The cover of 'Barbie Takes The Catwalk," by Karan Feder, available October 2023.
Weldon Owen

Barbie Takes The Catwalk Explores Our Favorite Doll’s Most Iconic Looks

“Studying the Barbie doll’s fashion history provides a fascinating timeline.”

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When she was first launched at the New York Toy Fair in March 1959, Barbie was something completely different. Unlike the baby dolls that had dominated the imaginary play landscape until then, Barbie didn’t exist to be nurtured. Barbie was (and remains) an avatar, a way to allow girls to enact their most glamorous and ambitious fantasies. Among those dreams, for many, is a closet full of haute couture, inspired by actual fashion houses. A new book, Barbie Takes the Catwalk: A Style Icon’s History in Fashion, explores how Barbie has both reflected and inspired fashion trends, from Dior to the streets of New York and beyond.

Written by Karan Feder — an award-winning costume designer, historian, and the curator of the traveling exhibition Barbie®, A Cultural Icon: 60 Years of Fashion and InspirationBarbie Takes The Catwalk will be available October of this year, and features hundreds of images from designer runways, magazine editorials, and fashion archives alongside photos of vintage Barbie dolls in corollary outfits.

“Studying the Barbie doll’s fashion history provides a fascinating timeline,” Feder tells Romper. “It’s a pink-hued and curated view, of course, but the resulting narrative is an incredible portrait of the cultural evolution of American women during the last half century. It was also fascinating to explore some of the fashion trends that Barbie’s designers did not choose to embrace, and why.”

Romper got a sneak peek at some of Barbie’s most in-trend looks featured in the book, highlighting the doll’s simultaneous ability to adopt and inspire looks from the likes of Dior, Balenciaga, Yves St. Laurent, Pucci, and Chanel (not to mention the street fashions that also inspire these brands).

We’re obsessed with “Red Flare Barbie’s” Balenciaga-inspired coat. While the doll is from 1962, the fashion that likely inspired it dates to a bit earlier.

Barbie inspired by BalenciagaWeldon Owen

Oleg Cassini is a designer who helped craft Jackie Kennedy’s most iconic looks, which ultimately trickled down from the White House to the Dreamhouse.

The similarity is not a coincidence.Weldon Owen

Here, Christie (who became Barbie’s friend in 1968), can be seen in the iconic high hemlines of the early-1970s.

Christie in 1970s inspired hot pants and coat.Weldon Owen

This dress from the House of Torrente is from 1973. By 1977, the look was adopted by Barbie.

This look is inspired by one from the House of Torrente, 1973.Weldon Owen

Anyone who lived through the 1990s can likely recall how into retro patterns we were. This Pucci pattern sported by Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite inspired Barbie’s jumpsuit in 1991.

A retro pattern from Pucci inspired this Barbie look.Weldon Owen

The conspicuously wide-legged jeans of the late ‘90s came for us all, even Barbie, who adopted the look for a little while in 1998.

Barbie also had a Phat pants phase.Weldon Owen

These are just some of the iconic looks worn by our favorite fashion plate over the years: we can’t wait to see the rest.

Barbie Takes the Catwalk: A Style Icon’s History in Fashion, published by Weldon Owen and distributed by Simon & Schuster will be released in October 2023 wherever books are sold and is available for pre-order now.

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