When Barbie first appeared on the toy scene, no one could have dreamt of the success and impact Barbie would have on girls and fashion. The much-loved Barbie stole little girls’ hearts in 1959 when Mattel launched the first blonde, buxom, tapered waist doll. The feminine appeal of Barbie dolls inspires Barbiecore but has ditched stereotypes and purely embraced a passion for pink.
Barbiecore is a fashion subculture rooted in the Mattel toy doll’s penchant for pink and femininity. Fashion is the cornerstone of Barbiecore and embraces everything pink, the bolder and brighter, the better. Barbiecore’s influence extends to music, movies, lifestyle, and décor.
Barbie has faced criticism for her ill-proportioned body and expensive lifestyle. Barbiecore, on the other hand, is grounded in self-expression and personal choice. Barbiecore fans are inspired by pink as the essence of style and fun. Read on for an in-depth look at everything Barbiecore embodies.
Barbiecore is summed up in one word, pink. Expect to see bright, shocking shades of hot pink, Fuschia, candy, electric pink, bubble gum, and fluorescent pink in Barbiecore’s color palette. The color experts, Pantone, named Viva Magenta the Color of the Year for 2023, further cementing the ‘pink way’ of life.
The Barbiecore fashion subculture has made the original Barbie stereotype more inclusive, and pink is now a staple basic in the wardrobes of a cross-section of fans, both male and female. The notion that Barbie embodied California-bleached blond beach babes is no longer relevant.
All sizes, shapes, and silhouettes are resplendent in bold pink hues. The Barbiecore scene is not just peppered with small bright pink accents. It’s an in-your-face empowered pink world.
Barbiecore goes beyond a color statement. It embodies optimism, and confidence, a refreshing change from the somber mood that prevailed during the dark Covid days.
Following the pink Barbie mania, Barbiecore has debuted in interior design. Fans obsess over magenta and vivid pink to extend Barbiecore into their homes and living spaces.
Think bright, fun spaces with bold statement pieces in a combination of pink hues. Brave Barbiecore enthusiasts have drenched their homes in all hues of magenta and embraced pink as the new go-to décor color.
Pink has become a theme color, too. Barbiecore events exclusively feature pink floral arrangements, décor, lighting, and food.
Social media plays a pivotal role in driving trends and subcultures. Barbiecore is a hashtag on Tiktok, with hundreds of millions of TikTok views. The Barbiecore fashion subculture has been spurred on by thousands of Barbiecore pink images and mood boards on Pinterest.
Instagram features images of celebrities, superstars, and influencers wearing Barbiecore, further entrenching the Barbiecore fashion hype.
Pink has always had a place in fashion, however, often in muted pastels or simple bright accent pieces. Barbiecore has elevated pink to an all-inclusive fashion genre.
The upside of Barbiecore is that no one is left out. You belong if pink is your style inspiration, regardless of ethnicity, size, or preference.
Fashion has always played a pivotal role in the Barbie world. The original Barbie outfit designer, Carol Spencer, spent three decades designing Barbie’s wardrobe. Well-respected designers and fashion houses like Dior and Yves Saint Laurent inspired her.
Pink is everywhere, with fashion A-Listers and celebrities donning pink from head to toe.
The Valentino Pink collection, designed by Pierpaolo Piccioli’s 2022 Spring/Summer collection, catapulted vibrant pink shades to newfound stardom. Alexander Mc Queen, Dior, and Versace are other designers who used pink in their runway collections.
Barbiecore fashion design is playful and uninhibited, allowing anyone to explore their feminine side. The fabrics used in Barbie outfits range from vinyl to sheer; any fabric makes the grade as long as it is pink. Fashionable clothes also feature ruching, ruffles, frills, and flares.
Bling, feathers, sequins, and faux fur are all permissible in Barbiecore. Although this may be seen as kitschy or camp, pink lovers are making bold moves to explore their fashion identities.
Barbiecore footwear is anything but practical; glamor is the in thing. Shoes make a major fashion statement in pink, with ridiculously high platforms, thigh-high, ankle, and calf-length boots, pink bedazzled stiletto heels, block-heeled ankle straps, and elevated thongs.
Clothing is fun. Barbiecore staple outfits are based loosely on Barbie doll styling. Designers have, however, exaggerated the look. High-end fashion items include ball gowns, evening wear, and over-the-top attention-grabbing pieces.
As a Barbiecore enthusiast, these are the key items you should keep in your closet:
- Flared pants
- Crop tops
- Mini dresses
- Nipped-in-the-waist ensembles
- Sleeveless, off-the-shoulder, and open-shouldered bodice-styled tops
- Form-fitted and deconstructed pant suits
- Workwear with pencil skirts and cropped jackets
- Short sets
- Coats, trench coats, and loose-fitting jackets
Sport and beachwear are integral to the Barbiecore exercise trend. Barbie’s sporting attire features tennis skirts, gym attire, roller-blading gear, and swimwear.
