Book Review: Dressing Barbie by Carol Spencer

by Julia DeKorte | 19 Jul 2023

Book Reviews

As the widely anticipated Barbie movie inches closer to its release date, it is the perfect time to brush up on your Barbie history. Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them by Carol Spencer with Laurie Brookins is a fascinating memoir about Carol Spencer, who is responsible for the design of hundreds of Barbie’s iconic outfits and accessories. The book is filled with personal stories, insights into the industry as its changed over the past six decades, historical documents and photos, and much of Spencer’s massive personal archive of dolls, all of which comes together to tell the story of how Barbie, and Spencer, have inspired young girls all over the world.’


Spencer recalls how she get her start in the fashion industry: when she was selected to participate in the ultra-prestigious Mademoiselle Magazine Guest Editor Program in 1955. She, along with 19 other girls, spent a month interviewing famous writers, creators, and celebrities and attending lavish cocktail parties, getting ready to launch the oversized August college life edition that Mademoiselle released annually. Afterwards, Spencer knew she had found the industry she wanted to spend the rest of her career in. By 1963, Spencer was at Mattel working under Charlotte Johnson, the original head fashion designer working on Barbie.


From finding creative solutions to computer malfunctions to fundraising through limited-edition Barbie designs, Spencer was innovative, inspiring, and a trailblazer for women and girls all over the world. In many ways, Barbie followed Spencer’s example: Barbie was given jobs in medicine, athletics, military, politics, and other industries typically dominated by men, just as Spencer joined the fashion industry when the typical women’s job was a nurse, schoolteacher, seamstress, or secretary. Dressing Barbie, the brief yet informative celebration of Barbie and her stylist, is the perfect book for any Barbie enthusiast.


Adapted from “Meet the Fashion Designer Responsible for ‘Dressing Barbie’” by Linda Hitchcock, BookTrib.

barbie barbie movie mattel barbie clothes barbie fashion

Tait & Lily, Inventors of Betcha Can't!