Collecting and customizing Barbie dolls


Pink is the new cool

I’ve loved the movie Grease 2 since I was a child. It doesn’t have the best reputation, but I’ve always thought it superior to the original. (Blasphemy to some, I know). I had to try and capture the coolest of the cool, the leader of the Pink Ladies, Stephanie Zinone in Barbie form.

The real Cool Rider.

Michelle Pfeiffer gives it her all in this movie, and she’s fantastic. She elevates her character into such an icon of Cool. She’s the most popular girl at Rydell, yet she still takes the time to console the new kid who runs afoul of the “T” Birds on the first day of school. She follows her own mind. She knows what she wants and won’t settle for less. She won’t relinquish her position (or jacket) as head Pink Lady, despite breaking up with Johnny, the #1 “T” Bird. And she’s just as impressed with Michael’s intellect as she is his alter ego’s motorcycle skills. Stephanie knows who she is and doesn’t try, care, or pretend to be anyone else.

I chose to do her “Cool Rider” outfit. It’s hailed as the best song in the movie, and it’s one of my personal faves from the film. It doesn’t hurt that all-black ensembles look really cool.

Luckily Mattel made a doll with a Pink Ladies jacket. So I just had to personalize it with Stephanie’s name.

Can you recite the Pink Ladies Pledge?

I didn’t know until researching this costume in order to customize this doll that Stephanie wore a motorcycle pendant on her necklace. I painted a floating motorcycle charm gold. I love how her black bangle bracelets complement her gold jewelry.

I made her earrings. The gold hoops are kinda feisty like their wearer.

I’ve always seen these boots while searching for items for other custom doll projects. I think they look so cool! I was happy I had a doll they were perfect for.

Above is my attempt to recreate one of the best shots of the movie, during “Cool Rider.”

Steph showing off her Pink Ladies jacket. Too bad it’s not reversible black! (Interestingly, it did look reversible black in the prototype photo.)

I love that Stephanie isn’t a bitchy “cool girl” or a trying-to-be-cool “cool girl.” She’s cool in her bones because she’s completely herself and unafraid to be. Think Pink!


Nobody’s Barbie — Molly from Neuromancer

“She you woman, Case?”

“I dunno. Nobody’s woman, maybe.”

–from Neuromancer by William Gibson

Perhaps the weirdest custom Barbie I’ve done yet, since she’s a character from a book (one of my favorite books). Here’s my custom Molly from Neuromancer Barbie. AKA Cyberpunk Barbie =D

Molly is the main female character and very popular with Gibson fans. Neuromancer was the groundbreaking novel that ushered in the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. Molly is a street samurai, professional muscle. She has modifications that include mirrored lens implants that enhance her vision in various ways and underneath her fingernails 4-cm scalpel blades that she can extend and retract at will. She’s a razorgirl.

It’s mentioned specifically that Molly is very pale. You can probably guess what line of Barbies I turned to in order to choose the base doll. Thankfully this one had the wine-colored lipstick I was looking for. Unfortunately she’s a glue head. Grrr. This is pretty much my first time encountering a glue head that I needed to attempt to remedy. Apparently the base doll for my Emma Frost is a glue head, too, but it didn’t seem to interfere too much with my cutting and even boil-washing her hair, thank heavens. I have a post planned for later with what I did to address the glue-covered greasy hair. I researched a LOT to try and find what works best.

Molly’s gun is described as a pepperbox flechette. I Googled the look of both and decided to go my own way with this gun, which has a nice futuristic look to it, IMO.

She has burgundy-colored artificial-looking nails that sheathe her scalpel “claws.” I did attempt to make her claws, but it was not a success. I may try again later.

I love the reflections in her mirrored lenses. It was really important to me that they be as reflective as I could make them.

A wonderfully eccentric detail is Molly’s choice of footwear: red cowboy boots with silver toes and lacquer heels.

I’m going to close the post out with a couple more of my favorite pictures of my Molly dolly ;)

A light in Gotham

Where were you when Batmania swept the world in the summer of 1989? It was inescapable — and I didn’t want to escape it. I saw the Tim Burton Batman movie three times in the theater and kept two of the stubs taped into my diary ^^;

The movie had a profound effect on me. Aside from being just a wonderfully engrossing story and experience that captured my imagination, it also awakened my love of acting and the cinema. The performances are rock-solid, especially those of the three leads (Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger), the visuals and art direction are visionary (and still being ripped off of to this day), and the balance of Batman’s freak factor with his vigilante heroism revitalized the character for an audience outside of comics readers.

