"Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly", Barbie Girl, Aqua 1997
I am not a Barbie girl. More like a frenemy. Sure, my sisters and I had a few Barbies- from a basic Barbie to the more particular, but they were worse for the wear. Malibu Barbie was left in the sun for days and then locked in a drawer for weeks to mess up her tanning skills. I over-spun the arm on Growing Up Skipper to see how fast I could reverse the effects of puberty. We tried to erase the make up on Angel Face Barbie, and every Barbie got a buzz cut.
We didn't hate Barbie. Not at all. We just liked changing her. And more than that, we loved her lifestyle- the fabulous gear in day-glow colors, 1970s vibe and that distinctly Barbie plastic smell. It's probably that thinking about that sickly sweet smell that brought me to the Barbie The Icon exhibit at Rome's Museo del Risorgimento.
Wedged in the back of the Vittoriano, the oversized white monument in the very center of Rome, the Barbie show is a a chronological catwalk in miniature- 380 dolls in five areas of full Barbie immersion, beginning with Semplicemente Barbie, a visual history of evolution of the doll, and then to areas covering careers, divas and Barbie representing different nations. The Barbie is easy- she has been, well, Barbie, since 1959 and for the record, she started off life as a brunette named Barbara Millicent Robert. She has friends, a serious range jobs and has traveled around the world. The show is worth it just to see the collections in their entirety - hello, Bob Mackey! Most of the dolls come from Antonio Russo, Barbie Italia's No. 1 and one of the world's top collector.
The best part of the Barbie the Icon show? The Barbie Life section, a Mattel flashback to my Age of Barbie with homes, cars and pools. While my sister and I never achieved DreamHouse heights or camped out with the Country Camper, we had three fundamental Barbie products that to this day bring a smile to my face:
- The Townhouse. For one day only, we set up and played with that Townhouse , a slick plastic multi-leveled apartment with yank-pull elevator, until we grudgingly gave to my mom's friends after a fire destroyed their home.
- The Afghan Hound. My sister owned the Afghan Hound, a long haired, long legged, long snout pooch which she heroically saved after a mysterious deep sea dive to the drain at the bottom of the Faris’ pool. Its hair never recovered.
- The ‘Vette. My gorgeous 1980s hot pink Chevy 'vette (I did not have the Ultra) that I rolled through my house while I singing Prince's Little Red Corvette.
What's your favorite Barbie gear?