Don’t you dare call them “vintage.”
10. Twirly Curl Barbie (1982)
This bitch. I don’t know anyone in my age group who didn’t use that twirling contraption on their own hair. My curiosity ended with my mother screaming at me as she cut the knots out with kitchen scissors. Beauty is pain.
Rating: 1 plastic shoe
9. Sun Gold Malibu Barbie (1982)
The selling point of this particular gal were the actual tan lines, which, if your Barbie looked as sunburnt as mine, were horrific. Her color can only be described as “Trumpian.” Never has skin cancer been so glamorous?
Rating: 2 plastic shoes
8. Day to Night Barbie (1984)
I guess if you were going to your job at the Elle Woods Corporation, this would be the outfit to wear. Even at the age of nine I knew this was entirely too much pink for the boardroom. She had a briefcase and inside was a calculator, a newspaper, a desk calendar, and a magazine with ~fucking Ken~ on the cover because god forbid she go one day without being reminded of her dumb boyfriend and by association, that the Patriarchy rules everything. She also had cab money in her purse. A New Yorker if there ever was one. There was an office/bedroom portable thing you could buy separately but it was depressing. These were the dark days before the Malibu Dream House. She lived in squalor, leading me to believe if I worked really hard, I too could have a crummy desk in a generic office and barely scrape by. Which I do! Childhood dreams fulfilled.
Rating: 3.5 plastic shoes
7. Angel Face Barbie (1983)
This was just a Barbie with her makeup scraped off, come on now. I guess in order to make her appear virginal and pure, they put her in this lacy floor length schmatta with a cameo choker. Honestly, she would have done better in a 1880’s lawless gold mining town setting. She always struck me as the ultimately kind but deranged brothel madam.
Rating: 1.5 plastic shoes
6. Great Shape Barbie (1983)
This is the eating disorder one. I mean you can tie her dance belt around her waist twelve times, it’s ludicrous. The sweatband and leg warmers imply some type of jazzercise workout will ensue but she’s got toe shoes on, so I guess ballet is her mode of overexercising. This was around the time the fitness craze of the 80’s started to possess everyone and I’m not altogether convinced she wasn’t the springboard for the repulsive yet erotic 1985 Jamie Lee Curtis/John Travolta film “Perfect.”
Rating: 3 plastic shoes
5. Dream Glow Barbie (1985)
Starry, glow in the dark eleganza. Her matching canopy bed and vanity were my dream bedroom for YEARS. I’m probably still not over it. The tagline on the box was “Glamorous by day, glowing at night!” implying she had nowhere else to be in her life but at a drag ball with Ken. Anyway, my Skipper lost her virginity to Derek (from the Rockers) in the Barbie canopy bed, so at least there’s vicariousness in that.
Rating: 4 plastic shoes
4. Wedding Fantasy Barbie (1989)
Oh boy. There may have been a Barbie in the box, but the dress swallowed her entirely. She was literally just a head peering out of the tulle. I’m not sure what the fantasy was supposed to be, exactly, but if you bought the limited edition set, it came with a Ken that finally had a pretty good plastic hairdo. He kind of reminds me of Patrick Bateman, so I’m happy for her. Mazel Tov.
Rating: 2.5 plastic shoes
3. Barbie and the Rockers (1987)
I had them all. And not just one version, but the second wave as well. Dee Dee, Derek, Diva, Dana, and obviously Barbie who sported a crazy mullet in her second iteration. I refused the version 2 Ken with the actual hair, he was trash. These were the last Barbies I owned because my burgeoning teendom made me feel self-conscious about being 12 and still in love with these dolls. Speaking of love, Derek was mine. There was something sultry and swarthy about him that really blew my hair back, you know? He was the resident slut, too, because I made him perform all sorts of sexual nonsense upon Barbies, Skippers (see #5), and Kens alike. He was nude more often than not as well, which suited him just fine. Those pleather pants were doing him no favors anyway. I once made him act out an entire scene from one of my mom’s Danielle Steele books. I was a real mess. Anyway, the Barbie from this group came with an actual cassette of their “songs.” God it was so bad. “Born! Born with a mike in our hand!” …
OK but don’t quit your day job in that depressing office, Barbs.
Rating: 4 plastic shoes
2. Astronaut Barbie (1985)
Finally, she makes her escape. The best part of this Barbie is the high heeled boots. Nothing was ever so useless in space travel, although, who knows - maybe she was going to be stuck in a Martian colony office and wanted to brighten up the joint. She also came with a silver purse - it’s futuristic AND sexist.
Rating: 4.5 plastic shoes
1. Fashion Jeans Barbie (1981)
My first ever Barbie. The catalyst of my obsession with tiny clothes. I remember her like she was my sister. That fuzzy sweater. The dark denim. The diamond studs. The simple hair and makeup, ugh, she was glorious. No muss, no fuss. People dress like this NOW, she was so ahead of her goddamned time. I didn’t know if I wanted to be her or deface her, I loved her so much. Mostly, I put her in that giant yellow Barbie RV and drove her all over the house. I took her places, I bought her a trillion outfits, I felt like she really knew me and we were FRIENDS. In 1989 I gave her to my cousin who was five years younger and I like to think she still lives in Greece, which a hilarious and weird childhood in Astoria, Queens prepared her for.
Rating: ALL OF THE PLASTIC SHOES.