From Barbie's beginnings in 1959, little girls clothed their Barbie dolls in a range of ensembles. No less than 22 outfits were offered in that introductory year, from a collarless Chanel-style jacket with matching sheath skirt to a satin-and-tulle bridal gown. Indeed, fashion was such an important aspect of the doll's marketing that noted clothing designer Charlotte Johnson was hired away from her teaching post at Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles to complete this critical task.

Most of the outfits offered in 1959 were still available in 1960, making the three that were discontinued (Easter Parade, Gay Parisienne, and Roman Holiday) extremely collectible. Of the six new outfits added in 1960, Friday Night Date was one of the best sellers, thanks to its charming blue corduroy jumper with felt appliqués, pair of soda glasses with cotton standing in for actual fizz, and a black serving tray bearing the Barbie logo. The straws that accompany each fizzing soda glass, two tiny pieces of solid white plastic, are particularly valued among enthusiasts for their rarity.

After that initial year, Barbie’s style changed annually and came to represent a living catalog of the most popular fashion trends of the second half of the 20th century. Her clothes came and went, and in the early years were often out of production before orders could be shipped to some regions of the U.S., which made ensembles such as Plantation Belle and Busy Gal (complete with striped blouse, black rimmed glasses, and fashion portfolio) difficult to obtain.

Barbie’s first run of outfits designated each piece with a name and a series number. From 1959 to 1963, the 900 series (901, 902, 903, etc.) accompanied each descriptive title. Beginning in 1964, Mattel switched to a 1600 series. Though newer, the 1600 outfit series is actually just as difficult for collectors to track down as the original—fewer quantities of each outfit were produced. Among the rarest of the 1600 series are Satin ’N Rose, White Magic, and Skaters Waltz, a wintry ensemble of nylon tights, pink felt ruffle skirt, and fuzzy white mittens.

More than anything, the condition of the Mattel label determines the value of a vintage Barbie outfit. Made from a selvaged white ribbon with black thread spelling ‘Mattel’, and held together by a weak adhesive that did not stand up well against children’s play, labels deteriorated easily. What’s more, Mattel placed the label wherever Barbie’s outfit provided the most visibility for the brand, which was usually a highly vulnerable location.

From the 1960s on, the production of Barbie outfits and accessories exploded. Outfits for every imaginable contemporary situation accompanied the doll, so long as it was wholesome. In 1962, the introduction of separately sold fashion packs, which provided color-coded accessories ranging from a pearl necklace to red slippers, made even more combinations of in-vogue ensembles possible. Barbie also started taking vacations that required exotic dress, including the Barbie in Mexico and Barbie in Switzerland models, complete with black mantilla and white eyelet lace bonnet, respectively.

Vintage Barbie and her clothing line went out of production in 1966. In 1967, Mattel introduced Mod Barbie, a decidedly more hip version of its predecessor that did away with the...

One of the more iconic versions of Barbie from this period is 1971’s Malibu Barbie, which utilized the face of Stacey, Barbie’s new friend from Great Britain. Malibu Barbie’s first outfit included a powder-blue one-piece swimsuit with a yellow-lined high neck and a yellow beach towel. The original Malibu Barbie was produced from 1971 through 1977, and is the final Barbie considered truly vintage by collectors.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the influence of celebrities and pop culture distracted from Mattel’s focus on fashion and style, as seen in the Superstar Barbies. But in recent years, Mattel has returned the doll to her high-fashion roots, as fashion designers as esteemed as Betsey Johnson, Isaac Mizrahi, Kate Spade, and Christian Louboutin have created everything from handbags to pumps for Barbie.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Dollreference.com

Dollreference.com

This densely packed index of antique and vintage dolls claims to offer over 10,000 images of dolls from the 1800s … [read review or visit site]

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Vintage Dolls of the 50s

Rhonda Wilson's collection of 1950s dolls, organized by name (Ginny and friends, Littlest Angel and friends, etc.) … [read review or visit site]

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylees Korner of Collectible Dolls