I was particularly impressed by Basinger’s Vicki Vale. I wanted to be like both Vale and (due to the new fascination with acting) Basinger.

I’ve seen sad posts calling Vale’s character boring and forgettable, easily replaceable in the sequel. I couldn’t disagree more (except that I looooove Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman). I think she takes the love interest role to a different, better level. She’s driven, curious, brave. Vale lends credibility to Alexander Knox’s investigation into Gotham’s “winged vigilante.” She humanizes Batman by connecting emotionally with his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. She’s pretty empathetic, too…consoling the Joker after he fakes being harmed by the water she threw on him and later trying to save the Gothamites being gassed at the parade.

In an interview from around the time of the film’s release Basinger described Vicki Vale as the light between the two kinds of darkness fighting each other in Gotham: Batman’s darkness and the Joker’s (different) darkness. It’s a great description.

I always noticed in the credits that Kim Basinger’s costumes were done by a different designer than the main costumer of the film. Linda Henrikson was responsible for the Vicki Vale wardrobe. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much more information about why that was or what was Henrikson’s inspiration. Because the Vale costumes are pretty amazing.

I chose my favorite to make this Barbie tribute to one of my beloved heroines. I think it’s also pretty funny that this outfit was the one the troop of Vicki Vales wears in Prince’s Batdance video. If you’ve never seen the video, you’re missing out. It gives an awesomely celebratory and positive connotation to “batshit-crazy” =)

Oddly enough, I feel like this back view is the most film-accuracy I achieved with this doll ;)

I guess it’s obvious this was a fairly easy custom, mostly a re-dress. But I did have to cut & style her hair and paint her nails. Still, I’m glad I went ahead and made her anyway. She’s one of my new favorite Barbies.

Marian des bois

I’m old enough to remember the summer of 1991 when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was heavily promoted as THE summer blockbuster. I was all in. I remember enjoying it, getting packs of the trading cards, and even buying a Will Scarlett action figure (probably thanks to a Heathers-induced semi-crush on Christian Slater).

The film doesn’t have a stellar reputation nowadays, which I think is criminal. It’s considered a classic, near-perfect movie in my household (and not only for Alan Rickman’s brilliant Sheriff of Nottingham). I don’t want to get into a film review here on my Barbie blog, but let me just say Prince of Thieves is vastly underrated and unappreciated.

I remember the character of Marian was originally going to be played by Robin Wright. I thought that was perfect casting, and I loved The Princess Bride. She had to drop out due to becoming pregnant, and I recall being slightly disappointed. Well, no need to be. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Marian remains one of the highlight performances here, IMO. She’s strong-willed, open-minded, confident, and kind-hearted.

Apparently her character is given the surname of Dubois in reference to the French moniker for Robin Hood “Robin des bois” (“Robin of the woods.”) Hence the post’s title.

I remain especially impressed by the costumes designed by John Bloomfield. They come across as authentically medieval (although some question whether that’s the case) yet are decidedly a fresh update on the iconic tights and tunic with pointy hat look of the Errol Flynn days.

I always want/wanted toys or figures that represented the female characters in movies and TV. Thankfully, this is quite common these days. But back in 1991, they made no Marian Dubois figure. In fact, had I been in charge of Mattel in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, every major film and television show with kids’ merch would’ve had a tie-in Barbie or two.

Of course I ended up having to make my own Marian from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Barbie.

This is supposed to represent her rust-colored dress outfit as seen in the trading cards picture earlier in the post. It’s not exactly the same, but I’m happy that it’s suggestive of her dress. (I wanted to remove the embellishments at her shoulders and on the skirt but became too afraid I would damage the garment.)

The scarves in the movie are still one of my favorite costume elements. Hard to see, but she has black boots. I replaced the wide pink belt that came with this dress with a long orange-gold ribbon to look closer to Marian’s in the film.

This particular doll reminds me so much of the actress. Check out her hair!

I’m surprised by how much I love the earrings, as I made them meself.

Marian donates the dagger Nottingham gave her to Robin’s war chest, which he keeps and later uses to defeat the Sheriff.

Kudos if you made it through this post without contracting earworm of Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” =) I have a chronic case due to working on this doll…

So long and thanks for all the ish!