From the inception of Barbie, accessories have added the finishing touches to every outfit. Mattel designed many accessories to complement Barbie’s style, lifestyle, and career choices. The Barbiecore look has remained true to this and includes accessories from jewelry to handbags and hair decoration.
Pink-everything is the criterion. Pieces with sparkle, pink gemstones, and crystals enhance any outfit. Sunglasses are pink and preferably heart-shaped, with added embellishments to make a fashion statement.
Barbiecore makeup is unabashedly pink. The Barbie look features glossy pink lips and beautifully blended pink cheeks. Pink isn’t limited to lips and cheeks. Barbiecore enthusiasts sport pink eye-shadows, lip liners, and eyeliners.
Makeup houses have designed pink color combos to give Barbie girls many choices. For those not brave enough to wear dramatic single-color eye and cheek makeup, there are options to mix different shades of pink to create a softer look.
As expected, nails are pink, and any shade of pink goes. Nail shape matters in Barbiecore, and nails are either round or oval depending on the length. Barbiecore extremists add adornments to their nails and mix up shades of pink on their fingertips.
The big blowout is the most authentic Barbiecore hairstyle; add waves and soft curls to this, and you will be on trend. High ponytails, pink bangs, princess up-dos, and half-up, half-down styles are Barbiecore hair looks. Shorter hairstyles can be updated with head banks, scarves, and pink hair accessories.
Barbie as an Icon
A look at Barbie’s history reveals an interesting storyline. Barbie was launched into the toy market on the 9th of March 1959 as a teenage fashion model by the American toy company Mattel, INC at the American International Toy Fair in New York.
The creator of Barbie, Ruth Handler, designed Barbie based on inspiration from the German doll, Bild Lilli. Barbie was named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara and Barbie’s on-again, off-again boyfriend Ken after Ruth’s son Kenneth.
Such is Barbie’s iconic status: in 1974, a section of Times Square was named Barbie Boulevard for a week. The Louvre held a Barbie exhibition in 2016 featuring 700 Barbie dolls and artwork by a selection of modern-day artists.
Despite the overall impression of Barbie as a fashion and style icon, Barbie has succeeded in over 200 careers, inspiring young girls to pursue a diverse range of career choices, many of them traditionally reserved for males.
Careers in the Barbie world include industries like, arts and media, dancing, fashion, music, teaching, medicine, military, politics, science, Olympic sports, aeronautics, and engineering. In 1959, Barbie became a business executive when female business executives were seldom heard of.
The premise behind Barbie’s career choices is more than just random and marketing driven. Science and research lie at the heart of the Barbie workspace.
An interesting phenomenon that Barbie taps into is the ‘Dream Gap.’ Dream Gaps start at five and are prevalent among little girls. It’s an age when girls start questioning their intelligence. In contrast, boys don’t have a dream gap and are confident in their abilities.
Barbies with careers were launched to empower young girls to follow their dreams, not underestimate their abilities, and, in essence, level the playing field.
Another innovative Barbie concept was the introduction of medical workers to salute the everyday medical helpers who played pivotal roles in treating Covid patients and saving lives. The Barbie range was named Thank You, Heroes.
Barbie houses have always been a part of the Barbie toy world. As a corporate social investment initiative, Mattel partnered with Habit for Humanity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its Barbie Dreamhouse. The partnership was formed in February 2022, and Mattel undertook 60 building projects to construct and improve neglected neighborhoods.
To further break out of the stereotype ideology and focus on inclusivity, Barbie now includes different body shapes, skin tones, and hairstyles. The Barbie range has taken a stand against discrimination and brought to market a doll with hearing aids, another with a prosthetic leg, and Ken with vitiligo.
The first song that springs to mind when thinking of music is ‘Barbie Girl’ by the Norwegian pop group Aqua, released in 1997. The song grew in popularity and reached number 7 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Although the song made headlines, the lyrics did not represent Mattel’s Barbie philosophy. Mattel sued MCA Records for trademark and copyright infringement. The case was dismissed, and in 2002 a Court of Appeals ruled that the song was a parody. MCA Records countersued Mattel for defamation, but the presiding judge Alex Kozinski advised both parties to “chill.”
