The happy coincidence of my blog and my job

One of the great things about having a book blog and working in a library is how much those worlds overlap. When I started my blog, I never imagined I’d later become a librarian. But what a happy coincidence! I get a lot of ideas for my blog and what to read at work.

One of my favorite things to do on my blog is create groupings of books with related themes, book covers, book titles, etc. And it’s fun to think about new ways to group them. Sometimes seemingly unrelated books really do belong together, the more you think about it.

Here’s a book display I made at work on Empty Nests. It was fun thinking about what kinds of books people approaching (like me) or in the thick of this stage would be interested in. And it was just as fun going in the back room and finding things to add to the display.

Another fun thing I did with my co-worker M. came about when we discovered our mutual love of playing with Barbie dolls when we were girls. So we reserved the display case in the lobby, brought in our collections and arranged them for all to see. Do I need to say how fun that was?Do your interests and your job ever come together?

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Look what Barbie’s wearing! Barbie Fashion 1959-1967 by Sarah Sink Eames

Barbie Fashion – the complete history of the wardrobes
of Barbie doll, her friends and her family

Vol. I, 1959-1967
Sarah Sink Eames

Celebrating Barbie’s 60th Anniversary

Just like in the real fashion world, Barbie’s styles have changed over the years and, while many of her outfits have included the latest fun trends, her timeless fashions from the 1960s are my favorites.

My work friend M. let me borrow this fantastic book detailing all of Barbie’s fashions from 1959–1967. This book is great for collectors. I was able to find many of the outfits I already owned and it was fun to sort them all out and see what years they came out and what accessories came with them. As you can tell, I’m a little obsessed.

So while this isn’t exactly a book review, it’s an example of the many ways books can bring happiness.

Here are the rewards of my efforts – I hope you enjoy this trip back in time!

I don’t have the original Barbie anymore, but I do have some of the outfits from this book. Here’s Barbie wearing one of my favorites from 1965-1966, “Golden Glory.” You may be wondering about this Barbie. When you’re a kid playing, sometimes things happen and you have to make do. The pull-string from my Talking Barbie broke, so for unexplained reasons, I transferred her head to this Twist and Turn Barbie.

Skipper was always one of my favorites and I loved her red velvet coat from 1964 – 1965. The coat and hat came with white gloves, white socks, white shoes and a red purse, long gone from my Barbie case. I also had the original Scooter doll, who hit the scene in 1963. Here Scooter is wearing one of Skipper’s outfits from 1967 called “Rolla Scoot.” It came with pink shoes and skates.


Casey had a great beach outfit and, despite many real trips to the beach with the doll, I was able to find most of it!

I don’t have the original Ken anymore either, but here’s Talking Ken wearing what’s left of one of the original outfits from 1964, called “The Casuals.” Anyone who had a newer Ken quickly discovered that the old Ken’s clothes didn’t fit. New Ken was bigger and more muscular and I had to squeeze him into this shirt!

I always liked Barbie’s other little sister, Tutti. Here she is wearing what’s left of the “Puddle Jumpers” outfit from 1966-1967. I added the hat for fun.

These are some great outfits, but the best clothes were the hand-sewn and hand-knitted ones that came from my grandmother. Aren’t these evening coats fantastic?

And look at this great sweater for Ken – too bad new Ken is too burly to fit into it!


Here are the full outfits, in order of appearance, taken from Barbie Fashion:

These are just a few of the outfits I have saved since I was a girl. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look. Do you still have some of your old toys or dolls?

To learn more about Carol Spencer, one of the most influential Barbie fashion designers: Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them – Carol Spencer

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Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them – Carol Spencer

Part one of three in a series celebrating Barbie’s 60th Anniversary

In my room, in the back yard, on the beach and almost always with my friend Nancy, Barbie and her crew were a big part of my childhood. In the 1960s and 70s and admittedly, almost into our teens, we spread out wherever there was space for our dolls, outfits, cases, dream houses, cars, and even a swimming pool. We were open to ideas, and readily included accessories from other toys, whether or not they were exact fits. All the while, we played out scenarios. Many of them were typical story lines for girls back then. Barbie and Ken go for a drive. Barbie and Casey get ready for the prom. Barbie babysits little sister Tutti at the beach. But sometimes our Barbies argued, got lost, wiped out in the surf or fell out of trees.

Introduced in 1959 as a teenage model, Barbie was the brainchild of Ruth Handler, whose husband Elliot founded Mattel with Harold Matson. From the start, Barbie had a spectacular wardrobe. Early outfits resembled the classic style of Jackie Kennedy, including Spencer’s first outfit shown here:

I was especially thrilled when my sister handed down her Barbies and many of these clothes to me because they also included hand sewn and custom knitted outfits, created by our grandmother.

Barbie turned 60 this year. To mark this occasion, Harper Design released a new memoir about one of Mattel’s original fashion designers, Carol Spencer: Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them. Spencer was a designer at Mattel for over 35 years and her fashions became ours.

Raised in Minneapolis, Spencer learned to sew as a girl. In 1950, she graduated high school, broke up with her boyfriend and enrolled at the Minneapolis School of Art. From there, she got a plum job as Guest Editor at Mademoiselle, then returned to Minneapolis where she designed children’s wear for Wonderalls and “misses sportswear” for Junior House. Her career at Mattel began when she answered a blind ad in Women’s Wear magazine, seeking a fashion designer. She got the job in 1963 and joined a team of four other designers, under Charlotte Johnson, Barbie’s original stylist. The intense competition between designers resulted in a mini closetful of fun styles for Barbie, Ken, Skipper, Scooter, Casey, Francie, Tutti and friends. And many of Barbie’s fashions were inspired by Spencer’s personal wardrobe.

Dressing Barbie includes pages of beautiful high quality images of a fantastic collection of dolls and clothes. As times in America and across the world changed, so did Barbie and her clothes. From the mod clothes of the 70s, to shoulder pads and big hair in the 80s and 90s, Barbie tried on more than just the latest fashion. New multi-cultural versions of Barbie were introduced, addressing a need for a better representation of girls around the world. New careers also opened up and Barbie became an astronaut, surgeon, CEO and now runs for President every election year.

Aerobics Barbie, shown here, made a cameo in Toy Story II.

I enjoyed reading about Spencer’s experiences as a fashion designer at Mattel and learning about the process of creating Barbie’s clothes. When Spencer started her career, designing was hands-on, using glue and tiny patterns. Later, computer designs made the job easier, although Spencer had always enjoyed using her hands to craft her ideas. One of the challenges was to find patterns and prints that were suitable to scale for a doll. I had not thought of that and was interested to read how they determined what to use. The Oil Embargo in 1973 also had an impact on Barbie’s clothes because they were no longer able to use polyester, acrylics or nylon fabrics which use petroleum as a base.

Although I eventually outgrew playing with Barbies, I was sorry to put them away. But I never got rid of them – they still live in my closet. I was also sorry that the best-selling Barbie of all time came out long after I stopped playing with them. Totally Hair Barbie, shown here, had a mane of hair I would have totally loved!

Dressing Barbie is a reminder of how important imaginative play is to children. Spencer leaves the reader with these thoughts:

Because I’ve been in the toy industry for so many years, I can’t help but worry about future generations. As play becomes more centered on the virtual world, will children miss out on the real-life experiences and imagination that playing with Barbie dolls offered?

For more information, click here to read a recent article from the New York Times about Carol Spencer and Dressing Barbie.

For more visit: Look what Barbie’s wearing! Barbie Fashion 1959-1967

Images shown above are from the pages of Dressing Barbie.

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