The difference between Barbie and Barbie®

If you ask a four year old African American girl to go get her Barbies, what do you think she’ll bring you?

A Christie doll – Barbie’s African American friend – or a Nikki, Christie’s sister?

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Barbie® Entrepreneur African American

Perhaps any one of the myriad of dolls with The Barbie name and ‘African American’ attached to it? Like ‘Barbie loves the Girl Scouts African-American’ or ‘Barbie Careers – Nurse – African American?’

Or perhaps one of the 1000’s of Barbie clones, not made by Mattel at all?

Actually, I think that that four year old might bring out all of her dolls… including Bratz, Monster High, Doc McStuffins and Disney Princesses or the new Prettie Girls by Stacey McBride.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Why? Because I think that after over 50 years, Barbie has finally become the generic term for 11 inch dolls. Especially the all plastic – removable fashions dolls.

It’s like Kleenex® is what everybody calls facial tissues, Vaseline® for petroleum jelly and Velcro® for hook and latch fasteners. Especially in our children’s minds. Children don’t ‘get’ ®! And to be honest with you, I don’t think most adults differentiate much between what is really a Barbie® and what might be something else similar. I think we call them all Barbies too.

What do you think?

PS: To my readers who filter everything through a P.C. lens: This post is about the difference between Barbie®, and Barbie used as a generic term… not about race. Because Mattel has both African American Barbies® and Black dolls that are part of the Barbie line but are not named Barbie, it made my point easier to explain. Get over yourself.

How to create a Politically Correct Doll


I have found that in order to define the perfect ‘politically correct doll,’ you first have to identify the politically incorrect dolls – it’s a yin – yang kind of thing. And based on my many years in the doll business, I can identify for you – with authority and certainty – those features that make a doll politically incorrect.*

Politically Incorrect Feature #1 Any doll with eyes is politically incorrect. Especially if the eyes are on a doll that is described as ethnic or ‘of color.’ This applies to eye shape, eye color and eye placement on the doll’s head. Especially incorrect are brown dolls with blue or violet eyes. God knows this never occurs naturally.

Politically Incorrect Feature #2 Any doll with removable clothes. First because the doll may end up ‘nude.’ Second, because a child might put boy doll clothes on a girl doll or worse, girl clothes on a boy doll. Cross dressing dolls is so definitely not politically correct because it may lead to homosexual tendencies in adulthood.

Politically Incorrect Feature #3 Any doll with a penis is automatically politically incorrect. This is true interestingly enough for both the far religious right, and the far feminist left. An equal opportunity political incorrectness. Any doll with a vulva is suspect, but probably too shocking and therefore also politically incorrect.

Politically Incorrect Feature #4 Any doll of color. As everyone knows, colored dolls are bad dolls and white dolls are good dolls. It was proven by giving very young and impressionable children a choice between a white doll and brown doll and then forcing them to decide – and label – one of them as a bad doll. (The Clark Doll Test.)

Politically Incorrect Feature #5 Any doll not of color. (For those few children who guessed ‘wrong’ on the Clark Test and then the various follow-up clones of the Clark Test)

Politically Incorrect Feature #6 Any doll with a figure, particularly Barbie. Little girls of five and six will be totally screwed up for life if their breast to waist to hip ratio in adulthood doesn’t match that of their childhood Barbies.

So there you have it. The Politically Correct Doll. No penis or vulva, no eyes, no clothes, can’t be white or ‘of color,’ and without a figure. Just shove some old rags into a sock and draw a smile on it. You’ll be fine.

*Our expertise has been provided by a wide assortment of haters and idiots who have either written us emails, commented on our dolls or blog posts, or otherwise self-identified their ignorance on the internet.

Doll Clothes and Razor Blades

Doll clothes for 18" dolls

Doll clothes for 18″ dolls

Today I was thinking of the oft repeated story about King Gillette, (real name) who supposedly invented ‘freebie’ marketing – the old “Give them the razor free, then sell them a gazillion razor blades” concept.

(Popular as that story is, it’s wrong… not because freebie marketing wasn’t a great idea, but because in reality, King actually charged a pretty hefty price for his razors!)

OK then… what does this have to do with our Doll business?

