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