Barbie Basics: Creating Collectible Couture

By: Joe Thompson

One of the greatest joys people experience with a Barbie is dressing her up in all those fabulous fashions. From work uniforms to amazing ball gowns, it's obvious that this girl has incredible taste and an unlimited budget— and nowhere is that more evident than when you're looking at the Barbie Collector dolls. Even the Barbie Basics Collection (pictured here), which is more affordable than the really high-end collectible dolls, features highly sophisticated fashions and accessories, especially when compared to the mainstream "pink box" variety that's commonly found in the hands of little children.

So how are these dresses, jeans, blouses and other finery crafted?

We've already outlined in our section on designing Barbie's face and body that it all starts with The House of Barbie team devising a concept for a new doll. Since the clothing will have to work in the real world and not just on paper, inspiration is taken from numerous fashion magazines; indeed, from Vogue to Lucky the design studio is literally filled with all the latest issues covering all the hottest trends. With concept and inspiration in hand, the designer creates numerous sketches and revises the concept until a finalized design is produced. Then, as sculptors begin work on bringing the body to life, the designers pull fabric swatches that best match the original illustrated design.


Meanwhile, a pattern maker begins crafting the actual patterns that will be used to make a clothing sample. Once a sample version is created, the team collectively examines the garments and offer their notes, making sure that the final product fits Barbie's standards.


Sometimes the wardrobe design will need to be adapted, because what looks great on paper doesn't always translate to a figure in the real world; the design could end up looking awkward or frumpy (a definite Barbie no-no), fabrics may clash or hug the body in a strange way, or they may just be difficult to work with. This process can go through numerous revisions until the garment is just right.

Once there's a finalized sample, a master pattern is created and labled so that the people hand-crafting Barbie's clothes will be able to reproduce numerous versions of the same garment on a much larger scale.

A Barbie Collector photo shoot

•Building a beautiful face and having a perfect hair day
Bringing Barbie's body to life