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Barbie doll gets a splashy 50th birthday bash

February 17, 2009|BOOTH MOORE | FASHION CRITIC

I couldn't decide if the opening-song choice of Courtney Love's "Doll Parts" for Saturday's Barbie fashion show was spooky or brilliant. The show, put together in honor of the plastic fashion plate's upcoming 50th birthday, was loosely organized into three sections -- retro, modern and future Barbie.

The first real-life doll was an hommage to the original, which debuted at the New York Toy Fair wearing a black-and-white zigzag swimsuit, remastered here by designer Rachel Roy. With her blond pony tail swinging, she stepped her pink peep-toe shoe onto the glittering runway. Not every lassie was blond and white, but they all wore cat-eye sunglasses or cat eyeliner. Purrrrrrr.

The show read like the greatest hits from the spring season, with many designers contributing pieces from their spring collections. Nicole Miller's was 1960s-inspired, a black-and-white checkerboard dress worn with white tights with red hearts. The modern-day section had Barbie in a Tory Burch tunic and jeans and a DVF wrap dress, dragging a rolling suitcase behind her.

Futuristic Barbie was hit or miss. The shimmering gold Mackie gown and feather headdress was thrilling, especially since, next to Cher, Barbie may be the designer's all-time-best client. But the plasticky turbans and see-through capes (which looked as though they could have been cut from garment bags) were puzzling.

Ken made only a brief appearance (wearing Kenneth Cole, natch), but he did leave a Valentine's Day card for each guest, tied with a bow around "Debut" Barbie, a replica of the 1959 original created for the event.

It occurred to me that the single most important American contribution to fashion isn't anything cut and sewn on Seventh Avenue. It's Barbie. Who else has had the power to stoke creativity in everyone from Andy Warhol to Jeremy Scott? Not to mention her role in propagating the unattainable ideal of youth and beauty. Where would we be without it? I can't even imagine.

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