Two style icons from opposite sides of the Atlantic entered the public imagination in the 1950s and continue to wield fashion influence today.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor is better known as Queen Elizabeth II, the oldest and longest-reigning British monarch. Barbara Millicent Roberts is better known as Barbie, an 11-inch doll, pilot, astronaut, doctor, Olympian, and presidential candidate.
Each has dressed for their times for over six decades, without ever following the fashion crowd. And each has been held up as a (questionable) feminist icon, in their unique way:
“She’s the one on our coins and banknotes,” says actress Olivia Colman of Queen Elizabeth II. “Prince Philip has to walk behind her. She fixed cars in the second world war. She insisted on driving a king who came from a country where women weren’t allowed to drive [Saudi Arabia].”
“My whole philosophy of Barbie was that through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be,” said Ruth Handler, Barbie’s inventor. “Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”
Here at TheToyZone, we love smooshing together pop culture icons and legendary toys. So we gave Barbie the ultimate career doll opportunity: Queen of England! Of course, we’ve switched her appearance out of deference to Her Majesty. Scroll on to admire our new series of Queen Elizabeth II Barbie dolls, dressed in the monarch’s most iconic outfits of the past 75 years.
April 21st, 2022 UPDATE: It took Mattel nearly two years but they have finally gave the Queen her own Barbie for Platinum Jubilee 🤩 You can read all about it on https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britains-queen-elizabeth-gets-own-barbie-doll-platinum-jubilee-2022-04-20/
1945: The war effort
Queen Elizabeth kept it real during World War II when, as Princess Elizabeth, she convinced King George to let her become a junior officer in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). The Service taught her to fix a car and drive a truck. She remains the only woman in the British royalty to serve in the military.
1945 was also the year that Ruth and Elliot Handler founded the Mattel toy company. Ruth had not yet imagined the doll she would later name after the Handler’s daughter: little Barbara Handler was just four years old when Elizabeth was getting “dirt under her nails and grease stains in her hands.”
1953: Coronation Day
“One October afternoon in 1952, Her Majesty the Queen desired me to make for her the dress to be worn at her Coronation,” wrote British couturier Norman Hartnell in 1955. Elizabeth had ascended the throne in February of that year following the death of her father. The official coronation was to take place on 2nd June 1953.
Elizabeth’s final dress was embroidered with “the emblems of all the Dominions of which she was now Queen.” This included the emblem of Wales – the leek. “By using lovely silks and sprinkling it with the dew of diamonds,” recalled Hartnell, “we were able to transform the earthy Leek into a vision of Cinderella charm.” Meanwhile, Mattel had big hits with the Uke-A-Doodle and Magic 8 Ball, but the Barbie doll wouldn’t be ‘born’ until 1959.
1967: Royal visit to Malta
Queen Elizabeth was head of state of Malta until 1974. When she visited the former colony in 1967, her lapel was ornamented with the Cullinan V Brooch, cut from the largest diamond ever found. Hardy Amies designed this floral-themed double-breasted coat – Amies had rejuvenated the Queen’s image with his use of color and line.
Barbie also underwent a style update in 1967, embracing mod fashion. A Twiggy-edition Barbie came out that year, the first Barbie to be physically based on a celebrity (“London’s top teen model”). And in 1968, Barbie introduced her first African-American friend, Christie.
1987: Order of the Thistle service
By 1987, the Queen was a grandmother, and Margaret Thatcher was stealing her headlines as an unlikely style icon. But Elizabeth cut a dash in the traditional a green velvet mantle, black velvet hat, plume, and star of the Order of the Thistle, worn for the biannual Order of the Thistle service in Edinburgh.
In 1986, Barbie was the subject of one of Andy Warhol’s final portraits. This was the period that Barbie graduated from med school and ‘Doctor Barbie’ emerged. Meanwhile, Ruth Handler had switched from creating anatomically unlikely dolls to designing the world’s first custom-made false breasts for mastectomy patients.
1988: Royal Windsor horse show
What kid wouldn’t enjoy dressing the Queen in jodhpurs, riding boots, and a tweed hacking jacket for a trot around the bedroom on a My Little Pony? The Royal Windsor Horse Show has run annually since 1943, and the Queen’s outfit is not just for show – in the inaugural event, young Elizabeth won the Pony and Dogcart class.
Although an African-American Barbie first appeared in 1980, she still had Caucasian features. By 1988, specific molds for Black Barbie were still two years away. New dolls this year included the Korean Barbie doll in traditional satin costume and Canadian Barbie in a Mountie hat.
1999: Royal Variety Performance
The 1990s was a tough decade for the Queen (and for fashion). “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure,” as she said in one of her most famous speeches. Her daughter-in-law, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in ’97. However, Her Highness channeled her inner Barbie for the 1999 Royal Variety Performance gala show, wearing a sequined Technicolor top, canary-yellow skirt, gold Launer handbag, and silver shoes.
The mid-’90s saw the billionth Barbie doll produced. She celebrated her 40th anniversary in 1999 in style, looking like a modern Queen of England for the Autumn in London doll and the queen of Hollywood and Egypt, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra.
2016: 90th birthday
Flaming beacons were lit around the UK on 21st April 2016 in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday. Her Majesty wore a lime green tweed coat and her regular Anello and Davide black horsebit loafers to receive greetings from her loyal subjects.
Barbie re-established her feminist chops in 2016, with new tall, petite, and curvy body types. Today, Barbie’s identity flows through 176 dolls, with 9 body types, 35 skin tones, 94 hairstyles, and options to have no hair, a prosthetic leg, the vitiligo skin condition, and a wheelchair.
A tale of two Queens
Over her record-breaking 67 years in power, the Queen has become famous for posh frocks and fancy hats, wearing a dress that works as a green screen, and trolling the Brexit process with an EU-themed hat.
Barbie has ruled the doll world for 61 years and is still best known for her unlikely looks and glamorous lifestyle. But she likes to catch you off guard, too: in addition to multiple Barbie pilots, there’s finally a Barbie doll who’s a trucker – the most iconic feminist statement on four wheels since the Queen took the Saudi King Abdullah for a spin.
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