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What Barbie Looked Like the Year You Were Born

Barbie has changed a lot since she was introduced to the world 64 years ago. Which types of Barbies were your childhood favorites?

Barbie Fashionistas line
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

The most popular types of Barbies

Barbie is having a moment right now, thanks to the box-office-record-smashing movie, and she’s not just a blonde bombshell anymore. But, really, was she ever? Barbie started out a lot differently than you may realize, and she wasn’t always blonde. But more important, her originator, Ruth Handler, created the popular toy with the purpose of showing young girls they could be more than mothers and housewives; they could be anything. That was a pretty revolutionary concept for the time, and it led to many different types of Barbies over the years.

Sure, Barbie may love hanging out in Malibu, but she’s also a physicist, a Supreme Court justice and the president of the United States. (She was probably also, once upon your time, stuffed in the back of your closet after getting a disturbing makeover, a la Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie. She’s also weathered a few controversies over the last six decades.) Barbie has been everything—and she’s still evolving.

What has that evolution looked like over the years? We’re about to show you, with the most popular Barbies every year, from the doll’s debut in 1959 to 2003. While pinpointing sales numbers on each Barbie is a challenge, the most popular Barbies have traditionally been the ones that reflect the latest fashion trends, most influential personalities and biggest cultural issues of the moment. So get ready for some serious nostalgia as you take a walk down memory lane with your favorite (plastic) gal pal from childhood.

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1959 Barbie Doll Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1959: Teenage Fashion Model Barbie

Barbie was “born” on March 9, 1959, when she made her debut at the New York Toy Fair. Originally called Teenage Fashion Model Barbie, she was the brainchild of female entrepreneur Ruth Handler, who named the doll after her own daughter, Barbara. (And in case you were wondering, Barbie has a full name: Barbara Millicent Roberts.)

Donning a black-and-white striped bathing suit and a low blond ponytail, this classic Barbie sold for just $3 at the time. These days, a mint-condition original is one of the most expensive Barbies on the market and can sell for more than $27,000. (Go check your grandma’s attic!)

1960 Fashion Designer Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1960: Ponytail Barbie

In 1960, Barbie sported softer looking eye makeup, a less arched eyebrow and blue irises for the first time. There were also a few types of Barbies now, including one offered in a third hair color, “titian,” a popular term for red hair at the time. That blue-eye-and-red-hair combo? It just so happens to be the rarest hair and eye color combination in the world!

1962 Bubble Cut Swimsuit Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1961: Bubble Cut Barbie

Barbie has always been a hair chameleon. But you might be surprised by this year’s Bubble Cut Barbie, who sported a sophisticated, short new bob—dubbed a “bubble cut.” This Barbie was offered in blonde, brunette and titian, and, of course, her eyebrows matched each respective shade.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Barbieland in 1961, Ken made his debut. Fun fact: Just like Barbie was named after Ruth Handler’s daughter, Ken was named after her son, Kenneth!

1962 Red Flare Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1962: Red Flare Barbie

Barbie didn’t always have long locks, and in 1962, she was sporting a bob! Dressed in an uber-stylish red-velvet swing coat, Red Flare Barbie held a clutch and wore long white gloves. She also donned a pillbox hat, a favorite accessory of First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy and a major fashion trend of the era. Exactly 30 years later, in 1992, Barbie became President of the United States. (In Barbieland, of course.)

1963 Career Girl Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1963: Career Girl Barbie

Back in the 1960s, it wasn’t common for women to have full-time jobs. However, 1963 was the year Barbie confirmed she was a working girl with this doll. Given her flattering but no-nonsense tweed jacket, as well as a matching pencil skirt and hat, and black gloves, it was clear this Barbie meant business and was dressed to ace every job interview she went on.

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1964: Miss Barbie

Even Barbie needs her beauty rest! Miss Barbie was the first Barbie whose eyes closed when she was placed in a lying-down position. Since then, Mattel has sold multitudes of Barbie-themed bedtime offerings. And here’s an interesting fact about Barbie’s sleeping arrangements: The original Barbie Dreamhouse, released in 1962, featured only one twin bed, implying that Ken was definitely not spending his nights there.

Astronaut barbie
Courtesy Mattel Inc.

