Living in a Barbie World

Today I got a card from eBay thanking me for seven years of doing business with it, which reminded me of my first eBay purchase: Francie, Barbie’s Mod cousin, issued in the mid-1960’s. This happened around my 40th birthday, an event that in my mother’s case inspired her to dye her hair blond and acquire a canary. I’d look pretty silly as a blonde, and a canary wouldn’t last long around our four cats, so I ended up going on eBay and acquiring one of my favorite childhood dolls, which led to more acquisitions. Here’s Francie on the left with Barbie in the center and Stacey (Barbie’s British friend)on the right:

I don’t buy many Barbies these days, but before I eased up I had succeeded in replacing many of my childhood dolls, all of which had been stolen from my parents’ house years ago. (Barbie thieves, there’s a little pink circle in hell meant especially for you.) I bought new Barbies too, including this Barbie and Midge, who feature on my website redressed in other Barbie clothes as two of my characters, Queen Isabella and Eleanor de Clare. (Isabella’s the blond Barbie, Eleanor the redheaded Midge.)

So what does this have to do with historical fiction, you might ask? Only this: I credit Barbie with my development as a writer, for long before I could write stories on paper, I was enacting them using Barbie and her friends, who became characters in an ongoing drama that lasted well into my 11th year. As my female dolls greatly outnumbered my male dolls, this occasionally affected my storylines–but just as with historical fiction you have to work within the known facts, with the Barbie world, you have to work within there being only so many Kens to go around.

8 thoughts on “Living in a Barbie World”

  1. Margaret Evans Porter

    My Barbie ditched Ken to carry on a torrid affair with my little brother’s GI Joe.

    And my Barbies, and all other dolls–and paperdolls–had a fairly extensive wardrobe of historical costume!

    I liked my Francie best. Her expression was nicer, in my opinion, than Barbie’s.

  2. I dimly remember that I nicked my brother’s Action Men. Ken was never my type 🙂 I don’t think I ever got to the end of a story, though.

  3. elena maria vidal

    I can’t believe this!!! I am not alone!!! I acted out stories with my Barbies, too. Yes, G.I. Joe supplanted Ken in most of the stories. (He was a bearded G.I. Joe with a scar, much more dashing than wimpy Malibu Ken.) Yes, the dolls would be everything from a highly dysfunctional medieval family to a prolific pioneer clan travelling west (my sister had a miniature covered wagon which would be conviscated for the journey.) I had a red-haired Barbie- not Stacey – she had long auburn hair with wires in it, perfect for elaborate 18th century coiffures!

  4. Susan Higginbotham

    I didn’t have any brothers, so G.I. Joe or other action figures didn’t visit unless one of my friends brought them over. I think I had an Alan and two Kens, and a slew of Barbies and other gals, so there was a high divorce rate in order for all the gals to get a chance to wear the Barbie wedding gowns.

    I would definitely take GI Joe over Malibu Ken.

  5. I came across this blog while searching for medieval barbie-clothes. I'm remaking old barbies, but I would never touch my own ones.

    They all had a first and last name (the two that were exactly the same, where twins). I had two Ken's and as one of them was quite 'old looking' in my opinion, that one became the father of 'many'. Poor Ken, my family of barbie dolls became quite intriguing at some point, as I've made a town for them and got them all jobs. It was a real soap opera 😛

    I remember one time playing with my barbiedolls and the kid next door came with his Action men, because he searched for fair ladies to rescue. Damn that action man was build, my barbie dolls didn't know what they saw!

  6. Susan Higginbotham

    Welcome, im-arthemis! I remember back when hijacking was in the news in the late 1960's, my Barbies were ALWAYS getting hijacked. It wasn't easy being Barbie!

  7. LOL, This was a fun post to read! I'm only 25, but I pretty much did the exact same thing with my dolls; I only had one Ken, one Skipper, a pack of Barbies, and a white ferari (which I still have).

    My favorite was a pale-skinned, dark-haired barbie with the full-lipped Mackie mouth; I took her to daycare with me when I was about 9, and the leading bully ripped her head off. I kept her, however, and eventually renamed her after reading a kids' history book about English monarchs. Guess which queen I named her after.

    Yep. I named her Anne Boleyn. She is still my favorite doll, and Anne Boleyn is still my favorite historical person. Currently I'm working on making a Tudor-style gown for her.

  8. Susan Higginbotham

    I'd love to see that gown some time, Anonymous! And I hope the daycare bully has met a suitable fate.

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