“Barbie really is interlinked with fashion, because how you play with her is by dressing her,” Barbie costume designer Jacqueline Durran

The Barbie fever has been a strong influence in fashion for the last several months. Hot pink, artificial beauty, youthful makeup, hairstyles, and all things pink have been in department stores, mood boards, and runways. 

Ever since it was announced that a Barbie movie was coming, the photos, trailers, and ads have gone viral and inspired memes, outfits, and Tik Toks. This is how the fashion industry operates in 2023. Images travel around the world globally, inspiring us to see fashion through different lenses season after season.

This summer, the lenses are pink. But there is so much more than a movie inspiring this Barbie core fashion. Let’s unwrap the Barbie boxes to think about Barbie clothes and the reasoning behind Barbie at its core influencing global fashion trends this summer. 


Barbiecore at its finest during the Met Gala 2022. Blonde wig, orange tan, and pink accessories.  Image Courtesy of People. 

Several fashion trends receive the name of a compound word with “core”. There is a gothic core, a grandmother core, a mermaid core, and so many more. The fashion trend names are a direct reaction from Generation Z getting inspired by Pinterest boards and Tik Tok trends. The “visual aesthetics” are put together in a way that is coherent for them and that translates not just to clothes but also to lifestyle and objects they use in their personal life. So Barbiecore is so much more than Barbie clothes. Barbie has accessories, a pink car, pink furniture, and retro sunglasses. It’s a whole aesthetic that is shaping the trends we see in home decor, fashion, and lifestyle.

Barbie as a life goal 

Kim Kardashian brings retro elements to a Skims campaign in the summer of 2022. Image Courtesy of Skims.

For over 60 years, Mattel has sold billions of Barbies. The fantasy of a perfect world where “life in plastic is fantastic” has made children daydream across the world for over six decades. It’s the clothing; it’s the unrealistic body silhouette; it’s the idea that it is possible to have a Ken, a Malibu house, hundreds of clothes, and perfect makeup. Access to health care, debts, or lower back pains doesn’t seem to exist in the Barbie world.

When we think about how Barbie hasn’t become obsolete after six decades, it is because generations have come and grown, but still, we don’t stop daydreaming about living in a Barbie world where life in plastic is fantastic. People want that perfect hair, that clean, organized, and full fridge, the beautiful pink car, and sunny days to hang out with friends and drink iced tea.

This desire to daydream is a determining factor making “Barbie clothes” a fashion trend in 2023. The recovery from the pandemic left many families with a missing family member sitting at their table, their family business closed, their friends missing, their mental health at its lowest, and their finances uncertain. The present comes with hesitations about what being “back to normal” means when the world keeps moving quickly day after day, and we change how we think and live at a quicker capacity than we’d like. It is exhausting. It is unrealistic. It can be sad. 

Lizzo wears a pink catsuit for the Global Citizen Live Concert. Image Courtesy of Pop Sugar. 

In order to run away from these thoughts, art, and creatives offer us an escape from reality. For some of us, this means watching the newest season of our favorite Netflix show after work. For others, it is about getting lost in the concept of a local art exhibition. Books, music, poetry, art, and movies are all alternative ways to run away from reality to a place that is colorful and that is very often easier to follow.

This is when Barbie comes in. A +60-year-old lady who looks 20, who is a homeowner, has beautiful hair, and doesn’t seem to have aged with Covid or gained weight or lost her house due to gentrification or an overdue mortgage payment. People want to live the life Barbie lives, and the very first step to living the Barbie life is to wear “Barbie clothes.” 

The Barbie clothes

Barbie clothes became a major Tik Tok topic once the photos of Margot Robbie & Ryan Gosling filming in Venice Beach came out in the summer of 2022. Image Courtesy of Vogue. 

It is not just any Barbie that inspired the Barbiecore major trend. It is the 1980s - 1990s Barbies with neons, bright colors, and shiny textures that have become the focus of this trend. For almost five years, pastels dominated most runways, being particularly popular during the pandemic, when loungewear and oversized comfort clothing in neutral colors became, for many, some kind of uniform. So, these loud colors are a counterreaction to the years of calm and neutral colors we saw for the last half-decade. The Barbie colors are energetic and bold.

There is also an artificial element. Barbie is a doll made of plastic, so Barbiecore is inspired by this almost unreal beauty of symmetrical hairstyles, perfect makeup, and high pumps. We can see this Barbie aesthetic taken to a camp level on drag shows and entertainment performances. 

