An American (Beauty) in Paris

For the first time, Barbie hits the runway in Paris at the Musée des Arts décoratifs (109 rue de Rivoli). It’s about time. Who is more representative of fashion than she?

Since Barbie’s introduction in 1959, her impact, especially on the postwar generation, has been revolutionary. Believe it or not, we’re told that she was not a “toy designed by men to enslave women, she was a toy invented by women for women to teach them what—for better or worse—was expected of them.”

Barbie as invented personality involves the increasingly dissonant notions about woman’s power, as well as racial and ethnic awareness, at least in American society. An illuminating book published a few years ago by former cartoonist, cultural critic and investigative journalist M. G. Lord, herself a first-generation Barbie owner, titled Forever Barbie: An Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll,  places the aging toy star in cultural, historical context. And what a history …

From Kirkus Reviews: “Barbie’s voluptuous body, says Lord, along with her various incarnations, including fashion model and photographer, made her a ‘brave, new, vaguely selfish and decidedly subversive heroine’ in the mold of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl. Barbie never had a husband; she earned her own keep and always wore a smile (and a fabulous outfit). True, Mattel introduced a boyfriend for her in 1961, but Ken ‘was a mere accessory,’ Lord cracks, ‘a drip with seriously abridged genitalia who wasn’t very important in her life.’ Lord’s intelligence and good humor bring a new attitude to feminist visions of popular culture and the women who love it.”

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Madame Presidential Candidate

In celebration of the Musée, the majority of the rest of this post will be en Francais, but you’ll get the drift.

C’est la première fois que Barbie® fait l’objet d’une véritable invitation dans une institution muséale française. Connu pour ses collections de design et de mode, de jouets et de publicité, le musée des Arts décoratifs est le lieu idéal pour mettre à l’honneur cette poupée iconique dont l’histoire se nourrit de sources multiples, en l’inscrivant pleinement dans une histoire culturelle et sociale du jouet aux XXe et XXIe siècles. 700 Poupées Barbie sont ainsi déployées sur 1500 m2, en regard d’œuvres issues des collections du musée (poupées anciennes, robes), mais aussi d’œuvres d’artistes contemporains, de documents, journaux, photos, vidéo, qui contextualisent les « vies de Barbie ».

 

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L’astronaut

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Surgeon

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Tres Chic

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Ohh, la, la

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Wearing Dior

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Career girl

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Flight attendant

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Mad Men Barbie


Enter the 2016 Regional Design Annual today for a chance to be featured among the country’s best design work in Print magazine! Our judges: Jessica Walsh, Gail Anderson, Timothy Goodman, Marc English, Bill Grant and Jennifer Morla.

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Daily Heller, Steven Heller
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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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