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  • 50 years ago Barbie Millicent Roberts first appeared before the world of toys. Barbie,

  • as everyone called her, has become one of the most successful toy in history.

  • Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls, and noticed that she

  • often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children's toy dolls were representations

  • of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the

  • idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company.

  • During a trip to Europe in 1956 Ruth Handler saw a German doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured

  • doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them and took them

  • to Mattel. The Lilli was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip. Lilli

  • was a blonde bombshell, a working girl. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1956.

  • Mattel acquired the rights to the Bild Lilli in 1964 . The first Barbie doll wore a black

  • and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either

  • a blonde or brunette. The doll was marketed as a "Teen-age Fashion Model," with her clothes

  • created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. The first Barbie dolls were manufactured

  • in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched. Around three hundred and fifty thousand Barbie’s

  • were sold within a year. According to Barbie's parents, the Mattel

  • Company, 90% of all American girls between 3 and 10 have had at least one Barbie.

  • Today, however, Barbie is facing an identity crisis. There are many rivals in market. Bratz

  • dolls, for example, came to life seven years ago. They look more like today's pop stars

  • with lots of makeup and miniskirts. Bratz is a challenge for Barbie, as the company

  • offers a wide variety of clothing too. Indeed, sales have been going down over the

  • past year, partly because of the world's economic crisis.

  • Barbie still has a lot going for her. More and more doll lovers all over the globe have

  • become collectors. They trade Barbies or buy them on eBay. Other look for special and rare

  • Barbie dolls, like Scarlett O'Hara from "Gone with the Wind".

  • On the international scene, Barbie remains number one. Although Mattel has been selling

  • fewer Barbies in the United States over the past year. In January Mattel opened its first

  • Barbie store in Shanghai, where girls can shop, eat or even become their own fashion

  • designer. Barbie is present in the virtual world at

  • users can play games and chat with other Barbie fans. There are Facebook

  • groups and YouTube channels. Barbie has changed her image many times over

  • the past decades. Originally she wore blond pony tails and had bright red lips. In the

  • 80s she changed to a more colourful neon look. For her 50th birthday Mattel is planning some

  • big events. Fashion designers from all over the world have been called to make new clothes

  • for Barbie. She is also scheduled to be a big star during a New York fashion week.

  • How long will Barbie stay on as a celebrity in the world of toys. Hard to stay, but 50

  • is definitely not the age to retire.

50 years ago Barbie Millicent Roberts first appeared before the world of toys. Barbie,

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