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Life in plastic: Where to find vintage Barbiecore
There's lots of vintage Barbie out there — she's been around since 1959. Photo: Tara Winstead/Pexels

Life in plastic: Where to find vintage Barbiecore


Barbie’s ace marketing team has painted the world pink this summer — here's where to find vintage fashion and decor pieces to perfect all of your Barbiecore plans

Are you a Barbie girl in a Barbie world?

Actress Margot Robbie certainly is as she stars as the iconic doll in director Greta Gerwig’s live-action film adaptation Barbie, making its theatrical debut today.

From childhood toy to fashion icon, #Barbiecore is influencing not only moviegoers and fashion lovers, but vintage shoppers as well.

Barbie: A historical retrospective

The brainchild of Ruth Handler, a sassy 11-inch-tall plastic female figure named Barbara Millicent Roberts hit the toy scene in March 1959. Better known to shoppers as Barbie, the first mass-produced U.S. toy with adult features has become one of the most iconic and collected toys in history.

A fashion magnate even in her first iteration, Barbie filled a niche in the toy market for little girls to imagine what they could potentially be when they grew up.

The first Barbie doll, created and marketed directly to children via commercials during shows such as The Mickey Mouse Club, donned a black-and-white striped swimsuit, a spunky blond ponytail, pouty red lips, and gold hoops for days.

Original Barbie doll from 1959 with black and white striped bathing suit. Photo courtesy Mattel Inc.
The original 1959 Barbie. Photo: Mattel, Inc.

Handler based her beach-bound and beautiful doll loosely on the German Bild Lilli doll, a racy gag gift men often bought for bachelor parties at tobacco shops. Handler and her husband Elliot, with whom she founded the toy company Mattel, bought the rights to Bild Lilli and created their own iteration for children.

Now, Handler was a forward-thinking woman. Her Barbie was no housewife. According to Barbie’s media team, over the span of her existence, Barbie has held more than 250 careers — an impressive resume to say the least.

She broke the plastic ceiling when she went to the moon in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong. Since then, she has been everything from a doctor to a paleontologist to a rock star to a computer engineer. She even hit the campaign trail running for U.S. president in 1992. And with a closet as big as her Dreamhouse, she has an outfit for every occasion.

1980s era Barbie on the moon in space suit. Photo courtesy Mattel Inc.
Barbie first landed on the moon in 1965. This version is from 1986. Photo: Mattel, Inc.

Though Barbie and her maker Mattel have faced criticism over the years for not only the doll’s lack of diversity, but also the unrealistic body image standards she sets for young girls, the company aimed to make repairs in 2016 when they released the Barbie Fashionistas that came in four body types, seven skin tones, 22 eye colours and 24 hairstyles.

A 1969 Christie doll wearing a yellow and magenta bomber jacket and hot pants.. Photo: Mattel, Inc.
A 1969 Christie doll. Barbie's best friend Christie debuted in 1968 and is considered the first Black Barbie. Photo: Mattel, Inc.

The Barbiecore trend, however, is for anyone, anywhere, any size. Popping on your favourite piping-hot pink piece from your closet doesn’t have beauty standard restrictions. Even high-end fashion designer Pierpaolo Piccioli ran his fall/winter 2022 runway full of fuchsia for Valentino last year, bringing to mind Barbies galore.

As we know, fashion trends trickle down from the runways to the shopping malls and online shopping sites. So, this summer, picking up a Barbiecore piece from your favourite vintage haunt is a piece of (pink confetti-topped) cake.

Barbie dolls on the vintage market today

For vintage collectors, shoppers and sellers, these examples are merely a small portion of myriad Barbies worth collecting, swapping and selling.

Barbie’s media team says more than one hundred Barbies are sold every minute, so it comes as no surprise that there is a thriving vintage market for reselling the dolls.

Barbie's 1962 Dreamhouse features yellow walls, pink furniture and books. Photo: Mattel, Inc.
Barbie's 1962 Dreamhouse. Photo: Mattel, Inc.

Average prices from resellers range from $10-$200, depending on the doll’s rarity.

But original and limited-edition Barbies can fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 on the open market, often driving bidding wars.

There's currently a Barbie No. 2 — the second iteration of the doll released in 1959 — listed for about CA$8,000 on eBay.

Find vintage Barbiecore at these upcoming markets

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Shopping and selling vintage Barbiecore

When shopping and selling vintage Barbiecore looks, the name of the game is femininity. While Barbie was ahead of her time, she always maintained a demure sense of self.

In terms of colourways, think pink! But also blue, green and purple pastels can pass the trend test. Neon colours also make the Barbiecore grade. After Robbie and Ryan Gosling (her Ken in the film) were papped in head-to-toe neon costumes rolling blading down the beach set of the film last year, neons have entered the core conversation.

"Totally Hair" Barbie and Ken wearing neon patterned outfits. Photo: Mattel, Inc.
“Barbiecore” doesn't just mean pink: Neon has entered the chat, inspired by the 1990s "Totally Hair" Barbie and Ken. Photo: Mattel, Inc.

In terms of which vintage Barbie looks to recreate, look no further than the looks Robbie has been rocking on the red carpet of the Barbie movie press tour.

With the help of stylist Andrew Mukamal, the movie star is making fashion moves — and headlines — by paying homage to Barbies of all eras via her outfits. From her original black-and-white swimsuit look to an ‘80s-inspired two-piece power suit, Margot makes dressing vintage Barbiecore new again.

Though Barbiecore is currently reaching the tipping point of its popularity due to the release of Gerwig’s film, the trend has made headlines aplenty over the past couple of decades.

From celebrities like Paris Hilton dressing almost exclusively in pink and adopting a girlish, baby-doll persona, to films like Clueless and Mean Girls featuring blonde bombshell fashionistas, Barbiecore is never totally out of the zeitgeist.

Perhaps the reason we’re still so excited for this trend is the breath of fresh air and fun that comes with it to clear out the COVID cobwebs. Globally, we’ve been down and out for three years. Who better than Barbie to offer frolicking fun and a reason to redo our wardrobe of work-from-home sweats?

Where to find vintage Barbiecore

So, scroll through our vintage sellers below and find your perfect Barbiecore look in which to hit the cinema this summer. Come on Barbies, let’s go party!

The Neighbourhood Vintage | Peterborough, ON

Ian Drummond Vintage | Toronto, ON

Habit Vintage | Halifax, NS

Boho Chic Budget | Toronto, ON

Out of the Past Clothing | Hamilton, ON

Vintage Hussy | Toronto, ON

Past Lives Thrift | Ottawa, ON

Moxie and Mine | Kingston, ON

Freelton Antique Mall (various vendors) | Hamilton, ON

Honey Lounge | Edmonton, AB

Emerald City Vintage | Abbotsford, BC

Moonshine Vintage | Toronto, ON

Venus Vestiaire | Vancouver, BC

Madame Saint Vintage | Chicago, IL

Cate Brown is a freelance writer and gallery artist based in Ottawa, Ont.

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