8 Barbies From the 80s That Embody the Decade

Pull out your Aquanet and scrunchies because we’re taking a look back at the Barbies in the 80s that topped holiday wish lists for years.

Published December 28, 2023
1981 Golden Dream Barbie

Barbie in the 80s committed just as many fashion crimes as the people who designed her. But for 80s kids, those sequined, metallic, neon outfits with flounces and shoulder pads for days still trump the plainer Barbies of today. Pull out your Aquanet and lace high tops because we’re taking a look back at the 80s Barbies that topped holiday wish lists for years.

Wicked 80s Barbies We Begged Our Parents For

Barbies are totally unique because they capture a specific moment in time better than anything else. One look back on a Barbie from your childhood, and you can name the many pop culture references or trends that her look is based on.

For me, it was Barbie Jewel Girl with her open midriff and sticky jewels that were supposed to be used to decorate her outfit (but I used them to give her belly button jewelry). It was the early 2000s, you know? The same goes for 80s kids and these wicked 80s Barbies.

Roller Skating Barbie (1980)

Roller Skating Barbie, with her micro shorts and purple bomber jacket, was a byproduct of people’s favorite pastime in the late 70s — roller disco. With curtain bangs and red knee-high socks, this was every aspiring roller derby queen’s dream. What better way to ring in the new decade than with a BeeGees album and Barbie at the roller rink?

Golden Dream Barbie (1980)

When you think about what a Barbie from the 1980s would look like, Golden Dream Barbie is exactly what you’d expect. Decked out from head to toe in shiny gold lamé, she could’ve walked off the Dynasty set. It’s this high glitz and glamor that appeals to kids like crows looking at a shiny thing and needing to pick it up. Today, she might be the most remembered 80s Barbie of the bunch.

And we’d like to believe that Wonder Woman’s golden eagle armor in the box-office flop Wonder Woman 1984 was at least a teensy bit inspired by Golden Dream Barbie.

Fashion Jeans Barbie (1981)

Brooke Shields. 1980. Calvin Klein. Need we say more? Just a year after that infamous ad campaign, Mattel released Fashion Jeans Barbie, and for elementary schoolers who couldn’t afford Calvin Klein jeans, she was the next best thing.

And we’re not saying that Footloose stole Barbie’s bright pink and tucked-in jean combo for its iconic red boots dance scene, but we are saying Barbie did it first.

Magic Curl Barbie (1981)

If you thought Barbie could escape the perm hell that was the 1980s, you're gravely mistaken. For all the aspiring cosmetologists, Magic Curl Barbie was the best thing since Cathy Quick Curl. Today, every Barbie has a gimmick. I remember my favorite 00s Barbie from my childhood had a jelly stomach that you could bend and twist like all the pop divas of the time. But in the 80s, Barbies that came with instructions were cool.

Twirly Curls Barbie (1982)

The vintage Barbie with the best hair is, without a doubt, Totally Hair Barbie. But the less remembered Twirly Curls Barbie walked so Totally Hair Barbie could run. This Barbie with her Barbie-pink dress isn’t very striking, but your eyes can’t help but wander to all of that long, shiny hair just waiting to be played with.

But the best part about this Barbie is that the hair-twisting gadget that came with her was a harbinger of the perils that were to come. I can still remember watching classmates getting their hair caught in the many mechanical braiding tools that were all the rage in the late 90s. If you were lucky enough, though, you got some practice in with Twisty Curls Barbie before it was your own hair on the line.

Great Shape Barbie (1983)

Great Shape Barbie (oof what a name) embraced all things jazzercise and aerobics, which exploded in the 1980s. From Jane Fonda to Suzanne Summers, obsessive home fitness became the latest weight loss fad that swept the nation, and Barbie — like the cultural mirror she is — bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

But as a kid, you were less focused on the mental gymnastics of the workout and more on how fun it looked to be bouncing around to some upbeat music. That turquoise jumpsuit alone would’ve drawn kids in, but those rainbow leg warmers closed the deal. Who didn’t want to look as glamorous as Barbie when they walked into gym class?

Fast Fact

Great Shape Barbie had her turn on the big screen as one of the latest renditions of Barbie in Pixar’s Toy Story 3.

Day-to-Night Barbie (1984)

Looking at 1984’s Day-to-Night Barbie from fresh millennial eyes, I can’t help but be struck with how much her shoulder-padded suit proportions are giving less boss babe and more Jim Carrey in the Mask. But, as we’ve already said, kids love a gimmick, and the two-in-one outfit was a great marketing tactic.

Jewel Secrets Barbie (1986)

Another gimmicky mid-80s Barbie that kids ate up was Jewel Secrets Barbie. Upon first glance, she’s not all that special, resembling something closer to those creepy doll pillow toppers than a stylish fashion doll of her acclaim. But read the fine print, and you’ll discover that her dress turned into a little slouch bag! Thirty years later, and we still love a 2-for-1 kind of toy.

80s Barbie Was as Bold as Ever

Barbies in the 1980s may have fallen prey to some of the worst trends from the decade, but the ones that have stuck with people for years aren’t the simple fashion dolls. Rather, it’s the special ones with the cool accessories and gadgets that still impress us today.

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8 Barbies From the 80s That Embody the Decade