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Barbie fashion designer papers

Identifier: 123.1645

The collection is comprised of material from Barbie doll and clothing designers and Mattel, Inc., and includes clippings, collected reference materials, correspondence, notes, patterns, photographs, product packaging, publications, scrapbooks, trade catalogs, audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and digital files. The papers document the design and production of Barbie dolls and clothing, the careers of designers and sculptors of dolls in the United States and Japan, Barbie doll collectibles and collectors, and the marketing and promotion of the Barbie brand by Mattel Inc. Dolls represented in this collection include Benefit Ball Barbie, Wave Barbie, Skipper, Tutti, Todd, and more.

The papers date from 1952 to 2023, with the bulk of materials dating from 1980 to 2000. Additional scope and content is listed for each series and subseries under the Contents List section of the finding aid.

The Doll design papers are arranged into two series which are further divided into subseries. The materials are housed in nine archival document boxes, one oversize box, two oversize folders, and two AV boxes.


  • 1952-2023
  • Majority of material found within , 1980-2000


Language of Materials

The majority of the collection is in English, with some instances of French, German, and Japanese.

Conditions Governing Access

Audiovisual and digital materials, including audio interviews and video footage, are restricted to on-site only access with required advanced notice for providing playback equipment.

Audio materials have been digitized by The Strong.

The remaining materials are open for use by staff of The Strong and users of its library and archives.

Conditions Governing Use

Though the donor has not transferred intellectual property rights (including, but not limited to any copyright, trademark, and associated rights therein) to The Strong, they have given permission for The Strong to make copies in all media for museum, educational, and research purposes.


6.0 Linear Feet (9 archival boxes, 1 large AV box, 1 small AV box, 1 oversize box, 2 oversize folders)

13.7 Gigabytes


The Barbie fashion designer papers were compiled by a designer of dolls and dolls’ clothing. The papers include internal documentation from Mattel Inc. relating to the marketing and sales of Barbie doll products. The papers are comprised of design inspiration scrapbooks, doll clothing patterns, product packaging, correspondence, clippings, photographs, promotional materials, trade catalogs, newsletters, audio cassettes, VHS cassettes, and digital files. The bulk of the papers date from 1980 to 2000.

Historical Note

In the 1950s, Mattel Creations co-founder Ruth Handler observed her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls and noted a gap in the age market for children's toys, as most dolls during that time were designed to be babies. Mattel's directors were at first unethusiastic about Handler's idea for an adult bodied fashion doll. Handler brought a German fashion doll, Bild Lilli, back from a trip to Europe as a souvenir and partnered with Jack Ryan to reimagine the design. The Barbie doll, named for Handler's daughter, was created and officially debuted at the International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. According to Mattel, more than one billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide since its launch.

Since her introduction, Barbie has been outfitted with clothing and accessories inspired by fashion trends and representations of numerous career paths. Barbie's first years, the 1960s, were an era of cultural change for aesthetics and for women's roles in society. The design of Barbie's form and fashion reflected those changes and has continued to evolve alongside society through the present day.

Designer Charlotte Johnson created the first Barbie fashion line and continued to work as manager of the Barbie Designs Group until retirement in the early 1980s. Johnson supervised the start-up of production in Japan from 1957-1958. Sample maker Fumiko Miyatsuka worked closely with Johnson on the clothing production. Mattel designers who contributed to Barbie fashions include Kitty Black Perkins, Judith Brewer Curtis, Janet Goldblatt, Keith Hodges, Carol Spencer, and more. Sculptors who worked on Barbie's form include Martha Armstrong Hand, Joyce Christopher, and Aldo Favilli.

In the 1970s, toy safety standards lead to the creation of limited edition collectors dolls. Designs which used certain fabrics and small components had to be separated from those played with by children. Fashion designers who have collaborated with Mattel to create collectible dolls include Oscar de la Renta, Christian Dior, Donna Karan, Karl Lagerfeld, Bob Mackie, Diane Von Furstenberg, Vera Wang, and many more.

System of Arrangement

Series I: Product development, 1958-2023

Subseries A: Design, 1959-2023

Subseries B: Manufacturing, 1958-2023

Subseries C: Reference, 1959-2023

Series II: Mattel Inc., 1952-2023

Subseries A: Publications, 1954-2023

Marketing and promotional materials, 1952-2023

Custodial History

The papers were donated to The Strong in April 2023 as a gift from an anonymous donor. The papers were accessioned by The Strong under 123.1645.

Processed by

Laura Boland, February - March 2024.
Processing Note

Digital folders' titles assigned with prefix, SeriesSubseries_Folder No_, followed by the original folder title, in some cases files received outside of a folder were moved to new folders created by the archivist.


Guide to the Barbie Fashion Designer Papers, 1946-2023 —
Laura Boland
March 2024
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play at The Strong Repository

The Strong
One Manhattan Square
Rochester NY 14607 USA
585.423.1886 (Fax)