Friday, May 6, 2016

BARBIE!!! (The Expo)

This is an exhibition that me and the girls were most anxious to see. "Barbie" arrived in Paris in March and plans to stick around all summer long through September 18. This is the first time ever, a major French museum has dedicated its walls to the most famous doll ever....Barbie! And we can say unequivocally, Barbie is in her element at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (a wing of the famed Louvre museum). Some 700 dolls--from the early bathing suit beauty to the most recent "Curvy" and "Made to Move" Barbies are all present over 1500 square meters (4500 square feet) of exhibition space. In dolly talk...every Barbie who's any Barbie is there!

The ultimate Barbie Haute Couture show in Paris!!!!
There are many dolls you know but some you've probably never seen (like Marie Antoinette Barbie), all of which make for a most exhilarating experience. However, this is a cultural exhibition and not a toy store display (though critics beg to differ), so naturally, the museum's curators were diligent in its focus on the historical and sociological context of the icon. As a subject, dolls have their own history, and they also play an important role in fashion history. Though initially created as toys for wealthy children, they did not resemble juvenile bodies, but rather, those of grown women. (Keep in mind that childrenswear is a modern invention and prior to the 20th century, adult clothes were simply scaled down to fit kids.) The doll's body was not faithful to the human form. It existed primarily to show off the clothes...much in the same way as the early Barbies.
Marie Antoinette Barbie. And no, I don't know if her head comes off!!!

The couturiers of the 19th-early 20th centuries often used dolls as an economical way to display concepts or as a means to present their fashions abroad. This exhibition begins on this point by displaying a few historical French dolls. After a brief explanation, the spotlight is clearly handed over to Barbie, the main focus of the show.
These photos from Barbie's Instagram page. Courtesy of Mattel.
As you enter the exhibition, there are several cubicles each with Barbie clad in a contemporary outfit completely accessorized right down to the Hermes or Chanel inspired handbag. These were made especially for this show and have been appearing on Barbie's own Instagram account. In another space the entire design process from face and body to clothing is explained.
In a recent interview for this show, Mattel designer, Robert Best provided a bit of insight. "Barbie represents a collaborative effort amongst everyone working for her." He goes on to say, "The first step consists of creating sketches of proposals for clothing as well as hair and makeup. We are inspired by global trends, color, a motif, a feeling but nothing specific. The proposals evolve before we act on anything.

"We then collaborate with fabric manufacturers and make samples of clothes which are more or less finished. But nothing can go into production without the accord of everyone involved in the chain of command including those working in our factories abroad." Best has worked for Mattel for 20 years, though admitted, "I took this job thinking I'd only stay one year."

Created in 1959 by Ruth and Elliot Handler, Barbie was inspired by a German doll, Lilli. Ruth designed her doll with an ample bustline (remember, Marilyn Monroe's curvy figure was all the rage in the 1950's!) The executives at Mattel as well as those participating in the New York toy fair were quite skeptical. They feared little girls would be put off by the doll's mature physical dimensions as well as her sophisticated wardrobe at a time when baby dolls were plentiful and all the rage. But once stores agreed to take a chance on Barbie, she flew off the shelves, proving to be a top selling toy both before and after Christmas. By 1962, Handler who planned to produce 20,000 dolls per week, was forced to triple the production to meet demand.
Family Portrait: mommy, daddy and Barbie. Photo courtesy of Mattel
What differentiated Barbie from other dolls of those times, was that she evolved as lifestyles changed. She was a fashion doll certainly, but she was also designed to assume many professional roles: nurse, secretary, stewardess, teacher, in beginning, then more ambitious careers afterwards.

As times and women's roles in society changed, so did Barbie. John Glenn went to space in 1963. So went Barbie in her own 1/6 scale space suit! The exhibition visualizes all 150 careers Barbie has had, each presented separately under a glass bell. Did you know that Barbie has been a police officer, deep sea diver, race car driver, McDonald's waitress, construction worker or Cabaret performer? And long before there was a Hillary Clinton running for office, there was Barbie (a candidate four times already!!!)

As women tossed their high heels aside in favor of sports gear, so did Barbie. She plays tennis, skis, swims, dances, and today's Made-to-Move Barbie practices yoga all over the globe!

Barbie Babyfoot
Globalization has led to Barbie morphing into a rainbow of multiracial, multicultural communities, all of which reflect life as we know it today. Women's bodies have changed, so it is befitting that curvy Barbie and short Barbie have come into being.
Barbies of the world
But first and foremost, Barbie is a supermodel extraordinaire and the museum went to great measures to illustrate this.
The famous "Little Black Dress" collection is where many of us began our doll collecting.
A small catwalk show is populated with dolls wearing fashions created by some of the most distinguished design houses on the planet. Some reflect familiar collaborations (Burberry, Coach, Lagerfeld, Christian Louboutin, Herve Leger), while others borrowed one-of-a-kind garments designed by iconic designers (Christian Lacroix, Paco Rabanne, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent) from previous exhibitions and private collections. There are also vintage fashions from the early years inspired by full scaled garments. The difference in quality between the wardrobe of Barbie's early years and those from today's "fast fashion" is startling!

On with the show!

Christian Lacroix, Jean-Claude de Castelbajac, Thierry Mugler, Paco Rabanne

Moschino, Coach, Diane von Furstenberg, Lancon

Christian Louboutin

Jean Paul Gaultier

Herve Leger, Sonia Rykiel, Marchesa

After you've passed by the display of Barbies inspired by popular TV shows (like Mad Men or X-Files), Movies (like Hitchcock's "The Birds" or "Some Like It Hot" with Marilyn Monroe) or even an artist (Warhol), you wonder...what more could there be??!!
Tippie Hendrin Barbie relives Hitchcock's "The Birds"

Barbie Warhol

Barbie Marilyn
Brace yourself. The most amazing dioramas you've every seen  are upstairs! It all begins with the Couture Atelier populated with "petits mains" (seamstresses), working on their minuscule power sewing machines, arranging the supplies or fitting the model. It is amazing in its attention to detail.

