Barbie’s Body Modifications Over the years

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She might only amount to 11.5 inches of plastic but Barbie Millicent Roberts has always been a totem pole of controversy.

Since her debut in 1959, she has been lambasted over the years for a multitude of reasons but there has always been one trait that continues to ignite a storm of debate: her body.

Her super-attenuated figure has been criticized for projecting impossible beauty and body standards for little girls.

But while Barbie might have been a trailblazer and encouraged little girls to dream that anything is possible when it comes to career choices – she has had 180 professions, including astronaut in 1965, four years before man stepped on the moon. And since 1992, she has been a presidential candidate six times. But she has unapologetically done all of this with her anatomically impossible body dimensions.

But this week Mattel, the makers of this infamous blond leggy doll, announced Barbie will be available in a variety of body types: curvy, petite and tall.

And in a further attempt at diversity, she will have 24 various hairstyles and hair colours and seven different skin tones to choose from.

It’s certainly encouraging that Barbie seems to be embracing body diversity, but will 2016 be the year that puts an end to the endless debate of her body?

Click through to look back at some of the body issues, image controversies and figure alterations the venerable doll faced over the years.

Photo Jeremy Stylist Susan Job 0845999

When Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel, unveiled the first Barbie at the New York Toy Fair in 1959, the doll was dismissed and deemed not salable because she had breasts. Dressed in a black and white bathing suit and with the body of a fashion model, she was completely unlike the popular dolls of the time which were baby or toddler dolls.

Main Masked

In 1971, Malibu Barbie burst onto retail shelves with long but straight blond hair. And she had a new sculpted face that featured an open smile that showed pearly white teeth. Barbie was embracing the healthy looking and wholesome California surfer girl look. But the 70s was also the rise of the feminist movement and for the first time, Barbie’s sparkling blue eyes was not coyly turned to the side but looked boldly straight ahead.

photo Jeff O'Brien stylist Beverly Elam

The 90s was the supermodel era and glamazons like Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell captivated with their jet set lifestyles. Barbie, always a reflection of pop culture trends if anything else, was soon sporting the big hair look of the era. In 1992, Totally Hair Barbie featured hair that was 10.5 inches long. To date, it is the best selling Barbie doll.

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Jewel Girl Barbie in 2000 adopted a more athletic looking physique with a bendable waist. And for the first time, she had a belly button.


Last year, Barbie, with her endless supply of footwear – mostly stilettos – finally stepped down to wear flats and sandals. Mattel released the Barbie Fashionista Line which featured Barbies with adjustable ankles. This was huge news since one of her best features that little girls loved – after her hair – were the tiny little pumps.

But perhaps now she can realistically run for office.