|“My First” Barbie|
The “‘My First’” Barbie appeared on the doll scene in 1980 or 1981. Her box has the 1980 copyright date, but that often means the doll was not available for sale until the following year. Whatever the correct date, most mothers agreed it was about time such a Barbie came on the market.
Barbie was already the most famous doll ever. She was recognized worldwide as being the leading doll seller of all time. No one—whether great-grandparents or three-year-old children—needed an explanation as to who she was because everybody knew.
So what was the problem? Barbie was hard to dress! Older children included the popular doll in their play world without a care, but for millions of younger girls, who weren’t as manually adept yet, it was quite frustrating. Barbie’s clothes were so tiny and fit so perfectly that getting them on and off became more a chore than a fun pastime. It was also agitating for parents. Being the good moms and dads they were, they often found themselves having to be the doll dressers because it just wasn’t working for their little ones.
Mattel listened and responded: “Just slip on or close with a touch! That’s all there is to dressing ‘My First’ Barbie doll. Where did we get the idea for easy-on doll fashions? We listened to mothers like you. We know that fashions that go on easily are fashions that are played with again and again.”
Velcro fasteners plus longer and wider openings were factors making the clothes easy on and easy off. Another was the straight arms and smooth legs— limbs where clothes were not likely to get stuck. “Straight arms slip easily into clothes! Shiny smooth legs glide easily into skirts and pants!”
Hair was another “easy” feature on the “My First” Barbie. The original hairdo was not elaborate, and the hair was smooth and could easily be combed over and over with a comb and brush, which were included in the packaging.
Produced only as a blonde, the number-one original “My First” Barbie had a middle part and two ponytails. Her clothing was a yellow wrap bodysuit with turquoise trim and yellow mules. Extra fashions in her box consisted of matching yellow pants, a turquoise knee-length skirt and a multicolor stripe sleeveless top. Her popularity with children and adults alike was clear when Mattel expanded the “My First” line by adding outfits for the doll that could be purchased separately. All these wrapped, snapped and tied quickly and easily.
A new boxed edition went on the market in 1982. The doll was the same, but the clothing was pink and white—a sleeveless bodysuit with white lace trim at the bodice and sleeves. For a change of pace, a pink-and-white gingham, full, knee-length skirt was included along with hot pink mules.
Two years later, in 1984, “My First” Barbie was wearing a white short- sleeve, knee-length dress with pink ribbon trim and lace edging at the neck. On her feet were dainty pink pumps. This doll’s hair was pulled back at the front and sides, and tied with a pink ribbon. The rest of her hair flowed down the middle of her back.
That same year saw the beginning of the African-American “My First” Barbie line. The Hispanic Barbie head was used on this model and would be used until 1988 when the decision was made to use the Christie head. At the same time, the Hispanic head was used on the new Hispanic model. Asian models were added by 1993. Faces differed, but clothing did not. Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic or Asian babies of the “My First” line have always been dressed alike.
The “My First” Ken did not appear until 1988. He was quite the handsome fellow, dressed as a ballet partner to that year’s “My First” Barbie. Ballerina dolls have definitely been the most popular theme with these dolls. They have been dressed as dancers in many of the years of their production. By 1992, they were being made with molded white legs, ending the need of slipping leotards on and off.
The African-American “My First” Ken danced onto the scene in 1991. Mattel used the African-American Ken head from 1987 for this doll. He was dressed like the Caucasian version in a long-sleeve, light-blue dance shirt with multicolor insets, solid light-blue pants and white dance oxfords.
The year 1991 also saw the introduction of the “My First” Barbie Gift Set. This boxed set featured a doll dressed differently than the regular “My First” Barbie of the same year. The regular doll was dressed in a blue ballet outfit. This doll wore a pink with silver glitter dot sleeveless bodysuit with pink tulle and silver overskirt with hot-pink flower trim at the waist. Included in the box with her was a white satin bolero jacket with faux fur long sleeves, a white dotted Swiss three-tier ruffle miniskirt, a purple tank-style drop-waist mini dress with iridescent ruffle skirt and bow at the hip, a green satin strapless mini dress with lace at the neck and hem and a purple bow at the waist, a pink and silver T-shirt with silver star and purple ribbon trim, white lace footless tights, a hot-pink spaghetti-strap bodysuit, a lilac hanger, a lilac oval brush, hot-pink tennis shoes, pink ballet slippers with ribbon ties and wide white pumps. What a playset it was!
