Barbie and Kelly: A blast from the past

Barbie and Kelly on the Cover of Barbie BazaarDo you ever start organizing old boxes and find forgotten treasures hidden inside? While sorting through things in my storage unit I unearthed several bins filled with some of the Barbie dolls I designed when I worked at Mattel.  I also came across this Barbie Bazaar from October 1998. On the cover are Barbie and Kelly in cute outfits inspired by the clothes sold at the time at The Gap. This Barbie and Kelly Gift Set was a Gap exclusive back in 1997 when I was working in the “Customized” department.  I was one of a small group of designers who created the dolls that were destined to become store exclusives. It was a fun place to work. We kind of  “flew under the radar” so to speak. We presented most of our creations in small meetings with the sales people and lower-level marketing. Approvals were usually quick and easy.

Although I remember a lot about the project, I don’t remember who worked on the designs. We created two dolls for the Gap in the late 1990’s and I know I worked on one of them, I just can’t remember if it was the Barbie & Kelly gift set or the Gap Barbie Exclusive from 1996. Regardless of which member of our design team created the look, the dolls came out very cute.

Barbie and Kelly Gap Exclusive Barbie wore jeans, of course, and a red hooded sweatshirt with “Gap” in big letters on the front, and Kelly came with a matching one. I love that they’re carrying Gap’s signature logo paper shopping bag too.

Barbie and Kelly Dance Recital Gift Set

I designed a few Barbie and Kelly gift sets in the late 1990’s. Once I put the sisters together on the stage as ballet dancers. The dolls were supposed to be an exclusive for one large chain of stores, but the set tested so well it was taken from the customized line and put into the “main line”. It sold everywhere and even got it’s own national commercial.

Ballet Recital Barbie and Kelly Gift Set

Shopping Fun Barbie And Kelly Gift Set

Occasionally I was assigned one or two main line dolls. In these situations there was no hiding. I presented my ideas at one of the important meetings with the heads of the company, including Jill Barad. After struggling for months to get the concept for this Barbie and Kelly right I took the dolls in front of Ms. Barad and all the other marketing heads. Jill took one look at my dolls and said “Kids love to shop at the grocery store. Put Kelly in a shopping cart and have her grab items off the shelf and put them in the cart.” And you know, she was right. The gift set came out really cute. Barbie and kelly shopping fun

Shoppin’ Fun Barbie and Kelly gift set also spent some time on TV.

Kelly was a fun little doll to work on. Finding the Barbie Bazaar Magazine really brought back some fond memories. Found anything nostalgic in one of your storage bins recently?

Comments (5)

  1. October 1, 2014 - 11:02 AM

    Hi Heather, thanks for sharing this, the sets are great! So it was a trip down memory lane for you, finding that Barbie Bazaar issue :-). I look forward to your next post!

  2. Nilsa
    July 18, 2015 - 8:38 AM

    Love the old Kelly dolls. There are over 200 in my house ( including friends and Tommy).

    Too bad she is not around any more.

    Thanks for the time travel!

    • August 28, 2015 - 11:55 AM

      I thought she was so cute. Sad to hear they’re not making her anymore. I guess I didn’t really notice that she’d disappeared but now that I think about it I haven’t seen a little Kelly at the toy store in ages.

      • Nilsa
        August 28, 2015 - 12:48 PM

        Kelly was retired in 2010. Chelsea replaced Kelly in 2011.

        She has longer legs than Kelly, she isn’t a cute toddler, she is like 5 or 6 years old.

        I still prefer Kelly.
        Have a nice weekend.