Monday, July 13, 2009

hey there Barbie girl

D.C. hosted a Barbie convention this past weekend, which also coincided with the famous doll's 50th anniversary. On Saturday the sales floor and a few exhibits were open to the public. I took my daughter and we had a blast. I'm sure that some eyes will be rolling simultaneously with others' pangs of jealousy. I've always loved dolls.

When I was a kid my first dolls were a baby doll and two bride dolls. I loved the baby doll, but not so much the bride dolls - they were a little big in size, and I wasn't really sure how to play with them. But they could wear earrings, which was pretty cool. I wasn't a stuffed animal kind of girl and I don't think ever played with the Raggedy Ann I received as a gift.

My cousins passed down to me their fashion doll, a rival to Barbie, which I think was called Tammy, complete with clothes and carrying case. Her proportions were fuller - she was the same height as a Barbie but a little plumper, still had her baby fat.

I got my first Barbie at about the age of five. Apart from the ability to role-play and spin fantasies, of course the main appeal for the doll was the ability to change clothes. My baby doll could drink water and then in a few minutes pee and wet her clothes, which was always exciting - until Barbie. I got another Barbie years later, who had hair you could curl and style, but in the brief time from when I really wanted her and to when I actually got her I actually outgrew her. I barely played with her at all. But she was there at the convention too, complete with her pink granny dress.

My grandmother was a seamstress. She specialized in bridal gowns, but she also made clothes for herself, for her family, and to fit my baby dolls, and my cousins' dolls, and eventually my Barbie. She inspired me to make clothes for Barbie, too. I think my first creation was a tube dress made from one of my old socks which had lost its mate. It was bright red and she looked fabulous. As I got older, my designs became a bit more sophisticated.

I never really liked how Ken looked, but Barbie didn't lack for male friends, as we used empty Batman and Robin bubble bath containers. They were way cooler than Ken and also got my brother to play dolls with me. Of course Barbie in these instances was usually Batgirl.

Once my daughter was born she soon showed an affinity for dolls, too, especially baby dolls. When Walmart stocked Barbie as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I had to get it for her and my pseudo-collecting began. I say pseudo-, because I took them out of the box and let her play with them, but I definitely crossed over into buying specialty Barbies.

Yesterday we mainly just had a good time looking at all the amazing dolls (Sid and Nancy!) and their paraphernalia and marveling at the cost of some of the vintage models. I was really surprised when I saw that my original Barbie, a twist and turn model, had quite a high price and seemed in demand. I asked at one booth why so much for that doll, when much older models were less, and the proprietor couldn't answer, but another young woman who was checking out the displays explained that this particular doll had a "forward stare" which is rare in Barbie-land, at least for the time she came out, as most dolls were looking demurely to the side, which makes her more rare. Hmmm. For me it was always the neon plaid bathing suit which made her stand out.

Anyway, we walked from booth to booth and occasionally would see her, but always out of price range. But I took a photo. As we hit the second-to-last aisle I saw her again, but this time at a much lower price and the vendor was also marking everything down 20% as there was only a half hour left for the public viewing.

I don't have to tell you that I went for it. The question is, will she ever come out of the box? Or maybe this Barbie, apart from bringing back some fond memories, might help in fifteen years, to send the kid to college. Or at least finance some part of it. Thanks, Barbie.


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