Barbie was my doll of choice when I was a little girl, blithely giving me a false impression of how my body would develop and a lifetime of insecurity. I’ve just discovered I got off lightly though, as were I ten years older I’d of had to contend with Growing Up Skipper. Skipper is commonly (well, in little girl circles) known as Barbie’s younger sister, and if you’re lucky you can have great fun making Barbie babysit her and generally act preachy and grown-uppy.
In 1975 Growing Up Skipper was released, a doll that would change the innocent face of Mattel forever, and give a whole new meaning to those awkward ‘I must, I must, I must increase my bust’ exercises. This is because when Skipper’s arm was rotated her torso would lengthen and breasts would appear on on her chest. Seriously.
The idea was that this was the doll that would ‘mature with you’, and the marketing referred to her as being ‘Two Dolls in One, Twice as Much Fun!’.
Read on for more pictures…
To view Skippers’ assets you have to turn her left arm backwards, and then reverse that to change her back to an A cup. There was also a doll called Growing Up Ginger released, who was designed as, err, another way of showing Mattel’s skill with rubber anatomy? Ginger was positioned as being slightly older than Skipper, so possibly a friend for Barbie, and a way for Mattel to show that they welcomed all hair colours, and as she was older, D cups? Oh dear.
It’s quite unreal to actually view images of this doll, and not just because she’s actually 8 years older than me. I can’t imagine anything like this being allowed on the mass market today, as the PC brigade would never allow it. Then again, am I being slightly old fashioned in my surprise/shock?
A large number of young kids regularly use computer games, all of which give you the chance to design your avatars, altering hair colour, skintone, and yes, size. Whilst they tend to focus more on body size in general, instead of bra measurements, breast size does change as you alter the figures, so surely the level of body awareness has just got more sophisticated, and Mattel was just ahead of the trend? Popular tween site Stardoll has a bust changing design built into its Avatar creation, and it’s not alone in this.
If I think about things in this way, it makes Mattel’s ‘Growing Up’ range of dolls less shocking, as you could see them as forecasting the sadly inevitable trend into body conscious tweens and the rise of stories about padded bras for tweens, Miss Bimbo style games ( to progress in the game you have to get her a hot boyfriend, a cool place to live, and find a great job) and the overall sexualization of tweenhood.
Mattel may have forecasted the demise of youthful innocence, but there’s no reason we should rejoice in this, and the infamous doll was taken off the market pretty sharpish and now sells for loads on eBay.
What do you think about Growing Up Skipper- wish we had one now, or shocked it ever existed?
The feminist in me wishes they’d brought out a ‘Growing Up Ken’ doll- now that would have been educational… and given a whole new dimension to those ‘Mummy and Daddy games’ that we played with our dolls.
Find out more about Skipper on her Wikipedia page.