Barbie: still the Best

Obviously, if I had known about this calendar instead, Heiner Meyer would be sitting gathering dust in a bookshop in Hong Kong.

For those of you too lazy to click the link, the coveted calendar in question is a Barbie one. No, wait, come back! Not just any old Barbie calendar but one featuring gorgeous fashion sketches of everyone’s favourite blonde bimbo. Except she’s not always blonde and her outfits are way too classy for anyone to be calling her the b-word. [Banner picture: 50th Anniversary Glamour and Generation Of Dreams Barbies – the latter’s skirt is a collage of images of Barbie throughout her fifty years.]

My absolute favourite – The Artist. Totally my colours, totally my style… If only I could look this good in a beret!

They’re by Robert Best, a former Project Runway contestant, who has been designing outfits for Barbara Millicent Roberts for the past 15 years. He is the main designer behind the highly coveted Silkstone Collection (also known as the Fashion Model Collection), which use the retro face, hair and make-up style of the original 1960s dolls, and the occasional special edition Barbie, like those in the banner picture, too. The beautiful couture outfits and attention-to-detail are amazing – these certainly aren’t dolls for practising your hair-cutting and decapitation skills on!

Violette & Tribute Barbie (celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Silkstone Collection)

I am absolutely head over heels for these sketches. I tend to love the style of  girlie fashion sketches anyway but these are even more stunning than most. Firstly, the clothes are amazing and the detail is exquisite. You can feel every ruffle, see every flower. The sense of movement, texture and weight created by just pencil and watercolour (I think!) is astounding. We’re not just talking about the dresses though – it goes as far as fabrics, shoes, hair accessories, jewellery and just about everything else you could think of. Everything just goes together so wonderfully. I want Barbie’s wardrobe!

Second favourite – Market Day Barbie. Love the colours, love the flowers, love the eyeshadow!

Secondly, lots of fashion illustrations skimp on the face, often omitting eyes, nose and mouth all together. Not Best. As you can see from some of the gorgeous close-ups, there’s more expression going on in some of these sketches than in Nicole Kidman’s last few acting roles. A tilt of the head here, a seductive pout of the lips there, a sultry sweep of the eyes – these drawings give a better modelling masterclass than Tyra herself! I love how he even does matching eyeshadow too – Best does a better smoky eye than me!

I do have some history with Barbie (my parents were beginning to despair of the sight of her when I was ordering collectible ones on a near weekly basis from Ebay) but she has literally never looked better than when drawn with Best’s pencil. It’s something about the perfect slant of the eyes and the way their hair falls just so. In fact, I think most of the drawings look prettier than the dolls themselves and I’ve thrown in a few like-for-like comparisons for you to make up your own minds!

The Siren – drawing vs doll comparison

Finally, there’s just some magic about them. The below sketches of Hollywood Honey and Red Hot Review (“On The Set”) best epitomise how evocative Best’s work is; you just know these are glamorous divas from the Golden Age of Hollywood, with just a few strokes of the pencil. All of these sketches feel like they’re from some other time but without looking old and dated, settling for supremely classy and elegant instead.

I think I’ve banged on enough. All of these pictures are taken from mawphoto.com’s excellent Flickr set ‘Robert Best Illustrations’, where there are hundreds more drawings for your viewing pleasure. You could be a cheapo and frame pictures from the calendar once 2011 is over but if you can’t wait that long, you can buy framed limited edition prints here and here. Now I’ll try and keep schtum whilst you enjoy the rest of these beauties and remember to click for enlargements – it’s worth it!

Third favourite. This is getting silly now…

Delphine (the first proper Silkstone Barbie) from a sketchier drawing to a more polished one. This dress reminds me of the one Grace Kelly won her Oscar in.

Parisienne Pretty drawing vs doll, round 2. I want these shoes!

Haut Monde; Southern Belle

Garden Party & Barbie as Betty Draper from Mad Men (I can totally see Betty working the other look too!)

Secretary; Tout de Suite; Nurse. I really love how stylised all these looks are (and does anyone else think sexy Nurse looks a little Chinese?!)

Black Enchantment – this dress with Parisienne Pretty’s shoes. Please?!

Fashion Editor, Showgirl, Fashion Designer

Stolen Magic, In The Pink (hello Liz Taylor!), Stealing The Spotlight

Capucine in 3 ways

Congrats! You made it to the end of my most picture-heavy, time-consuming post since the Qi Pao. You have my permission to eat a chocolate digestive as reward.

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20 responses to “Barbie: still the Best

  1. They’re very pretty, where you get them from? What about your own collection at home?

    • Did you read the article Mum?! I just found them on the Internet when I was looking up the calendar that I actually bought! I think my collection at home will be transferred to HK eventually!

  2. No, sorry I didn’t read properly, only quick looked through the pictures. It’s also my goal to get you reunited with your collection of treasures ASAP.

  3. I love these! Thank you for posting! :)

  4. These are gorgeous. Just curious if the “sketchier sketch” of the Delphine Barbie is also Robert Best, or another artist?

  5. i luv ur site and thnx also cuz this site is helpin me with an art project :P

  6. Hi, this is a great post, thanks for featuring the most comprehensive work of Robert Best I could find on the web!

    I hope you don’t mind but I’ve copied some pictures to put on my own personal blog. I’ve credited you and this post appropriately but please let me know if you don’t want me to do so. :)

  7. Pingback: Barbie by Robert Best « Friday Night Requiem

  8. I love ur illustration sketches, thz.

  9. hey love, can i use you pictures as my banner on tumblr? thanks before:)

    • Hi Jessica

      I’m glad you like the pictures but they do not belong to me. They are by the artist Robert Best as the post details, so if you use them on your tumblr, it’s probably best if you credit him as well as my blog. Thanks.

  10. I have four “numbered” sketches of Robert Best’s Barbie Fashion Model Collection. Can you tell me if they are worth anything?

  11. These are so cute. Makes me want to get my markers out and have a go!

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