It was with a sad heart I bid farewell to Toys R Us when it closed for good earlier this year. Well out of my actual childhood, I could always count on a quick trip to TRU to get back that never-grow-up feeling.

Below, look for the pink “B” sign that indicates the Barbie aisle.

My favorite aisle in the store. (Too bad my phone’s camera is allergic to focus.)

Sadly, for several years the Barbie aisle had not been what it once was. (Remember, though, when it would glow pink?) As I remember back in the day, the Barbie merch lived in *two* aisles at Toys R Us. And the main Barbie aisle of the two had Barbie stuff lining both sides. The second aisle, as I recall, may’ve only had Barbies on one side.

What was really special about the main Barbie aisle of yore was a display case at the end of the aisle for fancier, more expensive collectible Barbie dolls. Oh, how I missed it once they removed it.

Above, two Barbies I saw on clearance during my last (::sniff:: ever) trip to TRU. Unfortunately not on enough of a clearance that I could bring ’em home.

Below, some Fashionistas that caught me eye. (I didn’t buy them — yet — either.)

Below, some really adorable Barbie accessories. (I’ve come to realize a while back that 75 percent of my love for all things Barbie is an affinity for miniatures.)

I don’t wanna grow up…

Will my song go winging?

My “custom” Briar Rose Barbie from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I put custom in quotes because all I did was re-dress a Sparkling Sleeping Beauty doll in the peasant dress from the Sleeping Beauty Deluxe Fashion Gift Pack. Still, it was always my favorite outfit of hers. I’ve been a Sleeping Beauty fan practically my entire life.

(None of my pictures captured it, but I couldn’t stand the thought of her barefoot in the woods and gave her some simple brown shoes with small heels.)

I used a black hair elastic for her headband. The gift pack peasant outfit came with one, but I bought it de-boxed. It did not include the official headband.

For funsies and a medieval/royal flavor, I dressed her in the gown from the Romeo & Juliet: Together Forever limited edition set.

The Crazy One

::playing Eminem’s “Without Me” just to introduce my custom Suicide Squad Harley Quinn Barbie::

I’ve seen a ton of great Harley Quinn custom dolls, but I wanted to do my own take. She and the Joker were definitely the best part of Suicide Squad, IMO.

A lot of the work is thanks to Etsy seller LovelyWoods. She made the shirt, shorts, belt (but not the buckle), and the bat. Even with such a head start, this was a work-intensive custom with probably the most painting I’ve done on a doll to date.

One of my favorite parts to figure out and make was this earring. In the movie, Harley has a long ear cuff with gold safety pins hanging from it. So I took the absolute smallest safety pin I could find, painted it gold, and fashioned an earring. I like it even if it’s not screen-accurate but rather screen-representative. My friend said, “Could you imagine that earring in real-life scale?” I’d love it!

I trimmed the doll’s hair, made pigtails, and then dyed each one its respective color. I used the tutorial here for dyeing Barbie’s hair: Gonna Dye that Blonde Right Out of Bab’s Hair!

Using acrylic paint for models, I did her eye makeup, heart face tattoo, and select leg tattoos. (I only included the tattoos I liked.) Her hairbobs are made from gift ribbon. The choker is also a ribbon, fastened by a hook-and-eye closure. It was a deliberate choice to omit “PUDDIN” from the necklace as well as to leave off the “YES SIR” bracelets. The belt buckle is a gold sequin cut into a diamond shape with a black Sharpie inner diamond shape to suggest a cutout.

Harley’s blue period. The glove is also acrylic paint, as are the fingernails. I decided to do black nails with a gold accent nail (which sadly my camera isn’t picking up well) for her left hand versus the “E-V-I-L” from the film. Her spike bracelets are actually people-scale earrings.

It was fun to give her the blue and red manicure for her right hand. I also tried to represent her double-jester armor ring using 3D paint. The ring is a really crazy design. I couldn’t see replicating it accurately in 1/6 scale.

Painting her shoes was a nerve-racking prospect, but they were easier and quicker to do than I’d anticipated. These all-white Mattel boot-type shoes already had a raised heart on them. I thought it’d be cute to keep the hearts and paint them black to match her face tattoo. As for the rest, I tried to make them look like the ones in the movie but also to my own taste as well. Again, this is acrylic paint. The fishnets are straight from Mattel.

One of my favorite shots in Suicide Squad is when they’re in the plane and Harley’s hair blows across her face.

If you make/made your own Harley Quinn, I’d love to see her!