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January 2001

Mattel’s Barbie Doll, introduced in 1959, was a teenage fashion model with an alluring lifestyle that included shopping for the latest fashions, attending social events, driving sports cars and going out on dates. Barbie’s enviable wardrobe and accessories—and the teenage freedom she represented—were enormously appealing to the young girls who played with her.

By the early 1960s, Mattel began to create toy settings to enhance Barbie play. Introduced in 1962, the Barbie Dream House was a perfect backdrop for Barbie’s lifestyle of leisure and consumption of up-to-date goods. The house was filled with sleek, modern furniture that included a combination television/stereo console. While relaxing in her very own “space,” Barbie could watch herself on television or listen to record albums by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra or the Letterman. The Barbie Dream House also had a closet to display her fashionable clothing. In the past, dollhouses had helped teach young girls to be good homemakers. But Barbie play wasn’t about learning traditional feminine roles of wife and mother.

The Barbie Dream House sold for $5.79 in the 1962 Montgomery Ward catalog.

--Jeanine Head Miller, Curator of Domestic Life, Leisure & Entertainment



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