Barbie’s Body Evolves

Barbie and Chubbettes ad

News flash: Barbie’s got some junk in her trunk!

After nearly 57 years, Barbie is finally packing on some healthy pounds and she’s not rushing to sign up with Jenny Craig to shed them!

In fact she’s quite okay with it and so are we.

Barbie Gets Real

new barbie curvy and original Barbie

Original Barbie (L) New Curvy Barbie (R)

Mattel has finally come out with 3 different bodies for Barbie.

Now Curvy and Tall  and Petite will be sold side by side with the familiar busty impossibly wasp-waisted original.

This marks the most startling change to the arguably most famous and famously dissected body in the world, a body that has spawned countless women’s study papers with concerns that Barbie reinforced a single impossible standards of beauty for girls to try to meet.

To those of us who were first generation Barbie buddies, Barbie was first and foremost a teenage fashion doll. Now there are whole new fashion challenges and choices for Barbie.

If today’s new Curvy Barbie wants to go all retro, she might want to check out some vintage fashions designed just for chubby girls and get some fashion tips.

vintage ad chubbettes

“How Happy Can A Chubby Girl Be? As happy as a hit with a rollicking beat, or a serenade in a dreamy mood…as happy as one whose extra young pounds have been delightfully transformed by the designing magic of Chubbettes.” vintage ad

These ads from Chubbette Fashions ran around the same time that Miss Barbie splashed down and spun into the orbit of nearly every suburban girl in 1959.

Like most girls in the 60s I was mesmerized by Barbie and her seemingly impossible anatomy that seemed to fit so beautifully in all her many exclusive costumes.

vintage Barbie ad

Original Barbie came in flesh tone vinyl plastic. Besides adding 3 exciting new body types, they are adding 7 new skin tones to the line of Barbies.

“Barbie is the teenage fashion model who has a complete wardrobe of lovely new fashions to wear, the copy read in the enclosed booklet. “You can dress Barbie in the latest Paris fashions in glamorous party dresses, in school sportswear, swimsuits from the Barbie Teenage fashion collection styled exclusively for your Barbie to wear.”

Vintage Barbie Fashion Booklet

Vintage Barbie Fashion Booklet

But I worried, After all those dates to the malt shop with Ken would she still be able to fut into those Gay Parisienne dresses?And she needed a svelte figure for her solo in the spotlight! To keep her in check I kept her nibbling on dainty Rye Krisp and sipping Tab with that one crazy calorie on any and all dates with Ken or her gal pal Midge .

No one wanted a plump fashion doll and no one certainly wanted a chubby daughter.

Fitting In

Chubbettes vintage ad 1950s

“Is she on the plump side? Send her back to school in the slenderizing magic of Chubbettes wardrobe.” vintage ad

Never a skinny Minnie as a child, I always felt I was a heart beat away from being considered chubby. .By the grace of God I was saved from the sheer embarrassment of having to ever wear any clothes with the horrifying name Chubbettes,- fashion designed to make girls 6-16 look slimmer.

Naturally no mid-century mother who was herself was part of the Metrecal for Lunch Bunch wanted a plump daughter.

Vintage ad Chubbettes

Your Chubby Lass Can Be Belle of Her Class. “If your favorite little girl is on the plump side, dress her in Chubbettes and see her blossom into a lovely lass- as happy and self-assured as her slimmer schoolmates. Chubbettes are created for the chubby size young figure- a perfect combination of fit comfort and slenderizing design.” vintage ad

Body Shaming- No Laughing Matter

Little Lotta might be fun for laughs in the comic books but life was difficult for a chubby child. So along with the stylish fashion Chubbettes also provided concerned parents with expert advice from a reputable doctor about how to deal with the ridicule that fat girls received.

They could send away for Pounds and Personality a booklet of advice for parents of a chubby girl ( ‘For parents who wants to assure the happiness of their overweight girls…what to do about her nickname, what to do about tactless remarks….her place in the home, active play, diet, appearances etc.”)

Apparently there was no shame in body shaming.

Vintage article Chubbette fashion Connie

Connie Chubbette goes back to school in slimming, thinning Chubbette fashions. Vintage article

Because fitting in was so important to a girl,  Chubbettes helped give the right impression and promised with their fashion magic your little plump dumpling could be the belle of her class. Take the case of Connie Chubbette:

Because this may be the year Connie forms lasting friendships the impression she gives is all important. This makes Chubbettes fashions important too because they’re designed specifically to slim and trim plump figures and let Connie ( and other chubby girls like Connie) look and feel their very best at school and play. Just a few of the Chubbette styles are shown in this catalog.

She Can Have a Tummy …and Still Look Yummy”

Vintage ad Chubbettes 1956

“Is your daughter on the plump side? She can and should look as pretty as her slim friends. And she will… if you dress her in Chubbettes, Send her back to school in the slenderizing magic of Chubbette wardrobe…dresses, skirts blouses and slacks cleverly designed to minimize extra pounds.” vintage advertisement


The new Curvy Barbie now with some meat on her thighs and a protruding tummy finally proves once and for all “You can have a tummy and still be yummy!”

Barbie just got a lot more bootyliscious.

Mattel, you really are swell!


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© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. I find the ad’s headline repulsive – (and still look yummy?) who are they trying to attract?


  2. Huh? They needed a word to rhyme with ‘tummy’. Besides, I think ‘chubbette’ looks darling in her slimming outfits. I was a ‘husky’ size (the equivalent of chubbette for boys) at ten years old because I was 5′ 5″. My only issue with the new Barbie dolls are how boring those outfits are. Couldn’t they throw in some circle skirts or cute capris for ‘curvy’ Barbie?


    • “Husky”always had a more positive feel to than chubby did to a girl.Husky was often used in ads from the 30s and 40s as a descriptive term meaning strong, as in drinking enough Ovaltine to make sure your boy is “husky.” The Chubbette outfits are very sweet, and the word chubby may seem innocent enough but to a girl it implied you were fat, and could be picked on. I have not seen the new outfits for Curvy Barbie and I would hope they would make them as cute and appealing as for regular Barbie.


  3. Pingback: No Bodies Perfect- Even Barbie | Envisioning The American Dream

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