Vintage TLC: Detangled


Buying vintage Barbie dolls is especially fun when I get the chance to fix up what would otherwise be a disaster of a doll. Recently, I got my hands on a Ponytail #6/7 with a number of problems. If something can go wrong with a doll, it’s happening to this poor girl! Matted hair, a split neck and hairline, hot pink dye stains, dirt, worn face makeup, etc. I’ve got my work cut out for me!

pontyail-6-face-neck-splitIt’s hard to know where to start with a doll in need of so much TLC! So, I decided to just start at the top and work my way down. Fixing the hair on this doll will at least make her displayable, (with the right outfit that covers her problem areas).

On the up side, this doll’s bangs are perfect. The curls are soft and styled correctly. The rest of her hair, however, is a total matted mess. To make things worse, someone along the way put baby powder in her hair which created a paste-like substance on her scalp. A kind word of advice: Don’t put baby powder in vintage hair to dry out the oily buildup that sometimes occurs. It doesn’t work!


The first goal is combing out this rat’s nest! Detangling comes down to just a few steps:

  1. Remove all rubber bands. Sometimes the rubber dries out and is stuck in the hair. Try to remove as many of the pieces as possible.
  2. Divide the hair into small sections and work one section at a time.
  3. Use a small plastic comb or Barbie brush to gently work through the tangles. Start at the bottom of the hair, not at the roots! Work your way up to the scalp.
  4. Don’t pull too hard. It might take longer to slowly pick through tangles, but it’s better than pulling out a clump of hair. Re-rooting is a much more difficult repair!

Once I got the tangles out, it was time for a shampoo. The baby powder “paste” had broken apart during the de-tangling process, but the residue was still clumping near the scalp and it left the hair looking very dull.

Vintage Barbie hair can be fragile and has been known to react to shampoos, conditioners, and soaps in various unpleasant ways (most notably hair color can change). For this doll, I used 7th Generation Free and Clear dish soap. A little bit goes a long way and its a gentle cleanser.

Then, let the hair air dry. DO NOT use a hairdryer. Barbie hair is essentially made of plastic, acrylic, or saran. It’ll frizz or melt under heat.

I ran a comb through her hair once more and ended up with what looked like a giant ball of frizz. No worries, though. I expected it. As a ponytail doll, she originally had set curls. They don’t just go away, so when they are combed out, they poof out.


It’s not a good look! However, it is easy to fix. All she needs is a simple reset. Using a fine-toothed plastic comb, I smoothed out the hair from root to tip the best I could. Then, I put her ponytail back into place. I’m not going to lie – this part took forever! Through multiple trial and error attempts, I finally got the height and placement of the ponytail just right. I secured it in place using small, clear plastic rubber bands I found in the hair care aisle at Target.

With the ponytail in place, it was all about resetting the curls. I used a spray bottle to soak the ends with water and then I wrapped five separate curls around small pipe cleaners. I folded up the pipe cleaner ends and let the set air dry for a few days.


The end result was far better than I expected. The frizz factor is non-existent and there’s even a bit of shine back in her hair. Once again, a little TLC goes a long way!


Work continues on this doll as I research techniques for repairing splits, removing dye stains, and touching up face paint (I’m still deciding if I want to do this).

For now, she’s looking good with the rest of my vintage girls!


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c.b.w. 2017


Vintage TLC: Sometimes You Get Lucky


It’s rare, but every once in a while there’s a motivated seller on eBay  that has exactly what you’re looking for at the right price. In my case, I found two motivated sellers that had the two halves to a complete outfit.

A classic vintage Barbie fashion known as Red Flare includes a red velvet, white satin-lined coat. I’ve been drooling over it for a while, but never thought I could afford one in good enough shape (velvet and satin are hard to restore!)


While perusing vintage Barbie fashion on eBay, I came across a listing for Red Flare. Not only was the coat in near perfect condition, but the set was complete with the hat, purse, gloves, and even the shoes!

