Meet Carol Spencer, the Designer Behind Barbie's Iconic Wardrobe at Mattel for 35 Years
Barbie, the iconic 11.5-inch-tall doll has been a symbol of fashion and imagination for generations of children around the world. Behind the stunning outfits that have captivated young minds for decades is a talented designer named Carol Spencer, who spent an incredible 35 years creating Barbie's stylish wardrobe. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Spencer's journey into the world of fashion was driven by a passion for design and a determination to be a part of the ever-changing trends of the time.
Minneapolis roots and fashion beginnings
Spencer's early years in Minneapolis laid the foundation for her love of fashion. Watching her grandmother sew as a little girl, she learned the art of creating clothing. In 1947, when Christian Dior introduced the 'New Look' with longer hemlines, Spencer became captivated by high fashion and aspired to be a part of it, per MPR News. Sewing her own clothes and embracing the evolving trends fueled her passion for fashion, ultimately leading her to pursue a career in design.
Her education at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design provided her with the necessary skills and knowledge to dive deep into the world of fashion. Studying high fashion, pattern making, and draping allowed her to gain valuable hands-on experience, preparing her for the remarkable journey ahead.
Designing Barbie's world
After stints in New York and Milwaukee, Spencer's talent and determination brought her to California, where she joined Mattel as a designer. For the next 35 years, she became the creative mind behind Barbie's diverse and ever-changing wardrobe. Drawing inspiration from high-fashion houses like Dior, Balenciaga, and Chanel, Spencer adapted the latest trends to make them accessible and appealing to young children while ensuring each outfit retained play value.
One of Spencer's proudest moments came with the creation of the Benefit Ball Barbie doll, the first Barbie bearing the name of its fashion designer. This recognition was a testament to Carol's exceptional talent and dedication to the iconic doll.
Barbie's enduring legacy
Over the decades, Barbie has remained a beloved toy, captivating the hearts of countless children across the globe. Spencer attributes Barbie's enduring popularity to her ability to reflect the times. Barbie was always a reflection of contemporary fashion, music, art, and societal changes. This connection allowed children from different backgrounds and interests to find their own ways to enjoy and cherish Barbie.
Moreover, Barbie's evolution into various body sizes, races, and hair colors was a significant step towards inclusivity. Spencer firmly believes that embracing diversity and reflecting the changing world is essential for a brand to remain relevant and meaningful.
Carol Spencer's Barbie collection
Outside of her design work, Spencer is a passionate collector of Barbie dolls. Her carefully curated collection spans the decades, from the swinging '60s to the vibrant '90s, showcasing the evolution of Barbie and her fashion choices. Displayed in a specially designed curio cabinet, her collection is a testament to the enduring impact Barbie has had on her life and the lives of countless others. "I would say I have probably 350 to 400 dolls in the dining room. So when you eat at my house you never eat alone — Barbie is always there," revealed Spencer.
The upcoming Barbie movie
As Barbie prepares to grace the silver screen on July 21, 2023, Spencer is eagerly anticipating its release. She shared her excitement with the local Barbie club and her neighbors, with whom she plans to celebrate the occasion. Talking about what she is going to wear to the Barbie movie, she said, "It is getting warmer here so I might wear my new pink suit, but if it is close to 100 degrees, I will have to wear something cooler. It will definitely have pink in it."
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