Uncovering Ireland's Barbie history

Collage of Irish Barbies
Collage of Irish Barbies

Picture Barbie and your mind goes to a chic girl about town, dressed head to toe in pink couture; but Barbie has actually sported looks from around the world over her 60 years because she is nothing if not cosmopolitan.

It's Barbie's universe people, and we're just pedestrians passing through.

Did you know there are Barbies which represent cultures across the globe and time periods throughout history - including some rather eccentric Irish editions? 

Barbie's 'Dolls of the World' collection was created in 1980 and reintroduced in 2012 was created to celebrate diverse cultures. It has drawn criticism for reinforcing outdated and offensive stereotypes.

And now, they are all collector’s items gaining value on the collector’s market.  Sell all your crypto people, your investment needs to follow Barbie. 

With the live-action movie Barbie in cinemas tomorrow, a wave of nostalgia has swept over collectors and those who thought they had left dolls in their childhood and online sites such as eBay and Amazon are hot beds of Barbie trading.

The film also has an Irish connection, with Nicola Coughlan from Derry Girls playing an Irish diplomat Barbie.

She's not the first Irish Barbie of course, so suigh síos (sit down) everybody, we're taking a tour through rarely-seen, mostly red-headed, Irish Barbies across the ages.

Nicola Coughlan as Barbie
Nicola Coughlan as Barbie


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1 The Legends of Ireland Spellbound Lover Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £111

Though her emerald gown evokes a fanciful princess, the Spellbound Lover Barbie hints at the 12th century legend of Iseult, an Irish noblewoman.

The legendary medieval tale of Tristan and Iseult has the pair fatefully drink a magic potion, binding their souls in a tragic romance. This Barbie channels Iseult's mystical story and sorrow of the spellbound lovers.  Probably not a story you'd encourage your rugrats to recreate during playtime.

The Spellbound Lover Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
The Spellbound Lover Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

2 The Irish dancer Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £19

This lively doll skips the tragic backstory for stereotypical cheerful Celtic charm.

Dressed to impress at a feis (Irish dance and music festival), this Barbie's vibrant look channels Celtic chic.

Though molded in plastic with curls that will never, ever drop, everything about this Barbie radiates the fun and energy of a jig. Roll up that living room mat and let your aunties see you still know your sixes and sevens.

The Irish Dancer Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
The Irish Dancer Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

3 The special limited edition Irish Barbie from the Dolls of the World Collection

Price (Ebay) :  £30

This royal Irish Barbie hails from a 2001 Dolls of the World collection from Barbie makers Mattel.

Representing ancient Celtic royalty, her traditional attire reflects the storied kingdoms of ancient Ireland. With kingdom backstories printed on each box, the Princess dolls were also intended to teach their owner a little Irish history.

Dolls of the world Princess of Ireland Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
Dolls of the world Princess of Ireland Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

4 The Legends of Ireland Aine Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £140

This ethereal Barbie channels Áine, the ancient Irish goddess of love.

With her flowing emerald gown, golden accents, and compulsory fiery red locks, the Faery Queen of Munster doll evokes Áine's mystical allure.

Her painted visage and ornate crown complete a look both regal and magical. We might have borrowed that sentence from the side of the box.

Áine Barbie doll. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
Áine Barbie doll. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

5 The Bard Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £170

This Celtic bard Barbie is intended to bring ancient Ireland to life through story and song.

With (still compulsory) red hair and harp in hand, she evokes Ireland's treasured tradition of poetic lorekeepers.

Her elaborate attire and talent for reciting hundreds of tales channels the intrigue of traveling poets who preserve legends across the countryside.

The Bard Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
The Bard Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

6 The Legends of Ireland Faerie Queen Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £128

This faerie queen Barbie is said to represent the mystique of Ireland's folklore. A bit like Bard Barbie.

With her gown and wings, she evokes the allure of the fairy folk who feature prominently in Celtic tales but we're still not sure we'd want to meet her alone in the woods at night.

Legends of Ireland Faerie Queen Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
Legends of Ireland Faerie Queen Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

7 Deirdre of Ulster Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £400

The legend of Deirdre spotlights the unfettered spirit and tragic fate of a storied Northern Irish heroine.

Promised as a child bride to the aging King Conchobar, she flees with her true love, the warrior Naoise.

Their happiness ends abruptly at the vengeful king's hands.

While the mature themes of this mythic tale are heavy, this Barbie is meant to capture Deirdre's vibrancy and courage.

Her red (what else) locks and ornate gown are as lovely as one would expect on a Barbie, just don't ask mum and dad too many questions about her story. It does not have a happy ever after. 

Deidre of Ulster Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)
Deidre of Ulster Barbie. (Credit Mattel Inc.)

8 1984 Vintage Irish Barbie

Price (Ebay) : £22

This Barbie doll is said to showcase iconic Irish style with her emerald and lace ensemble.

A fitted white blouse is worn with a shimmering green skirt and matching shawl. The 100% obligatory red hair flows freely, framed by a white lace cap -  because anyone who was anyone was most definitely wearing a white lace cap in the eighties. Most Definitely.

1984 Irish Vintage Barbie. (Credit Mattle Inc.)
1984 Irish Vintage Barbie. (Credit Mattle Inc.)

Barbie hits theatres on the 21st of July.