top of page

Bratz Or Barbie? The Influence Plastic Dolls Have on Body Image

We are all familiar with the iconic plastic girl squad, Bratz, and the global fashionista, Barbie. To some they are just another toy to entertain their child, but they are big names in the fashion world. Having shaped trends and become '00s culture icons; the influence of these dolls on the fashion industry and on the young girls who look up to them is both good and bad.

Bratz dolls provide a more racially diverse group of girls, allowing not just white girls to see themselves in their toys. Barbie has been more problematic. Her dangerously thin figure being responsible for young girls striving to achieve unrealistic and unhealthy body standards. However, both dolls have generated different responses from audiences.

The Barbie body image

Barbie has been an icon within the toy and fashion industry since she hit the shops in 1959. Children want to see a reflection of themselves in their toys and idolise them. Whilst this is not necessarily a problem if your favourite toy is Buzz Lightyear. Barbie is representative of a 'realistic woman'. And is given to impressionable young girls which is incredibly damaging for their self-esteem and the relationship with their bodies.

If Barbie's measurements were translated onto a real woman's body - her body fat percentage would be so low that she would not be able to menstruate. She would also be incapable of lifting her own head up. This is shocking when thinking that this doll is being given to girls, whom many will grow up wanting to achieve these body standards. Yet, in reality if a real women were to look like Barbie they would not be considered healthy.

More diverse versions of Barbie have been released - curvy, tall, and petite. Whilst this is a step in the right direction in accommodating to a wider, more realistic range of sizes that is more inclusive. The measurements of the 'curvy' Barbie are still far slimmer than the average 16-24 year old woman in the UK. Some children even considered her to be overweight. This shows the extent of damage original Barbie has done in warping children's healthy perspectives of their bodies.

Passion for fashion... and inclusivity

Bratz, on the other hand, have a more positive impact than Barbie. With their launch in 2001, Bratz have since filled a gap in the market that Barbie just couldn't do - be inclusive. Bratz dolls are made up of 75% ethnic minorities. The original quartet included: Jade (Asian), Cloe (Caucasian), Sasha (African-American) and Yasmin (Hispanic).

This revolutionised the toy industry with the dolls allowing more young girls to identify with them and feel represented. Bratz have spread and promoted positive messages about being proud to be who you are from the get-go. The slogan of one of their adverts being:

"It's good to be yourself, it's good to be a Bratz." Bratz advert

The focus behind the brand is encouraging young girls to express themselves. To embrace their individuality and be confident in who they are. Bratz have since released an array of films, a TV series, and sold over 125 million dolls worldwide in the first five years. So, we can safely say they've been a hit.

Bratz or Barbie?

The issue with comparing Bratz to Barbie is you are comparing the products of two different generations. Although Barbie has attempted to adapt to the changing times (e.g. introducing dolls with different body types, ethnicities, and professions). Their attempt to be more inclusive is still not as effective. Barbie is based on representing a 'real' woman's body. Whereas Bratz are quite clearly cartoon-like.

These dolls have impacted the fashion industry in several ways. Not only do they influence what clothes girls will want to wear, but how girls want to look when they're older.

It's safe to say that Barbie has generated a more negative response to her unrealistic body standards, even if it is subconsciously. Some girls have even taken it to the extreme such as Valeria Lukyanova. She has transformed herself into a 'human Barbie' with makeup and a gruelling health regime. An extreme example, yes. But this just shows how much of an impact a little plastic doll can have on you as you grow up.

Bratz have certainly made more of a good impression in the media and amongst parents than Barbie.

Bratz promote positive messages reassuring young girls it is good to be themselves. They introduced a more diverse, inclusive, and empowering role model to young girls - making Barbie look quite outdated.


bottom of page