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    

Vintage Lot Barbie Japan Hong Kong France Ken Tutti Etc TaggedKen #1426 Here Comes The GroomLot Of Vintage Barbie Francie Clothing Ski Queen Team Slightly Summery #6 125b Rare/mint 1969 Sears Exclusive Barbie & Ken Fabulous Formal Gift Set #1595Vintage Midge Barbie 1966-67 Molded Turquoise Felt Hat 1650 Outdoor Art ShowVintage Lot Barbie Doll Outfits, Clothes Accessories Buying AllVintage 1965 Barbie "junior Prom" Dress #1614 - ExcellentVintage Barbie Clothes Lot Skipper Vintage Mod Barbie Clothing Student Teacher Fancy Free Glowin Out Power #9 125b Vintage 62-63 Barbie Pak "silk Sheath" White & Turquoise Dress - Need CleaningBest Buy Repro Dress By Marirose With Box Fabric! Exclusive! Bow Dress!Vintage 1960s Mattel Barbie Clothes Barbie Print Dress With BeltTalking Christie Barbie Doll With Box 1968Vintage 70-71 Francie Pink Power Outfit Complete Shoes Japan Dress # 1762 125bVintage 1960's Barbie Lot With Trunk,dolls,clothing And AccessoriesVintage Barbie Golden Glory #1645 ~original 1965 Near Excellent OutfitSkipper #1929 Dog ShowVintage Early 1960's Barbie Doll Accessories Lot Of 41 Pieces1963 Junior Edition Styles For Barbie's Little Sister Skipper-halloween PartyVintage Barbie Very Rare Clear Silver Glitter Closed Toe Heels Shoes - JapanVintage Barbie - Francie Growin Pretty Hair #1129 Nice Condition W/ Instructions5 Days! Vintage Barbie Fashion Pak Assorted Clothing & Accessories - ExcellentVtg Barbie Doll Head & Wig Lot Stacey Tnt Clone Christie Aa Mod Various SizesBarbie #991 Registered NurseVintage Barbie 1961-64 Tagged "american Airlines Stewardess" Outfit #984 Barbie, Skipper Barbie & Skipper AccessoriesEarly 900s Barbie Vintage Clothing Lot NiceVintage Barbie Fashion Black Short Evening GlovesSkipper #1933 Country PicnicVintage And Mod Era Barbie And Friends Miscellaneous Shoe And Crap LotVintage 1960s Mattel Barbie Clothes Pink And White DressVintage 1960s Mattel Barbie Clothes Orange Dress OutfitVintage Barbie Gown 'campus Sweetheart' 1965Vintage Barbie Clothing Accessories Lot 70s 80s 170 Shoes Nip Hats Gown Top PantVintage Barbie Clothing Vintage Barbie Doll Outfit #0880 Little Red Riding Hood Theatre Costume W/ WolfSkipper #1936 Sledding FunVintage 1960's Barbie Music Center Matinee HatVintage Barbie - Francie Pretty Power #1512 Jacket Gown Shoes - Nearly Complete Vintage Barbie Clothing Country Fair Sweater Girl Busy Floral Slip #8 125b Vintage Childs Blouse By BarbieMod Barbie Vintage Clothing Lot NiceVintage Barbie Francie Ken Skipper & Other Dolls Clothing Clothes Lot Wth IssuesVintage Barbie Dolls Drop Pearl Necklace Mint!*1day*Barbie Ken & Midge Pep Rally Gift Set 1964-1965Skipper Skipper On Wheels Gift SetVintage 70-71 Barbie "the Lace Caper" Tunice Blouse-pants-cape - Needs CleaningLot Vintage Barbie ClothesVintage Barbie &/or Clone Handmade And Factory Clothes Huge Lot Vintage Barbie Doll Lot Of 20 ~ Mattel & Disney~ken ~ 70,80,90s Era~w ClothingVintage Barbie Doll Outfit #1607 White Magic Complete W/ Hat & Silver PurseVintage Lot Barbie Japan Hong Kong AccessoriesBarbie/jem Dress Orange Yellow Belt - Adjustable For Sleeveless Or With SleevesVintage 66-67 Barbie Ken "summer Job" #1422 Jacket-shirt-slacks-tie-shoes-socksVintage Barbie Clothes Midnight Blue Gown & Cape # 1617 1965Vintage 1963 Barbie Pak Rose Pink Satin CoatVintage Barbie Doll Outfit #946 Dinner At Eight Complete W/ Original Cork ShoesVintage Mod Barbie Clothing Short Set Flocked Dots Good Sports Sweet #14 125bVintage 1973 Barbie Best Buy White & Yellow Gingham Blouse/skirt Satin Bow #3205Vintage Barbie Red Lined Fur Coat-perfect!!