Aside from the completeness of the ensemble, the price caught my eye – only $17.99. I pounced. While it’s more than I usually spend on vintage Barbie clothes, it was too good a deal to pass up. Everything is in absolute perfect condition and required zero restoration. Sometimes luck is on your side as a vintage collector!

Still, Red Flare is simply a well-accessorized coat. Barbie needs a dress to go with that coat!  The fashion, Silken Flame is often paired with Red Flare as it is a white satin and red velvet cocktail dress.


A few days of searching lead to an amazing deal. It turns out a seller decided to have a clearance sale and they marked the dress down to $6.76. It was a little wrinkled and missing a snap, but no stains, (that’s huge for satin), and no red fading into the white satin (also huge as that’s not really fixable). No accessories were included, but that didn’t matter to me because I already had shoes and a purse!

The satin skirt has obviously been smashed in storage for a long time – the most notable fold across the entire skirt proved to be stubborn.


Regardless, the satin was stain free which meant all I really needed to do was give it a good ironing. I used a combination of steam ironing and spraying the wrinkled areas with water. The combination of heat, steam, and a soaked surface  pressed those wrinkles right out!


My Barbie is looking pretty good for a night on the town in her new coat and cocktail dress!



Who says vintage collecting has to be difficult or labor intensive? Sometimes the stars align and your doll ends up in a stunning ensemble thanks to a little patience and a lot of luck!

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c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Garden Party


Vintage Barbie restoration doesn’t always involves a long process. One of my first vintage fashion purchases was Garden Party (#931, 1962-63), minus the accessories. The dress alone, in good condition, can run anywhere from $15-30, which is again a bit out of this collector’s price range.


Instead, I found a Garden Party dress that was in pretty good shape aside from a few stains, some wrinkles, and one loose stitch. I figured if I could get those stains out, it would be a total bargain at only $8.

The Before Look:

The front and back of the dress suffered from typical yellow age stains. The entire dress was covered, but it’s more noticeable on the lace layers in the skirt and along the bodice dart seams.


Seller’s Photo (caller5547)

Aside from the stains, the dress looks like it’s been crammed in a box for years. The wrinkles change the entire shape of the dress (it’s supposed to poof out in a super cute way!).

I was lucky to find a TLC dress with the pink bow still in place. Most played-with Garden Party dresses are missing this little detail. However, the bow on my dress is dangling by a single stitch.

The Fix List:

The Stains:

The stains may have covered the entire dress, but they weren’t severe. I went with my go-to process of soaking the dress in a mixture of 3 cups water, 1 tbs baking soda, and 1 tbs peroxide. After  a single soak of 2 hours, I set the dress in direct sunlight to dry. That was all it took! The stains were completely gone, leaving the dress a bright white and brilliant pink.

The Bow:

The pink bow was hanging on by one thread of the original stitch. I simply added a couple reinforced stitches through the center fold of the bow (to hide the stitches) to secure it back into place. Done!

The Wrinkles:

A steam iron on the cotton setting quickly fixed the wrinkles crimping the skirt and bodice. Ironing Barbie clothes can be tricky. The tip of the iron is your best friend. The skirt usually fits around the narrow end of the ironing board – all you have to do is carefully work your way around one section at a time. The bodice is best approached from the top of the neckline – point the tip of the iron towards the waist hemline and iron one small section at a time.

The After Look:

Aside from the ease of restoration, I bought this dress specifically for my vintage Midge doll. I though she’d look adorable in it and she does! Once again, a little TLC can turn a down and out vintage dress into something beautiful.

Garden Party Midge


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c.b.w. 2016

Adding To The Vintage Crew


I started the summer with two vintage Barbie dolls in my collection. After going on vacation, I came home with a third, thrilled to finally give my pair of dolls a new friend.