The hot pink

In the autumn of 2021, Kim Kardashian prepared to host Saturday Night Live in New York City. While in the city getting ready, shooting, and making public appearances, she wore several iterations of monochromatic hot pink outfits. It was different, as we were used to seeing her with blacks, nudes, grays, and neutrals for the most part. Where was this hot pink situation coming from? 

Building the set for the Barbie movie required so much hot pink paint that it caused an international shortage of pink paint. Image Courtesy of Barbie. 

Months later, Valentino presented their Fall Winter 2022 / 2023 collection with an entire hot pink collection with all pink clothing, makeup, furniture, background, and props. It was an emerging fashion trend that later appeared on the red carpets, fashion editorials, and music videos. 

The hot pink then aligned with this hyperfeminine aesthetic of pink lips, blonde hair, and girly clothes. 

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The great things about Barbie

Barbie is the most popular doll in the world. She has influenced many generations during their childhood. Image Courtesy of Forbes. 

Barbie has been one of the favorite toys for several generations. Before Barbie, it was very common for girls to play with baby dolls. These baby dolls brainwashed girls from a very young age that they were expected to become mothers and to be good at looking after their babies, whether that was cooking, cleaning, or changing their clothes. 

A Barbie girl in a Barbie world with Barbie clothes. Image Courtesy of Walmart. 

Barbie was different because Barbie is a female adult who doesn’t need her diapers to be changed. She parties, she has a lot of clothes, friends, and makeup, and she can be or do anything she wants to. For many, Barbie was their friend and initiated the conversations around what girls want to become when they are women and what they aspire to be, do, and behave once they group up. 

That role is still important for kids who play with Barbies these days. Mattel is aware of the expectations, thoughts, and beliefs that these toys can have on their little customers. So today, we have a Barbie scientist, a Barbie firefighter, and a Barbie paramedic. We can also buy Barbies and Barbie clothes made of recycled plastic. This wide variety of possibilities opens up kids’ imaginations thinking about what they want to grow up, so still, Barbie is one of their first friends who also becomes an aspiration of what the future can look like for them. 

Barbie moving forward

Paris Hilton, often praised by her beauty, has proven to be a great DJ, businesswoman, and political advocate. Barbie is adapting to the social beliefs that have changed since the famous doll was first introduced over 60 years ago. Image Courtesy of People. 

 Fashion, politics, and Barbies will have mixed opinions across the globe. It all depends on the way we perceive things. On the one hand, it is true that Barbie is a doll who has contributed to very unhealthy standards of beauty, making many women feel uncomfortable with their appearance. There’s a lot of emphasis on her beauty, hair, and clothes, as if her value relied on those things. But then again, she’s beautiful, makes kids daydream about their future, and stimulates their imagination. You play with Barbie by changing her clothes because since we are little kids, we begin to give meaning to the clothes we wear. We project those thoughts onto Barbie, which stimulates our imagination, and Barbie’s clothes become part of our lifelong relationship with our clothes. 

Barbie is both problematic and emblematic. 

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are starring the latest Barbie movie. Image Courtesy of Grazia. 

But we can change the narrative and approach it from another perspective. Because many times people have referred to women as “Barbies,” claiming they are pretty but dumb. They claim that their value is on their beauty, on their hair, and their makeup. But that there’s no other quality of value in this person. It’s almost as if being a blonde, amicable, docile skinny woman makes her a “Barbie,” making her a hollow person before even letting her introduce herself. 

What if we embrace the term “Barbies” as a positive term for women’s beauty that is celebratory instead of hurtful? 

The assumption that all blonde skinny women are not smart may come from calling them “Barbies”, as if they were pretty and automatically unintelligent. Reese Witherspoon playing Legally Blonde. Image Courtesy of USA Today.

There is an exciting message about a live film on Barbie about humanizing this doll because Barbie doesn’t mean what it used to 60 years ago. Barbie is not just a thin plastic doll. Barbie is now from multiple races, backgrounds, professions, hobbies, and interests. Barbie is feminine, masculine, and everything in between. We can accept and embrace the Barbie trend and the Barbie clothes to let ourselves into the Barbie world that those who didn’t fit the beauty standards 60 years ago couldn’t get in. Barbie dolls and Barbie clothes used to be a dictatorship of how things should be. Today, Barbie is democratic. 

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