Barbie Basics: Giving Good Face (and Great Hair)

By: Joe Thompson

Barbie's face is flawless, her hair perfect, and none of that happens without a lot of really hard work. So we thought the best way to wrap up our series on building a Barbie Collector doll—as well as our current coverage in the "Boys Love Barbie, Too" section—would be a breakdown of how that beautiful visage comes to life.

It starts with the House of Barbie team designing a new doll, sculptors crafting Barbie's face and body, and the designer working with pattern makers and sewers to craft that killer couture.

While this is going on, the face team finds the right colors that will bring her face. They work closely with the original designer to make sure the eye, lip, cheek and makeup colors convey the right mood, attitude and, in some cases, the proper time period for that doll. This can go through numerous revisions, looking at past dolls, photos, and magazine tear sheets for inspiration.

As with all aspects of a Barbie Collector doll, the actual application is done by hand. So once the approved head comes back from the sculptor, an artist will meticulously paints her face. Again, this will go back to the designer who will give notes to make sure that the execution remains true to the original concept.

Once the face sample is approved, metal masks are crafted to fit the face sculpt. Each one will have a different aspect of the face cut out. For example, one mask will have only the eye lashes cut out, another only the pupils, and another will have just her lips. That way, when the doll goes into production, it can be recreated exactly as the artist and designer originally intended.

You can see from the photo below just how detailed this gets.

As with the colors for Barbie's face, the hair team has a nearly limitless choice of colors to choose from. They will play with various shades to match the designer's original sketch as well as the face design and colors. They also have to work out what kind of hair style and texture will work, because like with designing Barbie's fashions, what looks great on paper might not function the same way in real life.

Again, the designer offers the hair team feedback and notes until the right style for the doll is achieved. This can take a while depending on the concept and styling. For example, creating the perfect bangs on the slightly silvered Krystle Carrington Barbie took great deal of time and attention.

Once the hair is approved, a finalized face sample has hair sewn onto the head. It's an incredibly skilled process. Using a specially designed machine, nimble hands quickly maneuver the head under a giant needle that shoots the hair into the scalp. Down one side then back up, from one part of the head to the other side, until the entire scalp is covered. With one last row down the middle part to tighten up the look, Barbie's head comes off the machine with full, luxurious locks. The artist then combs it out, clips any excess strands, and in minutes the doll is sporting the absolute perfect cut.




With body built, wardrobe created, and her face looking its absolute best, the Barbie sample is ready to go to the skilled workers who will hand-craft the limited collector dolls that will one day end up in your happy home.

A Barbie Collector photo shoot

Bringing Barbie's body to life
Creating collectible couture