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    

Ooak Handmade Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy™- " Lisbeth " Vintage American Girl Barbie Head TlcVintage Barbie, Skipper, Ken Doll Clothes Lot Of Must See Tlc Dress, Gown & MoreVintage Barbie Doll Commuter Set #916 1959-1960 Htf!Vintage Barbie Blue Fur Lined Jacket, Blue Dress, Blue Japan HeelsVintage Barbie Pink Formal Sears ExclusiveVintage Barbie Gold & White Dress, Scarf , Purse, Japan HeelsVintage Barbie #916 Commuter Set OutfitVintage Barbie Outfit ~ New In PackagingVintage Barbie Case With Large Collection C.1960s Barbie Francie Clothing TaggedVintage Barbie Red Outfit, Skirt, Top, Gloves, Pink Hat, Japan HeelsVintage 1960's Barbie #1645 Golden Glory Gold Lame & Green Chiffon Dress & CoatVintage Barbie Enchanted Evening #983 (1960-1963) . Nrfp But...Vintage Barbie Doll Clothing Pink & Red Dress And Jacket Fur Collar TaggedVintage Francie "shoppin' Spree"-no Reserve!Vintage Barbie Blue / Brown Dress , Jacket, Scarf , Japan HeelsVintage Barbie Floral Dress, Felt Hat, Japan HeelsVintage Francie #1281 "clear Out" OutfitVintage 1958 Barbie American Girl Bendable Leg 4 Outfits Brunette Blue EyedVintage Barbie Doll By Mattel On The Avenue Suit White Gold Jacket Dress #1644 1965 Barbie Midnight Blue 1617 Satin Dress, Cape, Shoes, Necklace, Purse, GlovesVintage Barbie, Ken, Skipper, Francie, Scooter, Stacey Original Swimsuit Oss LotHuge Vintage Lot 1950's 1960's Barbie Doll Early & Mod Clothes Lot Tlc NeedsVintage Barbie Black Dress, Lace Cape, Purse, Black Gloves, Japan HeelsVintage Francie Doll Shoppin' Spree #1261 Mod Era Outfit C1966 MattelBarbie's Vintage Outfit #1644 "on The Avenue" Jacket And DressVintage Barbie: "barbie Learns To Cook" Outfit #1634 1960's Japan#1074 Francie Grow Pretty Hair Doll + Clothes Pazam, 1971-73 Vtg Barbie Clothes"original" Vtg 1965 Barbie #1643 Poodle Parade W/ Japan Spikes CompleteGreat Lot Of 1960's Barbie,tammy,fashion Doll Dishes. Great For 1:6 Bjd Too.Large Vintage Barbie Ken Francie Lot Doll Clothes & CaseOoak Fashion For Silkstone/vintage Barbie By Roxy-" Honeydew " Vintage Barbie 1959-62 Tagged "cruise Stripes" Outfit #918 Excellent Vintage Barbie, Tammy, Babs Bild Lilli Mitzi Similar Size Clone Doll Clothes LotVintage Barbie #972 Wedding Day OutfitVintage Francie Doll The Wild Bunch #1776 Mod Era Outfit C1970 MattelVintage Barbie #1440 Pink Sparkle Dress, Cape, Japan HeelsVintage Barbie On The Avenue #1644 Accessories Gloves, Necklace, Heels, ClutchVintage Barbie Multi Color 60's Dress, Earrings, Japan HeelsVintage 1963 Original Barbie Blue Navy Gold Lame Sheath Dress Brocade ExcellentVintage Barbie Sis Skipper, Penny Brite, Betsy Mccall Size 8" Doll Clothes LotRare-no Play-vintage Barbie 1966 Outdoor Art Show #1650 Nylon Dress-exc Sleeves# Barbie Doll Outfit White 'leather' Coat /cap/handbag With Tag + Scarf Large Lot Of Vintage Barbie Fashion Clothes W/ Shoes, Hats - Lot + 1 CaseVintage Barbie Navy Heels To 1959 Commuter Set #916 & Others ListedVintage Barbie Multi Color 60's Dress, Earrings, Japan HeelsLot Of Vtg Francie/barbie Clothes~shoes~francie Hangers~stockings~hats~scarves++Vintage Barbie #1640 Matinee Fashion OutfitVintage Barbie/julia Outfit: #1752 "brrr Frrr," ExcellentVintage Barbie Bright Outfit W/ Sunglasses And Japan ShoesVintage Skipper Outfit ~ New In PackagingVintage Barbie Orange And Fur Jacket, Orange And Gold Top, Hat, Pants, ShoesVintage Francie Bathing Suit, Polka Dot Dress, Jacket, Pink Hair, Japan HeelsLot 21 Pair Vintage Barbie Ken Japan Francie Open Toe Pumps,flats,heels,booVintage Barbie 1959-62 Tagged "cotton Casual" #912 W/dress Form Display & ExtrasHuge / Large Lot Of Vintage Barbie Items / Accessories! Over 90 Items!Vintage Barbie Clothes Lot C. 1960s With CaseVintage Barbie 1959-61 Tagged Picnic Set Outfit #967 Vintage Ken - Campus Hero - New On BoxVintage Barbie 1963 Golden Elegance #992 Orange Brocade Dress-excellent