Barbie’s Lead Designer: Barbies Must Have Unrealistic Proportions, Otherwise Her Clothes Won’t Fit

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Barbie’s lead designer defended the doll’s anatomically impossible body in an interview saying it is a necessity so her clothes will fit the right way.

The vice president of design for Barbie at Mattel, Kim Culmone, told Fast Company it’s more important that people be able to pass down Barbie clothes from generation to generation because the doll’s anatomy doesn’t influence a little girl's body image anyway.

Despite claims that Barbie’s large bust, tiny waist, and straight hips promote an improbable body image to young girls, Culmone says the body is about styling and “heritage.”

“Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic,” she told Fast Company’s Mark Wilson. “Primarily it’s for function for the little girl, for real life fabrics to be able to be turned and sewn, and have the outfit still fall properly on her body.”

“So to get the clean lines of fashion at Barbie’s scale, you have to use totally unrealistic proportions?” Wilson asked.

“You do! Because if you’re going to take a fabric that’s made for us, and turn a seam for a cuff or on the body, her body has to be able to accommodate how the clothes will fit her,” she said.

She said they are interested in “evolving” the doll’s body, but they have to make sure it can still fit into old Barbie clothes.

“Though there’s also the issue of heritage. This is a 55-year-old brand where moms are handing clothes down to their daughters, and so keeping the integrity of that is really important,” she said. “Everything may not always be able to fit every doll, but it’s important to me that the majority of it does, because that was my experience as a little girl. There’s an obligation to consistency.”

Culmone says she doesn’t think little girls compare their bodies to Barbie’s anyway.

“I don’t,” she told Wilson. “Girls view the world completely differently than grown-ups do. They don’t come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do. Clearly, the influences for girls on those types of issues, whether it’s body image or anything else, it’s proven, it’s peers, moms, parents, it’s their social circles.”

“When they’re playing, they’re playing,” she added. “It’s a princess-fairy-fashionista-doctor-astronaut, and that’s all one girl. She’s taking her Corvette to the moon, and her spaceship to the grocery store. That is literally how girls play.”

Sources: Fast Company, ThinkProgress