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Barbie opens dream closet to explore high-fashion, culture

March 18, 2016

The limited-edition Barbie Lagerfeld The limited-edition Barbie Lagerfeld


Toymaker Mattel’s high-fashion loving Barbie doll is the subject of a new museum exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris to trace the beloved toy’s roots and cultural impact.

Barbie has been a source of conflict and an inspiration since her debut in 1959, sparking conversations about fetishized bodies, female independence and the lasting impression the doll has left on generations of children. The exhibit, simply titled “Barbie,” uses the doll as a catalyst to show how society has changed since Barbie’s debut through the use of more than 700 of the toys.

A Barbie girl, living in a Barbie world
Opened as of March 10, the Barbie exhibit is the first of its kind for a French museum, with displays tracing the toy’s design collections, fashion, accessories and advertising. Essentially, the exhibit examines American culture and the evolution of fashion, albeit in tiny outfits, over the last 55 years.

The exhibit begins with the original Barbie and continues to her first bathing suit in 1959 and follows her embrace of every fashion trend in between, including her being a “fashion victim” in 2015, as Karl Lagerfeld’s World of Karl blog explained. Likewise, Barbie has had various occupations over the years, including stints as an astronaut, the president, a veterinarian and more than 150 other serious and more playful employs.

Along with changing fashion, Barbie has also morphed along with ideals of the female body from downright unrealistic to more representative of real women. The exhibit includes Barbie’s just-launched different silhouettes, available in four types, as well as the doll’s seven skin tones and more than 20 different eye and hair colors.

karl and barbie lagerfeld

Barbie Lagerfeld and Karl Lagerfeld share a moment

Barbie’s dream closet is also something to envy. The exhibit includes more than 700 Barbie outfits designed by well-known designers, including Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Louboutin, Moschino (see story) and Karl Lagerfeld, among others.

Mr. Lagerfeld, for instance, created a look-alike Barbie doll that was sold for approximately $200 at select Karl Lagerfeld brand stores,, Net-A-Porter and Colette in Paris. Limited to only 999 pieces, which sold out almost immediately, the doll was fashioned to resemble Mr. Lagerfeld’s signature style and was inspired by his likeness and the designs of his eponymous label (see story).

The exhibit will be open until Sept. 18. Additional information for the exhibit can be found here.