The Makers of Barbie Used to Sell a Doll Whose Breasts Grew When Her Arm Rotated

barbieToday I found out that the makers of Barbie used to sell a doll whose breasts grew when her arm rotated.

Yes, you read that correctly. It was 1975 and the doll was called “Growing Up Skipper”. When you rotated her arm, she grew an inch taller and her small breasts grew out of her plastic chest. She could return to her pre-pubescent self simply by rotating the arm back the way it was.

Mattel created the original Skipper doll in 1964, in response to requests of Barbie fans wanting Barbie to have children of her own. Given how Skipper eventually turned out, one would think the next logical step after the request for mother-Barbie would have been the creation of a Barbie doll where she grew bigger breasts and a pregnant belly when her arm was rotated, but that would ruin Barbie’s figure now wouldn’t it? Apparently not wanting to create “Knocked Up Barbie”, Mattel created Skipper Roberts, Barbie’s younger sister. The idea was that Barbie would babysit Skipper, who in turn, would bring out all the maternal qualities Barbie could muster, without ruining the blonde beauty’s flawless figure.

Vintage Skipper

Vintage Skipper

The original Skipper actually did not come with the magic rotating arm that lead her through the gateways of puberty in less than one second flat. She was supposed to be young enough that Barbie had to babysit her and, when she was first released, her appearance matched her imaginary age. Barbie stood 11.5 inches tall, Skipper was only 9.25 inches tall and flat chested. Although there were many different versions of Skipper between 1964 and 1975, including “Skipper on Wheels” in 1965 and “The Sun Set Mailbu Skipper” in 1972, she remained Barbie’s younger sister and avoided the oversexualization that plagued her older sibling. The 1975 “Growing Up Skipper” doll was the beginning of the end for Skipper and her reason for being.

And it did not take long. By 1979 Skipper was pretty much unrecognizable. Now called “Super Teen Skipper” children no longer had to rotate her arm to make Skipper’s breasts appear. Skipper now came with small, permanent breasts and her face had changed to make her appear older. In keeping with the oversexualization theme of Barbie dolls, in 1985 Mattel released “Hot Stuff Skipper”. Keep in mind that this doll is designed to be only in her early teen years, which makes the whole “hot stuff” thing even slightly more creepy than the “growing breasts” version.

1988 brought us “Teen Fun Skipper”. By now Skipper appeared to be between 13 and 15 years of age. Her breasts were larger, her waist more flexible and her body taller. But she was not done growing. In 1997 “Teen Skipper” was born. She was taller and her breasts had grown even larger. She was now almost as tall as Barbie and pretty much the same age.

Between 1975 and present, Skipper’s looks have changed dramatically and presently she is just as tall, just as developed and just as oversexualized as her older sister. In fact, they are now both teenagers of about the same age. What? Barbie hasn’t aged one bit and Skipper has gone from a pre-pubescent little sister that Barbie had to babysit to pretty much Barbie’s fraternal twin sister? Oh Mattel, you must have forgotten why you created Skipper in the first place.

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Bonus Barbie Facts:

