Monday, July 29, 2013

A Couple Bild Lilli Questions

Custom Black Bild Lilli Photograph courtesy of T. Fisher

I received an email and photographs from a collector who has acquired a beautiful brown-painted version of Bild Lilli, the doll that inspired the creation of the original Barbie.  Tonya asked:

Were black versions of these dolls created along with the white ones in the 60's, or are the dolls we are seeing painted or OOAK dolls?  

...  I know that [my doll] was custom made, but I am curious about whether there are any older, original models out there.

I replied:

Without conducting any extensive research on the existence of an authentic black Bild Lilli, my answer would be, no, since the doll was originally manufactured in Germany as a man’s gag toy.  It has been written that [Bild Lilli] originally represented a prostitute.  Because of its German origin and the fact that it was [originally] designed for men, I doubt that a dark-skinned Bild Lilli was made.  Many companies used the same mold to create clones and of course dark-skinned clones have been produced, but they were never given the name Bild Lilli.
After my reply to Tonya, I conducted a  brief online search to enhance my Bild Lilli knowledge. What I found is doll was developed from a comic strip character published in the German tabloid, Bild.  The character's appearance and demeanor mimicked that of a sexy, blonde pin-up girl.  In Bild Lilli a History Catches Up, Anne Zielinski-Old interviews "Germany’s premiere collector of the Lilli doll," Inge Astor-Kaiser for Fashion Doll Quarterly, wherein Barbie's predecessor is described as "the mother of the modern fashion doll."  According to IAK,

Her personality was naive, sexy but at the same time clever, she was easily able to wrap men around her little finger, yet she was still youthfully innocent. A doll that had an expression between a teenager and a woman. Lilli was a beauty and she was a lady of fashion. Lilli was a symbol of the new femininity, a symbol of liberation and the satisfaction of women's pent-up demand for consumer goods. Her perfect body, her high heels, red lips and fingernails, her ponytail and the wisp of hair curling over her forehead, her made-up eyebrows and her cheeky expression exuded sex appeal, confidence and independence. She wore the outfits of dream careers like stewardess and ballerina, or a sporty look for tennis or ice skating. She turned heads in ball gowns, furs, haute couture, lingerie, and American style casual clothes.

Other websites of note that focus on Bild Lilly's history include:
Bild Lilli Doll History 1952-1964
Bild Lilli Clones and Competitors (mentions Eegee's rare black Babette)
Bild Lilli doll (on Wikipedia)

I also found a blog that defends Bild Lilli's honor, Barbie's Predecessor Was a Businesswoman not a Prostitute.  

None of the online information answers Tonya's question.  So the purpose of this blog is to ask readers who happen by:  Do you have additional Bild Lilli knowledge to share beyond what I have provided Tonya regarding the manufacture of dark-skinned Bild Lilli?

Custom Bild Lilli holds a mini replica of Bild - Photo courtesy of T. Fisher

Question 2:  Was Bild Lilli a businesswoman with standards, as the blogger feels, and not the gold digger or worse that some have labeled her?

Thanks in advance!


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