Other years during the 1990s, little extras were introduced to the “My First” line. There was “My First” Tea Party Barbie in 1995 and Jewelry Fun “My First” Barbie in 1996. It is interesting to note that through the years all the play Barbie clothes have been simplified, demonstrating the influence of the “My First” Barbie line’s popularity.
For collectors, these dolls have provided a segment of the Barbie world for which it is not too difficult to gather every example. With the expansion of online auctions, it is easy to find the “My First” Barbie dolls for sale any day of the week, and prices are very affordable. Some of the later issues sell for bottom bids from less than a dollar. Recent prices show a growing interest in the early “My First” dolls. Mint-in-the-box examples have been selling for as high as $35 and above on the Internet.
Certainly collectors are interested, but some of the buying is probably by grown-up ladies searching for the dolls of their childhood. It’s something that all of us can understand. What wonderful memories center around the toys we once played with and which helped shape the persons we turned out to be. Was your special toy a doll? Did you have a “My First” Barbie?
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The winners of the 2013 Industry’s Choice DOLLS Awards of Excellence (DAEs) were announced April 12 at the Debut of Dolls Banquet held at IDEX in Orlando, Fla. Each entry in this year’s competition was evaluated by our panel of judges: Doll industry consultant Pat Burns, doll writer and historian Penny Herbst, Simon Farnworth of DollObservers.com, author and DOLLS contributor Stephanie Finnegan,
DOLLS editor-at-large Jill Jackson, and Modern Doll President Patsy Moyer. This year’s Industry’s Choice winners go on to become the nominees for the Public’s Choice awards voted on by DOLLS readers. Look for photos of all the nominees, ballot, and online voting instructions in the July 2013 issue of DOLLS.
Iola, Wis. – Jan. 9, 2013 – DOLLS magazine publisher and former editor Carie Ferg received a special VIP Award for Outstanding Achievement in the 2012 Colliii Awards. The Colliii Awards are the largest online dollmaking competition in the world.
“We wanted to present the 2012 VIP Award to Carie Ferg as a recognition of the dynamism and innovation she has brought to the doll industry over the past few years,” said Colliii Awards Director James Carlsson. “The VIP Award is presented every year to a person or organisation that has made a significant contribution to the doll world. It was Colliii.com’s pleasure to present this to Carie as a token of appreciation for her hard work.”
Past VIP Award winners include DOLLS’ Editor-at-Large Jill Jackson for her work with "Doll Reader," the Biemann family from Schildkröt dolls in Germany, and such atists as Stephanie Sullivan.Registration for the 2013 Colliii Awards will begin in July. For more information about the competition, go to www.colliii.com/en.
The winners of the 2012 ProSculpt Annual Sculpting Contest have been chosen by collectors and artists from around the world. Winners this year are from England, Italy, Japan, South America, and the United States. Photos of all the winners can be viewed at the Johnston Original Art Dolls website. The winners are:
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Haute Doll introduces its new exclusive by Horsman Ltd., the modern-style “Heart Chair” perfect for 16-inch fashion dolls. The design was inspired by Verner Panton’s 1959 full-scale contemporary chair design.
The fourth Pullip and Dal Doll Lovers Event (PUDDLE) drew 60 doll lovers from 10 different states and Canada to the Elk Grove Village Holiday Inn in June. This year’s theme, cranes, was inspired by the sandhill cranes at the group's charity organization, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Six custom dolls and other items donated by sponsors like The Sleeping Elf and Denise's Dolls were raffled off at the event, raising $500 for the center.
The weekend started Friday night with dinner at Mitsuwa Japanese Mall in Arlington Heights, followed by a tea party at the hotel. PUDDLE officially kicked off at 9 a.m. Saturday, starting with an organized buy-sell-trade opportunity, and dozens of fans milled around trading and buying doll wigs, eye chips, bodies, clothing, and more.
