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    

Rare Htf Vintage Standard Barbie Tnt Mold Barbie Cinnamon Hair Pink Straightleg Vintage Barbie Huge Lot Of Barbie & Ken Clothes Most Have Issues Vintage Huge Lot Of Barbie Midge Dolls Outfits Clothes Shoes Accessories CaseVintage Original Barbie Japanese Exclusive Raspberry Suit Circa Late 1960sRare Htf Vintage American Girl Midge Titian Page Boy! Straight Leg Barbie BodyVintage Barbie Japanese Exclusive Rare Plaid Wool Suit With Hat Circa 1960sRare Htf Vintage American Girl Midge Brunette Page Boy! Straight Leg Barbie BodyLarge Lot Of Vintage Barbie And Family Accessories...some Hard To FindVintage Mattel Barbie Japanese Exclusive Sleeping Pretty Circa 1960sVintage Barbie Clothes Midnight Blue W/accessories # 1617 Complete NiceRare Htf Vintage Mod Francie Tnt Platinum Bendleg Twiggy Beautiful Nr!Vintage Barbie Doll Ponytail B-4 1961 With Case And ClothsHuge Lot Of Mod Vintage Doll Shoes, Some Barbie, Skipper, Tammy, Kiddles & MoreVintage Barbie Japanese Exclusive Red Jumper With Belt Circa 1960sVintage Francie Dress Midi Bouquet With Matching Scarf Vintage 1969 Barbie 1493 Fab Fur SetVintage Barbie Huge Lot Of Barbie Accessories Most Have Issues Htf Vintage Barbie Fashion Luncheon Hat Mint1960's Vintage Barbie And Ken Completer Lot 58 Pieces .99 Start No Reserve!!Vintage Barbie Clothes Pink "in The Swim" (1964-65) Htf Vintage Early 60s Barbie & Midge Doll Clothing & Accessories1960s Barbie Lot- Japan- Clothes- Ect.Rare Htf Vintage Barbie Clothes American Girl Era Outdoor Life 1637 CompleteRare Htf Vintage Blonde Tnt Face Flip With Bangs Older Straight Leg Barbie BodyBarbie, Skipper, Tutti, Francie. Years 1965-1967.Vintage Barbie, Ken, Skipper, & Midge Dolls, Cases, Clothes & Accessories Lot Vintage Barbie Fashion Luncheon Jacket MintVintage Barbie Skipper Fashions Clothes LotVintage Lot Of Barbie Doll Accessories Mattel 1960's No Reserve On Auction !!!Htf Vintage Skipper Junior Bridesmaid Hat Mint Vintage Barbie Flower Wower Dress MintVintage Knock Off Barbie Doll Clone Outfit Red Velvet Dress Gold Chain BeltVintage Barbie Halina’s Doll Fashions Chicago- Yellow Gown Rhinestones- 1960'sVintage Skipper Clothes Me N My Doll # 1913 Vintage Barbie Fashion Luncheon Dress MintVintage Clothing For Skipper Mattel 1960's Metal Snaps Vintage Francie First Formal Cape MintVintage Barbie Clothes Slumber Party W/accessories # 1642Vintage Barbie 1963 "knitting Pretty" Outfit #957 - CompleteVintage Barbie Doll Gay Parisienne #964 Htf Original Fashion 1959Vintage Barbie Clothes Case Dolls 1960s Barbie 1966 Sears Exclusive Pink Formal Tinkled Dress Vintage Barbie Clothes - Dresses - Shirts And MoreVintage Barbie Francie Ken Huge Lot Accessories Japan Ot Shoes Gloves Socks Etc!Vintage Barbie Sweet 16 #7796 Birthday Gift Outfit Nrfb! Vintage Barbie Clothes Aboard Ship # 1631Vintage Knock Off Barbie Doll Clone Outfit Red White Striped Dress British Crown1970 Mattel Barbie Case W/ 3 Dolls And Lots Of Cloths And Accessories Vintage Barbie Black Camera Mint Vintage Barbie Clear With Gold Glitter Open Toe Shoes One Marked Japan Mint Vintage Barbie London Tour Hat Mint Vintage Barbie Golden Elegance Dress MintVintage 1960 Barbie Friday Night Date #979 Vintage Barbie London Tour Jacket Mint Vintage Barbie London Tour Purse Mint Vintage Barbie Student Teacher Globe Mint Vintage Barbie Thick Orange Pak Belt MintLot Of Vintage Barbie Clothes And AccessoriesGrowing Up Skipper Fashions No. 9022 And 9023 Nrfb Tlc Fab Fur #1493 Barbie Doll Vintage Fashion 1970 Complete As Is Tlc