Barbie and I

When I first decided to start a blog, I thought my first post…this one… should be about why I am a decorator/designer. I have read snippets on other blogs about inspiring moments that later defined what people have become. But what was my defining moment. I have always had the innate desire and need to create. At about age seven I would get out our table cloths, the good china, silver and glasses and set the dining room table….just because. If there were flowers in our backyard garden, they would become part of the table scape. (channeling Martha Stewart?) I used to make pillows from spare fabric my mother had and stuff them with lint from the dryer….not a good idea if you have allergies, or the slightest tear in the seam. If I didn’t  like the way something looked in MY personal space, I would find a way to change it…like covering up an old cardboard box that held my treasures. It was worn and bent so I covered it completely in tiny random pieces of masking tape, using long pieces of tape on all the edges, then I rubbed brown shoe polish all over it…Voila…new and improved treasure box. I would spend hours perfecting Title Pages for all my school projects…the project content suffered as a result, but I got great marks for those Title Pages.

I have really had to go back into my memory bank to figure out when the first signs of my eventual chosen career path started to take root. I have to say it began when I was 5 or 6.

That is when I first became acquainted with Barbie.

My Barbie Doll…. circa 1959-1960.  Isn’t she beautiful?

In 1963, while celebrating Christmas at my Aunt and Uncles’ house, my eldest cousin Ellen, who was seven years older than I, let me play with and then take home her Barbie doll with all of Barbie’s clothes, shoes and accessories.  That was huge for me as I was one of the youngest cousins and at six could have taken severe liberties with Barbie’s belongings and wigs (yes, Barbie came with wigs back then) as six year olds are wont to do. However, I guarded that gift as if she were the most precious, living and breathing “person” to ever enter my life.  
Barbie and her accoutrements became my entire focus during playtime…she was not a sexy, mis-proportioned bimbo to me….oh no her wigs needed to be combed just so by my young nimble hands holding the itsy witsy Barbie comb and her outfits had to be layed out and coordinated before I carefully extended her non-bendable arms and legs and with a bit of struggle, but ever so concientiously dressed her.

Barbie and her assortment of wigs
Small sample of my Barbie’s wardrobe, including knitwear
 and red housecoat that my mother made for her.

I wanted or, needed Barbie to have a homemade KILT.  My mother had made my sister and I  capes with frog closures.  I loved my cape, so with some of the cape’s leftover material I fashioned a kilt for Barbie by hand as I was too young to use a sewing machine.  It had “pleats” and snaps. 

The hand sewn kilt I made for Barbie
Check out the precise “pleats”

After a while my Barbie needed a home.  In the mid 60’s if there was a Barbie House, I was not aware of one, nor was Santa. I had to resort to making Barbie’s abode on my own, but to me that was no big deal…a no brainer.  I would use the books, coasters, doilies, face cloths, ash trays, little boxes… anything, actually, that could be turned into furniture to create and furnish Barbie’s home. Books became the walls, her bed and sofa and when I had time and space to be really creative, the stairs to different levels of her ever expanding home.  The face cloths and doilies were used to create rugs and bed spreads. The ash trays and boxes became tables…the possibilities were endless. Later, Barbie recieved a blue bedroom suite from Santa. (see below) I became so enthralled in creating Barbie’s house that I would beg my mother to “PLEASSSSEEE let me keep everything as it is until tomorrow” so that Jill (my friend and fellow Barbie playmate) could continue to create and play.

Of course I can’t show you the elaborate houses I constucted for Barbie,
but these are the remaining items from her bedroom suite,
…the picture is made from a postcard glued onto a scrap piece of wood

Soon after starting the endless house constructions in our den, I decided Barbie needed to eat at home and entertain. Up until this realization, my Barbie dined out at only the most exclusive restaurants….and why not, she had the most exquisite wardrobe…she was simply beautiful. I’m remembering now, that  for some reason Ken was not on the scene at that time …even at 6 or 7 I realized that my Barbie did not “need” a man. However, my need for Barbie to have a kitchen or at least dishes and cutlery became paramount. Thus the creative juices began to flow again…how?…how to make tiny dishes for Barbie? This is how….out of cardboard, markers and tin foil.

