Forever 21 x Barbie: A Review

via Forever 21

by Stella

In 1959, when the first Barbie doll came out, she was created to imitate the fashion of the period. Nowadays Barbie represents her own type of fashion. The doll and wider company represent a feminine dream, with all different silhouettes in every shade of pink. In my mind I picture Barbie wearing an outfit that could be in Legally Blonde or Chanel in Scream Queens. Barbie represents hyper-feminine fashion but the freedom to wear whatever you want. As a style icon and nostalgic brand, the Barbie name is highly coveted and used in marketing by some of the most prestigious fashion brands. Barbie has collaborated with fashion giants Moschino, Coach, Vogue Italia, and more. Some of Barbie’s recent collaborations have been with more accessible brands like Colourpop and Pür. Both are makeup brands and came out with a collection of products featuring Barbie’s signature color palette and elegant makeup style. Barbie also collaborated with Balmain, creating clothing inspired by Barbie’s fashion over her career and including many ranges of pink. The two companies sold three NFTs of Barbie avatars in the clothing from the collection. The clothing was designed to be genderless and reinforce the message of Barbie’s legacy: wear what you want. The collection’s pieces ranged from $295 to $42,494, contrary to the accessible collab with Forever 21, an everyday brand. 

The Forever 21 x Barbie collaboration is currently being sold both online and in-store with prices between $5.99 to $54.99. The collection includes adult and children’s clothing, sleepwear, swimwear, shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and dolls. The collection is summer-themed, with pastels, tropical florals, and staples of beach style. The vibe is laid back and feminine, think days by the pool and driving around Malibu in a Pink Cadillac full of friends. It’s cute, fun, and casual. 

Tropical Barbie™ Print Mini Dress

One of my favorite pieces of clothing from the collaboration is the Tropical Barbie™ Print Mini Dress which ranges from kids to plus sizes. The print is the star of this dress, it’s deeply nostalgic (the only Barbie I ever had as a kid wore a beach cover-up with a similar print) and conveys the vibe of the collection perfectly. Besides the pattern, the dress isn’t anything new or special, but it’s not supposed to be. Its casual design and color make the pattern more digestible. Even though the pattern isn’t for everyone, I think it’s the best of the collection, and the designers thought so too because they used it on a top, a skirt, and multiple swimsuits. 

Barbie™ Floral Print Mini Dress

I worry about the Barbie™ Floral Print Mini Dress. Like the other dress, the silhouette and design of the garment are forgettable, but the pattern is not. I like the floral with the barbie logo hidden among the flowers, but I shudder at the fabric. Why is it flocked? It’s a personal preference but I don’t like the look or texture of flocked knit because it reminds me of a towel. I like all the other aspects of the dress enough to pass it off as cute, but the texture ruins it for me. I think the designers realized it would be too boring if the florals were printed so they decided to focus on texture. I’m a fan of texture, but since the dress isn’t a beach cover-up, the towel aesthetic feels wrong.

Barbie™ Floral String Bikini and One-Piece Swimsuit

Why?? If the use of this fabric with the dress felt wrong, its use for swimsuits is a heinous offense. I’m not sure who thought a towel material for swimsuits was a good idea but I’d like to help them back inside the box. The saddest thing about these swimsuits is that I would have liked them if they had different materials. On a Barbie doll, I would enjoy these swimsuits, but on a sentient being who might want to swim, I worry. 

Barbie™ Glitter Jelly Block Heels

These jelly mules are by far my favorite items in the collection. They are nostalgic, beachy, and whimsical in a playing dress-up sort of way. They come in three colors, a milky pink, a neon green, and clear and sparkly. Although the green is a bit off-putting, it matches with other items from the collaboration, and both the pink and sparkly are adorable. The design is perfect, from the Barbie logo on the band, to the small heel. They are completely nostalgic, pulled right off of Barbie’s molded feet. Not only have jelly shoes been iconic in multiple decades of fashion, but these shoes are also perfect for dolls and humans. They seem plastic and artificial, but their manufactured vibe matches the feeling of Barbie. The collection also contains more jelly shoes that look more like traditional sandals. Although they are closer in design to the jelly shoes I would beg my mom to buy back in 2010, the mules are cuter. These jellies encapsulate the energy of the whole collaboration, retro, stylish, and completely Barbie. 

I would give the F21 x Barbie collection three stars out of five. I adored a few pieces, liked some, but felt neutral about the rest of the collection. There were a few pieces I disliked, mostly because the clothing was made from the pink towel material (shudder). The collection as a whole has an impressive range of products that emulates Forever 21 products, from fake eyelashes to flip flops. I would have liked to see some jewelry because I think the Beach Barbie aesthetic would create some fun earrings and necklaces. One of the best aspects of the collection is the true Barbie aesthetic. Every single product in the collection could be worn by Barbie and the amount of logos they managed to fit into the collection is impressive. The reason I didn’t give it more than 3 stars is that I think the clothes are cute but will quickly fall out of fashion. Forever 21 survives off the constant changes in fashion, so it’s no surprise that their collaboration resulted in trendy, short-lived fashion. Not only in the collection geared towards summer, which is only a few months in the PNW, but it’s also part of the Y2K revival of 2021. The bright colors, specifically pink, early 2000s silhouettes, and retro patterns are strong in the collection. The reason that this collaboration is popular is because of the Y2K trends that the internet, mainly TikTok, has revived. Hyper femme clothing and bubble gum pink, the backbones of the F21 x Barbie collaboration have been popularized by this trend. This collection was made to be palatable during this moment of fashion, which is why I worry about the longevity of these styles. Even though I dislike how trend-focused the collection is, in some ways, it’s fitting. Many of Barbie’s iconic looks have been dated, sometimes to a specific year. Barbie has been documenting fashion trends for more than 60 years, and this collaboration is a part of that. The F21 x Barbie collection encapsulates a moment in time, a nostalgic Y2K summer. 

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