Diahann Carroll stars as the first African-American Barbie

Last week a big box (with a very hefty customs fee slapped on it) arrived from America. It’s been a lot of fun going through the grubby pile of treasures and restoring them to their former glory with the help of beams of sunlight, puffs of steam and stitches in time.

Francie, Christie and Julia

One star of the collection, with a rewarding story, is Julia – the 3rd dark skinned Barbie doll ever released. The first was ‘colored Francie’ aka ‘black Francie’ in 1966. She had caucasian features, but was made with brown plastic as opposed to pink. The second is formally known as the first. She is known as the first, because her features were African-American, and she was the full Barbie height. Called Christie, she was released in 1968. She had features based on the actress Diahann Carroll [1], an African American film star. So then, Julia was third – released in 1969. She had the same face as Christie and was named after the exciting new, lead TV role, played by Diahann Carroll in the show of the same name: Julia.

Here is a comparison with Christie and Julia. You can see they share the same face mould.

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 compare Christie
Julia
Christie, pictured on My Vintage Barbies website
Diahann Carroll with Sidney Poitier

Bizarrely, although Mattel state that Julia is a likeness of Carroll [1] – a real person, they state on another page [2] that their 1980s release (titled unequivocally “Black Barbie”) was the first African-American Barbie. I guess it’s all in a name. She wasn’t Barbie before, because she was named Christie. Or something.

People.com has a useful article showing Barbie through the ages and including black dolls in many of the decades. Mattel’s 80s “Black Barbie” is shown here. She does look rather like her caucasian peer but with brown skin colour and afro hair.

Julia the doll

Julia came dressed in her nursing uniform which is a dainty little number with lots of tiny buttons, a metal badge (some sort of nursing gadget?) and a tiny perching nurses cap.

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970

SOLD

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 side view

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 portrait

Julia doll 1970

Julia the TV show 1968-71

Once I’d identified who came first in the Mattel family tree, I was keen to ‘meet’ the real Diahann Carroll. I was immediately totally engaged by her. She’s a woman who has something to say – in an astute, well considered way. Her stage and screen presence is beautiful. Playing Julia,  a young professional woman and mother, she portrayed a captivating combination of light touch charm and absolute confidence. I watched the first episode of Julia totally gripped. It was so good – absolutely stands up with today’s best shows. I’d love to watch a few more but sadly, there doesn’t seem to be an official DVD release. One interesting aspect is the very young child co-stars who have leading roles. This is so much less common today and so captivating.

Here is a quote from the show which reflects the language and values of the era, as well as the creativity of the show’s writers:

Julia Baker: Did they tell you I’m colored?
Dr. Chegley: What color are you?
Julia Baker: Wh-hy, I’m Negro.
Dr. Chegley: Have you always been a Negro, or are you just trying to be fashionable?

Carroll’s interview about the criticisms of the show (and how she and the producer handled them) is fascinating. It was a truly ground-breaking series, made at a time when black characters rarely had screen space for much more than ‘waitress’ or ‘maidservant’. Watch the first video to hear her in-depth analysis, and an episode of Julia in the second video. As with the criticisms and arguments over the first black Barbie and what she should look like, the show simply couldn’t be all things to all people. As Carroll states – it wasn’t a documentary, it was entertainment.

Finally, just check out those eyelashes!

Mattel Julia TV star nurse doll 1970 long lashes

[1]
See Mattel notes on this page https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-hollywood-dolls/julia-doll-n5017

“Julia TM & © 1968, 2008 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. Name and likeness of Diahann Carroll are used with her permission.”

And Doll Reference notes https://dollreference.com/julia_doll.html

“1127 Julia Twist ‘N Turn Doll (1969)
A black doll with light brown skin, brown eyes, short straight brown hair , uses the Christie head mold“.

[2]
See Mattel notes about who was the first Barbie https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/bill-greening/black-barbie-doll-r4468

“One cherished Barbie® doll is 1980’s Black Barbie® doll. Although Christie® premiered in 1968, this was the first African-American Barbie®.”

See also the ‘faces of Christie‘ through the ages.