I spent hours creating this 4 piece set of “china” and “sterling”

I continued to play “Barbies” until I was 13 …you heard right 13 years old.  By the time I packed Barbie away for safe keeping, I had acquired Ken, Skipper and Tootie, countless accessories, clothes and a couple of new Barbie cases all of which I kept….in fairly pristine order.  My three daughters used to beg to play with my Barbie Dolls, but I would only let them play with the newer dolls and clothes unsupervised….alas these dolls and clothes did not survive those playtimes.  However, my girls were never allowed to touch my original Barbie, her clothes, accessories….or dishes, therefore, they have remained in much the same condition as they were when I carefully stored them away 40 years ago. 

I can honestly say after resurrecting Barbie a month ago to take pictures of her and her awesome clothes and accessories, that she is the one who deserves the credit for my initiation into design and decor. Yes…it was just Barbie…and I.
Thank you Barbie
I would love to hear your story…how you became what you are today!
I would also love to hear your personal stories about you and Barbie.

all pictures for “Barbie and I” post taken by Maureen Coates


31 thoughts on “Barbie and I

  1. Great post Maureen! Welcome to the world of blogging. I too fell in love with design as a child, decorating my sister's dollhouse when she wasn't looking and rearranging the furniture in my bedroom on a weekly basis.PS~ Love the cursive font in your header!I look forward to reading more.xo

  2. thanks so much for my first ever comment on my first ever post…I was thinking when I composed it that there would be other peeps who had similar beginnings and I really want to hear their stories …hugs!!!

  3. What a wonderful first post! This comes at a perfect time, because my daughter (7) has- this past year- become extremely interested in playing with her Barbie dolls (and just got a car AND house this past Christmas!) and also in creating (anything and everything. You as a little girl reminds me of her!!Life has got busy over the holidays, and I'm so excited to get back to "normal" and to get back to doing what we love, not just doing what we *have to get done.Congratulations on your blog! In the past few years I have gone from a Corporate Starbucks position (and 12 year career with the company) to staying at home with my children (something I never thought I'd do, but now love every bit of it). But even so, I feel the same as you- "It's never too late." I have learned so much these past few years about myself- outside of the corporate world, why I am who I am, that love to be creative, etc. Blogging (only since May!) has helped me in this regard tremendously.So that I don't fill up your entire comment section, I thought I'd leave a couple a link to a post I wrote about blogging!{welcome… I look forward to getting to know you better and reading more!}

  4. Oh this brings back such fond memories of playing with my barbies. I remember begging Santa for Barbie's van so she could go camping. Spent many hours setting up the van, never actually camped! My first venture into decorating was when I was 8 and we moved to a new home & I got my own room. I was allowed to pick out my paint, wallpaper and bed linens. HEAVEN!!!

  5. Thank you, thank you , thank you LISA….she's up and running because of your help yesterday. I wonder how many other peeps have stories about Barbie. You were also lucky to pick your own paint at 8…I had to wait until iI was 18 and had my own room. thanks for commenting♥

  6. Great first post…welcome to blogging. Reading your post has brought back so many wonderful memories of my relationship with my barbies. I too LOVED them and spent hours changing their clothes, fixing their hair. My aunt was a talented seamstress and she made many beautiful outfits for them. Thanks for the memories!

  7. Maureen!I am so delighted to see you blogging. I can not wait to watch as you grow and explore the wonderful world that blogging can open up for you! It's so fun to see that you still have your original Barbie! It is also interesting to me because I too feel quite similarly to you about her. My mom used to sew and crochet the most lovely clothes for her!I never used to roll-play with Barbie. What I used to do was design her living situation. I'd dig my fingertip into the plush carpeting and create my walls, much like a blue print. I'd then arrange and re-arrange her furniture until it was 'just so' – sometimes I would arrange the furniture straddling over two steps, a Duplex! Or three steps, a Triplex!Inventive, no?Anyway – I am delighted to see you writing. I wrote you a whole different, more complete comment before, and it disappeared! So just know I am proud to see the work your doing and I look forward to seeing your posts as it evolves!xoABCDP.S. You asked about feedback. The only thing I would change is to give the option in your comments for individually hosted blogs. It will say Name/URL. I have to sign in to google to comment on your blog and anyone who is interested in seeing what ABCD is about won't be able to because it is not attached in any way to my url. Just my two cents. I don't mind so much because I don't leave comments on other blogs to get readers over to my page like many do – BUT – some might choose not to comment on your blog for that reason.

