Thursday, January 7, 2010

Barbie: A doll, or a lifestyle?

I've been wondering as I've been looking at Barbie pictures, and there is Barbie
mansions (Yes, actual houses with lots of pink), Buildings with pictures of
Barbie plastered everywhere and gift shops and spas, she's been in Nordstrom
in the beauty department and M.A.C makeup stores, shes been everywhere.
But what puzzles me is it a doll, or a lifestyle? Because everywhere you see, there
she is! I have to say, i am a fan of Barbie, but still, why is she plastered everywhere?
And how did it happen?

(Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by the
American toy-company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler (1916-2002) is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.)
And, i'm German (99% German) So yeah that makes me happy about it was inspired
by the German doll, Bild Lilli. In fact, Barbie looks like Bild Lilli:
I love the Bild Lilli doll, it looks very elegant, it shows what German women really
look like. And basically, Barbie was copying Bild Lilli, if Barbie wasn't invented,
Bild Lilli would be very popular now (Not saying that i hate Barbie!!)

(The Bild Lilli Doll was a German fashion doll produced from 1955 to 1964, based on the comic-strip character Lilli. She is the predecessor of Barbie. In the beginning Lilli was a German cartoon character, created by Reinhard Beuthien for the tabloid Bild-Zeitung in Hamburg, Germany. In 1953 the Bild-Zeitung decided to market a Lilli doll and contacted Max Weissbrodt from the toy company O&M Hausser in Neustadt/Coburg, Germany. Following Beuthien's drawings Weissbrodt designed the prototype of the doll which was on sale from 1955 to 1964 when Mattel acquired the rights to the doll so the German production had to stop. Until then production numbers reached 130,000. Today Lilli is a collector's piece as Barbie is, and commands prices of several thousand Euros, dependant on condition, packaging and clothes.)

The original Bild Lilli

1950's original Barbie

So what i wonder if everyone still knows about the comic strip Lilli?

(Reinhard Beuthien was ordered to make a "filler" to conceal a blank space in the Bild-Zeitung of June 24, 1952. He drew a cute baby, but his boss didn't like it. So he kept the face, added a ponytail and a curvy woman's body and called his creation "Lilli". She sat in a fortune-teller's tent asking: "Can't you tell me the name and address of this rich and handsome man?" The cartoon was an immediate success so Beuthien had to draw new ones each day.

Lilli was post-war, sassy and ambitious and had no reservations talking about it. As she had her own job she earned her own money as a secretary but wasn't above hanging out with rich men ("I could do without balding old men but my budget couldn't!"). The cartoon always consisted of a picture of Lilli talking to girlfriends, boyfriends, her boss ("As you were angry when I was late this morning I will leave the office at five p.m. sharp!"). The quips underneath the cartoons handled topics ranging from fashion (to a policeman who told her that two-piece-swimsuits are banned: "Which piece do you want me to take off?"), politics ("Of course I'm interested in politics; no one should ignore the way some politicians dress!") and even the beauty of nature ("The sunrise is so beautiful that I always stay late at the nightclub to see it!"). The last Lilli cartoon appeared on January 5, 1961.)

What about the Bild Lilli doll?

(Lilli was available in the sizes 30 cm (12 inches) and 19 cm (7 and a half inches). She held three patents absolutely new in doll-making: The head wasn't connected to the neck but ended at the chin; the hair wasn't rooted but a cut-out scalp that was attached by a hidden metal screw; the legs didn't sprawl open when she was sitting. The doll was made of plastic and had molded eyelashes, pale skin and a painted face with side glancing eyes, high narrow eyebrows and red lips. Her fingernails were painted red, too. She wore her hair in a ponytail with one curl kissing the forehead. Her shoes and earrings were molded on. Her limbs were attached inside by coated rubber bands. The cartoon Lilli was blonde but a few of the dolls had other hair colours. Each Lilli doll carried a miniature Bild-Zeitung and was sold in a clear plastic tube.

In 1955 the tall dolls cost 12 Marks, the small 7.50 Marks. German office workers then had a monthly salary of approximately 200 to 300 Marks, so the doll was by no means a cheap toy. She was originally marketed to adults in bars and tobacco shops as a joke or gag gift. Many parents considered her not appropriate for children. Ariel Levy refers to her as a "sex doll" in Female Chauvinist Pigs. A German brochure from the 1950s states that Lilli was "always discreet," and that her wardrobe made her "the star of every bar." Although the doll was originally not designed as a children's toy, she eventually became popular with children. Doll houses, room settings, furniture, and other toy accessories to scale with the small Lilli were produced by German toy factories to cash in on her popularity amongst children and parents. Lilli and her fashions were sold as children's toys in a number of European countries, including Italy and Scandinavian states. Lilli was as high-profiled and successful as a toy as she was as an adult novelty, although outside of Germany she is mostly remembered in the latter guise.)

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