As the iconic doll turns 60, her clothing designer Carol Spencer opens up to PEOPLE about the controversy that surrounded her size

By Aili Nahas Brittany Talarico
March 07, 2019 03:21 PM
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Mattel Archival Photographs. From the book DRESSING BARBIE: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them by Carol Spencer. C 2019 by Caroline M. Spencer. Reprinted by permission of Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Barbie will forever hold a place in history as one of the most iconic and recognizable dolls of all time. But since her creation 60 years ago (she celebrates the milestone birthday this month!), Barbie has often been at the center of controversy — especially surrounding her body type.

Barbie’s busty yet small-waisted frame faced criticism for promoting an unrealistic body image to young girls.

Now, Carol Spencer, Barbie’s longest running clothing designer who worked at Mattel from 1963 to 1998 and outfitted the doll in thousands of famous looks, opens up to PEOPLE about the backlash surrounding Barbie’s build.

“Times are changing and we’re all evolving,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on stands Friday. “But I don’t think she was out of proportion — people don’t understand doll scale. And she’s a doll! Part of Barbie will always be fantasy.”

Christopher Polk/Polk Imaging

RELATED: Barbie’s Longtime Clothing Designer Carol Spencer Reflects on the 60-Year-Old Doll’s Wardrobe

Spencer, 86, retired almost two decades before the most significant launch in the Barbie empire was introduced in 2016: the addition of curvy Barbie, who has wider hips, a rounder stomach and flat feet.

“The new Barbies are lovely,” Spencer shares of Mattel’s size-inclusive launch. “We kept making Barbie more realistic.”

Mattel/Splash News

To coincide with Barbie’s 60th birthday, Spencer reflects on her 35-year career working for the toy giant in a new book, Dressing Barbie, available now on Amazon.

Peter Zambouros

RELATED: See Barbie’s Style Evolution Over the Past 60 Years

She writes about the ways Barbie pushed women forward and noted that some of her proudest moments at Mattel was watching the doll’s professions change over the decades, including Astronaut Barbie in 1965, Surgeon Barbie (1973) and Gold Medal Barbie (1975).

“During the women’s movement [all of us designers] belonged to the National Organization for Women, but we didn’t flaunt it” Spencer says. “It was a quiet goal to start promoting women. I wanted more choices for Barbie. I wanted more choices for myself!”