clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Barbie is now making “curvy,” “tall," and “petite” dolls

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

For 57 years, Barbie dolls have had one shape: bullet-breasted, tiny-waisted, and anatomically impossible.

Until today. Mattel, the company that makes Barbie, unveiled three new body types for the doll: "curvy," "petite," and "tall." Here's what the curvy dolls look like:

The new curvy dolls also have a range of skin tones and hair types.

Barbie will also be able to step down from high heels and wear flats for the first time. (The shoes come in two sizes: one for "curvy" and "tall" bodies, the other for "original" and "petite.")

Barbie's body shape has been criticized as unrealistic and harmful to young girls since 1963. What finally got Mattel to act, Time magazine reports, was falling toy sales — and the dominance of Frozen:

Staying the course was not an option. Barbie sales plummeted 20% from 2012 to 2014 and continued to fall last year. A line of toys designed to teach girls to build, Lego Friends, helped boost Lego above Mattel as the biggest toy company in the world in 2014. Then Hasbro won the Disney Princess business away from Mattel, just as Elsa from the film Frozen dethroned Barbie as the most popular girl’s toy. The estimated revenue loss to Mattel from Elsa and the other Disney Princesses is $500 million.

Go deeper:

  • A 2006 study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that girls who saw images of Barbie dolls before filling out a survey reported worse body image and more desire to be thin than girls who didn't see the dolls.
  • Researchers at the University of Bath suggested girls ages 7 to 11 mutilate their Barbies — decapitating them, cutting their hair, even microwaving them — because they hate the doll. (Many adult women who did this as kids say it was just slightly disturbing fun.)
  • This might be the first time Barbie's body has changed, but her face has changed significantly over time.