The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and had a signature topknot ponytail. The doll was available as either a blonde or brunette. The doll was marketed as a “Teen-age Fashion Model,” with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson.

Barbie was created by Ruth Handler, Inventor, Wife and Mother. Ruth’s vision was to create a 3-D doll for girls to play out their dreams. Then, in 1959, the first Barbie doll, made its debut at the New York Toy Fair.

Barbies actual official name is believed to be ‘Barbara Millicent Roberts’, named after Ruth’s daughter, Barbara. Barbie is an 11-inch- (29-cm-) tall plastic doll with the figure of an adult woman that was introduced on March 9, 1959, by Mattel, Inc., a southern California toy company. Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel with her husband, Elliot, spearheaded the introduction of the doll. March 9th 1959 is recorded as ‘Barbies official birthday’.

According to Mattel, Barbie is officially a 17-year-old girl and her little sister Chelsea is officially a 6-year-old.

Twenty-three clothing outfits were available for Barbie in 1959 including her original black and white zebra striped swimsuit, along with Barbie shoes (with holes on the sole, to fit on the stand prongs for display of the doll. Over the years there have been many fashion outfits for Barbies.

The manufacturers Mattel extended the ‘story’ of Barbie by introducing her doll boyfriend Ken (the name of the Handlers son) to the toy range. The Ken doll is officially named Kenneth Sean “Ken” Carson (1961–1967, 1969–present) Ken has been Barbie’s ‘boyfriend’ for much of the character’s existence.

To build on the story around the Barbie doll, the story from the Barbie Publicist was that the dolls after 43 years ‘together “Barbie and Ken had decided that breaking up is hard to do, but do it they must. … This is an announcement we thought we’d never make. I will confirm that Ken and Barbie are going to go their separate ways.” said Barbie Publicist Ken Sunshine. However, the dolls story continued that Barbie had a new love in her life, an Australian surfer named Blaine”

Barbie was based on an American girl but the British version ‘The Sindy doll’ was launched in September 1963. The Sindy dolls were produced by Hasbro, Pedigree Dolls & Toys and Mattel classed as a fashion doll as well.

In the decade that followed Sindy was to have many more fashions and accessories as well as a boyfriend whose name was Paul, a little sister called Patch and friends Vicki, Mitzi, Poppet and Betsy.

Sindy’s first range included her iconic ‘Weekender’ outfit supported by eight other themed dolls – Sleepy Time, Undie-World, Dream Date, Lunch Date, Skating Girl, Shopping-in-the-Rain, Pony Club and Country Walk.

For her anniversary range Sindy had fourteen great new looks – Great British Sindy, Style Blogger, Shopping Spree, Festival Sindy, Ice Dancer, PJ Party, Sindy’s Got Talent, Pool Party, Garden Party, School Prom, Winter Fun, Country Life, Animal Print and Swinging 60s.

Sindy also acquired a scooter, beautiful bedroom furniture, a bath, camping set, horse and even an ironing board, iron, clothes horse, washing line and pegs!

Sindy originally could be bought with either pale blonde, auburn, or black hair, traditionally styled with a centre parting. Her rooted eyelashes however were always black.


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Material(s) Plastic
Item number MBPO256

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Which doll did you have Barbie or Sindy?
  • What were the fashion outfits your doll had?
  • Did you have other accessories for the doll?

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