By Mary N. DiZazzo

Barbie: Still Nifty at 50! Happy Birthday Dear Doll

Ciao bella,

I'm sure you all remember your first Barbie doll. She was either blonde or brunette (I chose the blonde with the top knot pony tail in place) and she wore a black and white zebra swim suit. And oh the accessories. We played for hours in the neighborhood with childhood friends Joyce E.,Tina Z., and Inta K! What fun—Memories I still cherish. It was a simple time. We stayed children a long time then.

Barbara “Barbie” Millicent Roberts was created by Ruth Handler-1916-2002. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York on March 9th, 1959. This date is considered Barbie’s official birthday. She is now 50 and not a wrinkle!

Talk about beauty—well Barbie was it. Named after the inventor's daughter, Barbara. (Ken who showed up in 1961 was her son's name) Ruth Handler whose husband Elliott was the co-founder of Mattel thought of designing a “Teen-age Fashion Model” doll. After visiting Europe Ruth came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. Always noticing her daughter Barbara playing with paper dolls she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. After Mattel purchased the rights of the Lilli doll, Ruth decided to re-work the design of the Lilli doll with the approval of Mattel’s directors.

Ecco la...Barbie!

The first Barbie dolls were made in Japan. The clothes for the doll were hand-stitched by Japanese home workers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production. Now it has been estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold world-wide in over 150 countries. Though outlawed in

Saudi Arabia because Barbie did not conform to the ideals of Islam, an alternative doll is “Fulla” not made by Mattel. Oh dear!

Almost uniquely for a toy fashion doll, she has become a cultural icon and has been given honors that are rare in the toy world.

As a child I related to Barbie as a model for pretty hair, great make-up, clothes and accessories. Never her figure since my Italians relatives or no one I knew looked like that-after all it was a doll.

It was Chanel who inspired costume designers for the doll’s suits, blouses and short white gloves. You could match the outfits with models such as Ava Gardner, Jackie O. or Grace Kelly. Barbie was also career minded as well as sporty-the clothes told the story.

Oh yes I'll have my Barbie and Ken out on display in my home to celebrate the always most beautiful person Barbie.

Buona giornata, and God bless the United States of America!

--Mary N. DiZazzo-Trumbull

PS: My long time paisan Ronnie wanted to remind everyone of an old Italian tradition his nanna and nonno practiced every March 1st. Snip a piece of your hair and it will always grow healthy!

Read prior weeks' "All That Zazz" columns at Mary is a third-generation cosmetologist and a Massachusetts distributor of Kosmea brand rose hip oil products. She may be contacted at (978) 470-8183 or