Feel that One Of A Kind special tingle OOAK?

I just had eBay feedback plus a lovely message from a customer. She was really happy because she spotted a surprise extra on the package I sent her: a Royal Mail 1st Class stamp featuring Sindy.

Very pleased with my purchase & for the Sindy stamp

Lovely dress, sent promptly and well packed - I especially liked the Sindy stamp

I wondered if anyone would notice the Sindy stamps – of course I hoped they would but you never know. It was just great to hear they did and were just a little bit thrilled. There’s something about a real letter with a real stamp these days. Gives you a bit of a tingle.

Royal Mail Sindy Weekender doll stamp

The only thing is, you can’t buy a single Sindy stamp – they come as part of a set of 10 Classic Toys stamps. So you might be lucky if you buy a Sindy item from ShimmyShim but I can’t promise : )

Royal Mail Classic Toys stamps 2017

I’ve been extremely busy for the past two weeks building my stand for ComicCon which will be at the Excel Centre in London Friday 25 to Sunday 27 May. Hopefully I’ll have time to write a bit more about it before the event. It’s a bit of an experiment where I’ll be showcasing some ‘Fashion Victim’ skeleton toys dressed in vintage clothes and vintage and preloved dolls. It will be interesting to see of the younger crowd like them. Hope so as I’ve spent hours working on the stand. It’s made of papier-mâché…

Meantime, I aim to list on eBay every day to keep plenty of lovely #microvintage stuff available.

This week I fished out some more cool handmade OOAK items from my collection. It is difficult to tell the difference between handmade dolls clothes and production line clothes but there are some clues. Handmade often have a bit more finishing on them whereas the factory made rarely finish the seams (and they tend to fray because of that). Hooks and eyes are generally not seen on factory made. They sometimes have thicker fabric that I imagine wouldn’t so easily go through factory machines quickly (on such a small item). Other idiosyncrasies are in the design and choice of fabric pattern. Sometimes the patterns are larger because the maker has used up fabric they bought for their own clothes, whereas the branded items will have used fabric chosen especially for the doll. And handmade doesn’t of course, always mean the item is strictly OOAK. There may be more than one made. But handmade usually means very unusual and a bit special.

Here are some of the examples (some are still available to buy in the shop).

Sindy in handmade black skirt and 70s flower power skirt
The black maxi skirt is handmade from thick nylon. The flower power skirt is probably factory made.

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

Sindy in handmade purple maxi skirts
Two handmade nylon 70s maxi skirts

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

I think this jacket, scarf and dress set was made by the same person as the nylon skirts above. Passion for purple! Look at the beautifully sewn buttonhole.

Hand finished button hole on doll jacket
SOLD – OOAK hand made suit jacket in purple with scarf and dress.

The jacket is even lined with matching fabric.

Lined doll jacket purple vintage fabric
SOLD – lined jacket

The vintage fabric is super: collaged squares with painterly brushstrokes.

Tunic dress with purple vintage fabric
SOLD – purple vintage fabric dress.

More thick fabric here in a zig-zag pattern. Notice some hand stitching on the trim.

Tweedy suit for doll hand made pink brown zig zag
SOLD zig zag tweedy 70s trouser suit with hat
ooak skinny trousers
SOLD – OOAK skinny trousers
mauve boucle doll suit
SOLD Handmade suit with head band in mauve boucle fabric.

This skirt is unidentified rather than handmade. I recognise the fabric design from other dolls clothes, which makes me suspect it is not handmade. Although I haven’t been able to identify it.

Red daisies on blue pattern maxi skirt
SOLD Maxi skirt probably production made

Suspect this is handmade if only because the fabric print design is quite large.

Sindy in a kaftan with Japanese style flowers
SOLD Crazy 70s kaftan which looks a bit like a kimono

This looks very 80s Pedigree in style, but I haven’t seen it identified as Sindy anywhere yet. Perhaps it is a Barbie outfit. Or is it a totally unique one-off design?

Sindy in silver 80s jumpsuit
Mystery jumpsuit

Go to ShimmyShim SHOP

The puff sleeve of a beautifully finished green satin mini dress. The dress is so well finished that I can’t believe it was factory made. The seams are covered with green bias binding.

