I find myself increasingly enthusiastic about what Barbie will bring in 2016. After several years of indifference except for an occasional repro, I have seen several upcoming and current dolls--some play line, even--that are returning Barbie to my dolly-centric happy place.
I have always yearned for articulated Barbies. As a small child, I received Skipper and Skooter and loved them. A year or so later, my brother received his first G.I. Joe. I was so envious of all the things the Joes could do with their bendable limbs. True, the joints had visible screws, but he was so versatile and I longed for my dolls to be able to do those things in their adorable outfits.
Fast-forward a few years to “Living Barbie”. I loved her poseability and eyelashes, and she had many back yard adventures. The one thing I didn’t care for was her “mod” face. I was sorely disappointed that the vintage Barbie face and hairdos went away, just at the time I was considered old enough for real Barbies and not just the little sister dolls. I eventually acquired a Marx Jane West figure, but she was so clunky-feeling and was molded into her turquoise western wear--but she could ride a horse! There was also the mod Dollikin, but she couldn’t share most of Barbie’s wardrobe because of her large hip joints.
As many years have passed, I have continued my love for the vintage Barbie style. At first, when I stumbled across modern dolls that caught my fancy, I felt guilty. But it became easier as I was able to just walk into a store and buy a doll, instead of having to wait for a doll show or get a quarterly mailing list and wait for a doll to come in the mail. There were a few poseable dolls here and there but they didn’t fulfill all my wishes. I was especially annoyed with the Model Muse figure, which can’t even sit down. Many of those have particularly beautiful hair and faces but can’t sit on the pink Jonathon Adler sofa or anywhere else.
I grew to love the Silkstones, with their vintage faces and beautiful hairstyles. They were fun to dress but didn’t always fit the vintage fashions and I was afraid of breaking them. Then the dolls with pivotal bodies showed up at Barbie Collector, but that body wasn‘t frequently used. Barbie play line dolls have had some jointed offerings, but their figures don’t match the proportions of the others. I have swapped out a lot of collector doll heads onto these bodies but rarely am I completely satisfied.
I started buying Integrity dolls. I love them, but they are expensive. In the last few years, I found myself buying fewer and fewer Barbies from Barbie Collector, and was venturing back into vintage. Maybe it’s just my perception, but vintage prices seem to be going lower and I am finding more unloved dolls in antique malls.
Then this fall, it was announced that the 2016 Silkstone Barbies were to be articulated. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read that. I had even bought a Silkstone head to swap onto an Integrity body. I started seeing people’s pictures of the Made To Move play line Barbies, and rushed to Toys R Us and Target to get some for myself. Their proportions aren’t very adult, but it’s been great fun to sit them cross-legged and plan for some springtime ventures into the back yard.
After years of declining details and quality from current Mattel offerings, I had just accepted that vintage Barbie was a satisfying place for my attention and money. I now wonder if the growing interest in the field of design, particularly from “Project Runway Junior” has made Mattel think that teens, ‘tweens and their parents are a valuable audience. It seems like more stylish Barbies are making their way into the store, although not completely replacing neon pink fairies, princesses and “rockers” offered. Silkstones with articulation are being introduced for adult collectors, and although the first reviews are mostly negative, at least the collector’s division is trying something new.
I am looking forward to seeing what Mattel creates in the future. I know there has been a lot of apprehension among adult collectors that collector-level Barbies may be diminishing in number, as they have in quality, so recent developments have me very hopeful. I still can’t corral myself into one category of dolls, so I will just be happy with having so many choices to enjoy!