April 12, 2013

Black Magic! Cocktail Dress Barbie Casts a Dramatic Spell

By Chris Varaste

This year's Cocktail Dress Barbie® Doll has definitely cast a spell on me because of the way her platinum blonde hair contrasts with her dramatic black evening ensemble! The glam cocktail outfit also reminds me of Black Magic, another bewitching number from Barbie doll’s 1964 wardrobe.

Like Cocktail Dress Barbie, Black Magic features a black tulle cape, but the outfit isn't just an elegant addition to Barbie doll's wardrobe from the 1960s — Black Magic has a wonderful backstory!

Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, also known as Barbie doll’s mom, was rumored to have worn a similar black cocktail dress, complete with fashionable cape and gloves, to an evening function. As the story goes, Ms. Handler's outfit caught the eye of Barbie doll’s very first fashion designer, Charlotte Johnson, who was creating an all-new line of clothes for Barbie.

Barbie was due for a haute couture makeover, and the enterprising Ms. Johnson thought Ms. Handler’s outfit would make a perfect addition. Ms. Johnson’s second wardrobe for Barbie, tagged the 1600 series, was a delirious fashion-house dream, and no expense was spared in its creation.

Black Magic was made of silk shantung, with the eye-catching addition of a tulle cape and short black gloves. Featured in many Barbie collector showcases, Black Magic is often worn by a ponytail Barbie doll known as the Platinum Swirl, also new in 1964. The vivid juxtaposition of gleaming white hair and a slim black sheath have since become a part of Barbie fashionography.

Now, the popular look is back with Cocktail Dress Barbie Doll for the 2013 Barbie® Fashion Model Collection. A feminine vision in a full-skirted black lace dress shimmering with midnight beads, Cocktail Dress Barbie is an enchantress with a terrific tie to Barbie doll's sublime high-fashion history!


Chris Varaste started out at ABC-TV, producing segments for the Emmys, Tonys & Grammys. A fascination with fashion and pop culture led to his first published book, Barbie: Face of the American Dream – and an appreciation for all things Barbie! His insights on collectibles/brand success have been published in the New York Times, The Economist, and Spotlight Cinema Networks.

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