Malibu Barbie, a California Icon, Is Turning 50

The beloved doll launched back in 1971, and Mattel is celebrating with a pop-up truck tour

The Barbies of the 1950s and ’60s were a bit cold with their pursed lips and sideways glances. The iconic fashion doll was forever changed when she made that trip up Pacific Coast Highway and emerged as Malibu Barbie in 1971 with a completely new face, smile, and attitude. She had a “thick golden tan” and wore her long, blond hair straight, and with highlights. It was a new decade and she was a changed woman. Mattel is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Malibu Barbie with a West Coast pop-up truck tour cruising from San Diego to Seattle all summer long.

The first Malibu Barbie retailed in the Sears Wish Book catalog for $1.94 and was soon joined by Malibu Ken, Malibu Skipper, Malibu Francie, Malibu Christie, and Malibu P.J. Her simple blue bathing suit with sunglasses and a beach towel were soon augmented, in classic Barbie style, by scads of groovy 1970s fashions and accessories including “Turtle’n tights,” Bubble’n boots” and a “zig zag bag.” Far out!

A few years ago, designer Trina Turk saw an original Barbie Dream House on display at LACMA and created a whole line of vintage inspired fashions for the doll and for human-sized Barbies alike. “I was looking at the house made of slotted cardboard,” Turk said at the time. “And realized Barbie is actually a modernist.”

When Barbie turned 50, L.A. designer Jonathan Adler created a real-life Barbie dream house at a cliffside home in Malibu complete with wall-to-wall pink carpeting, an original Andy Warhol portrait, and a custom chandelier made of 30 blond wigs.

We don’t imagine the décor to be as lavish when the Barbie truck arrives at the Santa Monica Place shopping center (why not Malibu?) on August 7, but it will be filled with limited edition fashions by Alex & Ani, Funboy, CHI, and Stoney Clover Lane inspired by Malibu Barbie.

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