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    

Vintage Skipper Learning To Ride Outfit Nrfb 1935 Mint In BoxVintage Skipper Real Sporty Outfit Nrfb 1961 Mint In BoxVintage Ricky Lights Out Nrfb 1501 Mint In BoxOoak Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy-classic Shantung Sheath-sky BlueOoak Vintage Barbie/silkstone Fashion By Roxy- "fraîche" (8 Pcs)Sylvia Campbell Recreation Of Japanese Exclusive Shimmering Magic GownJapanese Exclusive Pink Formal VariationVintage Lot Mattel Miss Barbie & Molded Midge Heads & Swim Suits Nm-mint #by411960's Mattel Francie Casey Twiggy Slightly Summery Fashion Pak Moc Nrfp 1968 ~ Vintage Barbie Francie & Casey Fur Out Outfit ~ #1262 Mint!Moms Estate Her Personal Vintage Barbie Doll & Enormous Clothing Accessorie LotVintage Barbie Clothes Floating Gardens W/ Orig. Jewerly # 1696Vintage Lot Of 20 Pair Of Barbie & Francie Soft Bow Shoes Nm-mint #by321960's Large Lot Of Vintage Mod Barbie Clothing TlcVintage Barbie 100 Piece+ Lot 1962-63 Dolls,case,japan Shoes,hats, Jewlery! Nr! Handmade Ooak Outfit For Vintage Francie Casey Twiggy Barbie Doll Stacey052010Japanese Exclusive Francie Wedding Outfit #2201Japanese Exclusive Barbie Outfit #2621 Hot Pink KnitFashion Doll Case Tons Of Vintage Clothes & Doll/barbie & Tammy & Clones 60s-70sHandmade Ooak Outfit 5pc For Your Vintage Skipper Barbie Doll Stacey052010 Vintage Barbie Clothes Country Club Dance Dress # 1627Vintage Barbie Doll Outfit 1966 Shimmering Magic #1664 Complete N Mint Gorgeous!Vintage Lot Of 26 Pair Mattel Barbie Hose Stockings Some Rare Nm-mint #by42Vintage Skipper Barbie Doll Dressed In Velvet 3477 Dress Coat Stockings 70s PinkVintage Francie Barbie Doll Summer Number 3454 Mod 2 Piece Swimsuit Wrap 70sVintage Barbie Clothes Magnificience Htf # 16461960's Large Lot Of Vintage Barbie Clothing & Accessories TlcVintage Lot Of 20 Pair Of Mattel Barbie Shoes Assorted Colors Nm-mint #by40Pair Vintage Mattel Miss Barbie Doll Heads & Torsos Nm By54Vintage Barbie Wild N Wintery 70s Boots Coat Skirt Belt Top 3416 1971 ClothingVintage Barbie Outfit - Invitation To TeaVintage Barbie Clothes Large Lot Genuine Authentic Mattel Dresses Stewardess++!Vintage Skipper Clothes All Over Felt # 3476 Dress Coat Shoes PantyhoseJapanese Exclusive Francie Gold Satin DressVintage Barbie Clothes Lame'sheath (1963) HtfVintage Barbie Clothes Lot 60's 70's 80's Huge 3 PoundsVintage Barbie Fashion Stacey Sears Nite Lightning ~ TlcVintage Skipper Clothes Warn N Wonderful # 1959 Coat Dress Boots Hat StockingsVintage Francie Barbie Doll Merry Go Rounders 1230 Dress Coat Hat Stockings 1969Vintage Barbie ClothesVintage Skipper Dolls Sears Exclusice Bright 'n Breezy Set Romper Mint! *1day*Vintage Skipper Dolls Sears Exclusice Perfectly Pretty Set Dress N/ Mint! *1day*2 Vtg.barbie Swirls TlcHuge Lot Vintage 1960's Barbie Skipper Francie Midge Clothes Shoes + AccessoriesVintage Barbie Maxi N Midi Blue Foil Coat Boots Mini Dress 1799 70s 1970 SetVtg Barbie Lot Clothes As Found 1960s1960s Mod Dress, Hat, Purse Set Outfit Fits Barbie & Francie Vintage Barbie Special Sparkle 1468 Coat Skirt Top Hot Pink Set 70s 1970Vintage Skipper Dolls Sears Exclusice Perfectly Pretty Set Hat N/ Mint! *1day*Custom Made Music Center Matinee In PeachFashion Doll Case Tons Of Vintage Clothes & Doll/barbie & Tammy Clones 1960s-70sVintage Barbie Outfit On The Avenue #1644 Needs Tlc1960's Large Lot Of Vintage Barbie Ken Skipper Swim Suits TlcVintage Lot Of 7 Pair Of Francie Stockings Nm-mint #by33~ Barbie Francie & Casey Style Setters Outfit ~ Complete! #1268Lilli Babs Wendy Barbie Clone With Clothes Vintage LotAmazing Lot Of Mattel Barbie Access Rare Grey Cat Microphone + Much More #by47Vintage Lot Of 15 Assorted Living & Tnt Barbie Swim Suits + Extras Nm #by31Vintage Barbie & Family Doll Clothing Lot! 60's~ Vintage Barbie Doll Skipper Day At The Fair ~ Complete Outfit & Dolly