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 Ponytail Barbie Midge Fashion Queen B & W Label Clothes Accessories Lot!Vintage Mod Barbie Pj B & W Lables Clothes Accessories Case Lot Nice!Vintage Barbie Blonde Malibu Francie B & W Label Clothes Shoes Accessories Lot# 1552 Vintage Barbie Silver N Satin Jc Penny Exclusive Vhtf Japanese Exclusive Barbie Dress Vintage Rare 1960s Tagged MulticolorVintage Barbie Clothes Mod Era #1593 Sears Exclusive Golden Groove VhtfHandmade Ooak Hat Jacket Dress Gloves Stocking Purse Vintage Skipper Barbie DollVintage Lot Of Barbie Doll Clothes Shoes Accessories 1960s-1970sVintage Barbie Blonde Malibu Fluff Skipper B & W Label Clothes Accessories LotVintage Barbie Clothes Vhtf Benefit Performance # 1667 (1966-1967)Vintage Barbie Clothes Mod Era Goldswinger # 1494 VhtfVintage Barbie Pj Skipper B & W Label Clothes Parts Pieces Accessories LotVtg Barbie Debutante Ball (1966-67) #1666 Gown, Fur Stole, Shoes, Gloves, PurseVintage Francie Miss Teenage Beauty # 1284 Hard To FindNew Amd Wonderdul Walking Jamie Barbie Doll, Includes BoxVintage Casey Barbie Doll With Twist 'n Turn Waist, Includes BoxTalking Christie Barbie Doll With Box 1968Vintage Lot Barbie Clothes Shoes And AccesoriesVintage Barbie Brunette #3 Ponytail W/updo In Sylvia Campbell Fashion Complete!!Vintage Barbie Clothes Htf Holiday Dance W/accessories # 1639 Gown Gloves PurseVtg Lot Barbie Tagged Clothes 1960 American Airlines Tennis Gown Tutu Robe CoatVintage Twiggy Barbie Doll With Twist 'n Turn WaistVintage Mod Barbie Live Action Pj #1508 Sears Fashion 'n Motion Gift Set Nice!1964 Barbie #0889 Candy Striper Volunteer OutfitVintage 1965 Barbie "fraternity Dance" Dress & Gloves #1638Original Mattel 1959-1961 Barbie-"plantation Belle", #966-doll Fashion-near Com.12 Piece Lot Of Mod Era 1960's Vintage Barbie Francie Doll Clothing1966 Barbie #1649 Lunch On The Terrace OutfitVintage New Old Stock Barbie Midge Sophisticated Lady #993 Outfit MibVintage Barbie Tlc Lot1972 Barbie #3357 Silver Blues Set W #3362 Fancy That Purple OutfitVintage Barbie Clothes Mod Era #1493 Fab Fur (1969-70) Jacket Pants Skirt Boots 1959 Barbie #961 Evening Splendour Outfit Complete W Handkerchief & Jewelry (r)1959 Barbie #966 Southern Belle OutfitVintage Barbie Clothes Black Magic # 1609 W/accessoriesVintage Barbie Dress To Outfit #1644 On The Avenue, Nice!Original Mattel 1965 Barbie-"country Club Dance", #1627-doll Fashion-completeMint Vintage Barbie P.j. Stacey Poncho Put-on #3411 Outfit 1969 Mint Moc NrfbVintage 1965 Barbie "junior Prom" Fur Stole W White Satin Lining #1614 ExcellentOriginal Mattel 1966-1967 Barbie-ken-"seein' The Sights'",#1421-doll Fashion-comVintage Talking Brad Original Outfit 1969 Hard To FindVintage 1960s Barbie Francie Mod Outfit Pink Lightning #1231Vintage 1965 Barbie "junior Prom" Dress-gloves-shoes -- ExcellentOriginal Mattel 1968-1969 Barbie-francie-"tenterrific", #1211-doll Fashion-comp.1969 Barbie Red Sun-shiner Dress Set W Shoes & Matching Purse!1974 Mod Superstar Barbie Doll Outfit Get-ups 'n Go Guag Blue Party Dress #7840Vintage Barbie Blonde Straight Leg Ken B & W Label Clothes Accessories LotVintage Barbie, Skipper Clothes B/w TagsVintage Julia Barbie Doll With Twist 'n Turn Waist, Includes BoxGrowing Up Skipper Doll With Box From 1975, Plus 2 Additional Original OutfitsVintage Barbie Mod Bend Leg Ken B & W Label Clothes Accessories LotB135 Vintage Barbie Clone Brocade Coat Dress British Crown Colony Hong KongVintage New Old Stock Barbie Midge Outfit Friday Nite Date 979 Mint In BoxVintage~barbie~francie~color Magic~pretty Wild~complete 3 Pc Outfit~#1777~vhtf1959 Barbie #967 Picnic Set Outfit Mint Old Store Stock! (r)Vintage Barbie Clothes Mod Era # 1467 Lamb N Leather Hard To Find W/accessories Vintage Barbie White Spikes, Very Rare!Huge Lot Mattel Vintage Barbie & Ken Doll Clothes , Shoes & More 75 + Vintage New Old Stock Barbie Midge Outfit Nighty Negligee Set Pink #965 MibOriginal Mattel 1969-1970 Barbie-"velvet Venture", #1488-doll Fashion-complete