1965: Astronaut Barbie

One small step for man, one major career move for Barbie. Meet Astronaut Barbie, who entered the cosmos in style with a silver space suit and brown space boots. In real life, Soviet astronaut Valentina Tereshkova earned the title of the first woman in space in 1963, but the first American woman didn’t follow suit until 1983. That, of course, was Sally Ride. In 1995, Mattel donated the original Astronaut Barbie to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

1966 Color Magic Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1966: Color Magic Barbie

Barbie stepped up her hair game with the release of Color Magic Barbie. You could buy a blonde or brunette doll, then add a nontoxic solution that temporarily changed the color of her hair and swimsuit. This was also the first Barbie to have bendable legs. Of course, every kid wanted this Barbie for a gift that year!

1967: Twiggy Barbie

Twiggy was the It Girl of 1967, so it’s no surprise that she became the first celebrity Barbie—and a very popular one, at that. This Barbie’s mod dress and booties reflected the supermodel’s style, and her ensemble is like a time capsule of ’60s fashion. While Twiggy earned her nickname because she looked “as though a strong gale would snap her in two and dash her to the ground,” according to Vogue, Twiggy Barbie still featured Barbie’s signature curves.

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1968: Happy Go Pink Barbie

Barbie’s favorite color has never been in doubt, but her pink obsession had to start somewhere. That was with 1968’s Happy Go Pink Barbie, which had her adorned in head-to-toe pink—a pink blouse, a pink-and-white poofy skirt, pink tights and tiny pink heels. An interesting fact about how pink became a “girl” color: The association dates back to 1914, when a Ladies Home Journal article insisted pink was a color for little girls, and blue was a color for little boys.

1969 Flip Curl Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1969: Flip Hair Barbie

Marlo Thomas was another big celebrity in the ’60s, and while this Barbie wasn’t named after her, it certainly looked like it was modeled after her—or at least her hair. Thomas starred in the popular TV series That Girl, and her signature ‘do involved shoulder-length hair flipped up at the ends. Barbie also had a lot in common with the character Thomas played, an ambitious young career woman.

“There were women all over America who wanted to be that girl—the one who didn’t settle down right out of her parents’ house but wanted to go into the world and figure out who she was,” Marlo told InStyle in 2019. Does that sound like a certain doll you know?

1968 Talking Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1970: Talking Barbie

Barbie uttered her first words in 1968 with the release of the Talking Barbies. The 1970 edition of this type of Barbie, clad in a white bikini under a disco-era gold collared jacket, asked questions like “Would you like to go shopping?” (obviously) and made suggestions like “Let’s have a costume party.” Where do we RSVP?! Speaking of costume parties, Barbie will be the ultimate choice this year for Halloween, and you can easily put a costume together last-minute.

1971 Malibu Barbie With Towel Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1971: Sunset Malibu Barbie

According to Barbie’s official bio, she hails from Wisconsin. In 1971, however, Barbie became a California girl—complete with a tan. Sunset Malibu Barbie, who was accompanied by Malibu Ken, lived in a hot-pink, ultra-fabulous Malibu Beach House, which also debuted that year. She obviously has a lot to smile about, which, we’re guessing, is why she’s flashing her pearly whites for the first time here!

1972: Walk Lively Barbie

Naturally, Barbie has places to go and people to see. We’re guessing that’s why Mattel released this Barbie doll, whose head and arms moved, making it look like she was walking. In 1972, Barbie got a new gal pal named Steffie, a brunette who also came in a “Walk Lively” version.

1973 Surgeon Doctor Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1973: Doctor Barbie

In 1973, Barbie got her medical degree and hit the shelves in turquoise scrubs and a matching mask. She also came with a white doctor’s coat and Barbie-size stethoscope. Decades later, in 2021, Mattel released an entire medical-doll collection inspired by the female doctors, nurses and paramedics as part of its pandemic #ThankYouHeroes campaign.

1974: Sweet 16 Barbie

Here’s some Barbie trivia for you: Barbie was originally created as a 19-year-old. But in 1974, she had a Sweet 16. Mattel celebrated the milestone birthday (which, in case you’re curious, was March 9, 1975) by releasing an early, special-edition commemorative Barbie who came with several outfits, including a yellow tank top with the number 16 on it.

1975 Olympic Skier Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1975: Gold Medal Barbie

Barbie is a well-rounded gal. In addition to being super smart, she excels at sports, and in January 1975, ahead of the Montreal Winter Olympics, Mattel released a line of Gold Medal Barbies. Over the next two years, the collection featured Barbies as gold medalists in skiing, swimming and ice skating. Barbie’s little sister, Skipper (who made her first appearance in 1964), and Ken were also part of the collection. In recent years for the Olympics, Barbies have been modeled after real-life gold medal athletes, like American gymnast Gabby Douglas.