  8. ABCD…thank you so much for your comments…i'm loving the feedback and hearing about other's Barbie stories as well. I also really appreciate your P.S. comment about the option for individually hosted blogs. As soon as I figure out how to do that, I will certainly include it.

  9. Welcome to the blogosphere :)I never had a barbie with wigs, guess i was missing out. I personally was a barbie dreamhouse hostess as a child… i threw elaborate parties with the whole array of G.I. Joe's, kens and skippers… brings back fond memories!Good luck with your new adventure and I look forward to learning plenty more about you and your inspirations!

  10. Love the post. It brought me back to my days spent playing barbies. I would use the step separating my parents dr and lr for my 'house' so that she had two levels. I spent countless hours playing. Unfortunately, the only thing I have from my barbie days is the barbie camper bus- circa late 1970,s.

  11. You must have had brothers with all those GI joe's, Luxery Interiors. Just loving hearing about how we all played with our Barbies. thank you for leaving a comment and I'm sure to read your blog as well.

  12. Yay, you're officially a blogger now!LOVE your post about Barbie – it was so fun to read about how your love for decorating & design started. And WOW, you were a creative kid! :-)I wasn't much of a Barbie girl – although I did have a Marie Osmond barbie doll wearing a FAB purple dress! (My brother had Donny – I'm sure he'd rather not admit to that!). I was like Sonya, more interested in sports and Mattel cars when I was a kid. My parents were amazed that I could name practically every car on the roads! Sometimes I wish I'd pursued a career as an automotive journalist.Looking forward to reading more about your decorating adventures 🙂

  13. Congratulations on your first ever blog post, Maureen! It took me all day long to get to the computer but here I am … I couldn't wait to get home to read your blog and I must say it did not disappoint. You're so lucky to have your original Barbie dolls and all the little housewares you made for her. What a treasure. I also loved hearing you recount how Barbie introduced you to design – so wonderful :)Can't WAIT to read more! *Tania @

  14. Congrats on your 1st blog post Maureen, you did an awesome job. It was so natural and authentic. You brought me back to my Barbie days. I too was a Barbie girly girl. I had boxes of clothing and accessories for my collection over 20 Barbie's. My mother would sew and knit matching outfits for my favorite Barbie and I. When in doubt everyone knew a Barbie would make my birthday and Christmas. I wished I saved them as u did but sold all of them once I turned 16 (so don't feel bad you stopped at 13). Can't believe how you kept them in tip top shape for all these years. I truly enjoyed writing your first blog. Keep up the good blogging. Can't wait to read more. Diana@ExquisiteDecor

  15. Wow … pretty great, I would say! Totally took me back there with you … unbelievable that you kept them AND in such pristine condition too. Look forward to reading future posts … all the best!

  16. Wonderful 1st post!Made me quite nostalgic for my 3 Barbies and one Ken ( I had no idea it was polygamy-lol), all of whom were trashed when I turned them over to my younger cousin. But it is true, the 1st designing I did was for my 1st Barbie- it was a hot pink cocktail dress! I can still see her with her blond pony tail and striped swimsuit.Look forward to reading your next post. Congrats!

  17. Woo Hoo! You are here! Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!What a great first post Maureen! It brought back so many memories of Barbie! I, too, would make houses much like yours. I remember using the old tomato containers – remember the long plastic ones that held 4 or so tomatoes – for my couches. I'd stuff them with Kleenex to make them softer – and then use the Kleenex box in many cut up shapes for other furniture – much to my Mother's dismay! I guess I was about 7 or 8 at the time … Ah…good times!!!Look forward to reading more!!!

  18. Thanks for the blast from the past! I too had the Barbie with the wigs… I soooo remember the bald head and the wigs! I spent hours playing with my Barbie… I also made clothes for her, unfortunately mine is long

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