Enchanted Mansion exhibit shows Barbie’s fashions since ’59

You’ve come a long way, Barbie.

And the world’s most famous doll’s evolution in appearance and fashion is the focus of the “Barbies” exhibit at The Enchanted Mansion, A Doll Museum, through Saturday, Aug. 30.

The show features more than 300 dolls on loan by the Adult Fashion Doll Collectors in Baton Rouge.

“The exhibit not only shows how Barbie has changed through the years, but Ken, too,” says museum curator Cheylon Woods, in reference to Barbie’s long-time boyfriend. “We also have Barbie’s little sisters, Skipper and Kelly. And remember her friend Stacy? She’s here, too.”

Mattel launched its Barbie line in March 1959, equipping the fashion doll with her own wardrobe. The show begins with two first-edition Barbies in their original outfits. One of them is still in the box.

“Dolls are more valuable if they are in the original box,” Woods says. “Collectors will often buy two of each doll — one to keep in the box and one to play with.”

The exhibit isn’t exactly arranged to follow Barbie’s chronological history. Since this is a project of the Adult Fashion Doll Collection, emphasis here is on fashion.

You’ll find Barbie showing off original Mattel-designed ensembles, as well as those by high-end fashion designers.

According to Mattel, Oscar de la Renta was the first designer to dress Barbie in the mid-1980s, and, in 2009, more than 50 designers created looks for Barbie’s first runway show at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. In 2009, Christian Louboutin designed a collection of dolls and shoes, available in sizes for Barbie and women.

Featured in the exhibit are looks from Hollywood designer Bob Mackie, known for turning out some of Cher’s more spectacular costumes. His Barbie pieces have all the glitz and glamor of Mardi Gras royalty.

Byron Lars, says Woods, holds the distinction as the first African-American designer asked to design a fashion line for Barbie.

Designers, however, weren’t the only celebrities in Barbie’s inner circle.

Dressed out in style are Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly, Diana Ross, and Elvis and Priscilla Presley in their wedding garments.

Hepburn is represented by two dolls in the Barbie line, one wearing the evening gown from the 1954 film “Sabrina,” and the other wearing the black dress and wide-brim hat from the 1961’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“Their faces are so lifelike,” Woods says. “And if you look closely, you’ll notice how Barbie’s face has changed through the years.”

The show also features Americana fashion through a July 4 parade diorama and a collection of wedding gowns in a fashion show setting.

“We have some Silkstone Barbie Dolls in the show, too,” Woods says. “This line was introduced in 2000. They are called Silkstone because they are made of a very hard plastic which looks like porcelain.”

For those who want to learn more about Barbies, the museum and Adult Fashion Doll Collectors club will host an “All About Barbie” symposium from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9.

The event is free.