|Fashion Queen Barbie|
|In late 1963, Mattel introduced the ultimate Barbie doll. Glamorous, luxurious and expensive, Fashion Queen Barbie's packaging and presentation pointed heavily to the fact that she was top of the range. Described as "super sophisticated", with "exciting luxury features", she was the first doll in the Barbie line to come with molded hair that enabled her to wear wigs. Dressed in an eye catching gold and white striped swimsuit and matching Cleopatra style turban, and accompanied by three stylish wigs displayed on a white plastic stand, she was packaged in a large, open fronted display box, a style normally reserved for gift sets. Leaving nothing to chance, Fashion Queen Barbie's release coincided with an intensive advertising campaign, meaning that despite her $6.00 selling price (twice that of a normal Barbie), she quickly became a must have amongst children.
Many thousands of Fashion Queen Barbie dolls were sold during the 1960s. As a result, the doll no longer has the high status she enjoyed during the 1960s, but instead is seen as a "common" doll, cheap and easy for collectors to find. This is not helped by the fact that most examples are found loose, nude, and without their wigs, so that they exude little of their former glamour.
Fashion Queen Barbie was Mattel's response to the rash of hair play themed dolls that hit the fashion doll market in the early 1960s. When Barbie had been designed in the late 1950s, the company had not anticipated the importance hair styling would take on as part of street and high fashion within only a few years of the doll's introduction. As a result, they had not considered hair play to be an important part of the original doll's design, and had given Barbie a fixed ponytail hair style, which, to save money and prevent unnecessary bulk, was rooted only around the outer hair line. Heat setting, wraps, and stiff hard curls discouraged children from taking the ponytail down, but those who were not put off by all this, soon found themselves confronted by a horrifying bald patch, which was not easy to recover. Later Bubblecut dolls, whilst fully rooted, had hair so short it was almost impossible to restyle.
Dolls such as American Character's Tressy, whose 'secret', retractable strand of hair could be styled into all the latest looks clearly pointed to Mattel's mistake. Always innovative, the company approached hair play in a very different way, designing a doll who had no real hair at all. Instead, her 'hair' was molded and painted on, held in place with a blue plastic hair band. This made it easier for children to put on the three "high fashion" wigs that were sold with her. This set of wigs were beautifully made and styled, and consisted of a platinum 'bubble-on-a-bubble', brunette pageboy, and a titian page boy. I think the high, bubble on a bubble style must have only been available with the earliest dolls, because most of the examples I have seen, have been smaller bubbles, like the wig shown with the boxed doll at left.
Early Mattel catalogue pictures show a prototype Fashion Queen with blonde hair, and red lips, whilst fashion booklets show a redhaired doll with scarlet lips, but by the time the doll was in production, this had been toned down to a more modern (but perhaps less pretty), brunette with light pink lips. On the standard Midge/Barbie body, the doll had coral nail polish.
Mattel's hopes for Fashion Queen Barbie's popularity were revealed by the fact that they also produced two gift sets feauring the doll. Fashion Queen Barbie and Her Friends, on sale at $12.00, featured the basic doll in her swimsuit, turban, white open toe shoes and wigs, accompanied by a straight leg Midge and Ken doll in their original swimsuits. Interestingly, the photo for this giftset features what looks to be a #5 ponytail Barbie, with her curly bangs poking out from under the Fashion Queen turban. (No wonder so many children in the 1960s were confused about what actually lay beneath this hat, and often speculated about whether or not this doll might actually be bald!). Also available was the Fashion Queen Barbie and Ken Trousseau Set (a set I longed for as a child). Featuring a boxed Fashion Queen Barbie and s/l Ken, the set
|The back of Fashion Queen Barbie's box showing its fantastic graphics.|
|Fashion Queen Barbie in her original gold and white swimsuit and turban, both of which are hard to find in good condition.|
|Fashion Queen Barbie MIB. The correct booklet is the white 1962 booklet. The box is also more orange than it looks in this photo.|
|Fashion Queen Barbie, Continued....|