Book: Dressing Barbie
Photos Courtesy of Carol Spencer
Author: Carol Spencer
1. How has the Barbie brand changed most since you first started?
WOW! Where do I start, in 1963 the world was far different from that of 2019? Technology has come to the forefront changing the way we communicate, our jobs, play toys, recreation and more. It has changed the Barbie play patterns. One doll with an entire wardrobe of fashions and play situations has evolved into many dolls each with specific situations. There are electronic games specifically for the Barbie doll.
In the early years, we would create open-ended play situations for each Barbie doll and fashion allowing the child to think, dream and plan.
2. What do you think is the most iconic thing about Barbie?
I began thinking of Barbie doll as an icon during the 1980s decade as she became famous via the start of many books written about her. Before that, Barbie made news for over two decades, but it was at this time that she took on new roles and became more diverse.
The plan for Barbie doll set up by the Handlers in the 1960s gave the child the opportunity to explore both life and careers through play as the Women's movement began. Each person playing with Barbie doll does it in a different way becoming attached to her through their private thoughts, dreams and expectations, planning and hoping for the future.
3. What do you want readers to take away from Dressing Barbie?
In addition to recognizing and enjoying the dolls, fashions and photo-centric photography of the four decades of my career, I would like readers to understand that by persistence, fortitude, diplomacy, and continual education they can achieve their dream; be it a career, family, sports activity etc.
Creative positions create challenges and competition that must be woven into everyday life to achieve fulfillment and happiness both at work and at home.
4. How difficult was it for you to condense almost 60 years of work into 160 pages?
My book proposal outline had almost 100 pages. My original vision delved into more detail presenting information I researched in Japan and Europe.
Starting as a memoir it then segued into the decades I spent designing for the Barbie Family of Dolls, large dolls, small dolls also working with Boys Toys designing the Big Jim doll's fashions.
As I am a fashion designer, a creator, not a professional writer, I worked with two ghostwriters, the first one was a scriptwriter for TV and documentaries, the second a fashion writer. Also, with editors whose focus guided me towards the final book. I am thrilled that my Barbie book Dressing Barbie is so well received.
5. You’ve worked with Barbie and Mattel for more than 35 years, which is amazing, what is your favorite design you’ve worked on?
I used to say the next one! However, at this point in my life, I no longer design for Barbie doll. There are several dolls and fashions that I consider my favorites; Benefit Ball Barbie Doll [the first doll to feature the designer's name on the package, mine], Golden Jubilee Barbie Doll [the only doll to have a signature imprinted on her body - my signature].
The My First Barbie Dolls and fashions [a line I created as the average age of the child playing with Barbie Doll lowered to 2 years], and Baby Sister Kelly Doll, now known as Chelsea [I created her when it became apparent that we need to bring the nurturing play pattern into Barbie fashion play]
6. What was your writing process like for this book?
I presented the background information for the book including the stories and historical information. I choose the dolls to feature. I began writing chapters over 20 years ago around the time I retired from Mattel so it wasn't hard to locate what to focus on.
When Harper Collins became interested and wanted a photo-centric book with over 100 photos I put my photography hobby to work using my training in the Ansel Adams method to photograph 43 photos of dolls for the book.
I also scanned the scrapbook photos and fabrics from my collection. As everything had to be fact-checked I was happy that I had saved so many documents.
7. If you could change one thing about Barbie, what would it be?
I wouldn't change anything, I like the group of dolls as they are evolving.
8. Barbie recently diversified its doll look for its 60th anniversary, what do you think of the new dolls and do you hope they continue to diversify?
I hope that the Barbie family of dolls continues to change as we change. We began making the doll more lifelike by first adding bende legs, next a twist waist, then a voice and on and on.
We also introduced a Black Barbie doll, a Hispanic Barbie doll, an Asian Barbie doll, and other nationalities. Recently, Mattel added 3 new figure styles, Curvy, Tall and Petite, I love each one and hope that the brand continues to follow the Handlers plan for her to evolve.
9. What’s the best book you have read in 2019 thus far?
Dressing Barbie of course!
10. What’s your best advice for getting over writer’s block?
Never give up - when the going gets rough, live a little!
11. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor before deciding.
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