Barbie did not live in a doll house. She lived in a Dream House, which was basically a cardboard box that unfolded to reveal a studio apartment. When introduced in 1961, Barbie’s paper pad was filled with cardboard accessories, such as Mid-century Modern furniture, a cylindrical table lamp, a photograph of Ken, and tiny LPs by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, although a company called Susy Goose made plastic furniture designed for Mattel's houses. By 1963, Mattel was selling a cardboard Barbie Fashion Shop where the doll could try on new outfits, and the following year the company released Barbie Goes To College, whose interiors included the dorm room where she slept and the local soda fountain where she hung out.
Other 1960s cardboard structures included the Barbie and Ken Little Theater and Barbie’s Dream Kitchen/Dinette, both from 1964. That year, Mattel gave Sears the exclusive to sell its Barbie and Skipper Deluxe House, and Skipper got her own Dream Room, with dizzying heart-pattern wallpaper, in 1965. By 1966, though, the era of cardboard Barbie doll houses and furniture was over when Mattel starting producing its products in plastic. Ironically, the cardboard originals have held up better than the early plastic versions.
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We have a very small team here at the Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood, so we all have to do lots of different things. I do… [more]