1976 was the year that Mattel made a drastic change in Barbie doll’s appearance. Throughout the early seventies, Malibu Barbie was a tan skinned, straight haired hippie who was somewhat plain and ordinary at times. By the mid-1970’s, the peasant look was becoming dated and glitzy celebrities like Cher, Carol Burnett and Donny and Marie Osmond wore the latest fashion styles. Superstar Barbie received the second makeover to Barbie’s appearance. The first was in 1967 with the Twist ‘n Turn Barbie doll.
Superstar Barbie was the first Barbie doll to have a large smile on her face. Earlier incarnations of Barbie from the first issue ponytail in 1959 through the early 1970’s featured a closed mouth or pursed lips like the Twist ‘n Turn Barbie dolls. Friends like Stacey or Twiggy dolls were smiling but Barbie had a more demure appearance. Superstar Barbie doll’s first issue dress was made of hot pink satin with a pink and silver glittery boa. A promotional issue of the Superstar Barbie doll wore a pink and silver glittery dress with a silver sequin cap and white feather boa.
To accompany her smile, Superstar Barbie had blue eyes that looked straight ahead and a new body style. The new body featured arms bent at a 90 degree angle. Her skin tone was also very peach in color compared to the tan dolls that had been sold prior to her manufacture. She was marketed as a glamorous icon and as such, her first series of fashions were glittery and bright. They were also very formal and Ken had fashions sold separately to match Barbie. A hard to find Superstar Barbie and Ken gift set featured wrist tags that the individually sold dolls did not have.
Superstar Ken also had a big smile and had blond hair that was painted on. He wore a blue jumpsuit with sunglasses and wore a ruby ring and a plastic digital watch. The Superstar line was a huge success and led to this style of Barbie doll continuing to be produced throughout the 1980’s. African American Barbie friend Christie was also sold as a Superstar version. Christie wore a yellow satin dress with matching boa and had the Superstar face with brown eyes and beautiful two tone streaked brown hair. 18 inch tall Supersize versions of Barbie and Christie were also manufactured.
Fashion booklets were brought back into production and were included with the dolls and fashions. The first issue Superstar Barbie dolls were produced in Taiwan until the middle of 1977, when Mattel opened a new manufacturing plant in the Phillippines. According to the book Collectible Barbie Dolls 1977-1979 by Sibyl St. John DeWein, these dolls began to show up in stores in 1978. They are marked differently on the back and have slightly different facial screening. The first issue dolls were sold with a goldtone star shaped necklace for the child to wear. Department store special Superstar Barbie gift sets In The Spotlight and Fashion Change Abouts are hard to find and very collectible today. The Superstar Barbie In The Spotlight set had two fashion variations available. The Phillippines version featured 1978 Best Buy fashions while the Taiwan version included 1977 fashions.
The Superstar Barbies had iconic clear plastic jewelry that is collectible today. The dolls were sold with clear plastic necklace, earrings and ring with a clear rhinestone accent. The fashions were sold with colored variations of the jewelry set. Golden Dream Barbie and Christie had the clear plastic jewelry set with amber colored rhinestone accents. Fashion Photo Barbie, P.J. and Christie dolls each had their own color variation of the jewelry to match their clothing ensembles.
Another popular Barbie series available during the Superstar era was the Ballerina line, which included Barbie and her African American friend Cara. Barbie wore a white ballerina tutu while Cara’s was pink. In 1978, Ballerina Barbie was reissued with honey blond hair instead of platinum and with different, more intricate face paint. Three Ballerina fashions were also sold. There was also a Ballerina Barbie On Tour department store special gift set.
In 1979, Pretty Changes Barbie was the first Superstar face doll made with short hair. Kissing Barbie and Christie were also available in 1979 with pink and peach kiss print gowns. The department store special Kissing Barbie also came with a yellow dress. The dolls made a kissing motion with their lips when a button in their back was pressed.
The Superstar Barbie face continued to be the basic face used for most Barbie dolls made in the 1980’s. A collector favorite from the era is Hawaiian Superstar Barbie from Europe who had tanned skin, brown eyes and black hair with the Superstar face. Popular dolls that are remembered by those who grew up in the early 1980’s include Pink ‘n Pretty Barbie and Christie from 1981, Golden Dream Barbie and Christie from 1981, and Beauty Secrets Barbie and Christie from 1980. The Dolls of the World series debuted in 1980 and included many beautiful dolls. Royal Barbie had the Superstar face and in Canada was called Princess. Princess Barbie is slightly different looking with smaller eyes. Italian Barbie from 1980 had a unique face only used for her and the Guardian Goddess dolls.
Stay tuned for future articles about the history of the Superstar Barbie face. Part two will feature Barbie dolls from 1983 through 1989.