A plastic tan never fades! In 1971, Barbie kissed her mod years goodbye and welcomed Malibu Barbie #1067. She rocked the quintessential California surfer girl vibe with her blissfully tanned skin, blue eyes and platinum blonde hair – even though her roots peg her to be a native of Willows, Wisconsin! With California’s white beaches and Pacific blue waves, Malibu was the perfect setting for a new Barbie lifestyle. Golden couple, Malibu Barbie and Malibu Ken, could paddle out into the ocean to surf, roller skate on the boardwalk, make sandcastles and picnic at the beach or lay out and soak up the rays.
Mattel gave Malibu Barbie a fresh look. For the first time, she featured an open smile and her coy, sideways glance was updated to forward-looking eyes. Her TNT face was replaced with the Stacey face mold. She has long, straight, blonde hair with a slight off-center part and a smile much like Marcia Brady’s! Her lashes are painted on and she has soft coral lips. Malibu Barbie was ready for the surf in her powder blue swimsuit, lavender goggle glasses on top of her head and yellow beach towel.
Malibu Barbie established a look that first springs to mind, even to this day, when someone says “Barbie.” I was obsessed with the Sun Set Malibu dolls as a little girl in the early 70s; I dreamed of being a Cali girl. I grew up in Wisconsin and, in the late-90s, I moved to San Diego where I still reside. Coincidence? Was Malibu Barbie my inspiration? Especially since she, too, is from Wisconsin? :-)
The Malibu dolls were an instant hit so Mattel added Malibu friends and family soon after. It also spawned licensed products, such as Colorform sets and coloring books. The tanned Malibu Sun Set included Barbie’s boyfriend Ken, little sister Skipper, cousin Francie, and her best friends P.J. and Christie. The introduction of the Sun Set family was an off-the-charts hit but, as Stephanie Deutsch, author of Barbie the First 30 Years, notes, “It sadly marked the beginning of the end of the "Golden Time of Vintage Barbie dolls." The following mass-produced, low-budget Barbies lacked the quality (lashes, elaborate hairstyles, etc.) and flair of the early Barbie dolls that collectors love so much.
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Malibu Barbie and her friends were produced from 1971 – 1984. In 1979, they were renamed from The Sun Set Malibu to Sun Lovin’ Malibu dolls and have tan lines. In 1981, they were renamed “Sunsational” Malibu dolls. That same year is the first year there was a black Ken doll, #3849, Sunsational Malibu Ken, who has a funky rooted afro. There were previous black male dolls in the Barbie line such as Brad and Curtis, but this was the first black Ken doll. In 1983, Mattel introduced a Latina Sunsational Malibu Barbie #4970. In 1983, the Malibu dolls were renamed “Sun Gold” Malibu dolls. The 1983 Sun Gold Malibu Barbie #1067 uses the SuperStar Barbie head mold. 1986 was the last year of the Malibu series of dolls.
Malibu Barbie was so popular that Mattel reinvented her in countless different versions throughout the years (see list below) such as the 1974 Sports Set Sun Valley Barbie skier, 1974 sailing Newport Barbie, several versions of 1975 Gold Medal (Olympic) Medal Barbie and a number of reproductions including 2013's Malibu Barbie by Trina Turk.
Below is a summary of Malibu Barbies produced from 1971 – 1975:
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