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Home Articles Spotlight Blog Surf-n-Turf: Getting to the meat of the swimsuit preoccupation of our dolls!
Surf-n-Turf: Getting to the meat of the swimsuit preoccupation of our dolls!
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Monday, 08 July 2013 20:01
You-know-who poses alongside an artist’s interpretation of what an average 19-year-old’s physique looks like. There is quite a noticeable difference here. Which do you prefer?
World, meet Barbie! Barbie, meet the world! You’re going to be seeing a lot more of one another! This is the 1959 suit that launched the brand.
Barbie was unveiled in this readjustment of the original outfit. She manages to look absolutely fantastic and fit for a 50+-year-old collectible.
When Ken first popped onto the scene, he was very much a young pubescent boy.
Channeling his inner geek, Ken looks more like the president of the chess club than a trophy-winning high-school jock. Perhaps he was a marathoner?
Splash forward 40 years, and Ken has a whole new aura about him—but still the attachment to his beach towel.
Ken as a hunk of eye candy? Is it wrong to objectify an object?
Here, Ken enjoys a jog and a . . . oh, wait! It’s ballroom-dancing hunk Derek Hough.
The Monster High teens look frighteningly cool in their summer togs.
The “Lucky Blue” swimsuit Troll is having a bad hair day, for sure! (And collectors love her for it.)
This half doll captures the appearance of an authentic Jazz Age flapper.
A healthy and wholesome complexion is a major asset for the half-doll flapper.
Molly, from the American Girl series of dolls, looks peachy-keen in her 1944 bathing suit.
The Simply Gene collection paid tribute to World War II’s favorite pinup girl: Miss Gene Marshall. She looks stunning in her two-piece set.
The James Bond franchise got an infusion of hotness with the introduction of the Halle Berry character. Her likeness from “Die Another Day” was immortalized by Mattel.
Decades apart, the new Barbie and the original Barbie stand astride the collectibles universe. She seems to have grown younger and less severe as the years have gone by.
You-know-who poses alongside an artist’s interpretation of what an average 19-year-old’s physique looks like. There is quite a noticeable difference here. Which do you prefer?
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When the temperatures start to peak above 85 degrees, I don’t want to even peek my head outside! Even though I love summer (in theory)—the kids home from school, chances to spend more time with family and friends—I have to admit that I’m a party pooper when it comes to warm weather. Well, not “warm.” I mean, hot, humid, and heatstroke-causing temperatures.

Right now, the East Coast is trapped in a “heat snap” and it’s anything but a “snap” to get through it. Just walking a couple of blocks outside reduces anyone to a puddle reminiscent of Margaret Hamilton in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Honestly, at any moment I expect myself to turn green, cackle dementedly, and then shriek, “I’m melting!”  And I wouldn’t be alone. We’re all dealing with draining temperatures, short tempers, and increased desire for ice cream and other cold frozen treats.

As tempting as devouring a sundae every hour of the day sounds, I know that I have to rein myself in, if I want to fit into my shorts and bathing suit. Yes, it’s just my hatred of swimsuit shopping that keeps me from having to go to Kohl’s every other day for a new expanding suit.

I like summer because it gives me permission to indulge in Klondike bars—even picturing the shiny silver wrapper cools me down at least 4 degrees. There are also ice-cream sandwiches, ice-cream cones, and the occasional yogurt swirl. (Hey, what can I say? I like Dairy Queen.)

Even better, summer ushers in the return of the ice-cream truck. Think about it. It’s the only food group I know of that can magically appear—accompanied by tinkling bells and calliope music—just when you’re dreaming about it or wishing for it.

Believe me, you can sit all day long and pine away for a filet mignon, a baked potato, and a Greek salad, and no “steak-spud-and-salad” truck is going to come careening down your block. But start thinking about how nice it would be to indulge in a Good Humor bar, and you’ll soon hear the merry music of a truck heading your way.

Yep, if I could, I would make ice cream a primary component of the food pyramid, but I can’t. Also, I know everything has to be taken in moderation (with a deserved exception made for ice cream, naturally).

While our physiques might expand and contract depending upon the weather, our dolls always remain perennially svelte and physically fit. I guess that’s why so many dolls come dressed in bathing suits.

Most of us would not volunteer to be stripped down to our undies or stuffed into a swimsuit and then trotted out to meet people for the first time. However, for a lot of us, that’s how we made the acquaintance of our first fashion dolls: the guys and the gals. They were clad in bathing suits, and they showed us, right off the bat, what we were buying. There was no false advertising or Spanx surprises to be revealed at a later date.

Depending upon your birth year and when you started collecting, the style of swimsuits certainly have changed over the past 54 years—that’s when Barbie hit the scene in her black-and-white-striped swimwear. There have been bikinis, micro bikinis, string bikinis, and more modest tankinis.

Whether she was grooving in a gold lamé bathing suit, with a mesh coverall, or letting it all hang out in a psychedelic beach print with a plastic see-through beach robe, Barbie has always been curvaceous and “Baywatch” employable. She’s always been one red-hot mama.

Ken—now that’s a different story. It’s hard to believe but the 1961 Ken doll looks like the proverbial “90-pound weakling.” He definitely looks like a young boy—more Barbie’s “boy toy” than a hunky, dating equal.

Over the years, Ken has gone through a lot of transformations, with changes in his hair color, facial sculpting, and age appearance. Most noticeably, his physique has changed from a thin, dorky teen (Mattel, you can make Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” with the 1961 mold) to a ripped, buff, head-turning piece of eye candy.

Dolls and their beach attire can be flirty and sexy, or historically accurate and a glimpse at what was considered permissible in the past. Whether the doll is a high-fashion character or an all-American American Girl, the bathing suit is an essential part of every toy’s wardrobe.

And for Ken and Barbie—the Frankie and Annette of the plastic surfing scene—the decades have also shown what’s considered more appealing and sexy and desirable. Barbie has certainly grown softer facially; her look is more demure and sweet. She’s not as haughty and severe as when she first dominated the toy boxes back in ’59. Ken, on the other hand, has grown up—looked a little too rough and tumble for a while there—and now gets by on his sun-kissed, golden-streaked good looks. (If “Dancing with the Stars” Derek Hough were a doll, he’d be Ken!)

Sit back, grab an ice-cream bar (Skinny Cow is very low in calories), and enjoy this slideshow salute to the girls and boys of summer. These vinyl and porcelain pieces of perfection can keep that summer glow all year long!


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Barbie and Ken never grow old. I fear I'm growing older, but I'm fighting not to grow up! Collecting dolls for me and my granddaughter keeps my spirit young. (I don't think you want to see me in a bikini though!)
Hilary , July 13, 2013

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