Because whether you think of it as similar to ‘freebie marketing,’ or more like ‘McDonald’s® Marketing’ add on selling (“You want fries with that?”), doll clothes is a multi-multi-million dollar part of the doll business.

Barbie® comes closest to being a ‘freebie marketing’ model. You can buy a Barbie® doll in a basic swimsuit for $7.99 – delivered to your daughter’s front door. 11″ Barbie Clones at the Dollar stores are even less! On Amazon there are approx 3400 different clothing items that you can buy that fit Barbie® and her clones.

American Girl®, is more like McDonalds® add on selling. Only available through their own stores or pop-ups, the 18″ dolls cost approximately $110. Their clothing runs roughly $30 for most outfits… some more, some less. I’ve seen articles online that price the average American Girl® doll and accessories, or a trip to one of their stores (including lunch) between $400 – $600 depending on who wrote the article and what kind of experience they were pricing. That’s a 3 to 5 times multiple folks.

In either case don’t you think we should all be paying more attention to selling doll clothes in our stores!?

Most of the major doll lines that we carry at the Pattycake Doll Company’s store has clothing to go with their dolls, Adora, Corolle, Madame Alexander, North American Bear, Manhattan Toy (Baby Stella and Groovy Girls), etc.

So there, in brief, is the marketing concepts behind doll clothes. Freebie Marketing like Barbie® or McDonalds® selling like American Girl®

In next week’s post we’ll discuss why selling doll clothes is great idea for the consumer – both the parents and their children.

Breaking the ‘Doll’ color barrier

There’s no really nice way to say it, so I’ll just blurt it out: It’s a crying shame that with 50% of American kids now ‘non-white’ ethnically, it’s still about 100% White in the children’s doll design and manufacturing world.

The numbers are a lot better in the ‘Art Doll’ world, but the Toy Industry as a whole is still pretty much ‘lily white.’

There are exceptions of course, and one, ‘The One World Doll Project,’ is the subject of today’s post.

the Doll designer Stacey McBride

Me with Stacey McBride

The One World Doll Project makes dolls of color. Beautiful Dolls. They’re a young company as far as how long they’ve been in production, so currently there are only two dolls available: Lena, an African American doll, and Valencia, an Hispanic doll (whose back story has her hailing from Mexico City.) In the pipeline are dolls from Africa and India.

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl Doll Lena

Prettie Girl dolls are built to the 11½ inch fashion doll scale, so there are literally thousands of additional outfits and accessories available for them.

What makes the Prettie Girls special is that they are designed by a woman of color, to represent women of color – for little girls. They have individual personalities and ‘ethnic looks,’ as opposed to the mass produced Barbie Dolls® and her cloned sisters. No one in their right mind would ever expect to meet a woman who looked like Barbie on the street. I see women who look like the Prettie Girl dolls every day. That’s huge in my book.

Seriously, walk down any major Toy ‘Big Box’ retailer… you’ll find plenty of Black  Barbies and her clones. But they all look alike. Prettie Girls look only like themselves, and are beautiful at that. I sincerely hope that this new doll company becomes a tremendous success. Absolutely nothing against Barbie mind you… I’m just a little tired of her ‘look,’ and ready to see real ‘Dolls of Color’ and especially ‘Doll Companies of Color’ take the stage.

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Prettie Girl Doll Valencia

Disclosure Notice: The Pattycake Doll Company, as of the date of this post, does carry and sell Prettie Girl dolls. We were not paid nor asked to do this review. It is as the largest Ethnic Doll site on the internet, and as authors of this blog about ‘Dolls and the Doll industry,’ that we wrote this post as a comment on the industry.

Doll Review: Hot in the wrong way

I saw this story about a recalled doll today: Wal-Mart Recalls 174,000 Dolls Over Burn Risk.

And pardon the pun, ‘it burned my butt.’ You see I think Barbie dolls are great, and totally disagree with the feminists and other carpers who insist that playing with a Barbie Doll is harmful to a little girl’s psyche.

And then I see this doll, which is a Walmart exclusive and sold 174,000 in two years.

