Barbie in Japan!
* Background Music: "Oharabushi" ~ Flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal *
As we all know, Vintage Barbie was Made in Japan! Mattel marketed many outfits from Barbie's wardrobe all over the world, but certain outfits were marketed only in Japan, and now are often called "Japanese Exclusives". There are many "western" type outfits (for example, Outdoor Art Show in special fabric), but they did produce a few beautiful traditional kimono for the Japanese market.
The first kimono Mattel made for Barbie came out in 1962-64, and were made of lovely materials such as silvery brocades. They were apparently sold often on a dressed doll which could have been a bubblecut or ponytail. They can be seen here. (Scroll to the very bottom of the page to see three bubbles in the kimono.)
Below are my three lovely Bubbles --L to R: Side Part Bubble in Japanese Exclusive "Cherry Blossom" kimono; Raven Bubble in "Barbie in Japan"; White Ginger in Sylvia Campbell recreation of Cherry Blossom kimono in pink and silver. This fabric is vintage, the exact same as the original Mattel cherry blossom fabric except in a different color.
According to an article in "Barbie Bazaar" from 1998, Japanese moms did not like the Barbie kimono so much because it made them think of geisha or perhaps less classy ladies, and they did not want their kids playing with them! So they are extremely rare.
Below is the WG from the photo above.
Geisha in their elaborate kimono and make-up.
The next major kimono was marketed specifically for the US market, "Barbie in Japan". This one was cut somewhat to fit Barbie's figure, and did not feature the "obijime" (the thin tie around the obi). It was "furisode" style, which was to be worn only by unmarried young women. It did have nice accessories--the hair ornaments, samisen and zori shoes (In the pic below, two of the hair ornaments are on the doll on far right rather than the one on left, who is wearing "Barbie in Japan".) This outfit can be found much more easily than the Japanese exclusive vintage kimono.
The photo below of four enchanting young ladies shows how beautiful they look in kimono. Left to right:
Raven 1961 Bubble in "Barbie in Japan"; Brunette 1963 Bubble in modern Mattel Barbie kimono; White Ginger in hand-made kimono from vintage fabric; and #3 Brunette in Japanese exclusive furisode.
Here is another pretty Bubble in "Barbie in Japan"--she has an unusual and lovely obi. (Photo c/o cubby)
Below, White Ginger Bubble from the above pic in all her glory!
Now take a look at Tama's gorgeous Gold Bubblecut in a Sylvia Campbell furisode Kimono that is absolutely EXQUISITE! (photo c/o Tama)
Next is Tama's very beautiful #3 Brunette in "Barbie in Japan" (photo c/o Tama)
Below is my Side-Part Bubblecut in the earliest kimono (1962) made for Mattel in Japan, the "Cherry Blossom" kimono. (I believe this is a "komon" style because of the small repeated pattern.) These are very rare. They were sold sometimes on a Bubblecut or Ponytail doll, or separately.
In 1967 it was the age of Twist 'n' Turn Barbie doll, and Mattel made two lovely kimono this year. One is a blue floral design, and the other is the lovely one seen here with red solid top and beautiful print on pink on the bottom half. This is the one shown on my #3 below. It is a "furisode" kimono, which has long flowing sleeves, and a lovely pattern that is continuous over seams to resemble a painting. It is considered a work of art. The Japanese people feel that the wearer gives form to the kimono.
This incredible 1967 "furisode" kimono is worn to exquisite perfection by #3 Brunette with geisha-pale skin!
The kimono is a very special garment in Japan, much more significant than we usually think of our clothing in western countries. Kimono have been worn for over 2000 years in Japan. The actual Japanese translation of the word "kimono" is simply an "object to wear"! Today, Kimono are worn in Japan mostly for special occasions. The kimono signifies a lot about the wearer, including age, marital status, and more. Also, certain types of kimono are appropriate for certain occasions. Both men and women can wear kimono, but men's styles include mainly black or dark blue, and are not elaborately decorated, as opposed to women's.
The furisode style of this kimono would only be worn traditionally by young unmarried women.
Below is a stunning antique furisode kimono shown in a Kyoto exhibit.
Furisode are characterized by long, flowing sleeves and elaborate printed fabric. Kimono are made in one-size-fits-all, and the wearer is considered part of the garment.
Barbie is admiring the torii gate, a structure marking the entrance to a sacred place. These gates are found at entrances to Shinto shrines, also used in Japanese Buddhism.
Some modern and feminist authors have said the kimono is oppressive to women, because of the tightly-fitting obi, which has been likened to a corset. However the corset is designed to make a woman's curves look even more prominent, while the obi was designed to mask them!
More interesting information about kimono and its significance can be found here.
Here are photos of Barbie's beautiful obi, and the back of the kimono.
Close-up of obi: This obi is made of red, gold and silver brocade. It has an obijime, the thin gold braided tie. The purpose of this would be to help keep the knot in place in back of the obi. The obiage is the tie-dyed pink and red scarf on top of the obi.
A pic of the back.
Close-up of the back of the obi. The tie can be done in a number of ways on an obi (this one is fixed this way). See the article on kimono referenced above.
There are several other types of kimono, including a popular style called "yukata", shown below left--the pink floral one. This is a more informal, usually cotton kimono. The sleeves are much shorter than the furisode, and the patterns are less elaborate. The "tomesode" kimono, below right, is a bit more elaborate, but less so than the furisode, and has shorter sleeves. It is generally worn to somewhat more formal occasions than the yukata, and is generally worn by married women. The "komon" is a kimono with a small repeating pattern.
And last but not least--if you notice in the above photos, Barbie is carrying a little clutch purse made of silvery-pink fabric!
Even this is patterned after authentic Japanese purses carried while wearing kimono! At times the woman would wear the purse tucked into the fold of her kimono just above the obi. Below is a beautiful example, also from the Kyoto exhibit.
Barbie in Japan ~ Part II ~ Western Style Exclusives
There were a number of dolls and outfits sold only in Japan. They didn't necessarily include kimono, but were often "western" (what we consider standard)-style clothes. These are very hard to find and usually very expensive!
Below is Marina's collection (I have split one photo into more than one so they would show up better) of gorgeous Japanese exclusives! Japanese skipper is on left--note her brown eyes that look to her left instead of right! On the right is a lovely and rare European American Girl Barbie in a Japanese exclusive red "tablecloth" plaid dress. (photo c/o Marina)
Below, another beautiful Blonde Japanese Skipper and Japanese Exclusive "New Midge" in their outfits. Midge also has brown eyes that look to her left, and came with a removable wig. She is wearing the exclusive black velvet outfit. (Photo c/o Marina)
...And lucky Marina--Two MORE Japanese Skippers with Titian and Brunette hair! Amazing! (Photo c/o Marina)
Below is colormagickid's incredible Cinnamon-haired American Girl in the Japanese version of "After Five" (Photo c/o colormagickid)
Marina was lucky enough to find this very rare Sleeping Pretty in Pink! A Japanese Exclusive. (photo c/o Marina)
Another of Marina's wonderful finds, her lovely Brunette Swirl wears the Japanese exclusive "Cinderella" with the gold trim! (Where does she find these amazing things?)!! (Photo c/o marina)
How about a Sylvia Campbell recreation of "Japanese Hostess Set"--an outfit that is so rare, you virtually never see the original! My Silver-Brunette AG wears this one well.
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