Every attendee received a door prize, thanks to generous donations from many sponsors. Distribution of the door prizes was followed by a secret gift swap and lunch break. Afterwards, an informal Q&A-format customizing workshop answered questions for many fans new to the hobby, followed by a display of fully customized and modified dolls entered in the customization contest. Winners of an online photo/art contest which was held and judged before the event were announced along with the customization contest winners. The photo and art entries can be seen at www.puddlestyle.com/photoart.html.
Many fans continued the fun over dinner in the hotel restaurant and in the hotel lobby until the wee hours. Krista Farmer, who traveled from Toronto for the event, said “It was a crazy cool day.” Although the event officially ended Saturday night, 11 fans stayed for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Willowbrook Wildlife Center Sunday. — Jane EasterlyFor information on PUDDLE 2012, visit www.puddlestyle.com.read more
Attendees at the third annual R. John Wright Convention enjoyed the festivities of several major holidays coupled with outstanding dolls, all rolled into four fun-filled days! R. John and Susan Wright chose “Celebrations!” as the theme for their 2011 event held at the historic Desmond Hotel in Albany, N.Y., which was co-chaired by Loretta Nardone and Lillian Wright.
The convention opened with St. Patrick’s Day reception Wednesday evening, where everyone laid claim to being a wee bit Irish while enjoying a scrumptious dessert buffet. The sales room opened immediately after this kick-off event, with conventioneers hoping the “luck of the Irish” would help them find that perfect doll or dolls.
Thursday began early with the Easter Morning Breakfast; those attending this ticketed event didn’t have to search for large, beautifully decorated baskets serving as table centerpieces. They were filled with molded felt eggs in pastel colors. At the end of the breakfast, the eggs were distributed and the happy new owners opened them to find “Peep,” a 3-inch yellow mohair chick as their event souvenir. His companion, “Posey,” was available for sale. After breakfast the special and competitive exhibits opened, along with the helper room. This year’s special exhibit, arranged by John and Susan Wright’s daughter Emily, was titled “Happy Holidays” and showcased R. John Wright dolls and animal characters and the traditional holidays that inspired them.
That afternoon, attendees boarded buses for the short trip to Bennington, Vt., for a tour of the R. John Wright facility along with other local activities. The Wrights explained the development of their creations from concept through completion before everyone had the opportunity to visit with their employees as they made various doll parts and accessories and shopped in the R. John Wright store. The day culminated with a Fourth of July BBQ followed by fireworks at dusk.
Workshops by dollmaker Gail Wilson and a program by Alan Pate, a leading American expert on Japanese dolls, were offered on Friday, along with several roundtable discussions on various topics. Attendees dressed up for the frightfully fabulous costume parade leading into the Halloween Masquerade luncheon, with prizes awarded in five categories. After lunch, the newest piece from R. John Wright’s Wizard of Oz collection, “Wicked Witch of the West,” made her debut in front of an enthusiastic audience.
The ticketed Victorian Yuletide Dinner featured traditional table decorations and an enchanting program, “A Victorian Christmas,” presented by Nardone. The event souvenir was the 10-inch “Mary Frances,” the latest addition to the Victorian Children Collection. Available for purchase was her 7-inch little sister, “Baby Grace.”
Saturday morning’s activities included another program by Pate and a workshop conducted by Emily Wright. That afternoon, a Valentine’s Day High Tea charmed conventioneers with fine teas and delicacies. The newest addition to the Flower Fairies series, “Rose Fairy,” was available for purchase. The evening’s closing event was a New Year’s Eve Gala Celebration. This elegant banquet featured another entertaining program produced and presented by Nardone. When the souvenir dolls were distributed, delighted attendees found the adorable 12½-inch “Celebration Scootles” would be going home with them. As an added bonus, her delightful twin brother was available for purchase.As the convention ended, attendees were already making plans for next year’s “Around the World” event, which will be held at the same location June 20-23, 2012 and will celebrate the magic of children around the globe. There will also be an added treat as the first bear event held at an R. John Wright convention will be incorporated into the excursion to the Wrights’ facility in Vermont. For more information, visit www.rjohnwright.com or call (802) 447-7072. — Pat Burnsread more