To quote the article: The 16-inch doll is packaged with a toy medical check-up kit. The doll babbles when she gets “sick” and her cheeks turn red and she starts coughing. Using the medical kit pieces cause the symptoms to stop.

recalled wal-mart doll

recalled: UPC Code: 6-04576-16800-5 Date code on tag: starts with WM

A doll that heats up? Whose cheeks turn red? Who can be ‘cured’ by playing using the medical pieces? In my humble opinion, this doll is much worse than a Barbie.

First of all, (And I am guessing here) this doll apparently only came in ‘white.’ I make that assumption because there is only one UPC code being recalled. If there were a Black version of this doll, it should have had a different UPC. If I am guessing correctly, I find that kind of insulting.

Second: The package is marked ages three and up. Which means the accessories are going to get lost. Which means at some point you’re going to have a doll that can never be cured? Coughs until her batteries run out? What kind of message does that send to kids?

Don’t get me wrong… I know this is commenting on someone else’s misfortune… and of course I am writing this post ‘in hindsight.’ I am not a Walmart hater. I know that as a professional retail doll buyer, if I had been shown this doll, I might have said ‘great idea’ too. (Although I would have wanted the ethnic version, because that’s what we sell at The Pattycake Doll Company.) I know darn well that the buyer at Walmart would never have knowingly wanted to potentially burn a child.

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog “It’s not easy being a doll buyer.”

Guest Post: Barbie: Evil or Not?

Phil on JTVGuest Blogger: Phil Wrzesinski is president and owner of Toy House and Baby Too in Jackson, Michigan, recently named “One of the 25 best independent stores in America” in the book Retail Superstars by George Whalin. You can learn more about Phil at”

I remember the story my grandparents told about how they were introduced to Barbie© at Toy Fair in New York. They were taken into separate rooms so that they would each give their own opinion without influence. My grandfather hemmed and hawed and wasn’t sure about it. My grandmother walked out and said to him, “You ordered a lot of them I hope?”

Ruth Handler Introduces Barbie

Ruth Handler Introduces Barbie 

While the critics of Barbie© have their points – her unattainable figure and her deep pockets (who can afford a Corvette working at McDonald’s©?) are definite cons, there are also some positives Barbie© has brought to young children everywhere. Two of the most powerful are Imagination and Aspiration.

Imagination: One thing Barbie© has done is ignite imagination. Barbie© didn’t come with scripts or stories or TV shows. Those all showed up later. Barbie© came with clothes and the kids who played with her had to create the stories behind the clothes. Barbie© wasn’t from the traditional mother/daughter world that these girls knew. They had to create the world in which their Barbie© lived. And in that imagination, these kids created worlds that had never existed.

Aspiration: Prior to Barbie©, most dolls were babies. Young girls played with them as caretakers and friends. Barbie© was the first doll that was older than the girls who played with her. Barbie was the doll they aspired to be. Besides being glamorous and fashionable, Barbie© took on the characteristics of the adult females in a young girl’s life. This changed the way young girls looked at the future. Suddenly they saw themselves being and becoming more than they ever thought possible before.

My grandmother saw all that in a private room in New York in 1959. Fortunately, she convinced my grandfather to buy a lot of them.

Barbie Dolls as Hair Decor?

You and I are already in agreement that we love dolls… I own the Pattycake Doll Company, which is an e-tail doll store, and I blog about dolls. And since you’re one of my readers of The Doll Blog, I think we can safely assume you love dolls too.

So I think we’ll also be in agreement that this is interesting:

The Japanese celebrate the 2nd Monday in January as ‘Coming of Age’ day, when everyone who has turned twenty in the last year celebrates having reached the ‘age of Majority’ or adulthood.

For the women, it’s a ‘dress-up, get your hair and make-up done’ kind of day. The dress-up part is by wearing ‘Furisode’ Kimonos. Furisode Kimonos are expensive ‘formal’ Kimonos worn by single women.

And for some women, the get your hair done part is accomplished by wrapping your hair around a Barbie Doll. This totally blows me away.

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

Barbie Doll as Hair Decor

And frustrates me, because, as much as I have grilled my Japanese pen-pals about this, I can only get partial answers. Like how common is it? Common enough that two different pen-pals sent me pictures of two different women with Barbie in their hair. Why do they do it? “Because it’s pretty” came the answer. Why Barbie? No answer.

