When I first started collecting, I had a firm stance about vintage Barbies. I didn’t like them. No matter how well-presented, they always looked a little unkempt. I liked brand new dolls fresh out of the packaging, squeaky clean with perfect, never-brushed-before hair. I found the old Barbie face sculpts a little clumsy and crude compared to the sophisticated smirks of modern dolls. Also, vintage clothes didn’t appeal to teenage me at all. In fact they reminded me of the curtain-material seventies hand-me-downs I unwillingly inherited from my cousins.
Then, during my return to collecting earlier this year, I saw this:
And I just fell in love with this doll. She’s certainly beautiful, albeit in a cutesy kind of way; she reminds me of a Gelfling from “The Dark Crystal”. I suddenly got it. I did a little googling, and I searched for her on eBay – I even put a few bids in, but its a tough market and so far, I haven’t been successful. The only purchase I have made is the above booklet, which as well as ads for Living Barbie, features a little catalogue of the fashions produced for her too. Now, my sense of taste has changed a great deal since my teens. I can appreciate the retro appeal of, for example, Bloom Zoom, an outfit consisting of multicolour patterned tights and bell-sleeved, collared tunic dress. Gur-uvy!
Around about this time, I found this old book:
I purchased this book from a discount shop a few years ago and I remember being kind of disappointed. At the time, although I wasn’t collecting, what I wanted were pictures of beautiful, modern dolls – beautiful, not cute or whimsical or retro. However, after I developed an interest in Living Barbie, I found that I looked at it in a different way. They may not be smirking sirens, but many of these dolls are beautiful nonetheless. In my last post, I mentioned Francie, who was “Barbie’s modern cousin”. Francie was produced in various forms from the mid-sixties to the mid seventies. This book features several really lovely Francies, but I think this one is my favourite:
She’s described as a short-haired Twist and Turn Barbie from around 1969, and she’s the one who particularly reminds me of some of the Lea dolls. I love this face sculpt and was interested to find that she has recently featured in the Silkstone Range (“Check Please” and “Nightie Brights” 2011) and more are planned. However, as I think the above doll illustrates, she makes a great teenage doll (the original Francie was quarter of an inch shorter than Barbie) and the Silkstone range is sophisticated and adult. I like the Silkstone Francies but I think she looks better when she’s not so “grown up”. If any future Silkstones are as cute as the above doll, or if I can find a decent original for the right money, I’ll be buying.
As for the rest of the book, there are some great ones – the Hawaiian doll from 77 could give any Basic a run for her money in the beauty stakes. There are also some not so great ones. I don’t think I will ever be a fan of Casey, who looks to me like she might have been the original model for Chucky dolls. However, I am slightly alarmed to note that every time I look through it, there seem to be less that I don’t like. Another change I’ve noticed – there seems to be a bit of a debate as to whether all dollspictured in books about Vintage Barbie should be in mint condition (they aren’t in this book, in fact there are several who have been rebodied or redressed, for instance). At one time I would have thought that of course they should. But now, as I discussed earlier in this month in a post about 90s Barbies, I can see how a played-with doll can have an appeal all of its own.
So, now I think I can say that I have found a place in my heart for a bit of Vintage. Its a relatively expensive and competitive market, so I don’t know if these sort of dolls will ever appear in great numbers in my collection. Still, a shift in focus keeps everything fresh, so I’m not ruling anything out …