The Design Museum in London is gearing up for another popular summer attraction: a Barbie exhibition! This showcase dives into the iconic doll’s history, exploring how her design has evolved over time. Visitors can expect to see fashion, architecture, furniture, and even how Barbie’s body image has been portrayed throughout the years.

“Barbie: The Exhibition” runs until February 23, 2025, marking the 65th anniversary of the Barbie brand. It delves into the doll’s expansive universe, featuring everything from the rare first-edition Barbie from 1959, dressed in a black-and-white bathing suit, to one-of-a-kind Talking Barbie prototypes. Furthermore, The exhibition explores how Barbie’s appearance has evolved due to cultural shifts around diversity and representation.

Barbie Exhibition at Design Museum
Barbie Exhibition at the Design Museum Image Source <a href=httpsdesignmuseumorgexhibitionsbarbie the exhibition>Design Museum<a>

Danielle Thom, curator of ‘Barbie: The Exhibition’ at the Design Museum, said, “The Barbie universe is expansive and exciting, thanks to the meticulous work of talented designers over the past 65 years. Barbie is arguably one of the most globally recognized examples of world-building through product and graphic design. She has inspired many designers and artists to respond to her history. The design story of Barbie is a rich topic for our museum to put under the spotlight.”

The exhibition puts fashion front and centre. Dozens of original Barbie outfits are displayed, showcasing her roots as a fashion icon and how her look has mirrored mainstream fashion trends for over six decades.

Visitors can see how designers, from fashion legends like Claire McCardell and Christian Dior to contemporary names like Nolan Miller and Zac Posen, have influenced Barbie’s wardrobe. In addition, the exhibit also features iconic pieces like the “Poodle Parade” outfit (1965), recently reimagined in a life-size version worn by Billie Eilish at the 2024 Grammy Awards, and a stunning 1985 creation by Oscar de la Renta.

Barbie Exhibition at Design Museum
Barbie Exhibition at the Design Museum Image Source Design Museum

Over 250 objects, including 180 iconic Barbies, fill the exhibition space. Visitors can see some of the doll’s most recognisable bestsellers, like the trendsetting “Sunset Malibu Barbie” (1971), a surfer girl who captured the decade’s spirit.  Not only that, another highlight is the groundbreaking “Day to Night Barbie” (1985), symbolising the 1980s working woman.

This innovative doll featured a pink work suit that transformed into a chic evening gown, reflecting the changing workplace for women.

The exhibition doesn’t stop there! It also features two must-see Barbies: the ever-popular ‘Totally Hair’ Barbie (1992), the best-selling Barbie ever, with over 10 million dolls sold worldwide, and a true rarity—the very first Talking Barbie from 1968.

On loan from the Mattel archives in Los Angeles, this unique prototype boasts a transparent torso, showcasing its pull-string voice mechanism, sure to impress toy buyers back in the day.

Barbie Exhibition at Design Museum
Barbie Exhibition at the Design Museum Image Source Design Museum

The exhibition celebrates Barbie’s evolution into a more inclusive icon. On display are the first Black, Hispanic, and Asian dolls, representing a multicultural society. Furthermore, visitors can also see the first Barbie with Down syndrome, the first to use a wheelchair, and the first with a “curvy” body shape, all reflecting the diversity of today’s world.

Step beyond the fashions and into Barbie’s world! The exhibition features a section dedicated to her expansive universe, showcasing playsets, vehicles, and houses. A true collector’s item: the very first Barbie Dreamhouse (1962) is on display, a charming cardboard creation reflecting the modernist style of its era. Moreover, the exhibit also charts Barbie’s travels, from her first car in 1962 to her groovy campervan in 1971.

Tim Marlow, director and chief executive of the Design Museum, added: “Design has been at the heart of Barbie’s story since her creation 65 years ago. As we’ve seen recently, her impact has continued to evolve with each new generation.”

“Visitors to our timely exhibition will come face-to-face with some of the most important and recognisable iterations of Barbie from the past six-and-a-half decades. We hope it will be a joyful, fascinating, inspiring, illuminating, and perhaps even nostalgic experience for generations of Barbie fans.”

Barbie Exhibition at Design Museum

With “Barbie: The Exhibition,” the Design Museum invites visitors of all ages to explore the rich history and cultural significance of one of the world’s most iconic dolls. Whether you are a lifelong fan or new to Barbie’s world, this exhibition offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the artistry and innovation that have kept Barbie relevant and beloved for 65 years. Don’t miss this chance to experience the magic and evolution of Barbie on display until February 23, 2025.

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