Oh, the plethora of dolls, animals, and toys made during the 1980s when I was growing up! It seemed like every week there would be another commercial–usually on Saturday mornings when we watched episodes of the Smurfs or He Man, etc. There it was: an advertisement for some new doll or toy. That is where most of the popular 80s dolls were introduced to us children, especially as Christmas approached. In this post, I have made a list of popular 80s dolls that I remember quite well. If you were around back then, perhaps you remember some of these too! Come, follow me back to yesteryear as we remember them.
From the invention of this doll and their mass-production, Barbie dolls have maintained their popularity throughout the decades. It really was a revolution for play dolls. There were other dolls before Barbie, such as porcelain dolls with changeable clothes of the later 19th century, but Barbie was smaller, made of plastic, and hence cheaper–making it more widely available and affordable. And they are still popular today! I know of few things from 1959 to the present that are still just as popular as ever.
Cabbage Patch Kids
Who can forget these adorable dolls. They were all the rage when I was a child. There was definitely something novel about them. What was unique was that their face was a soft plastic, but the rest of there body was soft cloth. The fabric for their arms, hands, and feet was memorable too. They were very huggable too, and the clothes were changeable. The hair was yarn-like, giving the dolls an old-fashioned look, while the plastic faces and expression gave them a modernity. Even I as a boy in the 80s had one because of the boy dolls that were made, which reminds me of another doll of the 80s–My Buddy.
I still remember the song and seeing the commercial flash before my eyes. “My Buddy, My Buddy and me! I think this was an attempt for retailers such as Mattel, Inc. to make more money by offering a line of dolls for boys. Though not historically a boy toy, this doll had the potential to reach both boys and girls. Most boys don’t ever want to play with a girl doll (and many boys wouldn’t want to play with any doll period); but some boys do like dolls as long as they are not “girly. Girls, on the other hand, don’t usually seem to mind so much what gender the doll is. They don’t mind a boy doll, especially if they have a girl one too.
The Strawberry Shortcake doll was originally a character that appeared on greeting cards in 1979, but was later made into a rag doll. Her design with red yarn hair and a bonnet with strawberry prints was charming; and it gained great popularity. My sister had this theme throughout her bedroom. She even made a shag rug with the design of Stawberry Shortcake created by using a crochet loop stitch. She had red hair too, so perhaps she related to Strawberry Shortcake. (Shhh! Don’t tell her I said that. She calls it strawberry blonde, not red; and I don’t want her breaking a slate over my head.) Amazingly, Strawberry Shortcake is making a comeback. Like other toys of the 80s, this doll has gained popularity once again now that the children of the 80s have children. I think parents enjoy getting toys for their children that they also had as a child. It is reminiscent marketing.
Remember getting a Sprite with your Sprite? It is all part of cute Rainbow Brite. She is a character, like Strawberry Shortcake, who got her big break by appearing in greeting cards. Later came dolls and even animated cartoons. She is a part of a magical world of sunshine characters, clouds, rainbows–even flying horses. Her little friend, Twink, is a creature known as a sprite. I think I remember McDonald’s having a promotional during the 80s that went something like “Buy a Sprite, get a sprite”, which meant, by buying the soft drink you could also get one of those plush sprite creatures either for free or for a discount. There were other sprites of various colors with names too. And who could forget one of the most captivating and most-loved characters, Starlite the flying horse? He actually flies without wings. There is no explanation. It is just a magical thing that happens, and it is probably better left unexplained. He has a multi-colored mane and tail like that of a rainbow. These dolls are quite creative, and like Strawberry Shortcake, they made a bit of a comeback several decades later.
These dolls were also popular in the 80s and now highly collectible. They had all different outfits and hair color. They were popular not only in the U.S. but internationally as well. These dolls are not babies. They are more like toddlers, though not intended for toddlers. They also posed uniquely into standing or crawling positions. The texture of the skin was also unique–some of them even made of vinyl.
1980s Dolls Now
There are so many others I could mention, but I am going to limit this post to those I most remember. And if you still have any of these dolls, you may have a few extra dollars if they are in decent condition. They are actually in high demand now. Again, the children of the 80s are now adults with children who are interested in popular toys, just as their parents were at their age. And there is a great power in nostalgia. Parents still retain an attachment to and connection with the past. It gives them joy to see their children enjoying the things they did. These dolls do that; and marketing and reproducing some of them has been very profitable. You may also find some of them on online auctions if you are interested. If you have a doll or toy that you really liked as a child, I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below and tell me about. As a doll maker, I am always interested in dolls and toys that folks like and enjoy. So tell me what you think. Oh, the impact of dolls! –a tangible medium of the past that helped shape our present.