes show how Barbie has kept up with the times since her launch in 1959. She wore a miniskirt in the 1960s and disco dress in the 1970s, got shoulder pads in the 1980s, and dressed in a jogging outfit with crop top in the 1990s. With the new millennium, her shapes became rounder and she got a different hairstyle and new make-up. Over the years, more than seventy famous couturiers have dressed Barbie, including Dior, Versace and Givenchy. In turn, Barbie inspired almost 150 designers. One of the first designers to collaborate with Mattel was the American Bob Mackie, who had gained fame as a costume maker for Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli and Tina Turner, among others. He brought more exuberance to Barbie’s clothes. In addition, celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Cher, Shakira, Queen Elizabeth II, Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift and Heidi Klum were a source of inspiration for special versions of the Barbie doll.Barbie also appears in the guise of strong female Disney characters such as Aladdin, Tiana, Mulan, Rapunzel and Wonder Woman.

Barbie as Latina and Afro
After Barbie got an African-American girlfriend, Christie, in 1968, she also appeared in 1980 in both an African-American and a Latina version. Due to criticism of the unrealistically perfect appearance of the Barbie dolls, Mattel introduced dolls in four different body shapes, seven skin tones and several different hairstyles in 2016. That Barbie can hold her own is evident from her development. From an early age she worked in typically male professions such as archaeologist, astronaut, veterinarian and racing driver. In 1992 she ran for the White House and in 2016 she became America’s first female president. And while the Barbie doll first participated in typically feminine sports such as skiing and ballet, later baseball and football followed and Barbie replaced her roller skates with inline skates. Barbie shows that as a girl you can be anything you want.

Largest Barbie doll collector in the world
The exhibition shows more than 1,200 Barbie dolls plus Barbie-related objects such as cars, horses, dogs and houses.Barbie’s friends and family members such as Ken, Skipper, Midge, Christie, Francie, Blaine and Julia also visit her birthday party. The Barbie dolls in this exhibition are owned by the largest collector in the world, Bettina Dorfmann. With her more than 18,500 Barbie dolls she is in the Guinness Book of Records.

Stedelijk Museum Almelo
Prinsenstraat 13
7607 JC Almelo

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm; Sunday 11 am to 5 pm
27 January – 8 September 2024