Barbie does Paris with an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Barbie does Paris in a big way with her own exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Photo: Musée des Arts Décoratifs

It's 8:46 am in Paris and I'm still in my pajamas. Donna's cat Penelope is purring contentedly while I scratch her belly, but I'm feeling slightly deflated. Here I am, cat-sitting while Best Friend in Paris takes a group to the Loire Valley and Barbie ... well, you probably already know Barbie. My famous childhood friend is currently being featured in an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Barbie's dressed for success at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Barbie, who was created a mere four years before I was born, has had more careers than any woman I know. The blond-haired, blue-eyed girl from Malibu has been a paleontologist, computer scientist, schoolteacher, doctor, ballerina, policewoman, and even a presidential candidate. If a little girl can dream it, Barbie can achieve it. Not only has Barbie practiced more than 150 professions, from the most traditional to the most avant-garde, she even managed to qualify as an astronaut before Neil Armstrong.

I was first introduced to Barbie when I was about six years old. When Barbie confidently shook her perfectly coiffed hair from side to side as she stepped out of her pink cardboard box, it seemed that I was meeting someone who could accomplish anything while teetering around my bedroom in her plastic high heels.

Even though my childish infatuation was short-lived, probably in large part because my older brother always coerced me to play his self-designed "world domination game" rather than Barbie, I kept tabs on the iconic American doll. I followed with interest the debates caused by her elongated feminine figure. Should she be loathed for embodying an idealized woman or praised for her autonomous and independent lifestyle? And why did she return to Ken after her fling with Blaine, an Australian surfer?

More than 7,000 miniature garments and accessories taken from Barbie's wardrobe
 form a colorful collage in the last room of the Barbie exhibition.

The years passed and I was suddenly a mother confronted by the question -- Should I introduce my young daughter to Barbie? While my old friend from the 60s had a remarkable ability to adapt to change, she was also a self-proclaimed fashionista dressing in clothes designed especially for her by Thierry Mugler, Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Louboutin. I didn't want to send the wrong message to Sara.

In the end, I decided to focus on Barbie's attributes rather than her flaws. She has a unique way of sparking the imagination of young girls by allowing them to pretend that they're someone else. Her incarnations include, Barbie Marie Antoinette, Barbie Queen Elizabeth I, Barbie Joan of Arc and, rather bizarrely, The Birds Barbie that comes complete with fake birds.

The smile on Sara's face when I presented her with a Butterfly Barbie dressed in a princess gown covered with shimmering butterflies was all that I needed to convince me that I had made the right decision.

More than any other toy, Barbie began as an embodiment of the American way of life. By following in her footsteps, visitors to the exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs will be able to trace the historical and sociological changes of the United States from the 1960s to the current day.

Insider's tip: Combine the Barbie exhibition with Fashion Forward, 3 Centuries of Fashion (1715-2016). This gorgeous exhibit is at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through August 14, 2016.

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 107 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
April 7 - September 18, 2016

Barbie Marie-Antoinette at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Barbie fashion show at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Barbie Queen Elizabeth I at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Barbie Joan of Arc at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs


  1. I have a Barbie, somewhere in my closet, so this was fun to read!

    Wasn't there another Barbie exposition in Paris, ten or so years ago? I thought so....

    Great photos! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


  2. This is making me nostalgic! My mom passed along all of her barbies to me at a young age, complete with all of their outfits, both bought and homemade! Some of the ones you've taken pictures of, wow, they are just stunning.

  3. Beautiful pictures. Now I want the Marie Antoinette Barbie.

  4. Barbie always has a strange attraction

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.


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