(Repeating March 6 item)
By Aarthi Sivaraman
NEW YORK, March 6 Barbie, the iconic doll that
has claimed countless hours of girls' lives in a make-believe
world that mirrored real life glamour, high-fashion and
fabulous careers, is turning 50.
But is her star fading?
Some people say Mattel's doll MAT.N that has had such
"careers" as astronaut, Army medic, scuba diver, pediatrician
and presidential candidate, has run her course.
"It's very clear that the taste of little girls who
play with dolls has changed," said Jerry Oppenheimer, author of
a book on Mattel called 'Toy Monster.'
"They have come into the 21st century, where they play on
their own laptops, and have their own cell phones. Dolls will
be a part of their lives ... and Barbie will be part of that,
but it will be a small window."
Introduced at a toy fair in New York City on March 9, 1959
as a teenage fashion model, Barbie, whose full name is Barbie
Millicent Roberts, cost $3.
With her shapely figure, carefully styled pony tail and
curly bangs, strapless black and white geometric bathing suit
and spiked heels, Barbie was at once an instant rage and
At a time when "Leave It to Beaver" was depicting the
so-called "All-American Family" and June Cleaver never showed
any cleavage, Barbie created her share of controversy.
Created by Ruth Handler 14 years after she and her husband
Elliot started the toy company Mattel Creations, sales of
Barbie reached 300,000 the first year.
BIG BIRTHDAY BASH
Whither Barbie goes, the world's No. 1 toymaker is waging
an extensive campaign to promote Barbie, perhaps its most
notable toy, and celebrate her birthday.
Mattel has opened a six-story flagship store in Shanghai
called House of Barbie, featuring a restaurant, spa and runway
where girls can pretend to be fashion models. [ID:nL6651818]
Film stars Jet Li and Cathy Chung attended the Shanghai
Supermodel Heidi Klum and other celebrities are expected on
Monday at Mattel's Malibu Dream House party in a 3,500-square
foot house at Malibu, California, near Los Angeles. The
interior of the house was designed by Jonathan Adler.
One of Barbie's major attractions over the past five
decades has been her clothes, created by some of the world's
most famous designers, including Gucci, Calvin Klein, Galliano
and Versace. Throughout her life, Barbie's hair and fashions
have reflected real life haute couture, and fashion trends and
Fans mobbed a fashion show at New York's Fashion Week in
February, where models took to the runway in 50 new designer
outfits to celebrate Barbie's life of fashion.
On March 14, specialty toy store chain Toys "R" Us is due
to hold a Barbie party at its flagship store in Manhattan.
A ROLE MODEL - STILL?
"Growing up, my sister had the nurse outfit for Barbie and
my sister became a nurse," said Nancy Parsons, 50, who has been
collecting Barbie dolls for 25 years.
"It was what she was, what she could be. It gave even
little girls the idea that 'I could do that.'"
Parsons, who prefers the vintage Barbie and has amassed a
collection of about 500 dolls, is president of the Western
Pennsylvania Doll Club, which is hosting the 2009 National
Barbie Doll Collectors Convention in Washington D.C. in June.
The event, Parsons said, draws collectors who show and sell
Barbie dolls, clothes and other items made for the doll.
Other collectors said they are ardent Barbie fans. But is
she still a hit with youngsters?
Sales of Barbie dolls declined 6 percent in the United
States and 28 percent overseas in the last quarter.
It is far from certain if Mattel's efforts to spark greater
interest in Barbie by lighting birthday candles around the
world will pay off.
But one thing was evident in the looks on faces of dejected
fans, ranging in age from tots with parents to college students
and business people who were turned away at the crowded fashion
show -- Barbie still has a devoted audience.
"I really don't see Barbie disappearing at all," said
Stephanie Gentile, 25, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, a Barbie
collector for nine years.
"She's still so popular with collectors and young girls
alike. She's still got another 50 years in her."
(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; Editing by Toni Reinhold)