Next door, is a photo studio where a Silkstone Barbie poses for the camera in the glare of a tiny strobe light.

In front there is another set with Barbie is standing next to a wrought iron door, inviting in a gentleman who has parked his scooter outside.

Barbie nuns look on!

But the piece de la resistance is...the Haute Couture show. Within a breathtaking setting that could have been lifted from the house of Christian Dior, patrons sit while analyzing a fashion show of Silkstone Barbies on the podium. Outside, more dolls are arriving with handsome Ken dolls on their arms. Honestly, I could have looked at this all day long.

The exhibition ends with a wall of Barbie clothes. Some 7000 articles of clothes and accessories from playline collections are organized by color and mounted onto this ginormous installation. As children entered the room and saw this, they screamed in delight. While I am not into these kinds of Barbie clothes, I could totally relate to how they felt!
Wall of clothes.
I have posted as many photos as possible for the benefit you who cannot be here in person. However, if you are planning a trip to Paris (or somewhere nearby), I highly recommend this as a MUST-SEE event for all doll collectors....with or without your children!

Barbie. Musee des Arts Decoratifs. 107, rue de Rivoli. 75001 Paris. Open Tues-Sun 11am-6pm (Thurs. till 9pm). Admission 11 Euros.

Wow, what a great show. That was really enjoyable!!!
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos (taken with my Iphone) and text property of Fashion Doll Stylist. 2016.

There's another show in town. "Hollywood Stars as Dolls," currently on at the Musee de la Poupee (Paris Doll Museum). We're preparing a new tutorial but the girls will be bringing you a report on that exhibition very soon!!!

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  1. What fantastic displays! Thanks for sharing this!

    1. This show was so much fun, I'm planning to see it again. Next to the awesome displays, the best thing was seeing so many beautifully made Barbie clothes up close!!!

  2. Wooow, wooow and again :WOOOW! It is so an amazing exhibition, and I feel so sad I can't see it in reality :-( But I'm soo happy I could see it on your amazing photos! Thank you so much for sharing! <3

    1. Aya, So glad you enjoyed that. It is a wonderful exhibition.

  3. What an amazing exhibit! Thank you for sharing it in such detail, I wish I could see it in person, but this was the next best thing!

  4. Fantastyczna wystawa! Zapiera dech w piersiach! Piękna, różnorodna, rewelacyjna! Z ogromną dbałością o szczegóły!
    Bardzo dziękuję za zdjęcia i pozdrawiam serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote: Fantastic show ! Breathtaking ! Beautiful , diverse, sensational ! With great attention to detail !
      Thank you very much for photos and greet cordially !

      Olla, it was a pleasure to share this.

  5. Aww, I wish I could see it! I have the worst of luck with museums. I remember wanting to visit Musee de la Poupee and the two times I had a chance to go there it was closed...

    1. BlackKitty, so sorry to hear about your luck with museums. (Hope it changes for the better!) This exhibition was really outstanding!

  6. Cool displays! Thanks for sharing!

    1. So glad to hear from you and happy you enjoyed this D7ana.

  7. Oh my! I love this post. It's so amazing to see all the beautiful dolls displayed all over.

    1. Brini, there were so many Barbies it was hard to focus (but somehow I did)! Because this was such an extraordinary exhibition with so many dolls I'd never seen before, I'm planning to return t the museum for another visit just to absorb it all!!!

  8. April, what a fantastic display! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. <3

    I'm not a fan of the playline doll clothing, either. When I buy dolls for my re-rooting projects, the first thing to come off, even before the hair, is the clothing. ;)

    1. Indeed, Sarah, this was an extraordinary experience and I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to see this. I'm very happy that I could share with my friends!!!

  9. Absolutely fantastic exhibit, Carol. I'm so glad you have seen and shared it. Amazing attention to detail. Will be revisiting these photos and hope you get back to the exhibit.

    1. This was incredible to see, Barbara. June 21 is International Museum night and this museum will be participating which means I'll be able to see this exhibit one more time and for free!!! I may try to take a few more pix and post them on FB.

  10. OMG i am over the moon with this post,i appreciate a lot your time April for share with us all,so in love with the girls with sewing machines,and all the tiny moments ;-)

    1. So very happy you enjoyed this post. It is an amazing exhibition!!

  11. This is unbelievable! What an amazing post to put together. Your account is great, your photos stunning, their exhibition astonishing! How wonderful for you to be there... Love, love, love...I must return and spend more time!!!

    1. Thank you Jano, for your kind words. I'm happy I was able to share this with all my friends!!!

  12. Merci April pour cette visite. Heureusement qu'ici on a aussi une EXPO BARBIE à Montréal. Mais d'après les photos, l'Expo Paris me semble plus enrichissante que celle de Montéal. En plus je sais qu'il y a une boutique ou peut acheter des souvenirs. Ici à Montréal l'Expo est gratuite, mais il n'y a aucun souvenir qu'on peut acheter. Rien ! C'est très dommage.

  13. Oui, l'expo est extraordinaire. La difference entre les deux expos--la votre a ete monte par Mattel, tandis que le notre a ete monte par la direction du muse (avec le soutien de Mattel). Et oui, il est une boutique du musee ou on peut acheter les livres et meme quelques poupees (un peu cheres, quand meme).


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