Barbie Pic 1

Twist and Turn (’66-’67), Blond Bubblecut (’64-’67), Brunette Midge (’64-’67)

Little did I know that her arrival would trigger a vintage windfall. A simple visit to eBay (to help me identify the new girl and assess her condition) lead to a little browsing of other vintage Barbies and fashion.

Most vintage listings are way beyond what I can afford, but hidden in between the rare and pricey dolls are those that have seen better days. Those are the dolls I started looking at and I ended up finding a beautiful doll for only $19.

Brunette Bubble Cut in Blue

Brunette Bubblecut (’64-’67)

She’s a Brunette Bubblecut Barbie (1964-67). While I already have a blonde Bubblecut, something about this doll really appealed to me. She has a different look and is in better condition for the most part.

On the pro side her face paint is nearly perfect, fingernail paint is only a little faded, no cracks or splits on her body or limbs, no green ear, and perfect hair.

On the con side, she has two head splits. One is at the base of the head on the left side. Luckily, it can’t be seen from the front! This should be a relatively easy repair with a little plastic bonding glue.

Brunette Bubblecut Nect Split

The dreaded head split!

The other split is on top of her head. I’ve decided to leave it be as I don’t want to risk getting glue in her hair. A little creative combing of her hair should hide the split!

Brunette Bubblecut Head Split

A comb over should solve this problem!

Just as I was putting the finishing touches on Little Miss Bubblecut’s new blue dress, (the one she’s wearing in the pics!), another vintage doll fell into my lap. This time around, my sister was shopping at a local thrift shop when she spotted a “old looking Barbie.” It was half price day at the store, so she picked it up for only $12.50. When she dropped it off at my house, I almost died. This was a special doll that needed a lot of love.

This “old looking Barbie” is actually a Ponytail #5 Barbie (1961). Her hair has been pinned up into a bun so it’s hard to tell! Ponytail Barbies are a sought after bunch in the vintage world and I can’t believe one just landed on my doorstep.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Head

Hello, Ponytail #5!

All things considered, she’s in decent shape. Her face paint is largely in place (with exception to a few lip paint chips), her fingernail and toenail paint is perfect, and she has no green ear.

However, she also has some serious issues. Her hair is pinned up with straight pins that have rusted. I pulled them out, but one hole has turned green (thankfully, her hair covers it up). I have to clean that entire area to make sure the green stops spreading.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Head Side

The rusted offender is right next to her bangs.

Like many Ponytail #5 dolls, she has a greasy face. This is the result of the type of plastic that Mattel used during production. As it degrades, it releases a sticky film. There’s nothing I can do about it except to keep her face clean with warm soap and water.

The “grease” on her face has also leached into her hair. While, the original styling is still in place, her hair is in dire need of a good washing. Between the rust residue and grease, there is also the problem of the original rubber band disintegrating into the strands of her ponytail. At the moment, I’m researching how to properly clean and restore her hair.

Her legs are another problem. Ponytail #5 dolls are notorious for “splayed legs” and mine is no exception! One of her legs is bent so far out of alignment she can’t stand. Little by little I’m bending the leg back into shape by heating it in the blistering Arizona sun and tying her legs together at decreasing widths with ribbon.

Ponytail 5 Barbie Front

Not a good look!

The same leg is stained with dark marks that start beneath the knee and travel down to her foot. I’m working on bleaching them out with a little acne cream and the sun.

The last issue is an odd one, but I believe it is fixable. Her torso is split at the very bottom across a mold seam between her legs. It’s a clean split and should repair easily with some plastic bonding glue.

After just a little work, she’s already looking better! I made her a pretty little yellow dress to make her feel better and show off the progress on her leg.

Yellow Dress

A little TLC goes a long way!

Some would say these dolls are a mess and not worth the time and energy I’m putting into them. Some might even say they are ugly, but to me they are beautiful. Despite the damage and scars, I look at them and see stunning dolls that have inspired little girls for more than 50 years. How could I not save them?

