Barbie dolls often receive bad rap when it comes to positive body image influences for little girls. With its impossibly thin build, the buxom doll simply has unrealistic body proportions. According to Barbie makers, the iconic toy’s design isn’t meant to be a realistic one. Her controversial disproportionate measurements are apparently a practical choice.
Mattel’s VP of design for Barbie, Kim Culmone, revealed to Fast Company that Barbie was made that way so that girls can easily dress her.
“Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress. And she’s had many bodies over the years, ones that are poseable, ones that are cut for princess cuts, ones that are more realistic,” she said.
So for the sake of fashion, Ms Culmone said that had to give Barbie unrealistic proportions.
“Because if you’re going to take a fabric that’s made for us, and turn a seam for a cuff or on the body, her body has to be able to accommodate how the clothes will fit her.”
And despite receiving complaints about Barbie’s proportions, Ms Culmone said that the company doesn’t currently have plans to change its proportions since they want to preserve the idea of heritage, in which mothers can hand down the clothes of their Barbies to their daughters’ newer Barbies.
She also pointed out thatt little girls don’t get body issues with playing Barbie.
“And to little girls, they are putting themselves in that doll anyway. You have to remember that girls’ perceptions are so different than grownups’ perceptions about what real is and what real isn’t, and what the influences are.”
And to stress, Ms Culmone doesn’t think that girls compare their bodies with Barbie’s.
“Girls view the world completely differently than grownups do. They don’t come at it with the same angles and baggage and all that stuff that we do. Clearly, the influences for girls on those types of issues, whether it’s body image or anything else, it’s proven, it’s peers, mums, parents, it’s their social circles.”
Though Mattel appears to be in denial of its dolls’ negative impact on little girls, a study by the University of Sussex in 2006 concluded that thin dolls like Barbie “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”