1976 Ballerina Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1976: Ballerina Barbie

While not every little girl wants to be a ballerina when she grows up, a vast majority do, and Ballerina Barbie tapped into that childhood dream. She came dressed in a pretty white tutu, ballet slippers and a crown, just like the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. And those legs—perfect form! Ballet also had a burst of popularity around this time, first with this Barbie release and then the following year with Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing the male lead in The Nutcracker on TV.

1977 Superstar Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1977: Superstar Barbie

After 18 years of trying out new jobs and styles, Barbie earned a night out on the town. She strolled down the red carpet with a broader smile and fuller hair, parted to one side. Her eyes really popped with brightly painted eyes, blue shimmer eye shadow, and a pale pink lip gloss that was on trend with the glittery disco-glam look popular in the ’70s. And between the full-length pink dress and the feather-like boa, our girl was not messing around.

1978 Kissing Barbie Via Merchant
Via Merchant

1978: Kissing Barbie

Pucker up, Ken! Kissing Barbie featured a tiny panel on her back, and when it was pressed, she leaned forward with a tilted head and puckered lips. In the Barbie movie, Barbie and Ken never actually kiss, though a kissing scene was in the original script. “It was so funny trying to figure out what their idea of kissing might be,” said Ryan Gosling, who plays Ken. “I’m so glad all of that got cut out.” Kiss or no kiss, Barbie will go down as one of the best movies of all time—and hey, they always have time to figure out that kiss for the (probable) sequel!

1979: Parisian Barbie

Ooh-la-la! In 1979, Mattel released one of its many Dolls of the World collections, which included Parisian versions of both Barbie and her pal Steffie in outfits that resembled Moulin Rouge’s French Can Can dancers. While the movie musical Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman, came out in 2001, it wasn’t until 2011 that Mattel released a limited-edition Moulin Rouge Barbie.

1980 African American Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1980: Black Barbie

Although Barbie’s friend Christie, a Black doll, was released in 1968, the first Black Barbie wasn’t introduced until 1980. Decked out in a red jumpsuit and modern jewelry, she was created by designer Kitty Black Perkins, who wanted her to be different than the traditional Barbie.

“I wanted her to have different skin tones and short, natural textured black hair instead of Barbie doll’s long, blond locks,” said Perkins in a 2020 interview. “I had no idea it was going to be as groundbreaking as it is now, but if you look at the history of Barbie, the reason Barbie is No. 1 is because she was the very first of her kind. When we did Black Barbie, she too became the very first of her kind.”

1981 Roller Skater Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1981: Roller Skate Barbie

Pardon the pun, but Roller Skate Barbie’s iconic ’80s fashion ran circles around everyone else. We all wanted her purple skater jacket, short shorts, white skates and leg warmers—and we likely had them for our single-digit birthday parties and more. Wear that ensemble now to your celebration, of course, and you’ll end up as a birthday meme.

1982 Western Barbie Via Merchant
Via Merchant

1982: Western Barbie

Far from a simple farm girl, 1982’s Western Barbie looked like she owned the rodeo. Her outfit included a matching black-and-white ensemble paired with white high-heeled Western boots and a cowgirl hat. The Western Barbie collection also included a Western Ken and a Western white horse, both sold separately. Worth noting: In the commercial promoting the toys, when she rides off into the sunset with Ken, Barbie’s the one holding the reins. Then again, isn’t she always?

1983 Twirly Curls Barbie Via Merchant
Via Merchant

1983: Twirly Curls Barbie

Who needs a salon? Twirly Curls Barbie came with her own hair tool, a “twirly curler” that let kids fashion Barbie’s hair into ringlets. No need to worry about burns or electric sockets—the curler was heatless. These types of Barbies also came as Hispanic and Black dolls.

1985 Day to Night Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1984: Day-to-Night Barbie

As a career woman by day and the belle of the ball by night, Barbie needed to be a quick-change chameleon. Day-to-Night Barbie stepped up to that challenge with a sharp pink blazer and pencil skirt … that could be partially or fully removed to reveal a glittery pink evening dress underneath. Swap her briefcase out for the included cute purse and sensible shoes for the heels, and she was good to go!

1985 Oscar De La Renta Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1985: Oscar de la Renta Barbie

Barbie’s first true haute couture moment came in 1985, when renowned designer Oscar de la Renta, who dressed Hollywood stars and styled First Ladies, created a line of clothing for Barbie that included a series of vibrant, voluminous gowns. The partnership cemented Barbie as a smart collaboration opportunity for designers, many of whom went on to create their own iconic Barbie outfits. Barbie was also a muse for the art world: In 1985, Andy Warhol released his first Barbie-inspired paint-and-silkscreen lithograph.

