Barbie Got Curves: How The Iconic Doll Caught Up With The Plus Size Movement

We’ve all seen that infographic image telling us that Barbie couldn’t actually survive with her proportions if she was a real human being. If you haven’t seen it – take a quick look:

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Yep – that’s right – Barbie would have to walk on all fours like a weird girl-beast with a fabulous blow dry. And she would only have half a liver so she wouldn’t even be able to drown her sorrows. Poor cow.

So why on earth have we been buying these fashion dolls for our little girls FOR 56 YEARS?? They’ve done the tests, they know that little girls who look at images of Barbie are more likely to feel negatively about their own bodies in comparison to girls looking at pictures of women in real life. They know that now girls as young as 5 years old are very much aware of what being ‘fat’ means. Barbie has over 13 million followers on Facebook and three dolls are sold every second across the world. That’s a lot of plastic boobs out there.

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But what is such an iconic figure doing to the children who actually play with them? Last year, it was estimated that over 1.6 million people have an eating disorder in the UK. Only 11% of those are male. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. Obviously Barbie hasn’t directly caused this but it has to have some kind of impact?

So this month, the big news has been that Mattel (the company behind the multi-million dollar Barbie empire) has launched a new range of dolls as part of a secret operation called Project Dawn – so secret that the 33 new designs were kept hidden from the other employees. These new designs represent an amazing mix of hair types and skin colours – there’s even one with blue hair! The designs also include three new body types including a tall Barbie, a short Barbie, and finally – a plus sized Barbie. ‘Barbie Plus’ has a thicker waist and gloriously curvy thighs. Barbie Plus looks like she probably has enough room for a whole liver in there thank goodness. There she is, second from the right:

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So what were my initial thoughts after seeing this newly bootylicious Barbie? Recently I’ve started following a lot of plus size models and curvy fashion girls on Instagram. I feel like I want to counteract all the photoshopped images of unrealistic women that get pushed infront of my face on a daily basis with my own personal newsfeed full of strong calf muscles, buxom busts and soft tummies. Swimsuits For All is a particular favourite at the moment – these women are HOT!

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I’ve been following these inspirational women for a while now and I’ve definitely noticed a real difference about the way I see not only myself but also other women around me. However, even I found it slightly weird looking at curvy Barbie. She just – didn’t look right. It’s as if your brain has to take a bit longer to process what you are seeing, because it’s so used to the usual Barbie shape. It’s amazing how we can just become so used to what a ‘normal shape’ might be.

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So what do we think? A new curvy Barbie must be good news, right? Well yes – apart from the fact that Barbie sales have been dropping for the last three years. The Elsa doll from Frozen has proved to be tough competition in the toy market (quite right too, go Elsa!) and also the new generation of millennial mothers don’t have too much faith in the Barbie brand – they feel that she’s just a bit shallow and fake. Little girls still love Barbie but it’s down to whether the mothers will buy them. So this is why Barbie been given a new plus size look, because the marketing team have done their research and their focus groups and think this is what the consumer wants and will therefore generate new sales.

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It’s got nothing to do with the corporation caring about the well being of young girls. The plus size movement has been around for a long time now. If skinny Barbie was selling record figures would they have still released these new diverse models? Probs not. It would have cost them a lot of money to develop the new designs and market them, and no business spends money if it doesn’t have to. The new dolls are set to reach UK stores in February and it will be really interesting to see what happens. If you have any comments or opinions then please feel free to share!

xxx

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One thought on “Barbie Got Curves: How The Iconic Doll Caught Up With The Plus Size Movement

  1. Interesting- I think you’re right about their marketing strategy. Would they have done this if traditional Barbie was still selling well? Also, it may be a case of too little too late… As Barbie’s crazy proportions have been a moot point for years! If I had a child who wanted a doll I suspect I’d go with a Disney character to be honest… I think Barbie has had her day.

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