Barbie and "Le Nouveau Théâtre de la Mode Created Especially by BillyBoy*"
The rendition of the black dress that BIllyBoy* had created in full-size for his friend and muse at the time, socialite and former top model Bettina, this design also lavishly painted by René Gruau for him, was not to his expectations when executed by Mattel. Nevertheless, it still was a black dress, an innovation for Barbie which did not have one since “Solo in the Spotlight” and “Black Magic Ensemble”.
The doll also had black sunglasses and black nail polish, “just like BillyBoy*! ”, as it was advertised on the original stark black BillyBoy* designed packaging. The gold necklace was directly inspired by his lavish gold chain necklace series, which the most famous women of the time wore everywhere throughout the world and the special loop shaped in a figure eight form was directly moulded after one of the components of his own jewelery creations. But more importantly, the BillyBoy* “Nouveau Théâtre de la Mode” Barbie was the first designer Barbie and it was the first time that a designer’s name appeared on a Barbie doll box.
The prototypes, designed during this period are extremely significant in many ways. First, they show an extensive use of fabric types that were not at all in the Barbie look of the time (mostly nylon and acrylic fabrics as I mentioned before). BillyBoy* chose a selection of “real” or what is referred to as "noble" materials including silk velvet, corduroy, leather, embroidered fabrics, wool, cotton and linen. Most of the time, the outfits were directly draped on the doll and permanently sewn, details sometimes were glued.
We were thrilled to discover that we did not need the seamstress anymore and in fact, BillyBoy*’s inspiration was totally liberated by this decision. What was important after all was the look, the allure as Diana Vreeland, which BillyBoy* admired greatly, would say. However, all outfits were conceived to be perfectly lined in silk, a detail that can be admired on the models actually executed by the seamstress, such as the yellow corduroy jacket for example.
BillyBoy* has always been a fast worker. A majority of his jewelery came from very quick sketches, which I had the responsability to translate into real designs. It was the same thing for his Barbie sketches. Rapidly executed in his witty and cartoonish style, they have the high fashion allure that BillyBoy* wanted to express. These sketches do not look like fashion sketches in a “fashion design school” style which BillyBoy* doesn’t like at all. They all look just like BillyBoy* drawings, very personal, expressing the instantaneity as well as the enthusiasm of this very creative and idealistic period. Sometimes the outfit was made from the sketch, sometimes it was the other way around.
Scintillating evening gowns
The evening gowns were scintillating, sometimes using intricately embroidered high fashion fabric, such as the embroidered gown in green and purple with a long scarf ending up a snake-like train, a true splendor, worn with black lace evening mittens. Variations on the tight strapless black evening gowns included red silk or velvet corsages, sometimes with a full length stole effect enhanced with rhinestones.
Other gowns included fur around the waist or trimming the hem of an overskirt (this idea was used for the BillyBoy* “Feelin’ Groovy Barbie”), with accents of gold leather, another winner in the early eighties. Asymmetry, with one-shoulder bouffant sleeve effect was used a lot. The motto, however, was “tight, and the tighter the better”. Very short strapless dresses were combined with full overskirts forming trains, very French haute couture indeed, using tasteful associations of colours such as silver lamé and two different shades of petrol blue.
Other gowns included shimmering lamés in rosy and gold tones, worn with a scarf forming hood, a Schiaparelli influence! More expected on Barbie, a gown with a full skirt in turquoise sequined fabric, with turquoise silk strapless bustier and a matching short vest with matching silk chiffon sleeves with ruffled cuffs. Emerald green taffeta was used to create a stunning sheath made of bands, worn with a white fur stole and matching emerald green pumps. This doll evokes Audrey Hepburn and was obviously inspired by her. Anis green was also used on a full skirted gown with silver chain crossed straps...and a white real fur stole.
Day and cocktail outfits
Some “cocktail” ensembles (BillyBoy* insisted to Mattel that Barbie SHOULD drink cocktails - it’ll loosen up that tight little smile a bit - just look on the Feelin’ Groovy box!) included tight skirts with gold leather bustiers and fur stole, sequined sheath with black velvet jacket with huge collar. References to "punk rock" were expressed in some of the models, notably a very sexy ensemble comprised of tight black velvet pants, and sequined knit wool short top, worn with a rich necklace with crosses and one cross earring! Black lace mittens and typically eighties pumps worn with lace socks. Very much “Like a Virgin”! (and thus perfect for Barbie). Other outfits included pants, like the charming and so stylish leisure ensemble comprised of orange linen pants and green and white striped wool sweater, worn with BillyBoy*-style choker, big loop earrings and contrasting henna red beehive. Benetton with a parisian haute couture touch!
The day outfits played on more sober moods, some of them reviving traditional Barbie looks and even Francie’s, such as the “Swinging Separates” in pink and acid green cotton, pants and top with a green ruffled edge. It was worn with white lace mittens and jewelery. In the same fabrics was also created a 1960s look for Barbie with a sleeveless sheath in big green and pale pink stripes, worn with a very chic white belt and short gloves and a sixties-style leather handbag. Another variation of this 60s look featured a similar cut dress but this time in turquoise corduroy worn with brown leather accessories: wide belt, handbag, gloves and of course, brown shoes. The scarf with blue polka dots was worn tightly wrapped about the head in a very 60s Italian film star style, very "dolce vita" indeed!
Other day outfits included pants, in turquoise blue satin worn with a shocking pink velvet coat with self belt and big hat, purple pants worn with a paisley shirt tight with a chain belt and big chain necklace (also very eighties) and a similar variation but this time with brown boots and tight shirt, worn with a daring purple turban. Another revival, the jacket with hood from “Open Road” inspired an elegant day ensemble in yellow corduroy with turquoise satin pants, worn with a bustier in gold leather! Shocking pink gloves completed the look, perfect for any chic ski resort.
A more adult audience
Full skirts were not represented as much, however, some prototypes includes them, such as the one in prune tones worn with a very nicely detailed purple cotton reversible military-ish jacket, leather bag and boots, completed with a big Cardin-esque felt beret, or a casual but elegant afternoon outfit comprised with a full skirt with a strapless top worn under a nice wool short-sleeved sweater and a scarf. Another very stylish ensemble, featured a knee-length black satin skirt with a sleeveless orange blouse worn with a fur-like white wool coat enhanced with coloured sequins, a very mod look re-visited with the eighties “glamrock” style. Many other designs were created, including very elaborate gowns. It is not difficult to understand how incredibly new and visionary these prototypes were, but it seemed very natural to BillyBoy*.