1986 Rocker Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1986: Rock Star Barbie

Jem and the Holograms were a fictional all-girl rock band created by Mattel’s competitor Hasbro. Not only did Jem have an animated morning television show, but there was also a line of bestselling dolls. Presumably to compete, Mattel introduced Rockstar Barbie, who had her own (truly, truly, truly outrageous) band, Barbie and the Rockers. Rockstar Barbie and Jem each released their own original songs that could be played on cassette tape. Remember those?!

1987 California Dreamin Barbie Via Merchant
Via Merchant

1987: California Dreamin’ Barbie

Barbie and her entourage—including Midge, Skipper, Christie and Ken—got sun-kissed makeovers in the 1987 California Dream collection. In a colorful outfit that revealed a blue polka-dot bikini, California Dreamin’ Barbie came accessorized with a pair of sunglasses and a camera. Also included: a record that played a Beach Boys song made just for Barbie, “Living Doll.”

1988: Holiday Barbie

Special enough to be placed at the top of a Christmas tree, an extremely merry Holiday Barbie came dressed in a festive red ballgown cinched at the waist with a big white bow. Holiday Barbie collections have been released throughout the years and are among the most popular types of Barbies.

In 2008, Barbie starred in her first Christmas movie, Barbie in a Christmas Carol. Instead of Scrooge, this version tells the story of a selfish woman named Eden, who forces her employees to work on Christmas—that is, until she’s visited by three Barbie spirits, who inspire a change of heart.

1989: Wedding Fantasy Barbie

The original Barbie and Ken wedding dolls date back to 1959, but 1989 edition—complete with Barbie’s puffy-shoulder white gown and long, dramatic veil—is decidedly ’80s. Interestingly, one of the lesser-known Barbie controversies occurred when Mattel tried to get the late Princess Diana, who wore the most famous wedding dress of the decade, to approve a Barbie in her likeness. “Diana categorically refused to be associated with Barbie,” according to the New York Post. “She refused to be commercially exploited as a doll.”

1990: Summit Barbie

In 1990, the United Nations held the historical World Summit for Children to address global issues affecting kids and families, including health, nutrition, family planning, education, the environment, poverty and more. A special-edition Barbie was created to commemorate the event and released with Summit Barbie television ads. Mattel also held its own Barbie Children’s Summit, where 40 children from 27 countries were invited to New York to choose a cause that would receive a $500,000 donation from the toy company. Per the Los Angeles Times, they chose world peace.

1991: American Beauty Queen Barbie

If Barbie competed in pageants like Miss America or Miss USA, there’s no doubt she’d take the crown every time. She dons one in this 1991 model that came with three pageant looks and a booklet filled with classic Barbie fashion. Presumably, Barbie performed ballet for the talent portion of the competition, as one of her outfits included a tutu and slippers. Her choice for the swimsuit round? A silver one-piece.

1992 Totally Hair Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1992: Totally Hair Barbie

The bestselling Barbie of all time, with 10 million-plus sold over the last three decades, Totally Hair Barbie was an instant hit upon its 1992 release. According to the New York Times, she was also the fastest-selling Barbie ever. Mattel hyped the doll with a lively commercial featuring a jingle urging consumers to buy a “Totally Hot, Totally Cool, Totally Hair Barbie.” Although she was just one of 30 new Barbies released that year, this Barbie’s ankle-length hair left the others in the dust.

1993 Opening Night Barbie Via Merchant
Via Merchant

1993: Opening Night Barbie

It’s unclear whether Opening Night Barbie was starring onstage or simply an A-list attendee, but there’s no doubt she stole the show. Designed by Mattel’s Janet Goldenblatt, she was part of the Barbie Classique collection. Speaking of premieres, Margot Robbie—who played classic Barbie in the Barbie movie—wore a series of ensembles inspired by retro Barbie outfits that were reimagined by today’s top designers for the film’s red carpets and press events.

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1994: Hot Skatin’ Barbie

At last, Barbie’s infamous neon yellow skates (which play a laugh-out-loud role in the Barbie movie) make their first appearance. When photos leaked of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in their Hot Skatin’ outfits, fans went wild. “It’s literally Hot Skatin’ Barbie—I’m living for this,” one user posted on social media.

As for Mattel, they had a big year in 1994: They also released Barbie and Ken dolls inspired by Baywatch, which was one of the most-watched television shows of the time.

