Mattel on Tuesday announced the addition of a Barbie doll with Down Syndrome, created to allow even more children to see themselves in Barbie, as well as have Barbie reflect the world around them.
“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves. Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world. We are proud to introduce a Barbie doll with Down syndrome to better reflect the world around us and further our commitment to celebrating inclusion through play,” said Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel.
To ensure the doll accurately represents a person with Down syndrome, Barbie worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).
NDSS empowers individuals with Down syndrome and their families by providing resources, driving policy change, engaging with local communities. NDSS’s guidance and real-world experiences informed the design process from start to finish, including the doll’s sculpt, clothing, accessories and packaging. The close partnership ensured the Barbie team celebrated individuals with Down syndrome through a doll that would immediately connect with the community.
The 2023 Fall Fashionistas dolls, including the Barbie doll with Down syndrome, are available in limited quantities online now and in store this Summer and Fall at major retailers for $10.99 USD.
Counseled by NDSS, Barbie was purposeful with every design choice for the doll, including:
- Sculpt: This doll introduces a new face and body sculpt to be more illustrative of women with Down syndrome, including a shorter frame and a longer torso. The new face sculpt features a rounder shape, smaller ears, and a flat nasal bridge, while the eyes are slightly slanted in an almond shape. The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down syndrome.1
- Fashion & Accessories: The doll’s puff sleeved dress pattern features butterflies and yellow and blue colors, which are symbols and colors associated with Down syndrome awareness. The doll’s pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome, which is the genetic material that causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. The three chevrons, or arrows, are a symbol that unites the Down syndrome community and are meant to represent “the lucky few” who have someone with Down syndrome in their life.
- Orthotics: The Barbie Fashionista doll with Down syndrome also wears pink ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) to match her outfit and her sneakers tout a zipper detail. Some children with Down syndrome use orthotics to support their feet and ankles, and NDSS provided a box of orthotics to serve as real-life inspiration for the ones this Barbie Fashionista is wearing, matched to her outfit and the bright colors in her design.