International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 225-259

First online:

Domesticating Barbie: An Archaeology of Barbie Material Culture and Domestic Ideology

  • Marlys PearsonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts
  • , Paul R. MullinsAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

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A systematic examination of Barbie fashions, accessories, and playsets produced since 1959 reveals several distinct phases in the domestic symbolism associated with Barbie. Today, Barbie grocery shops, cleans house, cares for her young siblings, and assumes careers which fill nurturing and protective roles like those championed in traditional domestic ideology. Yet in the late 1950s, Barbie was conceived and marketed as a single career girl who did not do “rough housework.” This paper examines the range of clothing and accessories marketed alongside Barbie as a mechanism to trace the changes in Barbie's domestic image over nearly 40 years.

Barbie domesticity toys gender