Barbie-foot or Royal wedding, Barbie remains the plastic sex symbol that a generation of girls were forbidden to own because she was too sexy and had a boyfriend. What I discovered in the new exhibition at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, is that she had many boyfriends over the years, parents, cousins and best friends, and that she even was not that pretty sometimes, and could also be short but never fat.
With 7 000 items of her wardrobe exhibited in beautiful glass windows, Barbie is for the first time, the guest of a show in a French museum. Thanks to the amazing Mattel archives, this star born in 1959, shows us her American way of life, through magazine shoots, fashion shows, hairdresser scenes… She is portrayed in all professions, including a ferrari car driver and a stewardess, a business woman and a surgeon. She certainly played a part in women’s liberation at a time when it was much needed. The decors of the Barbie shows are fun and varied. And so many fashion designers are featured, that it is a good remembrance of couture in the last fifty years.
She is a doll who acts as a model and has all the problems of that profession. She is too thin, too beautiful, too perfect, to convey any sense of love or even complicity. Her boyfriend Ken is created in 1961, and many more follow. The first black Barbie, Christie, is born in 1968.
American designer Billy Boy created a Barbie Théâtre de la Mode for Mattel in 1984 which was modeled on the post war Théâtre de la Mode created by French fashion designers. He collected 11 000 Barbie and 3 000 Kens and became a sort of traveling ambassador for Mattel. There was a Russian blogger in the show who was taping herself playing in the children’s room, wearing a Barbie T-shirt.
What most impressed me in the show, were the decors created for photo shoots with mock fashion houses and cinema sets. Mattel has turned Barbie into a real life industry, with decorators, photographers, hair stylists who devote their life and talent to her, and that part of the story is really fascinating. She has become a real star and she is always in a good mood!
Otherwise, the coldness of the doll and my lack of fascination for her « glamour », added to the disappointment I felt when I left the exhibit. The decors by Nathalie Crinière are fabulous in the exhibition but there is no dream dimension to Barbie’s world. (until September 18th)
Share this Post