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Barbie affect you?

solosmocker | Posted in Talk With Us on

I have really enjoyed and contributed to the thread on how we learn to sew. One of the things I so thouroughly enjoyed literally for years was sewing for my Barbie doll. I had the first Barbie of anyone I knew. She had a ponytail and a black and white chevron swimsuit – with high heels of course. She was my total fashion fantasy. I would glean scraps of fabric and trims from my grandmother and mom and make her gowns,belts, hats, boots, coats, and on and on. I made “lockers” for all her fashions out of shoeboxes and kept my scraps and current works in progress in another shoebox. I cannot count the endless hours I spent sewing for Barbie. Forget Ken, I was into Barbie being fashionable. From ten until I tucked her shoeboxes into my closet of 14 year old clothing, I spent countless hours fashioning a wardrobe that mimiced what I saw in Vogue. Yes, I read Vogue at ten.

Has anyone else been inspired in their fashion pursuits by Barbie? I would love to hear your stories. I have talked to other sewists who were into the doll like I was.


  1. Libby100 | | #1

    Until I read your posting, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed sewing for my Barbie doll.  We must be of a similar age since I got mine (and still have her tucked in a closet somewhere) when they were quite new.  The clothes you could purchase were beautifully made with many detailed accessories, but store clothes were rarer for Barbie than they were for me (and my mother made every stitch I wore except my school uniform).

    I had a friend across the street who also enjoyed sewing.  Her mom sewed her older sister's formals so we had really wonderful fabric to play with.

    Perhaps that's where my interest in sewing started!

    Thanks for reawakening an fond old memory.



  2. Teaf5 | | #2

    Barbie inspired me, too, but vexed me because of her other-worldly proportions, which made for very oddly shaped bodices! When frustrated by sewing or pressed for time, I would "clothe" her in aluminum foil (just wrap and press!) or knit dresses made from the cuffs of castoff socks. I, too, read Vogue and Harper's Bazaar when I had no clue that a single outfit in either of them cost more than my father made in a year!

    My daughter also enjoyed wardrobing Barbie and followed in my approach, using paper towels wrapped with knitting yarn or layers of hair scrunchies to form skirts or tube dresses. Together, we'd design and make elegant evening dresses from scraps with form-fitting tops and flouncey hems, along with many dramatic capes, which didn't have to be fitted so precisely.

    Fitting Barbie's ample bustline helped me understand my post-maternity fitting issues, and dealing with her mile-long legs taught me how to alter clothes to fit my long-limbed daughter. Such a fun way to learn!

  3. sewchris703 | | #3

    Barbie is how I learned to sew on the sewing machine.  I got my Barbie in 1960 when I was 8.  My first exposure to patterns were the yardage panels with preprinted Barbie patterns on them.  You just had to cut out the preprinted pieces and sew them together.  I sewed on my little hand crank, chain stitch Singer machine.  When I was 9, my mom got me a tissue paper pattern--an Advance--and showed me how to use her big sewing machine--a straight stitch Morse.  I still have my Barbie doll and the pattern.  In high school, I would hand sew Barbie clothing for the little girls I babysat.



    1. solosmocker | | #4

      Wow, I never saw those. Preprinted panels for Barbie clothes? So cool. I sewed for her till 14 just for the joy of designing and sewing. It was such fun.

      1. mygaley | | #5

        I have seen those preprinted panels on vintage fabric sites.  Galey

      2. sewchris703 | | #6

        This was in the mid 60's, I'd guess.  Maybe early 60's.  I know that my brother was born then and he was born in 1960.  My mom bought them at the local 5 and dime store which had a fabric department.  When I was 16, (1968) I sewed my finger in the sewing machine and broke the last needle that we had.  A neighbor took me to the dr for a tetnus shot and I made her stop at the same 5 and dine store afterward to buy more sewing machine needles.  I finished the sundress but rarely wore it.  I don't know if it was because I had sewed my finger or because I used a lime green fabric that, by no stretch of the imagination, looked good on me.


        1. Sinky | | #7

          My grandmother was a seamstress, and my mother made almost all of our clothes when we were younger.

          I envied their skill, but lacked their patience. My first store-bought Barbie outfit (deep blue velveteen Camelot gown!) must be a near-antique by now, but, in terms of technique, it's no match for the ball gowns and "fur" coats that my mother produced, apparently without effort. I, on the other hand, found the details of sewing to be unbearably boring. You can probably imagine my mother's horror when I discovered that a stapler was an effective, efficient means of producing seams and hems. Buttons? Zippers? I think not!

          Over time, I found it easier to cope with details, and I eventually reached a point at which I was making my own clothing - without the aid of a stapler - and the garments all passed muster in a very conservative corporate environment.

          Time has continued to pass, and the press of other matters makes it difficult for me to create my own wardrobe. I now face the challenge of finding an acceptable retail compromise between quality and affordability.

          But when the sewing machine calls, I continue to answer. While I may not be able to find the time to produce a professional "uniform" for myself, I can still find time to whip up a sundress, ballgown, or other smart outfit for Barbie. That tiny garment goes into a charity box, and I'm confident that, once in a while, a young Barbie custodian will take a (choose one: dishcloth, pillowcase, tissue . . . ) and staple together a magnificent party dress.


  4. greeneyes21 | | #8

    I dressed Barbie's in the 60's for my Eldest and Second daughter. The youngest one was into GI Joe with his army uniform and frogman suit. She's a police officer today! I made wedding gowns with little beads sewn on them,the bouquets, etc. fur coats which I cut from old coats. Lovely dresses sand gowns. I knitted ski outfits, skating outfits, sweaters, skirts, etc. For a time, I sold knitted Barbie clothes also. I still have the Barbie from the 2nd daughter. Also Ken. My eldest girl gave away her whole Barbie suitcase with all the lovely clothes and the doll to a NY child who came to stay with us for a week in the summer.

    My grandsons have played with the barbies I have, my grand-niece played with them most recently. I think the original Barbies were much nicer than the ones today. And, you didn't buy a doll to get a new outfit. My 11 year old niece has so many Barbies they're all over the floor, etc. Too much!

  5. SchnauzerMom | | #9

    I didn't get a Barbie until I was 10 or 11.  My mom got one with Green Stamps (or were they Gold Bond Stamps? Don't remember.)  Before that I had Barbie look-alikes, generic Barbies.  I made most of their clothes.  Just reading all the posts here makes me want to dress a Barbie! 

    1. mimi | | #10

      When I was little my next door neighbor made a complete wardrobe of Barbie clothes for me and my doll.  I was in hog heaven!


    2. bobbysox | | #11

      My aunt gave me a Little Miss Revlon doll (before Barbie's came out), complete with a hand-knitted & sewn wardrobe.  I remember a skating outfit - a knitted cardigan sweater and a felt circle skirt with knitted attached waistbank and panty.  Topped off with a tiny tam.  Little Miss Rev was a little more realistic than Barbie, but she still became my ideal.   I wanted to look like her!  (no way, never have) 

      She provided me with many happy sewing hours, and I still have her (I'm now 60). 

      1. GinnaS | | #12

        I still have my Little Miss Revlon too, although she is in pieces and needs to be repaired.  I'm 59.


        1. bobbysox | | #13

          My Little Miss Revlon came apart once (I made the mistake of letting my daughters play with her, not realizing the "rubber band" holding her together was almost as old as I was...).   Fortunately I have a friend who collects, repairs and restores dolls, so she's almost as good as new now.   I also have a "Ginny" doll from about the same era, but she really shows signs of age.   

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