Paris | For decades, Barbie has encouraged girls to reach for the stars, showing them through her endless reinventions that anything is possible. Now the girl who beat Neil Armstrong to the Moon has brought a lifetime of fine outfits and accessories to Paris to show them off to the world at the city’s Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Though in many ways Barbie has lived a charmed life, she has also been dogged by controversy notably because girls could never hope to grow into her impossibly slender body shape.
Magazine covers from the 1960s down the decades are juxtaposed with the Barbie of the day, showing how closely she has been in step with each passing fad. Barbie was a mirror of her time, said the exhibit’s curator, Anne Monier, adding that the show offers a cultural timeline through the countless iterations of the iconic American miss.
It is not Barbie’s first trip to France in 1984 she toured the country aboard a TGV (high-speed train), wearing fashions by leading Paris fashion houses including Yves Saint Laurent. That tour was the brainchild of jewellery designer BillyBoy, a muse of pop artist Andy Warhol who boasted the largest collection of Barbie dolls in the world 20,000 of them.
The Paris exhibit, which opened Thursday, contains no fewer than 700 Barbie dolls, the all-time best-selling product of US toymaker Mattel, dating back to 1959. While it seems she cannot hold down a job for long, Barbie has built up an impressive CV, dabbling variously as a flight attendant, surgeon and police officer. On one outing as an astronaut, Barbie stepped on the Moon even before Neil Armstrong at least in the Universe according to Mattel.
The leggy blonde has even run for president no fewer than four times, maintaining her sunny disposition despite never reaching the Oval Office. And while smashing gender stereotypes in the world of work, Barbie’s ultra-feminine persona is never in doubt when it is time for play, whether for a day at the beach, an afternoon at the gym or an evening out in a designer gown.