Every little girl’s favourite: the iconic doll gets a make-under

Barbie, female image, Lucy varley, beauty, Kettle Mag,
Written by Lou Locket

From a young, delicate and impressionable age girls are presented with iconic Barbie dolls as gifts and as such, grow up believing that she was designed beautifully to portray the ideal female physique. Disgracefully, without us even realising it, we have been brought up to believe that this is the most desirable way to look. It seems that in a day and age where the #selfie is pivotal and ‘sex sells’, Barbie represents everything a young woman aspires to be. She owns a fancy dream house, has her hunky love interest Ken at her beck and call, a fabulous car and a drop-dead-gorgeous figure. Who wouldn’t want to look like Barbie, right?


Last year, I was somewhat shocked to learn that statistics gathered by Finland’s University Central Hospital in Helsinki suggest that if Barbie were a life size, real woman, she would lack the 17-22% body fat required for a woman to menstruate. So, while Barbie does not boast an entirely unobtainable frame, it is by no means a healthy one. Surely something that can seriously modify the female anatomy in such a damaging way is not something to experiment with? And yet, there are women out there volunteering their already beautiful bodies as canvases for such dramatic and unnatural changes.

My hours of browsing for answers also taught me that research from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London suggests that the promotion of dolls with such a body shape among other things like the size zero label have wider public health implications such as an increased risk of eating disorders.

I can’t help but to find it discomforting that in an age where independent, passionate and beautiful women of all shapes and sizes are making such positive changes to the world, they are so keen to make permanent and not so positive changes to themselves. We seem to be succumbing to the mercy of an unforgiving, plastic doll.

Not alone 

And it seems that I’m not alone in feeling that the entire concept of Barbie is an unnatural and unfair portrayal of the ideal female. Designer Nickolay Lamm is seeking to change the unrealistic representation of women portrayed by an iconic figurine. Lamm created the first normal Barbie doll, naturally christened ‘Lammily’ earlier this year. She was moulded delicately to reflect the realistic and healthy proportions of an average 19-year-old woman.

Traditional Barbie alongside Lamm’s realistic portrayal of the average 19-year-old.

Image courtesy of BuzzFeed News, with many thanks.  

Now, Lamm has introduced a new accessory for his reassuring dolls: a range of stickers that intensify how the body of a woman actually looks. Bruising, stretch marks, cellulite, moles, mosquito bites and scratches are all developments that are very normal to the lives of real women. Lamm wanted to create dolls that would emulate such ‘imperfections’, teaching those young and impressionable of us that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes regardless of the imperfections which, in reality, set us aside as unique and individual.

Lamm believes that stretch marks make Barbie more relatable.

Image courtesy of BuzzFeed News, with many thanks.

Whilst Lamm’s realistic take on the traditional Barbie doll has been the topic of many a controversial argument, he believes that the younger generations have responded in a positive and reassuring way to the launch of the doll. He recently told BuzzFeed news: I’ve seen kids playing with these stickers and saw how they put the stickers on and off, laughing and showing their customized doll to their parents. The ‘imperfect’ nature of it isn’t an issue. I feel it makes the doll more relatable.”

Should us older, wiser and mature women who are allegedly setting the example for the next generation of powerful women be taking some guidance from those younger than us? If young and uncontaminated minds are so capable of welcoming a realistic representation of beautiful, modern day women with open arms…should we stop punishing ourselves and accept who we are, stretch marks and all?