Last week, 800 hardcore Barbie collectors gathered in Nashville to buy, sell, and trade dolls, clothes, and tiny furniture. I asked vendors and attendees one question: “Why do you love Barbie?”
1. “I love Barbie because she gives me the chance to be creative.”
If you saw this guy walking down the street in his AC/DC T-shirt, you would probably think, “There’s no way that guy makes stunningly detailed mid-century Barbie furniture in his spare time.” And you would be wrong. So wrong.
2. “It brings back the warm fuzzies of my childhood.”
This lady has been selling Barbie memorabilia for the past 28 years. The most expensive doll on her table? A $12,995 sales prototype from the ’60s in mint condition. Don’t even think about playing with it.
3. “Because she is eternal, like our city — Rome!”
Meet Giuseppe and Alessandro, costume designers from Rome who created the souvenir Barbie for this year’s convention. They brought 40 dolls to sell (adorned in ornate gowns of vintage Italian lace, sequins, and tulle). They sold out in an hour. “We love this job,” says Giuseppe. “We are very lucky.”
4. “Because she reminds me of fun times with my grandparents.”
Nostalgia was a popular theme.
“I was on an artistic search. Painting from my soul,” says Debbie Curtis, an artist who specializes in gorgeous pop art Barbie paintings. “Sometimes I even painted blindfolded. One day I painted a piece with my eyes closed. When I looked at it, I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that looks like Barbie!’ So I painted more Barbies, had my first show in Oklahoma City, and sold out instantly.” The rest, as they say, is history.
6. “She changes with the times.”
“One thing Barbie is really good at is capturing the fashion of the era,” says Maria, this year’s convention organizer. Want proof? Check out the Jackie Kennedy-inspired bouffant bob Barbie rocked in the ’60s.
7. “She encompasses the history of pop culture — all in 11.5 inches.”
“For women, Barbie is about creating the childhood you always wanted, but maybe didn’t get,” says Joe Blitman, who worked as a screenwriter before he started selling Barbie collectibles full-time. “For men, it’s more about the fashion.”
8. “Anything is possible with Barbie.”
It’s true. Barbie is the only astronaut who ever landed on the moon without smudging her lipstick.
9. “The friendships I’ve made.”
“I started a Barbie club with some other collectors I met here. Now we do everything together.”
10. “Because she has gowns I can only dream of wearing.”
Plus, somehow, she never gets a blister.
11. “Because Barbie can do and be anything.”
This woman also wins the prize for “Best Dressed Attendee.” Check out her Barbie shoe earrings!
12. “Because she is the ultimate pop culture icon.”
Hear that, Miley?
13. “Because she reminds me of my childhood, and I refuse to grow up.”
Amen! Growing up is wholly overrated.