Barbie’s long been criticized for being too thin, too blonde, and too unrealistic. The doll’s also been going through a bit of a sales slump, with reported losses of 20% between 2012 and 2014, according to Time. And with sales continuing to decline, Mattel knew that there was something it had to do to keep consumers interested. That’s why today the company released three new barbies — all with different body types — that will join the original dolls in a very crowded dream house.
Time reports that while two of the new Barbies are not too shocking — one is a petite and the other is tall — a third Barbie might be so overwhelming that the toy manufacturer is setting up a dedicated help line for those who just can’t get the doll to do exactly what they want. That’s because this doll (once called “Project Dawn”) is plus-sized, which means that clothes that fit the standard Barbie aren’t going to look the same on her. Hell, according to Time, they might not even fit.
Why a plus-size Barbie? Well, based on the recent backlash against the doll — especially the argument that Barbie promotes unhealthy image in young girls, something that Mattel’s denied — the company had to do something to keep their products relevant. In 2016, that means recognizing that women aren’t all built the same (shocking!).
Here are some other changes you can expect now that the doll’s designers are scrapping the past and rebooting Barbie for 2016:
If you could design Barbie today, how would you make her a reflection of the times? Out of that came changing Barbie’s face to have less makeup and look younger, giving her articulated ankles so she could wear flats as well as heels, giving her new skin tones to add diversity and then of course changing the body. While curvy Barbie’s hips, thighs and calves are visibly larger than before, from the waist up she is less Jessica Rabbit than she is pear-shaped. Mattel refuses to discuss the actual proportions of the new dolls or how it came to decide on them.
One of the main reasons that the new body types are being rolled out is due to the fact that Barbie has stopped being seen as the role model for empowerment she was meant to be. In fact, over the past few years, she’s been looked at as part of the problem. While changes do take time, an executive at the head of the Barbie brand points out, the company’s been taking criticism of the doll seriously. It’s also important to note that branding three new body types is a little more difficult than just slapping on some extra plastic and stuffing a doll into a box.
During one meeting, designers, marketers and researchers fixated on the shoe problem. There will now be two Barbie shoe sizes, one for curvy and tall and another for original and petite. “We can’t label them 1, 2, because someone will read into that as saying one’s better than the other,” Barbie designer and former Project Runway contestant Robert Best explains. “Plus, we have to put the Barbie branding on every single object, and the shoes are so tiny.” They finally land on a B for one shoe size and Barbie’s face on the other. Moms will have to puzzle out which is which when they find a miniature stiletto jammed between their couch cushions.
Are retailers ready for the big change? Not quite yet. The dolls will only be sold online for the time being, but Mattel is working with stores to make sure that they can get the space they deserve and catch the eyes of kids, parents, and anyone else who wants to add a more diverse range of Barbies to their collection. And what’s especially cool is that the dolls will all be sold under the Barbie name, meaning that they’re now a part of the main brand and aren’t spin-offs such as Skipper and Stacie.