’80s Barbie Playsets and Accessories From My Childhood

I’ve played with Barbie off and on since I received my first dolls for my fourth birthday. (They were Malibu Barbie and Skipper and Roller Skating Ken) This article isn’t about the dolls. It’s about the toys I had that went with the dolls.

1. Barbie Corvette(s) 

When I watched Gremlins over the holidays, I noticed the car Gizmo drives through Montgomery Ward during the climactic confrontation was not only a Barbie Corvette, but the exact same Barbie Corvette I had. For some reason, I thought he drove a generic red convertible, but that must have been from the tie-in books. 

I had two Barbie Corvettes because I had a brother and his favorite toys were always the vehicles. He would play with action figures too, but when he got to pick a toy, it was usually a Hot Wheel, Matchbox, or Micro Machines. He could probably get at least two cars for the same price as my one doll or doll outfit. My Barbie Corvette was probably just a giant Hot Wheel to him. 

I thought it would be fun to take a picture of a plush Gizmo in one of the cars with one of my Barbie dolls in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to check the box where I thought I was keeping the cars before I bought Gizmo. 

When I did finally get around to looking in the box, the Corvettes weren’t there. I did impress myself with the color coordination I had going on with this display. I ended up having to move my William “Squishy Bill” Shakespeare to a different shelf in another room because he didn’t fit this color scheme (light brown, white, and blue).

2. Barbie Dreamhouse (Colorforms version) 

I loved playing with Colorforms. Last summer I wrote about a special retro Care Bears set I found online, but the two sets I remember having as a child were this Barbie set and a Peanuts set. 

My other favorite way to play with this particular set was to leave all the sticky pieces in the box and lean the backdrop against my bedroom wall and open it up. Then I would play with my physical Barbie dolls in front of it, pretending the dolls were in the rooms. I felt like I was putting on a play with my dolls. 

3. Barbie visor 

When I think of my earliest memories of Barbie, this image is the first to come to mind. During this period, illustrations of Barbie frequently showed her hair colored in golden yellow swirls with stars and rainbows in the background.

I think one of the reasons the Barbie brand has been able to sustain itself over the decades is that there was always a fantasy element along with real world inspiration. On the realistic side, Barbie has had careers like astronaut, nurse/doctor, chicken farmer, and chef. Fantasy Barbie lines have had Barbie as a fairy or mermaid.

Some of the modern Barbie models have been articulated with greater flexibility for their limbs, making it easier to pose the dolls. I recently purchased two brand new Barbie dolls for myself. I’m going to start posing them sometimes for my social media feeds, but I’m also looking forward to playing with my young nieces. One of my new dolls is articulated and the other is a tall doll from the Fashionista line.

4. Barbie Bathtubs

I don’t know why I needed two bathtubs for Barbie. I wasn’t supposed to submerge my Barbies in water often because of the possibility of mold with living in a humid climate. Children are easily distracted and I may not have had the wherewithal back then to dry the Barbies after playing with actual water, as I would now. 

The bathtub with the towel rack was nowhere near as frustrating to set up as the one with the window and mirror. I could never get the window and mirror to stay up on the spa bathtub at the same time, so I didn’t try very often. The pump was a lot of fun to play with. Either way, that’s a lot of “glass” near a vessel intended to hold water. Also it’s a lot of reflective surface near what would most likely be a naked doll.

5. Dream Store (Make Up Counter)

I was excited to receive this on a childhood Christmas morning. As an adult, I found it strange real eye shadow and blush were part of a children’s toy. 

The back of the box does have a warning to keep the make-up away from fabric because of the possibility of staining. It appears to have had the capability to stain plastic too from the way it darkened my Malibu Barbie’s facial complexion. Remember the Friends episode where Ross got stuck in the spray tan booth?

6. Barbie Bed and Nightstand

This is a cute little bed and nightstand. I was always impressed with the fact that Barbie could watch television in bed. I wouldn’t get my own television in my bedroom until after I graduated college as one of my gifts. 

I have a vague memory of going to one of our malls when I lived in Chicago with one of my aunts and that aunt buying me the bed at the toy store in the mall. Unfortunately, the memory is vague because I was so young, I don’t remember which of my four aunts it was. 

7. Play Pak

This play set didn’t have a name, but it came with an inflatable raft, fishing pole, scuba tank, camping food and drink containers, and a puffy plastic fish. I used to have trouble putting the scuba tank on Barbie, so I would hand it to my brother. He was always really good with that kind of thing. 

8. Barbie Loves McDonald’s

I’ve been thinking about this set since I listened to the TRN 1989 Sears Wishbook Catalog show with the Barbie Burger King counter. It was fun to hear the guys talk about staging a brawl with wrestling action figures. 

I found most of the pieces that went with the set. I think I only have a Big Mac box and fries for one doll at a time, but I don’t know what I did with the drink cups. Anytime I didn’t have something, I just pretended it was there. 

There’s even seating in this set for the dolls. It took me a minute to get my new Fashionista situated, but I was able to get her on the bench. A regular blond (articulated) Barbie acted as the server. 

The breakfast menu is visible alongside the lunch/dinner menu. There are products listed that the real restaurants don’t serve anymore like cookies and there is artwork featuring Ronald McDonald on one side and a box of fries on the other.

I hope everyone enjoyed this trip through Barbie’s various adventures over the 1980s. This toy line has only increased in its variety and diversity over the decades. One of the sets I bought for my nieces for a birthday a few years ago was Chicken Farmer Barbie, but they’ve also had Astronaut and Scientist Barbies.

About Karen Flieger 75 Articles
I was born in the late 1970’s, spent my childhood in the 1980’s, and my pre-teen and teen years in the 1990’s. I graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2001 with a B.A. in English. I collect various forms of media (books, music, movies, and television shows) as well as plush toys, dolls, and Funko figures.

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