In July 2023, Barbie, the next film from Oscar-nominated director Greta Gerwig, is set to hit theaters. A year after its release date, the film, which stars Margot Robbie as the iconic plastic doll and Ryan Gosling as her faithful lover Ken, is already generating tons of buzz online due to paparazzi pictures of its costumed stars at work.
You’d have to live under a rock to avoid the photos: Robbie and Gosling in fringed pink cowboy gear, bell bottoms and pure white Stetsons. Robbie sporting extra-long blonde extensions. Gosling looking like a country and western Elvis.
The accoutrements, which are rumored were designed by Gerwig’s former collaborator, Jacqueline Durran, are unbalanced, and no one seems to be able to shut up about Barbie’s hysterical neon ensembles. In one shot, Robbie and Gosling can be seen dressed in tributes at 1995’s Hot Skatin’ Barbie: hot pink biker shorts, fluorescent-patterned vests, and highlighter-colored rollerblades topped with retro visors.
“The day-to-night Barbies of the late 80s and early 90s struck me as truly fascinating,” MG Lord, USC professor and author of Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll, told The Daily Beast. “They reflect the fact that so many women were working in the 1980s. Everything was fuchsia. I mean, get used to fuchsia and lime green. [Barbie’s] running this really over-the-top femininity to make up for having this “masculine” identity in the daytime. And there were still these polarized gender identities in the 90s. There was a recognized binary.
Even before filming Barbie photos began to leak, officially sanctioned snapshots of the cast members in character were making waves: the first image of Ryan Gosling wearing campy, Calvin Klein-inspired, Ken-branded underwear sparked a torrent of memes , and in April, our first glimpse of Margot Robbie as the title character sparked excitement that snowballed into a borderline feeding frenzy.
Despite the fact that the actual plot of the Barbie movie is still a closely guarded secret, a Barbie-inspired aesthetic fever already seems to be flowing into the real world.
On the upscale side, Valentino’s Fall/Winter 2022 show was packed with pink Barbie pantsuits, mini dresses and accessories; Anne Hathaway wore one of these ensembles to the Cannes Film Festival, and Gigi Hadid and Ariana Grande were also recently spotted in fuchsia Valentino looks.
This year, Balmain has teamed up with Barbie for a limited-edition collection-slash-NFT. Cheap pastel-hued Barbie options from ASOS and FUNBOY x BARBIE™ are also on trend.
On the celebrity front, the Kardashians have always aimed for perfection in a doll, but for her birthday party last week, Khloe Kardashian paired an all-pink ensemble with flowing blonde locks, unmistakably paying homage to the Barbie Girl. original.
Tuesday, a Vogue UK The title boldly declared sexy couple Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly, the “real Barbie and Ken.” Fox, dressed in a pink skirt and bra combo and sporting a pink-blonde wig, certainly looked the part at the premiere of her musician fiancé’s Hulu documentary, but as far as we know, Ken has never been done. tattoo the symbol of anarchy on his belly. (No offense MGK, I love you, etc.)
After his Madison Square Garden show this week, MGK also smashed a glass of champagne in his face at an afterparty, which we’re sure Ken never did. In fact, if Ken was ever photographed bleeding profusely from a self-inflicted head injury, Mattel would likely go bankrupt.
Why do we still give so much importance to Barbie, so long considered a regressive image of femininity, and why is her aesthetic – immediately seen and delighted on the big screen – so enduringly sticky? Working for Mattel, designer Carol Spencer helped create Barbie’s fashion looks from 1963 until her retirement in 1998. Spencer, who will celebrate her 90th birthday this year, even signs her “Barbie love, Carol” emails .
“To be understandable to a child, there has to be play value, and fashion-wise it had to be right where a child would understand it.”
— carol spencer
“Designers were responsible for adhering to criteria that [Barbie inventor] Ruth Handler had established,” Spencer told The Daily Beast. “To be understandable to a child, there has to be play value, and from a fashion point of view, it had to be right where a child would understand it. We had magazines, we were researching French couture, and we had to figure out what would be appealing to a child in 18 months, because that’s when it would actually hit the market.
Here’s the formula: Simplicity paired with diligent market research equals memorable outfits. “You know, my house is decorated in shades of off-white and pale blue,” Spencer added, “because I would come home and I should rest my eyes from all the pink.”
Fashions come and go, but since March 9, 1959, Barbie’s official “birthday” (she’s a Pisces), the iconic doll has maintained a steady grip on our cultural consciousness. Barbie arrived in space four years before NASA sent a man to the moon. Nicki Minaj superfans have long called themselves Barbz, a riff on the rapper’s “Harajuku Barbie” nickname. And who can forget this infernal pop song?
Barbie’s curvy, coveted figure was inspired by Lilli, a novelty adult toy based on a popular sex worker character in a German newspaper cartoon, but Barbie’s presence in the professional and domestic world served an amusing reflection of the shifting positions that women occupy in American culture.
Barbie was originally conceived as an educational tool for unsocialized young girls that would provide them with examples of how to appear and behave in middle-class society. As the doll’s popularity grew, a group of friends and of course her boyfriend, Ken, formed around Barbie, but it was never intended that Barbie would grow old, accumulate real responsibilities. or start a family. The doll has a kaleidoscope of jobs, but no co-workers. She enjoys endless leisure activities, but paying off the mortgage on her dream home is never discussed.
In other words, Barbie represents limitless, consequence-free possibilities, and her gargantuan closet is crucial in communicating the message that any lifestyle is possible.
“The reason it’s so tender is that we remember a much more innocent time.”
— MG Lord
“Starting in the ’70s, with the Get Up and Go line, I designed a Barbie surgeon,” Spencer said. “It was back when the National Organization for Women movement was going on, and we were putting all women first and trying to introduce something into the Barbie line that would give kids the opportunity to research their future in a way that they understand.”
So when we see movie stars decked out like the dolls we played with as children, the feelings we experience are powerfully complex. “The reason it’s so tender is because we remember a much more innocent time,” Lord said.
Despite the passive female stereotypes her critics thought she was evoking, “Barbie has always represented that a woman has a choice,” Barbie inventor Ruth Handler once said. Increasingly, with the dismantling of Roe vs. Wade and the threat of more regressive throwbacks on the horizon, real women don’t.
But in the movies, as in the world of Barbie, anything can happen.
“I consider the Barbie movie to be probably written like some of the other comic book hero movies,” Spencer said. “I don’t know what part of the nostalgia will come up. We’ve always had a policy of secrecy at Mattel, and that’s pretty much what’s going on with this Barbie movie. But I can’t wait for the movie to come out, I’m really excited.