1995 Donna Karan Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1995: Donna Karan Barbie

By the mid-’90s, famous designers were clamoring to dress Barbie. That included Donna Karan, who created a custom look exclusively for Bloomingdale’s that featured a chic black dress and hat, a red coat and, of course, a Bloomie’s shopping bag. Other famous fashion houses that partnered with Barbie over the next few years include Calvin Klein, Escada, Ralph Lauren and Christian Dior. The Donna Karan Barbie is now part of the Museum of the City of New York’s collection.

1996 Gymnast Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1996: Olympic Gymnast Barbie

At the 1996 summer Olympic games in Atlanta, the U.S. women’s gymnastic team, dubbed “The Magnificent Seven,” won the gold medal in the all-around event, a first for the United States and one of the most memorable Olympic moments. Mattel’s 1996 Olympic Gymnast Barbie was able to capitalize on the swell of national pride. Barbie also kept up with emerging technology that year with a CD-ROM program for home computers that helped kids design and print customized Barbie clothing.

1997 Dentist Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1997: Dentist Barbie

Barbie became a dentist in 1997, but it wasn’t actually the biggest Barbie news of the year. Instead, the release of the electro-pop song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua had everyone talking … and bobbing their heads along to the earworm of a tune. The single went triple platinum in the United States and reached No. 1 in more than 12 countries.

Rolling Stone dubbed it the worst song of the ’90s, but the haters haven’t stopped its continued success. A remix of “Barbie Girl” by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice for the Barbie movie soundtrack debuted in the top 10 of the Hot 100.

1998 NASCAR Driver Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

1998: NASCAR Barbie

Barbie has always loved a hot set of wheels, especially her pink Corvette. In celebration of NASCAR’s 50th anniversary, NASCAR Barbie hit the shelves decked head-to-toe in a NASCAR-branded outfit and revved-up red lipstick. The first female driver (in the real world) to compete in NASCAR’s top division? Her name was Sara Christian, and she finished 13th in 1949 in a Ford automobile, paving the way for Barbie five decades later.

1999: Millennium Princess Barbie

Millennium Princess Barbie wasn’t your average Holiday Barbie. In anticipation of the upcoming millennium, this Barbie came dressed to the nines in a blue velvet gown accessorized with a tiara. In her hand, she held an ornament resembling a crystal ball tied with a ribbon that read: “Happy New Year 2000.” Mattel also released a celebratory millennial-themed bridal Barbie the same year. In the new millennium, Barbie has focused even more on diversity and inclusivity; in 2023, Mattel released a Barbie with Down syndrome.

2000 Jewel Girl Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc.
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

2000: Jewel Girl Barbie

Barbie’s physique got a more lifelike upgrade in 2000. Jewel Girl Barbie featured an “Ever Flex” waist, which allowed her more bendability, an athletic build and (drum roll, please) … a belly button! Both Barbie and Ken’s more intimate body parts have always been somewhat controversial. According to the 1994 book Forever Barbie, there was an internal debate at Mattel about how voluptuous Barbie’s figure should be and the appropriate size for Ken’s bulge.

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2001: Sunshine Day Barbie

Encased in a colorful, retro-looking box, Sunshine Day Barbie was a three-doll collection made up of a blonde Barbie, a brunette Barbie and Christie, all wearing brightly printed dresses with color-coordinated boots and purses. Many Barbie-inspired handbags (for real women) have been designed over the years; some of the most luxurious include those from the limited-edition Barbie x Balmain collection, whose price tags go as high as $2,450.

2002: Mermaid Fantasy Barbie

Ever since The Little Mermaid made a splash on the big screen in 1989, all little girls seem to go through a mermaid phase. So it seems like a no-brainer to combine mermaids and Barbie, which is exactly what Mattel did in 2002. In this under-the-sea fever dream, Barbie’s arms and tail move, and her shiny, hot-pink hair glistens under a seashell crown. She’s also joined by mermaid friends Christie and Kayla, because the more mermaids, the merrier!

Viking Barbie Courtesy Mattel Inc
Courtesy Mattel, Inc.

2003: Princess of the Vikings Barbie

The 2003 Dolls of the World collection was made up of 21 dolls representing past civilizations in outfits reflective of their lore. Princess of the Vikings Barbie wears a traditional Nordic helmet and chest armor with a billowing skirt underneath. We’re not sure exactly how that ensemble would work in battle, but it sure looked fabulous on Barbie. The fact that Barbie is depicted as a warrior meshes with history, though, as Viking women are believed to have fought alongside their male counterparts. Next, learn more pop-culture facts and history facts, and you’ll be as well rounded as Barbie is!

Additional reporting by Lisa Marie Conklin.