PLAYER PROFILE: Adult barbie Enthusiasts

When you start building your barbie collection you inadvertently run across a world of barbie enthusiasts you had no idea existed.

There are thousands, seriously, thousands upon thousands of adults who love dolls and especially love dolls like barbies.

The adult enthusiasts fall into several broad categories:

  • NIB Collectors – these are the collectors who leave all dolls in their boxes. They never open them and they display them in their boxes. They call them “New in Box” (NIB), “Never Removed from Box” (NRFB) or “Mint in Box” (MIB) so I dub them the NIB Collectors for short.
  • Stand Collectors – these are the collectors who carefully remove them from their boxes and display them carefully on shelves or in cabinets. Collector Barbies always come with plastic stands and Stand Collectors use the stands to help their dolls stand up.
  • Adult Players – these are the adults who don’t leave the dolls in their boxes and don’t try to preserve them perfectly. They play with the dolls in various ways. Players might change clothes and shoes, cut and style hair or even pull off the heads and put them onto other bodies.

Adult Players are the most interesting to me because I have the most in common with them and I learn a lot from them regarding how to change dolls, repair dolls and basically get or make what I need or want for Leah’s Barbieland.

Adult Players also tend to fall into some general categories. Of course some people fall into several categories and others don’t fit in any cateogry at all.  Even with this in mind, I hope the classifications prove somewhat helpful.

Fashion Designers – the players who design and make clothes for their barbies.

Fashion Stylists – the players who artfully combine clothes, shoes, other accessories and hairstyles to bring a “look” together.

Fashion Photographers – the players who are able to take shots of their barbies (after styling) that have the look and feel of human fashion photography. These photographers often combine lighting, props and backgrounds to create a look. They also often carefully pose to dolls to achieve an expressive look and take care with stray hairs and focus.

Interior Decorators – the players who create intricate dioramas, most often of indoor settings. They combine wall coverings, furniture, textiles and props to make realistic settings.  These players often combine manufactured items with homemade items and a variety of materials used creatively to achieve a realistic setting.

Set Designers – these players take Interior Decoration activities to the next level by imposing boundaries on themselves that require even more ingenuity and tenacity than that of the average Interior Decorator. By choosing specific time periods, specific cultures or imagining inhabitants with highly developed personalities, they create challenges for themselves that require not just coming up with say, a couch for a room, but a couch that would be period appropriate and reflects the “taste” of the inhabitants.

Illustrators – these are the players who use dolls and props to illustrate ideas. These ideas may be simple or they may be complex. They may convey ideas in a single frame or they may use a short series of frames. They may narrate the frame or sequence and may even include a few lines of dialog.

Storytellers – these are the players that take their storytelling to a much more complex level by creating a long series of storyboards that convey a detailed story usually with extended dialog.

Filmmakers – these are the players that create video – not through a progression of stills but through well placed (or not so well placed) manipulations of dolls while a camera “rolls”. You can find hundreds of these on You Tube. Many seem like teens coming up with a crazy idea and executing it sloppily while others are extremely well executed and showcase advanced videography and post-production skills.

OOAKers – these are the players that remove doll makeup and paint completely new faces. Their creations are referred to as One-of-A-Kind or OOAKs.  They cut off the hair and change it dramatically. Some of them also design clothing and enter the dolls in contests.  Some of them create celebrity look-alikes. Others use the OOAK dolls in Illustrative sculptures. Still others sell their creations at a profit. Many of them have websites set up to showcase their work. Some offer online tutorials and at least one I’ve seen offers instructional DVDs.

Crafties – these are the players who dabble in just about every aspect of the miniature world. If the can’t get what they want, they’ll try to make it themselves. From furniture, to clothes to food. Since they enjoy being creative, they try making just about everything at one point or another. Others stick to a single craft – like furniture or food and get very good at it.

Trollers – these are the players who never stop thinking in miniature and see potential barbie items where ever they go. I was a Troller and a Crafty as a teen and I remember my mom opening a pizza box and seeing a plastic device meant to keep the pizza box from collapsing in the middle, “End Table!!!” Trollers see potential in dollhouse scale items (“that large light for a dollhouse living room could be a small light in my Barbieland”) as well as children’s toys (“that novelty eraser would make a great flower vase!”)

So those are the groups I have noticed so far. My plan is to start profiling some of the more interesting players I have met through eBay, Flickr and Facebook and try to share some of their insights and tips.  I would think these tips would be especially helpful to pre-teens and teens who want to continue playing with their collections but are starting to feel pressured about being “too old” for “playing with dolls.”

This blog should provide proof that real world skills can be developed through so-called play as well as evidence that many well-adjusted adults participate in barbie-related creative activities and derive the usual satisfaction from it that most hobbies bring.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Vanessa says:

    Great posts. You seemed to have covered all the categories. I like that you are reaching out to the younger ladies. I have quite a few pre teens that have reached out to me from YouTube.

  2. Vanessa – I was thinking of you when I wrote the sections on Storytellers and Crafties. Did you see yourself in those descriptions?

  3. Basil says:

    I found this website through and . . . I’m an adult player who according to your handy guide up here falls into the category of storyteller. I use my dolls to entertain myself, explore scenarios, and create stories. I have about 300 dolls that I have worked very hard to make as diverse as possible.

