'Curvy' Barbie follows changing trends
Iconic doll is shaping up to help kids deal with body image
Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30
One time super-slender Barbie is to undergo a make-over in 2016 and will now embrace "a full, curvy female figure."
It's all to do with the times we live in and ever-changing images of what is the ideal female form.
Toy maker Mattel insists it wanted to recognise how girls nowadays admire women with fuller outlines - such as Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé.
The manufacturer has announced the 57-year-old icon will be available in three new distinct body types.
In addition to the original slimline Barbie, a children's favourite toy since 1959, the doll will now come in "tall, petite and curvy'' forms.
The move is part of a fightback by the company in the face of declining sales in an ever-evolving market.
"We have to let girls know it doesn't matter what shape you come in - anything is possible," said company spokesperson Tania Missad on the Barbie brand's website.
According to Mattel, the new-look Barbie will also have seven skin tones - along with 22 eye colours, 24 hairstyles and 30 different hair colours.
The move comes a year after Mattel introduced Barbies with moveable ankles which enable the dolls to wear flat shoes for the first time.
Despite these innovations, the company has continued to face criticism over what have been termed the doll's 'unrealistic' proportions.
It has been claimed the traditional Barbie reflected an almost unattainable image of the female form.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Ruth Reidy, a dietician with Nutrition4u in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, welcomed the move away from the "Baywatch Barbie doll stereotype". She also pointed out that impressionable young girls were at risk of developing body image issues during their formative years, saying: "It's a positive step - not only from an eating disorder point of view, but also for those trying to manage their weight, so that they will have a more positive attitude about their body shape.
"Young girls are very influenced by what they see as 'the norm' in terms of body image.
"That can lead to dissatisfaction with their own bodies, and they start to become more aware of their body shapes and how they look in comparison to what they see on television and magazines as they get older and move into their teenage years.
"From my own experience, potential long-term problems start very young - when they are playing with these dolls.
"The problems can then progress over the years, so the sizes of these dolls definitely do matter.
"Kids are very aware and they start to make comments about themselves at a very young age.
"From a body image point of view, seeing more body shapes is more authentic and genuine."
She also said the various skin tones on offer would better reflect our multi-racial society.
But Belinda Parmar, author and women's rights campaigner, dismissed the move as nothing more than a desperate attempt by the company to stem falling sales.
The company's share price has plummeted nearly 43pc compared to three years ago.
"Mattel's position should not just be responsive," she said.
The company should be pioneers, she added, driving the agenda rather than simply "trying to keep up".
She argues our daughters - the women of tomorrow - cannot relate to a Barbie who appears to have graduated from the "Paris Hilton Business School".
"They want to see her wearing a hoodie and frantically coding her next app," she said.