Detail of puff lace sleeve
SOLD Lace sleeve detail
Bias binding finishing on mini doll dress
Bias binding finishing on mini doll dress

Another mini dress still available in the shop. Check the natty white belt. Unidentified could be OOAK but has a factory feel.

Pink doll mod dress white belt
SOLD Mod dress with white belt.

And I will end with an item I decided I couldn’t bring myself to sell this week. It is of course a very well known Pedigree Outfit called ‘Coffee Date’. I just love it.

Sindy 1965 Coffee Party oufit 12S61
Sindy 1965 Coffee Party oufit #12S61

Pedigree Sindy Pretty Pose 1975

Update May 13 Pretty Pose not so distinguishing features?

I’m now very unsure of my ID on this doll. She actually looks more like a Funtime ’74 or ’75 and I’m thinking her arms do not bend enough, and are not spindly enough to make her a Pretty Pose Sindy.

However, she doesn’t match the Petradolls website description of the next closest doll – the Funtime – either.

  • The description for the head does not match a Funtime because it is brunette and marked 033050X.
  • And the body doesn’t match a Funtime body either as it not marked OD or Hong Kong.
  • The legs don’t bend.

Her head matches the description for a 1975 Active Sindy, with the long brunette hair, high colour and the number 033050X.

So a bit of an enigma. I would be very interested to hear feedback from any longtime collectors – please comment if you have any information that would help.

Doll’s distinguishing features

  • Hard head.
  • Number marking: 033050X on back of head.
  • Bendable arms (with wires inside). Non-bendable legs.
  • High colour with quite strong blusher and red lip paint.
  • Shoulder length wavy thick hair.
  • Very long legs – this example comes up at 29cm tall.
  • Fingers and toes are very detailed.

This is a quick post to show off a doll that I’ve been told is a Pretty Pose Sindy from 1975 (since found she may not be that). She has a slightly sultry look despite her baby face.

Pretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 portrait pink

Here she is wearing what appears to be a version of a 1975 outfit called ‘Pleasant Dreams’. The online Sindy Museum shows one manufactured by Mego
This one is very similar but it has long sleeves.

Pretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 in Pleasant Dreams

In my pile of ironing I found another little item made from similar fabric and added it to the eBay listing for this doll.

Pretty Pose in Pleasant Dreams type top

There is also a negligee made from a similar fabric in 1974. Notice the butterflies in the fabric design.

Sindy doll negligee 1974

Buy 1974 Sindy butterfly negligee

The (possibly) Pretty Pose Sindy doll is a super model. She looks great in this bright Red Raver outfit from 1985.

Sindy Red Raver body suit and slippers on Pretty Pose

Buy Sindy Red Raver 6 item underwear set

Sindy Red Raver outfit 1975 on Pretty Pose

I also reshot several vintage hand made outfits using her as a model because they looked a bit frumpy on Mini Sindy (1965). Here’s Mini looking like Angela Merkel (who I’m sure is not frumpy by nature but doesn’t wear in a twin set that well).

Handmade lavendar 60s twin set
Handmade lavendar boucle 60s twin set (SOLD)

Compared to Pretty Pose.

Pretty Pose in handmade lavendar suit

However, Mini looks fetching in a bit of turquoise.

Hand made turquoise tweed coat (SOLD)
Hand made turquoise tweed coat (SOLD)

The (possibly) Pretty Pose Sindy would be quite rare as she was only made during 1975 and only sold in the UK. I bought her from a collector. I had no idea what price to sell her at so I decided to experiment with a reverse auction. She’s currently still for sale, although she’s such a good model I’ve been tempted to end the listing.

I would be interested to see your pictures of Pretty Pose. If you’d like to share your own Pretty Pose photos, please drop me a line.

Fingers and Toes

p.s forgot to mention the fingers and toes. They’re more detailed than later Sindy dolls with creases marked on the finger joints and little nails.

Pretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 feet

Pretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 hands

Pretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 frontPretty Pose Sindy brunette 1975 back