    I can’t express how much joy finding this blog has given me. Me and my husband are thinking about having kids next year and to see how you’ve used your own love of dolls as not only something you can share with your daughter, but as something to enrich her as a person as well. Wow! You are truly an inspiration as I have been increasingly unsure as to how to deal with my own collection if/when I have a child of my own. (Not to mention it’s nice to know there are people out there like me.)

    Sorry for the long winded-ness! I would just like to finally add how extra happy it made me to see your Alvin Ailey doll out of her box, being played with. I have her as well and she is my absolute favorite doll. Your daughter has good taste!

    I have experimented on my own dolls with tattoos, piercings, and hair dye but I can’t wait to try some locks and halos! Thanks again!

    1. Basil –

      you HAVE to check out the commentors on my blog. You will find so many exist and they are a really fun group of people!! Look on my blogroll for starters – I don’t have that many blgos on my list and I have to add my friend Lola who just started a blog. Do you have any pics of your stories? Where can we see them?

    2. Victoria Stephenson says:

      I enjoy playing with my Barbies and love making up stories with them as well as painting their nails and doing their hair and changing their outfits even though im an amateur i try making them clothes sometimes, I talk to my barbies as if their opinion is the best, my barbies are very opinionated and i pretend to give them discussion groups to make me connect better with the world. i thought i was on my own with it im 22 and sometimes feel like a social outcast

      1. Lisa says:

        I can relate to that! I’ve loved barbie dolls for 40 years! Always will. I’m new to this website. It’s been fun to check it out. None of my friends still enjoy the idea of barbies, so I have not had anyone to share ideas with or fun doll finds. While I can’t afford the high end collecting, I do enjoy what I already have and add to it as I can. I open some things and leave some things in the box. I set up houses, change clothes, arrange families and make things. I’m not sure just where I’d fit in with the above descriptions, as I could fit into several. I can’t really sew and I’m lucky I know how to use a point and click camera! I’ve made several things with cardboard, fabric, tape and glue that can actually be used by the dolls. It would be nice to get feed back from other adult fans of barbie. Is there such a thing as pen pals who enjoy this common interest? Thanks to all who made this web site and to all who added their thoughts!

  4. Cupcake says:

    Lol, I definatly fall into to “crafties” catigory! I remember once I saw an awesome Doll air plane on a blog, I wanted it so bad, but I ended up making it out of a cardboard box, tape and felt!

  5. Rachel says:

    Well I most definitely relate to the Troller and Craftie! Was a interesting read! Thanks!

  6. Madelyn Guadalupe says:

    I am obsessed with Barbie shoes and I love trying to make my own Barbie stuff so I am attempting to make a walkin closet for all her shoes and accessories but haven’t found a good tutorial have any suggestions? Sincerely Madd4dabarbs:)

  7. Rogue says:

    Great post, I enjoyed it.
    I’m getting back into playing with Barbie (type) dolls, aged 24. Unfortunately I don’t have my old dolls since I donated them to the charity shop, but I’m buying more of them again.
    Some of them aren’t actual Barbies, but so long as they’re a similar size/shape/look, I don’t mind too much.
    I like making corset-style dresses for my dolls; I just find them the easiest to make! Cut a hole in an old sock, or use some of the sleeve of an old top.Make a few holes on each side, lace a ribbon through, tie a bow and voila! An individual dress not found in stores.
    Partly because fashion doll clothes are outrageously expensive now (in my opinion – wish I’d kept some I used to own!), and sometimes if I think the doll’s original clothes are (sorry) a bit slutty. I like the clothes my dolls wear to reflect my own taste, which is slightly (although not massively) modest. Princessy dresses are always cute, it’s the mini-dresses so many dolls seem to come with that I’m not too keen on.
    Thanks for providing a space where I can see other grown women play with dolls too!

  8. Celine says:

    I love your website. I have started doing Barbie Dioramas to re-create scenes (with narrative) from my friend’s life. She looks like a Barbie, she is so beautiful and glamorous, and she has an exciting life with lots of Facebook pictures to document her adventures, so it’s easy to come up with ideas. I have been a Barbie fan since I was 5 years old and Barbie was new on the market (I’m 55), so doing the dioramas is great fun for me, and my friend is delighted with seeing her life in miniature; the response from her FB fans has been overwhelming! It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me. I’d love to share some of my work with you if you’re interested!

  9. Bambuc says:

    Hi Kristl!

    I really like this article. I would like to translate to my mother language, in Hungarian. Can I do?
    I am a modern doll collector and hobby writer about dolls, with 200-250 barbie and other modern dolls at home, but I’m not exactly in your category. Probably I’m a RESEARCHER, who not just collect dolls, but write articles, descriptions to help identifying the dolls. My little daughter didn’t like so much “my barbies”, because she’s has her mini dolls and My Little Ponies. But we often play together role-playings.

    Greeting and congratulation for your blog!

    Bambuc from Hungary

  10. joan says:

    Thank you for this article!! I’ve realized that Barbies were probably the beginning of my creating worlds of characters that I now write plays with. I just found my old collection for the first time I twelve years and am so happy to find that I’m not weird for playing with them!!

  11. Cerise says:

    The term ‘OOAKers’ isn’t what is normally used, the correct term is ‘customizers’. ‘OOAK Artist’ is also used, but normally only on custom dolls advertised for sale.

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