  • The most common criticism of Barbie is that she promotes an unrealistic body image for young girls and women. Barbie’s non-plastic dimensions would be 36 inch chest, 18 inch waist and 33 inch hips. She would be 5’9″ tall but would weigh only 110 pounds and would lack the 17 – 22 percent body weight required for women to menstruate (perhaps why “Knocked Up Barbie” hasn’t happened yet, or maybe the lack of genitalia… on herself or Ken).  So yes, unrealistic, but, ironically given Marilyn Monroe is often touted as a realistic body image for women to aspire to, Barbie is not that far off Marilyn Monroe’s 35, 22, 35 dimensions and 5 ft. 5.5 inches or Elizabeth Hurley’s 34, 24, 34 at 5 ft. 10 in.  So Barbie’s figure is essentially a slightly Photoshopped Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Hurley.
  • Barbie was invented by the co-founder of Mattel, Ruth Handler in 1959.  She got the idea for Barbie after watching her daughter play with paper dolls and seeing that she enjoyed giving them adult roles. At this time, most dolls were made in an infants’ likeness. She suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband and Mattel co-founder, Elliot, who was not at all enthused about the idea. Nor were Mattel’s directors.  On a trip to Germany in 1956 Ruth saw an adult-bodied doll named Bild Lilli. Being that this was exactly what Ruth had in mind for her doll design, she bought three of them. She gave one to her daughter to play with and brought the other two to Mattel.  Needless to say, the execs were eventually sold on the idea.
  • Barbie’s full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts.  She was named after Ruth Handler’s daughter, Barbara.
  • Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken Carson, is named after Ruth Handler’s son, Kenneth…
  • Ruth’s son, Ken, died in 1994 of a brain tumor. In the book Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel by Jerry Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer claims that Ken Handler “grew up embarrassed and humiliated by having an anatomically incorrect boy doll named after him with no hint of genitalia.”  Apparently not weirded out by the fact that the doll named after him dates the doll named after his sister?
  • Barbie was first introduced to the world at the American International Toy Fair in New York March 9, 1959. This date is used as Barbie’s official birthday, meaning she is 54 years old at present.  Must keep her looks with all that plastic surgery…
  • Mattel claims that three Barbie dolls are sold every second. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries.
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  • 1. Skipper went back to being a younger teen about 10 years ago. The contemporary Skipper dolls wear long shorts and last year’s doll came with a puppy.
    2. The Growing Up/SuperTeen style Skipper dolls were sold in conjunction with the regular flat-chested 9-inch Skipper dolls until 1988. That is, one of the Skippers sold each year had the thinner teen body; one or more of the others sold until 1988 still had the older style body.
    3. The Teen Skipper dolls were sold only from 1997 to 2001. They were more popular with adult collectors than they were with little girls.
    4. If you are upset about Skipper becoming older, what do you think about the Francie or Jazzie dolls, both Barbie cousins with smaller breasts?

    As a long-time Barbie collector, I am very tired of misinformation or outdated information being used to prove an anti-Barbie writer’s viewpoint.

  • My references. Let’s see now.
    1. My collecting Barbie dolls for 30 years.
    2. My favorite Barbie reference books, all of which I personally own and can be found in many public libraries:
    1977: The Collectorís Encyclopedia of Barbie Dolls and Collectibles, by Sibyl DeWein and Joan Ashabraner, original copyright Collector Books 1977. Still in print, and periodically updated.
    1980: Collectible Barbie Dolls 1977-1979, by Sibyl St. John DeWein. Sibyl privately published this follow-up book and you could purchase it from her directly. Out of print.
    1982: An Illustrated Price Guide to Collectible Barbie Dolls, by Paris, Susan and Carol Manos, Collector Books. Out of print.
    1983: The World of Barbie Dolls, by Paris and Susan Manos, Collector Books, Out of print.
    1987: The Wonder of Barbie Dolls and Accessories 1976 to 1986, by Paris and Susan Manos, Collector Books. A few 80s outfits are shown. Out of print.
    1992: Vive La Francie, Joe Blitman, Collector Books. All of the American market Francie items.
    1996: The Ultimate Barbie Doll Book, US Issues 1959-1995, by Marcie Melillo, Krause Publications. Facial closeups and markings of Barbie and Barbie-sized friends.
    1998: Skipper Identification and Value Guide Also Featuring Tutti and Todd, by Scott Arend, Karla Holzerland and Trina Kent, Collector Books. Covers Skipper and Tutti in America, Europe and Japan until 1978. Reprinted in 2010.
    3. Clothing booklets included with the dolls. I have booklets published for every year from 1959 to 1999.
    4. I am the retired secretary for the Queen City Barbie Doll Club. I’ve written numerous articles for its newsletter, and more recently, its website.
    5. If you need some website confirmation, here are some: