Once when I was seven, I was allowed to choose the numbers on a lottery ticket. And I won. I really won, not actually a big amount, but something that could get me a toy, something that most seven-years desire. A toy I got to choose because it was bought out of my money, the money I won. And I chose a Lego from the local toy store, because Barbies weren't available at that time in Romania's small provincial towns. Those dolls were something I got to see on TV in German advertising, and, with a bit of luck, a few times in Bucharest's toy stores, where they were sold for an exuberant amount of money. In my head at that time, Barbies were a wonder of the western world, available solely to blonde, beautiful rich and happy girls, not for Eastern Europeans freshly emerged communism.
The passing of time democratized the idea of Barbie dolls for Romanian girls and they become available to a larger and larger tranche of the population. They were now able to play with Barbie, her dog, Ken and even own Barbie's home or car in different sizes.
Fast forward to my oldest daughter's early childhood, when was never (really) into Barbies. As a toddler she adored the dwarfs figures from Snow White, Bambi, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell or Smee. Then, her preferences, expressed in letters for Santa or the Easter Bunny started evolving towards cerebral and artistic stuff. Starting with puzzles. Then, puzzles with more and more pieces. And then crayons, paintings and accessories, followed by DIY kits. Creative since forever, she never really enjoyed simply playing with dolls. In fact, her contact with Barbies has by colouring Barbie books or watching animated movies (Barbie In a Mermaid Tail, Princess Charm School, A Fashion Fairytale and The Princess And The Popstar, as her all-time favourites and watched on repeat). She also read some of the Barbie books, but none of those, inspired her into developing a desire for owning a doll.
My youngest one is still to young for Barbies. She likes (almost) all the princesses and Skye from Paw Patrol. She owns four versions of Ariel (two with tail and two without), two Cinderellas, Elsa and Snow White, but didn't express any desire of owning a Barbie yet. Maybe because of her age.
So, even though we live in a Barbie-free home, I had two one-on-one trips with each of them to see the famous Barbie Expo, that's been going on downtown (Les Cours Mont-Royal) for more than one year. And honestly, they both enjoyed it in their own way!
The little one was the first to get lucky. One morning I decided we played hooky from daycare and had a pleasant day together, which implied a trip downtown to the Romanian consulate on Sherbrooke. After finishing our errand, I whispered in her ear: "I have a surprise for you", which made her so excited that she laughingly asked me 9549585 times: What surprise? Tell me, what surprise", but I kept her asking until we crossed the street and she could see it for herself. "Is this the Barbie expo? Wooow". I like the one with pink, and the other one with pink", "oh, look, another pink"...and so on until we got to (almost) see them all, focusing on the pink ones.
During a similar trip with my oldest on her ped day, I could explore. I admit, her "look, look at this one" attitude played a big role. She became enthusiastic every time she spotted a pop star or a personality the knew, or recognized a traditional dress from a country she heard about. All in all, she liked it and honestly wants to return.
As for me, I noticed the New York setting, the Oscar de la Renta marriage scene, or the other bridal dresses (by designers like Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier), being horrified by the Corpse bride.
I even watched the defile for a few minutes (!!!). So I noticed there is a whole range of Barbies inspired by the sixties (My favourites: The ones with Oreo- or Coca Cola-themed dresses), some inspires by the '30s (among them the first Avon door-to-door sales representative). I saw the range Barbie dolls dressed in traditional costumes from several geographical regions (an African one was even carrying a baby in a wrap). Then, there were the fictional characters and celebrities: the Adams Family, Elvis and Priscilla Presley, Beyonce, JLo, Marlyn Monroe and so many more. Last, but not least, I would like to mention the designer-inspired dresses: entires rows in which Barbies are dressed in different styles, "by" famous designers.
However, I really find the defile idea awesome: A whole miniature fashion show is recreated before the visitors' eyes. Barbies play the role of models, critics or VIPs that very rich and important enough to get a seat in the front row. She was so amazed by the show that she even filmed it.
Why I would recommend visiting the exposition? It's exciting for girls of (almost) ages (So far, I heard about experiences of girls aged two, three, four, five, seven, eight, or eleven, who genuinely adored it), and even for grown-ups, according to what MTLBlog said last year. More than that, it's a fun educational activity: with their passion for Barbie dolls, girls can learn about fashion design, traditional costumes, Tv and pop personalities. They can see what kind of clothing people used to wear decades ago and what they wear now in countries they only read about.
The expo officially opened more than one year ago and seems to keep lasting.