All of the Barbie movies have featured songs, many of them gaining popularity and outliving the movie’s hype; here are the top 10:
- We’re Gonna Find It – Barbie and the Diamond Castle
- To Be a Princess – The Pauper and Barbie, Princess and the Popstar
- I’m Just Like You – Princess and the Pauper
- Free – Barbie Princess and the Pauper
- Anything is Possible – Barbie: Line in the Dreamhouse
- Summer Sunshine – Barbie in a Mermaid Tale
- A Barbie 12 Days of Christmas and California Christmas – Barbie in a Christmas Carol
- Be a Friend – Barbie Mariposa, The Fairy Princess
- Keep on Dancing – Barbie in Pink Shoes
- Two Voices, One Song – Barbie and the Diamond Castel
Following this, many Barbiecore-inspired songs have made the popular hit lists:
- 7 Rings – The Halcyon Syndicate
- Big Energy – Elements of Pop
- California Curls – Neon Crew
- Crazy in Love – X-Sonic
- Glamorous – Jaxx Mann Movers
- How You Like That – Wild Stylerz
- My Head and My Heart – Vermillion League
- Say So – Fuschcia Boom Band
- Telepatia – Falling Down
- The Sweet Escape – LA Band
Movies and TV Shows
Barbie is no stranger to animated movies that have enthralled children and grown-ups. Barbie in the Nutcracker was the first Barbie-inspired animation movie released in 2001, followed by Barbie in Rapunzel and Barbie of Swan Lake in 2002.
The latest Barbie films are:
2022 – Barbie: Epic Road Trip
2022 – Barbie: Mermaid Power
2021 – Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams
2021 – Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday
2020 – Barbie: Princess Adventure
2017 – Barbie: Dolphin Magic
2017 – Barbie: Video Game Hero
2016 – Barbie and her sisters: A Puppy Chase
2016 – Barbie: Starlight Adventure
2016 – Barbie: Spy Squad
Legally Blonde I and II had adult storylines but featured the all-in-pink Elle Woods documenting her love life and academic achievements. The Mean Girls feature film included a Barbiecore element where high schoolers declared Wednesdays a day when we wear pink.
Barbiecore has been given a new lease on life with the much anticipated 2023 movie Barbie featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. The film teasers and posters are full on Barbiecore and have already inspired a new set of fashionistas and celebrities to embrace the Barbie aesthetic.
Barbiecore subculture has infiltrated television series, the most recent being The Prequel to Grease, a 10-episode series. The Pink Ladies airs in April 2023 and features a group of four high school outcasts at Rydell High, the setting for the Grease movies. The color pink is front stage and center in this series.
Mattel Television launched the 2nd series of Barbie: ‘It Takes Two’ in October 2022. The series follows the adventures of Malibu and Brooklyn, who are best friends with a dream of becoming music stars.
DIY and Crafting
Barbiecore DIY is an inexpensive, creative way to decorate your home. Painting walls in pink shades and repurposing furniture to blend into the pink trend is a popular pastime for Barbiecore fans. DIY extends to making detailed miniature Barbie houses and furniture.
Sewing is also a much-loved craft for Barbiecore enthusiasts; whether it is making soft furnishings or Barbie clothing, anything to do with fabric is a favored activity.
Pink expression encompasses all areas of life, and crafting extends beyond sewing to scrap-booking, flower arrangements, stenciling, and jewelry making.
Criticisms and Controversies
A criticism that is voiced over and over again is the proportions of Barbie’s body, with concerns that children are impressionable and may strive to have a Barbie body that is unhealthily proportioned and unattainable. Young girls may develop body consciousness issues and feel inadequate if they don’t meet the Barbie standard.
Mothers expressed concerns about Barbie’s figure in the initial design research and discouraged Mattel from creating Barbie with such accentuated body dimensions. Mattel circumvented this issue by marketing directly to children through television commercials.
One of the first controversies was sparked by Barbie Babysitter being sold standard with a tiny diet book titled ‘Don’t Eat.’ Although the company strongly believed that Barbie’s figure did not impact girls’ body ideals, a Developmental Psychology study in 2006 found that young girls who played with Barbie Dolls were more likely to develop a desire to be thin.
A further criticism is that Barbie focuses on fashion and looks, which could lead to similar obsessions among young girls. Barbie merchandise includes cars, boats, jets, horses, and other expensive items. This concerns parents who feel that Barbie breeds a culture of materialism.
There have been several controversies around Barbie. In 1992 Barbie launched the Teen Talk doll that was programmed to say several phrases, one of which was: “Math class is tough.”
Parents and educators were up in arms, and the toy company apologized.
Mattel offered a doll swap for customers who weren’t happy with the phrases. Still, Teen Talk Barbie remained on retailers’ shelves.
Other Barbie Dolls have come under fire for not meeting the age-appropriate and socially acceptable criteria:
- Computer Virus Barbie
- Hijab Barbie
- Puberty Barbie
- Blonde-weave Barbie
- Giving-birth Barbie
- Video Girl Barbie
- Barbie’s non-ADA-accessible Dream House
Barbiecore is inspired by the toy doll Barbie’s affinity to pink and embraces bold hues of pink. From fashion to lifestyle, everything is rosy-colored. The pink trend was reignited by the Valentino Pink Collection in 2022, which inspired celebrities and A-list stars to dress in high-fashion pink outfits. The Barbie movie to be released in 2023 has perpetuated the love of pink even further.