Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Barbie

I remember when I first met Barbie.

I was visiting my grandparents in Michigan. I always played with the girl next door. It was 1959, and she had a marvelous new doll, a Barbie doll. I wanted, I needed a Barbie. She had all those great clothes!

I had no love for my Tiny Tears, baby dolls left me uninterested, and the Madame Alexander dolls were not to be played with. I liked the cheap dolls Mom got at the supermarket, but they were brittle plastic and broke, and you could not change their dresses.

Some months passed, but Mom did buy me that first Barbie, a dark ponytailed gal with heavy eye makeup. I always thought she looked snobbish. Why not, when she had all those wonderful CLOTHES!

I loved those dresses. I amassed enough to fill a large wardrobe case. Then Mom bought me a Bubble Cut Barbie. Mom and I had Bubble Cuts. (and those cat-eyed glasses that looked so silly later). Then came Ken, and my beloved Midge (who became a boy from Mars, lol), Allen and Skipper.

And then I decided I was too old to play with dolls. Rather, the girls in seventh grade said we were way over dolls. Mom put them away in the attic, and several years later I came home to find she had given them away to the girls down the street.

I was horrified, offended, outraged. But who could break those little girl's hearts? I dealt with change.

Over the years I missed my Barbies. I missed the 60s and the elegant clothes, the sophistication. Mini skirts, polyester, jeans and Ts took the place of New Look frocks and picture hats and pearls.

When I was forty years old I decided I was old enough to play with dolls. I bought some reproduction Barbies that looked like mine. And I made some quilts to celebrate her.

I also was given a Tyler Wentworth doll by Robert Tonner, and for some years my hubby and son gave me a doll for special gifts.

And sometimes I let little girls play with my dolls, just so the dolls know the joy of a girl's imagination and the power of make-believe.

Barbie Portraits by Nancy A Bekofske


  1. What a great (but ultimately kind of sad) story, and I adore your quilt! What techniques did you use? Did you paint the hair? Are the features appliquéd? I also had a Barbie around that time -- blond with a pony tail, gray wool pencil skirt (with a miniature zipper), orange sweater set, and a knitting basket with tiny balls of yarn and knitting needles. Those early Barbie clothes were amazing.

  2. I used fusible appliqué snippets and machine quilting. Martha, I remember that cute outfit you mentioned. Those outfits were so detailed!