All Dolled Up
There’s a question we’re asked many times during our lives—it’s one of curiosity, but also one that helps someone understand us. The answer to “How did you become interested in what you’re doing?” whether it be in reference to a career, hobby or talent or personal style reveals our inner selves.
Commonly a career is something that began formulating in childhood, helping to mold who we are today. As a wardrobe stylist, my inspiration sprung from some of the usual suspects of my growing up: Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Brooke Shields, Seventeen magazine and my mom. It wasn’t until meeting Connie White, a dentist and professor at the University of Kansas City-Missouri School of Dentistry, that I found myself entertaining more serious thoughts about Barbie as a contender for my career-of-choice.
Sound silly? Let me explain.
I attended an event at the enchanting Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City earlier this year. During conversation with Connie, I discovered she was the docent of the museum’s Barbie display, which is extensive and fascinating. She proudly revealed that more than half of the dolls are from her personal collection—but what really intrigued me was Connie’s unabashed enthusiasm for how Barbie impacted her life.
Connie was smartly dressed in a bright yellow jacket over a black-and-white print dress and sported a lovely and vibrant shade of red lipstick. She shared with me that as a young girl, Barbie helped her “dream her dreams,” both professionally and fashionably. Connie was unabashedly passionate about her inanimate mentor, and I was anxious to learn more.
More than once, Connie expressed her love of color, attributing it to Barbie’s vast assortment of stylish and color-drenched outfits. If you’re reading this and grew up with Barbie in the 1960s and 70s, you know exactly what I mean. Barbie dressed in sunshine.
Connie showed me her collection of dolls displayed perfectly in a glass armoire at the museum, pointing out the artistically designed suits and dresses fashioned for Barbie. In our little girl eyes, the 1960s Barbie mimicked America’s beloved style icon, Jacqueline Kennedy, right down to the pillbox hat and ball gowns.
Connie playfully admitted how her own fashion choices, including a signature style of wearing rainbow brights and splashy colors, are credited to the dreamy doll.
When I think of Barbie, the color pink pops into my nostalgic conscience. While pink is not one of the seven rainbow colors, it is forever associated with femininity, and particularly little girls. In the late 1960s the bright bubble gum color was trademarked as “Barbie Pink.”
At 13 years old, I wasn’t playing with and dressing my dolls so much anymore. I moved on to putting outfits together for my mom, who divorced and started a real estate career when I was a young teen. She started paying far more attention to her professional wardrobe, in addition to her new dating look.
Mom allowed me to assemble her outfits for a night on the town dancing with her friends at The Phoenix or the former City Lights on the Plaza. Her look reflected confidence and class with a little sass. Although Barbie Pink was not a primary color in Mom’s wardrobe, I remember a pair of rose pink, ankle strap open-toed heels holding a special place in her closet. We fondly referred to them as her dancing shoes.
It’s been decades since most of us have even considered Barbie—perhaps buying them for daughters or nieces—but not really considering the magical spell she cast in our young lives. We might agree with Connie White that our girlhood experiences with Barbie dolls may have helped shaped our fashion sense, playing a part in how we dress in the 21st century. Barbie turned 50 three years ago, but she is still the belle of the ball.
The pink-tinged stardust from my career of playing with Barbie, dressing her in the hottest fashion du jour with perfectly appointed miniature accessories, definitely filtered into my adult career as a wardrobe stylist. Thanks for the memories—and the fashion sense—Barbie.
Visit It’s So U at itssouwardrobe.com for fashion and wardrobe tips.