The Klimt Barbie

Do me a favor, please. Without a lot of deep thought, finish this sentence:

“Barbie is ………”

Possible answers:

  • A fashion doll
  • A doll for little girls to play with
  • A politically correct doll – as in the hundreds of inspirational roles she plays, Lawyer Barbie, Scientist Barbie, Teacher Barbie, Doctor Barbie, Fire-fighter Barbie etc.etc.
  • A politically In-correct doll (especially her unrealistic breast to waist to hip proportions.)
  • A piece of history – There are now three generations who have grown up with Barbie. And she ‘stands’ in multiple museums.
  • A financial juggernaut – The number one selling doll of all time.

And I’m sure there are probably dozens more thoughts that come to your mind when trying to complete the sentence.

Today I’d like to offer one more:

“Barbie is… Art.”

klimt barbie

Barbie® Doll Inspired by Gustav Klimt from the Museum CollectionGustav_Klimt_Adele Bloch-Bauer IThis is the painting that inspired Mattel’s Museum Barbie. It is known as Portrait of Adele BlochBauer I.

OK, raise your hands… how many of you know who Gustav Klimt was? Or Adele Bloch-Bauer?

And the question I would really love to know the answer to: Out of the thousands and thousands of paintings made in the last thousand years of western art, why this one to inspire a Barbie?

If someone knows, I’d love to hear the answer, but until then, I’m just as happy to enjoy this beautiful Barbie for exactly what she is: A work of art.

A Tale of Two Dolls

I was surprised the first time I heard a ‘less-than-enthusiastic’ comment about American Girl’s® Addy doll. It’s not that I think American Girl walks on water or anything, but as a competitor in the doll business, I had to respect the tremendous success of the brand, the marketing and everything that goes into making American Girl such a huge success.

The Pattycake Doll company didn’t always carry 18 inch American Girl type dolls. We were geared more to the baby doll and rag doll market. But we kept getting requests, and finally I asked one of the mothers who had called me – once again – to find out if we carried 18″ Black Dolls: “If you want a Black 18 inch doll, why don’t you just buy American Girls’ Addy?”

The answer floored me. “I don’t want to give my daughter a slave doll.”

18 inch Doll Portraits -12-2

So gradually, Addie and I added 18″ dolls for children of color to our store. First we just had one Asian 18″ doll, one Black 18″ doll, and one Biracial/Multicultural/Hispanic skin tone 18 inch doll; but we quickly expanded as we discovered that there was a definite need and desire for these American Girl clones. And the more we looked, the more we found… Black American girl dolls with straight hair, and Black dolls with curly hair, eventually reaching 12+ different skin tone – hair style – hair color combinations. And because none of them were ‘Addy,’ there were no books, or ‘background stories.’  They were just dolls. Beautiful Dolls.

But this year we started carrying a new 18″ Black doll, from Madame Alexander, who comes dressed as a Ballerina. And she is simply stunning.

Ballerina 18in Doll Portrait

And for all those mothers who were reluctant to present their daughters with a ‘slave-girl story,’ we could suggest something different. Because in America today there are some really beautiful Black ballerinas with tremendously inspiring stories. Like Misty Copeland and Ashley Murphy and Ebony Williams.*

American Girl’s Addy has a wonderfully inspiring story – but as we learned, it’s not for everyone. Maybe a Black Ballerina Doll, and your daughter’s imagination, can create an alternative story more to your liking?

* Neither Madame Alexander nor Pattycake Doll are inferring that this beautiful 18″ doll is meant to represent any of the real Black ballerinas mentioned in this post.

How to Buy a Doll – 3 quick facts

First of all a disclaimer! Yes I do sell thousands of dolls as the Pattycake Doll Company, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression and assume that I’m all about the almighty dollar. The following suggestions apply to home made dolls too, and in fact, if you know how to make a peg doll, or an apple head doll, or a corn husk doll, or even just a simple stuffed sock doll… please do! Homemade dolls are sweet and personal.

But if you do want to buy a doll for a child, here is what you should consider:

  1. Most important, and the place everyone should start is age. How old is the child? Is the doll you’re thinking about appropriate for that age? Dolls are tested and rated for safety. Pay attention to that. If a doll says ages three and up, there is a reason! Babies don’t see well for the first six months, but their sense of touch is great – so dolls with lots of different finger-friendly textures are the way to go. Especially dolls ‘made’ for touch… like loveys with satin tags or edges.
    WARNING! Choking hazard: May contain small parts, not for children under 3 years.
  2. What do you want the child to do with the doll, and when do you want her to play with it? Do you want her to cuddle it on the couch and sleep with it at night? Do you want her to play with it like it’s her sister or maybe nurture it and play Mommy? Or do you want her to have dozens of outfits and shoes and hairstyles to work with? I’ve just described the differences between a rag doll, a baby doll and a fashion doll. There are many more, but you get the drift.
  3. Finally, try to remember who you’re buying the doll for. You’re not buying it for yourself, you’re not buying it for her parents, you are buying it for her. She is not going to be impressed with how much you spent, or if it’s from a famous doll company, or how big it is. It’s a doll. So if you spend $100 on a life sized doll that you love and that is sure as heck going to impress her mama, you may be shortchanging a sweet little girl who just wanted a pretty new doll to love.