Now that I have the dolls, I’ve started the process of acquiring vintage clothing that also needs a little TLC. Stay tuned for vintage style on these vintage dolls once I get some of the repair work done!

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c.b.w. 2016

My Vintage Gals


I’ve been collecting Barbie Dolls since I was a teenager. It started with Special Edition Holiday Barbies and then grew to include more exclusive limited edition dolls. In recent years, I find myself fawning over vintage dolls or vintage inspired style. I love the Barbie Fashion Model Collection for its elegant nod to vintage fashion, while also leaning towards a modern aesthetic. It’s a nice substitute for actual vintage dolls and clothing which can be very expensive.

While vintage is usually out of my price range, I’ve still managed to collect three beautiful vintage dolls. Condition-wise, they are far from perfect, but I love them just the same.

My first ever vintage doll is a Bubble Cut Barbie, (1964-67). I found her on eBay almost 15 years ago. Some of her face paint was gone, her body was dirty, and she’s missing a pinkie finger. However, she doesn’t have green ear and her hair is perfect! Because of her faults, she was the perfect starter doll for a new vintage collector. I paid just $40 for her and the seller threw in a vintage yellow dress for free.

All she needed was some TLC. A little soap and water cleaned off the dirt. I touched up her face with some latex paint and made her some new clothes (using actual vintage Barbie clothing patterns I had in my sewing chest). Before I knew it, I had a pretty nice looking doll!

Bubble Cut Barbie

Bubble Cut Barbie, 1964-67. Handmade dress, vintage pattern.

It was at least seven years until I got my next vintage doll. While perusing tables at flea market in Northern Wisconsin, I came across a Midge Doll. She was buried under a bunch of other well played with Barbies (likely from the 80s), but as soon as I saw that distinctive flipped hair and vintage body style, I knew she was something special. A quick check of her markings told me she was an original 1964-67 Midge Doll. The seller and I haggled over the price until we arrived at $45. Her face paint is nearly perfect (only her lips are a bit faded), her hair is intact, there was a little dirt on her body, all limbs and fingers are perfect including toe and nail polish. All in all, I got a great deal.

Midge cleaned up beautifully and stands proudly next to her Bubble Cut friend. I made her some vintage style clothing as well.

Midge Pic

Midge Doll, 1964-67. Handmade shorts and shirt, vintage pattern.

While on vacation this year, I was lucky enough to receive a Twist & Turn Barbie (1966-67) as a gift. She was a little rough around the edges at first – her face and arms were greasy, the rest of her body had stains, and she’s missing some eye lashes. However, her hair and face paint are absolutely perfect. A little diluted rubbing alcohol took care of the grease, while soap and water took care of most of the stains. A cute modern dress finished off her new look and she’s absolutely beautiful!

Twist and Turn Barbie

Twist & Turn Barbie, 1966-67. Modern dress.

I’m in the process of making her a dress of her own using vintage fabric and patterns. I’ll post pictures when its done!

The doll case behind each of my dolls is another new addition to my collection. It too was a gift. After doing some research, I found out it’s from 1965 and the graphics depict American Girl Barbie wearing the outfit Fashion Shiner. Since these pictures were taken, I cleaned the case using warm soap and water and a toothbrush to wash the dirt out of every groove. Sadly, the case cover is almost completely detached, (one small piece of vinyl is holding it on). I used some sticky white auto vinyl to temporarily repair the damage. The clasp still works, so I’m using it as storage for Barbie Clothes and as a display piece.

Group Picture! Here are my vintage gals hanging out together…

Barbie Pic 1

My vintage gals hanging out with their handmade vintage style wardrobe. What will they wear??

Aside from new clothes, they are in for another surprise. Yesterday, I won an auction on eBay for a vintage brunette Bubble Cut Barbie, (only $19!!!). She’s on her way and I can’t wait!

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c.b.w. 2016