In her 57 years of existence, Barbie has seen some changes. She's had several career moves, broken up with Ken, gotten back together with Ken, had different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and undergone slight tweaks to her figure. But as a whole, Barbie's oft-criticised anatomy has remained ostensibly the same (read: small-waisted, large-breasted, and very slim).
What has this physical appearance meant for Mattel's young consumers? According to a 2006 study published in the journal Developmental Psychology, girls who were exposed to Barbie at a young age reported lower body esteem than girls with less exposure. However, these revelations and blunt criticism from concerned parents didn't spark a product evolution—until now.
Available for preorder exclusively at Mattel Shop, Barbie now comes in three new body shapes (petite, curvy, and tall), seven skin tones, 22 eye colours (yes, 22), and 24 hairstyles. Tania Missad, director of consumer insights for the company, says in a video on the Barbie website, "We have to let girls know it doesn't matter what shape you come in—that anything is possible."
Adds a wise-beyond-her-years young girl seated behind the new dolls, "It's important for Barbies to look different—you know, like the real people in the world?"
As for the parents, Time reports that Mattel held several focus groups to heed their reactions, and many were positive: "Though young moms might be the most vocal on social media when it comes to Barbie's body, Mattel's extensive surveys show that moms across the country care about diversity in terms of color and body, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic position."
Understandably, some mothers were still a bit skeptical. Says one woman, "I wish that she were curvier. There are shapes that are curvier and still are beautiful. My daughter definitely has curves, and I would want to give her a doll like that. It's a start, I guess."
Barbie Global has seen steep drops in revenue in recent years, most notably in 2014 with the rise of the Elsa doll. Could this be due to the image and positivity that the Frozen character evokes, especially when pitted against a previously single-size Barbie? We're not sure, but we're interested to see how the new installation of dolls does for the company and, more importantly, young children across the globe.
In keeping with Barbie's more inclusive line of dolls, we thought we'd share a Barbie-approved color that looks great on every skin tone: hot pink. Try Charlotte Tilbury's Matte Revolution Lipstick (£23) in Lost Cherry.
What do you think of the new Barbies? Sound off below!
Opening Image: Mattel