Midtown Raleigh News

One doll, 50 years of fashion at Barbie showcase in Raleigh

1. A display of artist-designed dolls at the Barbie showcase.
1. A display of artist-designed dolls at the Barbie showcase. sbarr@newsobserver.com

More than 50 years of fashion were on display Friday, all thanks to an 11-and-a-half inch, globe-trotting, no-last-name-necessary doll: Barbie.

The Pink Heels – the women and men of the Central Carolina Fashion Doll Club – presented a showcase of hundreds of Barbies on Friday afternoon at an apartment complex clubhouse.

Dolls from across the decades and all over the world stood in neat rows on table tops, some propped on stands and others still in their boxes. There were the pony-tailed Barbies and bubble-hair Barbies, Barbies from Japan, Brazil and India, and one-of-a-kind artist-designed Barbies with elaborate costumes.

Linda Levine, the founder and president of the club, said that part of the appeal of Barbie collecting is watching the way the dolls have evolved over the years or are adapted in other countries. The dolls can be transformed with new clothes, a funky hairstyle or a bit of imagination.

Levine thinks Barbie unfairly gets a bad rap. A doll is just a doll; it all depends on what you do with her.

“Make her what you want her to be,” she said. “She doesn’t have to be the blonde-haired, blue-eyed princess.”

Bradley Justice, a member of the club and owner of the Swell Doll Shop in Chapel Hill, said he thinks Barbie dolls have endured because they have changed through the decades, allowing children to see parts of their own culture in the dolls.

“For me, it’s that she’s always reflected the times,” he said.

Theresa Castro, a member of the club, was a 5-year-old when she received her first Barbie in 1965. Her doll was a model from two years earlier that took time to reach her home in Alaska.

Castro didn’t know quite what to make of the package that had showed up on her doorstep, but she quickly grew to love Barbies, particularly because the dolls offered a window into fashion. She learned to sew so she could make them clothes and is grateful they offered her a chance to be creative.

Erica Pettruci, 9, and Ashton Lawley, 9, both were impressed by the range of Barbies they saw on display at the show.

“I think it’s really amazing because you can see today and what your parents had,” Petrucci said.