A plastic babe celebrates her 46th year

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A plastic babe celebrates her 46th year

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Barbie is 46 years old but looks about the same as when she was born. She has over a million pairs of shoes and even more clothes, with hundreds of new accessories created for her every year. Her pets include 21 dogs, 12 horses, three ponies, six cats and even a chimpanzee, and then there’s her longtime hunky boyfriend, Ken. What a life.
An exhibition of over 2,000 Barbie dolls, “The Barbie Story,” is being hosted at Hangaram Design Museum at the Seoul Arts Center, southern Seoul. The exhibition was first shown in Austria in November 2003, celebrating Barbie’s then-imminent 45th anniversary.
The exhibition covers the doll’s evolution since its creation in 1959. Some of the dolls are clad in fantastically ornate clothes, including a dress worth 2 billion won ($1.9 million) decked out in diamonds and designed by Korean designer Lee Gwang-hee. There are also Barbie dolls wearing costumes designed by Versace, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Kim Young-suk, Son Jung-wan and Jung Gu-ho.
Even without the diamond or gold ornamentation, the handmade costumes worn by the dolls would be impressive. Some of the dolls are clad in traditional attires from around the world, including Korea’s hanbok, and different costumes from periods in Western history, such as “Gone With the Wind” Barbie (not included: Barbie’s slaves).
These dolls are collectible items that are produced in small numbers and priced at a few hundred dollars to $1,000 dollars. After they are sold to buyers, these dolls are traded at a values several times higher than the original price.
Some Barbie dolls have Hollywood themes: there’s “The Phantom of the Opera” Barbie and another that looks like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Other historical or fictional Barbies include Queen Elizabeth I, the Austrian princess Sissi, Cinderella and Snow White.
In perhaps a nod to the widespread criticism that Barbie dolls perpetuate stereotypes about feminine images and social roles, Barbie also appears as a pilot, firefighter, president, surgeon, police officer, astronaut and race-car driver.
“One of the reasons why Barbie dolls have been so popular for so many years is that they have qualities that ordinary people don’t have,” said Anna Heeduck Jang of EMS Asia-Pacific Corp., the sponsor of the exhibition.
All the Barbie dolls are products of the U.S.-based toy maker Mattel. Inspired by her daughter’s paper dolls, Ruth Handler, one of Mattel’s three founders, created three-dimensional dolls and named them after her daughter, Barbara.


by Limb Jae-un

The exhibition runs until Jan. 28, except Dec. 26. The museum opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are 6,000 to 10,000 won. For more information, visit www.thebarbiestory.com or call (02) 3444-0239.
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