Woman wearing Barbie Doll in hair

Coming of Age in Japan, with Hair Decor by Mattel!

Interesting? Very! Understandable?… well, I’m still working on that!

Barbie’s figure and other foolishness

Unless you’re living in a cave, you probably know that there are some people who think that Barbie’s ‘figure’ is damaging to a girl’s self-esteem.

I don’t think American five year olds think like that. But I’m not a psychologist, just a simple doll salesman.

My point is this: We sell 1000’s of dolls each year, and because little girls don’t have credit cards we know darn well that it’s adults who buy the dolls.

It is my firm and utter belief that when adults give a doll to a child they don’t ever say: “I hope you grow up to be just like this doll.”

I think what they say is: “Here’s a new doll for you to play with and love.”

Where I get stuck with the argument below is: ” The impossible physical proportions of the doll idolized as perfection by so many.” Who’s idolizing a Barbie doll as perfection? Five year old girls? I’ve seen some lady – in Europe I think – who is altering herself to look like Barbie. She’s pretty enough I guess, but I would hardly think that her doing that to herself is Barbie’s fault. 

And when Mattel makes a ‘Celebrity Barbie,’ like the Katie Perry or Nicki Minaj charity Barbies, does that mean little girls who idolize these singers are going to have messed up body images and self-esteem because of the impossible proportions of the dolls? (And from what I’ve seen of those two dolls, they don’t do their real life model’s assets justice either.)

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

Katie Perry and Nicki Minaj Charity Barbie Dolls

As a doll store, in all our years selling thousands of Black, Biracial, Asian, and other Ethnic dolls, none of which have we ever presented as looking like a real person… not once has anybody returned a doll and said : “This is such an unrealistic representation of a real human body (ethnic hair style, skin tone, eye shape or whatever.) and it’s screwing up my kid’s mind.”

Just saying is all. My opinion.


Bild Lilli and Barbie Dolls

Bild Lilli

Bild Lilli

a Bild Lilli Cartoon - can you see how she might have become Barbie?

a Bild Lilli Cartoon – can you see how she might have become Barbie?










It makes me sad when I read about folks using political correctness and/or feminism to bash children’s dolls; most often it seems, Barbie dolls.

Her measurements and makeup are usually the prime focus of the bashing, although she has also been used to bash consumerism, the environment, career vs stay-at-home mom choices, sexualization, racism and a host of other issues.

I know  that no simple post of mine is going to change anybody’s mind, but I hope that a little historical perspective may offer some comfort to mothers who are feeling guilty or influenced by this Politically Correct stuff.

In the years just after World War II, Germany was in pretty bad shape. Pardon my language, but they had just had the crap beat out of them. Into this darkness came a little ray of sunshine called Bild Lilli. Lilli started her life as a cartoon character, a brassy, sexy beautiful blond who wanted to put the misery of the war behind her and meet a man… preferably a rich man. Germany loved her.

And as often happens, this popular Lilli ‘character’ soon became a doll. The doll had the same ‘personality’ as the cartoon character, brassy, sexy and fun-loving. “Live for today for who knows what tomorrow may bring.” The perfect character for the the place and the times.

At that time in America most dolls for children were either baby dolls or toddler dolls… there were no adult dolls. When an American tourist named Ruth Handler saw Lilli dolls in a shop window, she immediately bought one for her doll-loving daughter, and a few extras to show to her husband, one of the founders of the Mattel Toy company. Ruth thought that there might be a market for a doll like Bild Lilli. Something different than a baby doll. It took her three years to do it, but she finally convinced her husband – and Barbie Dolls were born.

But of all the ways Barbie was like Lillie, in the most important way she was not: Lilli was a character – a woman who was frank, and adult, and had a well recognized personality. Barbie was not. Barbie was just a doll, woman shaped, with different outfits. A new toy for children to play with.

I think it’s pretty funny actually… how the circle turns, and how adults today have projected all these negative sexual characteristics onto Barbie. Bild Lillie was proud of her sexuality, but Barbie, as envisioned by Ruth 50 years ago, was as far from that as she could get! Somewhere in toy heaven, Bild Lilli must be laughing her ass off.