Bild Lilli, the first Barbie?

Although Barbie is the best selling toy worldwide with 2 being sold every minute, A different doll, Bild Lilli was really where Barbie started, some may even mistake Bild Lilli for a Barbie doll.

Barbie was first conceived when Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara at play with paper dolls, and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. So, she suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband Elliot, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. Not much happened with the idea first, but then Ruth went on a European vacation and found a German Doll named Bild Lilli. The body type was exactly what she’d been thinking so she bought a few and brought them home. After a few tweaks with the help of Engineer Jack Ryan, The doll was altered enough to be a new creation, Barbie. In 1964, five years after unveiling Barbie at the International Toy fair, Mattel finally bought the rights from Bild-Lilli in Germany.

The first Barbie dolls were manufactured in Japan, with their clothes hand-stitched by Japanese homeworkers. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production. Her first outfit was a white and black zebra patterned swimsuit. Today, three barbie dolls are sold every second somewhere in the world and the line is responsible for more than 80% of Mattel’s profits.

However Bild Lilli was based on cartoon drawings of a Prostitute. And the Bild Lilli doll was a novelty item sold to businessmen in Germany, it was never designed with the intention of being a toy for young girls. 

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