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”)

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    

** 1960's Pale Blonde American Girl Bend Leg Barbie Doll In Original Box, MoreVintage 1965 Mattel Barbie Francie Green & Fushia Tweed Coat, Dress, & Hat** 1960's Barbie Doll Vintage Accessories From #1034 Hostess Gift SetGrandma's Barbie Doll Clothes Pre 1970s ? Vintage Mix Midge Skipper Unknown** 1960's Barbie Doll Outfits #1649 Lunch On The Terrace, #1650 Outdoor Art ShowBarbie: Htf 1967 Vintage 'floating Gardens' Ex-nm & Near-complete Outfit #1696 Rare Barbie Ken & Midge On Parade Gift Set Mint Sealed In Box!!!!!!!!Vintage Original Tagged Barbie/skipper Ricky "sunday Suit" #1503 (1965)complete Barbie Japanese Exclusive Outfit NrfbVintage Barbie Pak Terrific Twosome 1969 Great Variation & White Green NecklaceVintage Barbie 1963 Tagged "busy Morning"outfit #956 W/dress Form DisplayVintage Barbie Baby Sits Oufit #0953 *1965* Later Version-rarer White Gown-nrfb** 1960's Blonde #5 Barbie Doll In Original Box, Swimsuit, Stand, BookletHuge Lot Of Vintage Barbie, Ken, Skipper Clothes And AccessoriesOriginal Vintage Barbie PursesVintage Barbie 1965 Modern Art Dress #1625 As-isVintage Barbie Skipper Doll Clothing Lot Rhtf Vtg Barbie Charm Bracelet To 1962 Knit Pak Top & 1964 Golden Evening 1610Barbie: Htf '67-68 Vintage 'disco Dater' Pleated Dress #1807 - 3-day Listing Vintage 1960's Barbie Doll Clothing Lot #4Vintage 60’s Barbie Doll # 1654 Reception Line Dress/hat Ensemble Lot Of 10 Original Vintage Barbie Doll Outfits Clothing With Tags & Case 60'sHuge Vintage Mod Lot Of Tlc Barbie And Family ClothesVintage Original Tagged Barbie/skipper Ricky "saturday Show" #1502 (1965) Vintage Original Tagged Barbie/skipper Ricky "little Leaguer" #1504 (1965-67)Vintage Barbie Lot - Tlc!Vintage Barbie 1959-62 Tagged "barbie-q" Outfit #962 W/dress Form DisplayVintage Barbie Sears Superstar # 2050 2 Pc Brocade Top & Skirt + Heels 1977 Vgc Barbie: 1969 Vintage 'romantic Ruffles' Gown Dress Outfit #1871 -near Complete Vintage Mod Barbie 1969 #1874 Fab City Tlc Barbie Doll Carrying Case, 2 Dolls, Clothes And Accessories - Circa 1968Vintage Sl Lemon Blonde Skipper Doll Near Mint BeautifulVintage Barbie Fashion Set # 1620 Junior Designer 19655. Vintage Barbie Lot Of Original Accessories & Many Open Toed Shoes & FlatsLot Of Vintage Barbie Vintage Barbie Doll 1959 Gay Parisienne Gold Velvet Purse/clutch #964 Htf 5 Days Only! Vintage Barbie "garden Tea Party" Ensemble #1606 - Htf - Excellent5 Days Only! Vintage Barbie Pak Skirt & Jacket W/shoes, Gloves & Jewelry - VgucVintage 1960's Barbie Doll Clothing Lot #6** 1960's Blonde #2 Bubble Barbie Doll, #972 Wedding Day, BookletRare Original Vintage Barbie Doll Accessories Tv Phone Soda Yarn Broom TennisVintage Barbie Doll Party Date Dress & Pink Bolero Jacket Top 2 Hats Vintage Barbie Plantation Belle Complete #966Vintage Barbie Clothes-#1912 Skipper's Cookie Time OutfitVintage Barbie & Francie #4040 Color Magic Set Yellow Purse Vhtf Minty!Gay Parisienne Barbie Outfit - Dress & Clutch - IncompleteVintage Barbie Plantation Belle #966 Complete And Excellent!!!** 1960's Barbie Doll Vintage Outfit #992 Golden Elegance Near Complete W Hankie** 1960's Blonde #1 Bubble Barbie Doll, #987 Orange Blossom Complete, BookletVintage Barbie Sears 3 Pc Fashion Bouquet #1511 5 Days Only! Vintage Barbie Pak Skirt & Shirt With Purse & Sunglasses - Nm** 1960's Blonde #5 Barbie Doll, #969 Suburban Shopper, Swimsuit, BookletVintage Barbie Doll Outfit "evening Splendor" #961 Mixed Pieces 5 Days Only! Vintage Barbie "sophisticated Lady" Ensemble #993 - Excellent & NcVintage Barbie Golden Elegance Dress & Coat - Minty!** 1960's Blonde #5 Barbie Doll, #978 Let's Dance, Swimsuit, Booklet, BasketVintage Barbie Skipper Clothes 1963 Red Coat Dress Robe Casey 1966 Rubber ShoeVintage Barbie Superstar Era Ankle Strap ShoesVintage Barbie Dress To 1964 Lunch Date 1600-near ExcellentVintage 1960's Barbie Doll "baby"