A life-size Barbie head sporting raspberry lipstick, a plethora of Barbie dolls stored in a filing cabinet and several more lined up along the walls serve as the decor for Christiana Langenberg’s office.
Langenberg, academic adviser and professor in English, teaches the class “Write like a Woman.” According to the class syllabus, every semester students write a story featuring Barbie as the main character.
Many would say Barbie’s influence extends beyond Langenberg’s classroom. Moschino’s “Think Pink” spring 2015 Runway Capsule collection imitated Barbie’s look. The collection included high-end items ranging from a vanity mirror iPhone case to a raspberry cropped leather jacket and matching skirt. Andrea Knight, freshman in fashion business at Columbia College Chicago, said the line is “brilliant.”
“I love the risk of a Barbie-themed collection,” Knight said. “It could come off easily very tacky, but I believe Moschino worked with the theme in a way that was absolutely brilliant.”
In the wake of Moschino’s runway show, Forever 21 launched the "Barbie Loves Forever 21" collection. According to a Forever 21 press release, the collection offers an array of “doll-tastic items," including T-shirts, bodysuits, cosmetic cases and hairbrushes.
“I love that the looks are so clean cut and simple,” Knight said. “The items of clothing are all very versatile when it comes to choosing outfits.”
Designer Joi Mahon, owner of Dress Forms Design Studio LLC, suggested pulling inspiration from Moschino’s line rather than the actual clothing to achieve a subtle, Barbie-inspired look.
“From a design perspective you can look at any one of these designs and use them as inspiration to design garments that are more for every day,” Mahon said.
Mahon mentioned a pale pink gown decorated in black polka dots from the Moschino line. She said transforming the dress into a simple skirt in the same color, pattern and fabric is an alternative to the gown.
Knight said emulating Barbie through her personal style is a tribute to her idolization of Barbie as a child.
“While I was growing up, so many girls idolized Barbie,” Knight said. “We strived to grow up and be Barbie. Now that my era of women is older, we have the chance to be Barbie.”
Sarah Bennett, lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management, said Barbie has a greater influence on how she views clothing rather than the specific attire she wears.
“I think it has more to do with how I think about clothes than the visual aesthetic of how I dress,” Bennett said. “I have fun with clothes.”
Knight said the messages the fashion industry sends to consumers by channeling Barbie are both positive and negative. A negative is the doll’s influence on body image.
Langenberg said the Barbie doll’s physiological proportions are “ridiculous” and questioned if labels launching Barbie-inspired lines are marketing to these unrealistic proportions. She also addressed the generic look across a variety of different Barbie dolls.
“I think people need to take issue with the fact she has the same body no matter who she is,” Langenberg said.
Mahon said that compared to images of the ideal body displayed by media, Barbie is less of a threat to corruption of body image.
“Those are more detrimental than a doll,” Mahon said.
Regardless of the social implications behind Barbie’s fame, many would say she is essential to the fashion industry.
“I think Barbie could be sought as an important icon to the fashion world,” Knight said. “She truly is the world’s most sought-out, plastic and silicon fashionista.”
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