Kaylee's extensive collection of vintage dolls from the 1930s to 90s. Click the balloons to browse. Though Kaylee s… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Nice Large Lot Of Vintage Barbie Clothes Mod EraVintage Barbie Ken American Airlines Captain Complete Mint In Box Nrfb Nrfp MibVintage Barbie "outdoor Art Show" Hat In Nm To Excellent ConditionVintage 1960 Ken Doll-1962 Case-clothing-shoes-hats-old-nr!Vintage Barbie Gold White Fq Fabric & Red Satin Dressed Up! Pak Dress Vhtf ExcLtd Toy Stamp & 1962 Barbie #1661 London Tour Outfit Mint In Window Frame Box60s 70s Vintage Mod Barbie Outfit Special Sparkle Nc Gold Lame Hot Pink BrocadeVintage Barbie Rare 1960 Silken Flame (#977) ~ Nrfb ~ Mib Ltd Toy Stamp & 1962 Barbie #1671 Sporting Casuals Outfit Mint In Frame BoxVintage Lot Of Lovely Barbie/skipper Clothes In Excellent ConditionVintage Barbie "reception Line " Hat NmOriginal Mattel 1966 Barbie-francie "shoppin' Spree" #1261-doll Fashion-completeOriginal Mattel 1968 Barbie-francie "the Lace-pace", #1216-doll Fashion-completeVintage Barbie "reception Line" " Dress NmVintage 1960s Barbie Ken & Midge Doll In Trunk W/clothes Shoes Purses GlovesVintage 1964 Barbie Doll Outfit White Magic #1607 Complete & Excellent W/purse300+ Huge Mixed Lot Of Barbie Ken Vintage & Modern Clothes, Gowns, Bathing SuitsVintage #971 Easter Parade Barbie Rare Black Coat Tm Tag 1959 Mattel Doll Mattel Original Barbie 1070 Box Only - No DollVintage Barbie Case And Clothes Lot !Vintage Barbie Lot Early 60s Nib Tnt Barbie + 9 Gowns W Accessories:no ReserveVintage Barbie Clothes Outfits Lot Early 60s 24 Outfits W Accessories:no ReserveBarbie 1970's Superstar Era #2667 Sleek 'n Chic Designer Original Outfit & CapeOriginal Mattel 1970 Barbie - "maxi 'n Midi", #1799 - Doll Fashion - CompleteBarbie: Vintage Complete The Short Set Outfit #3481Vintage Barbie Doll Case Skipper W/doll/case And Clothes/accessories/1960s~70sVintage Huge Lot 35+ Barbie Clothes Guinevere#873 Winter Wed #880 Arabian #874+Vintage 1963 Barbie Doll Outfit Sophisticated Lady #993 W/pink Pearl NecklaceVtg Barbie "commuter" #916 Ensemble-jacket, Skirt & Hat OnlyVintage Barbie Outdoor Art Show Dress Nm Gorgeous Vintage Barbie Ensemble "satin Slumber #3414" CompleteBarbie: Vintage Ken Doll American Airlines OutfitOriginal Mattel 1967 Barbie - Francie "bells", #1292 - Doll Fashion- CompleteVintage Barbie Wedding Day #973-lace Bridal Gown-veil-white Shoes-bouquet-garterVintage 60's/70's Tammy/skipper/barbie Clothing Lot964 Gay Parisienne Dress Ensemble Handmade Custom Repro For Vtg Barbie Doll OoakVintage 1960's Twist N Turn Barbie, Skipper, Trunk Case And Accessories Lot Vintage Barbie Clothing 1960's Tennis Flight Attendant Skirts Pants Leggings 3 Vintage Skipper: Platinum Sl, Brunette Bl, Brunette Sl, Clothes, Access + CaseOriginal Mattel 1965-1966 Barbie-"holiday Dance", #1639-doll Fashion-completeVintage Barbie Doll Original Jewelry - Faux Pearl Pendant Necklace.Vintage Barbie Clothing Fancy Free, Cotton Casual, Evening Splendor, Belle DressVintage Lot Of Nice Barbie/francie ClothesOriginal Mattel 1967 Barbie-francie "summer Coolers",#1292-doll Fashion-completeB82 Vintage Lot Barbie Shoes 4 Pairs Strappy Superstar Era Heels Ankle StrapOriginal Mattel 1966-1967 Barbie-francie "dance Party",#1257-doll Fashion-comp.Vintage Barbie Ken Skipper Clothes, Shoes, Accessories, Case Lot (vintage & Mod)Original Mattel 1966 Barbie-francie "concert In The Park",#1256-doll Fashion-comVintage Barbie Ken Clothes Lot Minor Tlc, 1961 700sVintage Original Sears Exclusive Beautiful Blues Ensamble 1965 #3303Mattel 1972 Barbie-"fancy That Purple" & 'silver Blues",#3362&3357-doll FashionVintage Barbie "saturday Matinee"jacket Exc. ConditionVintage Barbie 1959-1967 Single Drop Pearl Necklace To Several Outfits Below-excLot Vtg Barbie Ken 1965 Mr. Miss Astronaut Outfit Space Suits Helmet Boots GloveBlack Silk Sheath Dress Handmade Custom Repro Reproduction For Vtg Barbie DollVintage Barbie "plantation Belle" Bracelet Nm Vtg Barbie Doll Shoe Wardrobe Fashion Paks 1963 Mattel Booklet Barbie, Midge 7prVintage Barbie Francie Shillman? Mod Mego? Clothing LotVintage Doll Clothes With Accessories 1960's Tutti Dress Todd Sundae Treat CoatHtf Vintage Barbie 1965 Modern Art 1625 Cotton & Organza Dress