"Barbie's Campus" is probably a lot like yours

Remember when most college students went to college to learn?  Yeah, me neither.  Erica at the good old days sent me some Barbie links, and lookee here what I found, ca. 1964 (via Found in Mom’s Basement).  Erica is not a historian, but she’s led me to some images that perfectly embody the current historiography on American college life in the twentieth century, with its emphasis on good times and heterosociality:


Check out the matching bedspreads in Barbie’s dorm!  She and her roommate (Midge?) must have coordinated their decor carefully.  (Click to enlarge!)  The advertising copy for Barbie’s Campus promises “four true to life campus scenes in one cardboard unit!”  Here are the other three: 







Yes, that’s right:  “Now Barbie has her own campus sweet shop!”  And below, you can see on the reverse is the drive-in movie theater and the football stadium.  (Check out the marching band and cheerleader uniforms you might have purchased for Barbie, Ken, and all of their campus pals back in the day–the “Barbie, Ken, and Midge Pep Rally Gift Set.”)

Where is the Barbie Classroom?  The Barbie Library?  The Barbie Lab Section, complete with bunsen burner and graph paper notebook?  I can’t imagine.  The Ken Frathouse Kegger?  The Midge Take Back the Night march, accessorized with a rape whistle and mace?  (Don’t laugh–my parents bought me a keychain mace canister when I moved to Philadelphia for grad school–and I carried it for 3 years!)

barbiescampus3Here’s our final scene of campus life–the very important information about what to wear in the dorm, the sweet shop, the football stadium, and the drive-in movie theater, not to mention on a “special date” and graduation (again–click to enlarge.)  Poor old Ken–Barbie gets the fabulousness, but old Ken gets boring duds like #17, “Fountain Boy,” #18, “Sleeper Set” (when has a man EVER called pajamas a “sleeper set?), #19 “Fraternity Meeting,” #20 “Campus Hero” (who looks suspiciously like George W. Bush’s photos of his cheerleader days at Yale), and finally, the dopiest of all, #21, “Terry Togs.”  Yes, it’s Ken in a bathrobe, complete with “scuffs and accessories.”  I wonder how those sold, compared to the pink tulle “New Look” silhouette dress Barbie’s wearing as “Campus Queen?”  That was surely outdated by 1964–think about Jackie Kennedy’s soigne sleeveless sheath dresses, cut to the knee– but as anyone who was a girl in the late twentieth (or early 21st) century can tell you, big pink dresses are always in style for Barbie.

0 thoughts on “"Barbie's Campus" is probably a lot like yours

  1. I personally like the “masquerade ball” outfits, with parti-colored satin commedia dell’arte style costumes — undoubtedly in the school colors of gold and blue. How did I miss that party as an undergrad?


  2. Sq.–it looks to me like she’s holding a pair of orange trousers, which are listed as included along with the top and skirt (and scarf and shoes). Daring color choice! But then, if you’ll wear a harlequin costume, I suppose you’ll wear anything.


  3. A dorm room made of cardboard is pretty realistic, though! (In the mid-80s there were dorms at Penn State that were still “temporary” quonset-style housing from the 1940s. Probably a lot of other campuses have equally dodgy structures.)


  4. This has got to be EARLY 1964 at the latest, when the numbness of the Kennedy assasination was still the controlling event. In February the Beatles hit the Beach (Miami) and took Manhattan, a Black Muslim became the heavyweight champion, some enemy speedboats ganged up on a U.S. destroyer, and the kids went crazy. I’ll bet the ’65 catalogue was even sneaking a few discrete roach clips into the background noise of the picture. Or not…


  5. (Don’t laugh–my parents bought me a keychain mace canister when I moved to Philadelphia for grad school–and I carried it for 3 years!)

    Lady, you ain’t alone.

    I kinda want hopped-up-on-stims, hasn’t-showered-in-three-days, triple-major, psychologically doomed polymath Barbie who gets emotionally deader by the day and compensates by wearing peculiar (unwashed) clothing. Just by way of contrast, and so that the Wesleyan kids I undergradded alongside have something to identify with when they come to visit. You know. Don’t want to leave anyone out.


  6. Barbie didn’t get to do the labs, unless they were in the Home Ec department. Barbie got told that she couldn’t study Greek, because it was only “for men” (which made Barbie wonder what exactly it was that Greek women spoke). Midge was advised by the nice old professor to just focus on getting her Mrs. and not waste her time on that nasty ol’ B.S.

    Barbie also got a lot of nasty looks when it came to be game time. Most of these came from Ken because he wanted to be wearing the quarterback’s uniform, not stuck as a drum major! But then Ken thought better of complaining because, after all!, this was the 1950s and some nasty type in marketing could have made him wear a beanie, fergawdsake!


  7. Janice, I think you’re right about Barbie and Midge, but on Ken, I’m with GayProf: Ken didn’t want to be QB. Ken was envious of his beard because her wardrobe was so much more fabulous!


  8. This is fabulous and horrifying, all at once!

    How would Barbie’s sweet shop skirt *ever* fit into those student desks?

    Ken is not just “hard to recognize” when dressed as a harlequin–he’s freakishly scary!


  9. Pingback: Driving “Miss Barbie?” : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

Let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s