2018-08-08 / Community

Barbie Doll wedding

One hot summer day there was a big event planned at Grandpa Boyd’s by my aunt, my sister and me, and our cousins Michele and Cynthia.

This event had culminated after many hours of playing with Barbie Dolls together. Our Barbies had all kinds of adventures together. Why not have a wedding!

The Barbie Doll craze started in 1959 when the American Toy Company Mattel, Inc., launched Barbie, a fashion doll, created by Ruth Handler.

Ruth had often watched her daughter play with paper dolls and was impressed with how she often gave them adult roles. At that time there were no adult dolls available for girls to play with. There were only baby dolls.

Ruth suggested the idea of an adult bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel Toy Company. He wasn’t too thrilled about the idea and neither were the other directors.

On a trip to Germany with her children in 1956, Ruth came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. She was so excited she purchased three of them. This doll was exactly what she had in mind. She gave one to her daughter and the other two she took to Mattel.


Holsinger Holsinger The Lilli Doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip in the Bild newspaper. Lilli was a blonde bombshell. She was also a working girl. She was first sold in Germany in 1955.

When Ruth returned to the United States she redesigned the doll with the help of engineer Jack Ryan. Ruth named the doll after her daughter Barbie. Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair held in New York on March 9, 1959. Around 350,000 Barbie Dolls were sold the first year.

The first Barbie Doll wore a black and white zebrastriped swimsuit and a signature top-knot ponytail with either blonde or brunette hair. The doll was marketed as a “Teen Age Fashion Model” with clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. Ruth Handler believed it was important for Barbie to look like an adult even though early research showed that many parents were concerned about the anatomical correctness of the female figure. Barbie’s appearance has been changed many times, most notably in 1971 when her eyes were adjusted to look forwards instead of having a demure sideways glance. Adult dolls opened up a new world of imaginary play by young girls.

Today Mattel claims that three Barbie Dolls are sold every second. I know we sure loved Barbie in the 1970s!

Since my memory was a bit spotty I called my cousins to see what they remembered. Michele had several pictures of the wedding and remembered a lot of the details. We had fun reminiscing together. Thank you, Michele!

I don’t remember how many Barbie Dolls our aunt had but I know she had at least three. Her newest Barbie was the Ken doll. She also had Midge, Barbie’s friend. She had a Barbie case where she kept all her Barbie stuff. It looked a little like a suitcase on the outside. When you opened it up it became a dressing room where you could hang Barbie’s clothes. It had drawers for accessories like purses and shoes. All the rest of us had two or three Barbies, too. When we went to Grandpa Boyd’s we always took our Barbie Dolls to play with.

We spent considerable time planning Barbie’s wedding. We set the date, decided on the location (the front porch sidewalk), invited people to come (they were to bring their Barbie if they had one), planned refreshments, and made sure every Barbie the five of us were bringing had an important part in the wedding. We made props for the wedding; such as the rug they stood on, the back drop they stood in front of, the guest registrar table, the cake table, and decorations for the area where the wedding was being held. Our aunt had some plastic inflatable Barbie furniture we used. We also used some small wooden chests, Barbie Doll size, for seating.

The big day arrived. Our mothers were very supportive of this big event and made sure we arrived in good time. We had around 15 Barbie Dolls to dress and get ready for the wedding.

Barbie, whose name was Barbara Ann and Cousin Cynthia’s doll, wore a sparkling, billowy, white wedding dress with a diamond tiara in her hair securing her wedding veil made by our cousin’s mother, Anna Lou. My sister and cousin Michele made several of the gowns worn at the wedding. Bridesmaid Stacy wore a yellow gown. Ken wore a brown suit and brown penny loafers. The best man wore a white shirt and brown trousers. The Flower Girl wore a yellow gown, too.

The five of us managed all the movements of the Barbie Dolls during the wedding. Each of us had our own Barbies and we had figured out ahead of time who was doing what and when!

It was a very solemn, sacred, serious wedding. Children mimic in play what they see in real life. This was no exception. There was one moment when we all laughed. It was after they said “I do” and kissed each other. Barbie and Ken didn’t have bendable arms in those days so a hug and kiss looked rather stiff armed! Dear me!

The wedding reception was made special by Grandma Edith’s Citrus Drink. She made this often. It was delicious. It had saffron in it. Barbie had a tiered wedding cake and we had cupcakes. Dawn, Barbie’s friend, served! We spent most of the afternoon at the wedding.

The five of us girls were close in age and developed deep friendships growing up. We played school in the garage (there was a blackboard on the wall and a couple desks that worked perfectly for this), we played church (complete with dressing in our mom’s clothes and putting up our hair in buns and wearing coverings), and spent a lot of time outside in the “grove,” a place Grandpa had planted a lot of trees. The swing set and sandbox were there.

This special day is another precious memory in the storehouse of our mind. Some of the details may be a bit foggy but the sense of belonging and being loved is something you never forget.

What was it that made your childhood special? Did you have cousins to play with? Sometimes it’s easy to think we have to do something special or go someplace special to make good memories. This wasn’t true of my childhood. If our cousins and aunt were there it was a good time! It didn’t matter where we were or what we were doing, we made the most of our time together!

Make sure your young children have time to play. It’s important to teach them to be responsible and to value what they can give to the family. It’s just as important for their childhood to be relaxed and somewhat carefree. Too soon they grow up and have many years of shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood. Let them have tea parties and Barbie Doll weddings! Let them make blanket forts and sand castles. Let them play church and make mud pies! Let them be children!

Thank you, dear Mother, for letting us be children! You taught us to work AND to play!

Affirmation for today: Childhood… idyllic days when we had no clue what was going on in the world outside! Innocent fun. Happy laughter. Dreaming. No cares or heartaches. Just being. I think heaven will be like that!

FYI: Call Susan at (765) 427- 6296, email her at susan.holsinger@gmail.com or mail to: 7690 W. 700 S. Rossville, IN 46065, for information on her books and articles.

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