“Hi Barbie”, my sister-in-law Karin greeted me as our family, dressed in pink, was on the way to see the movie. “Hi Barbie”, I replied and we giggled loudly, causing Mom to cast a baleful glance at Jerry. Both of them had their doubts about even seeing the Barbie Movie. After viewing the film Karin and I continued our silliness while returning to Mom’s home to discuss the movie over tea. Our conversation ended abruptly when a skunk sprayed my dog, Molly, in the face. The next day, still in Barbie mode, I sent Karin a photo of my new role in the Barbie-Verse: Skunk Dog Mom Barbie.
I’ve been pondering my other roles in the Barbie-Verse. If Barbie can be anything, where would I fit in? If I were the doll, which of my outfits would be found for sale on the toy store shelf? Boho Barbie in a long flowing print maxi? Western Barbie in my studded and fringed suede shirt ? Rock and roll Barbie in slim pants and a black leather jacket? While it’s fun to dress up for a different mood or occasion, dressing for self-expression is never just one “look”. It is an alchemical combination of inner and outer qualities that create a satisfying harmony. I can be a boho rocker chick that likes cowboy hats, while being attracted to elements that are fluid, streamlined, sleek, dramatic and sensual. The key is that I enjoy them all and love who I am when I wear them.
If I can’t define myself by specific outfits, perhaps I should focus on what I’d be doing in Barbie Land where a woman can be anything. But even if Mattel smoothed my hair and straightened my nose, my place in the world of beauty is not as another Barbie. I have a different role to play. I can easily see myself as Margot Robbie’s older friend with something to offer when it comes to understanding the role of beauty and aging.
Growing More Beautiful is about awakening to the humanity of all, the quest that Barbie undertakes as she journeys to the Real World.
The role I see myself in with young Barbie is similar to one I have in real life, a close relationship with Shawna, a friend 25 years my junior. We shop together for pleasure, compare notes about purchases, send each other selfies. We share the same desire to express ourselves with clothing and look beautiful in our own unique way. I don’t consider myself her mentor, but I’ve definitely had an influence on her clothing choices.
“I’ve always loved to shop,” says Shawna, “but getting dressed was hard, nothing seemed to work. Since meeting you, reading Growing More Beautiful and having my colors done I’ve been able to accumulate styles and colors that work together and it feels amazing to adorn myself in ways that are so satisfying. Your encouragement makes me feel confident.”
It works both ways. She’s the friend I share the playful selfies with when I especially like what I’m wearing. I feel an acceptance from her that I can show up as myself free from judgement, not just how I look but that I care how I look. I grew up with the mixed signals of looking perfect but not caring too much about it. The phrase “Don’t be conceited” hangs over my generation like a fog. In the movie, America Ferrera addresses this in her speech about how impossible it is to be a woman: “Be pretty… but not so pretty that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be part of the sisterhood. Always stand out but always be grateful. You have to never grow old, never be rude, never show off.”
Clearly this movie had an impact as ticket sales passed an unprecedented 1 billion in sales a month ago. It has been a shared experience around the globe. From Refinery 29: “It is as much a cinematic phenomenon as it is a fashion event that is reconnecting former Barbie die-hards with their inner child — one outfit at a time.”
Come play dress up with me and other fashion-loving women for the fall session of An Artful Approach to Personal Style at the College of Marin Kentfield campus two Saturdays, October 28 and November 11 10-1. Registration details linked here.