Throughout her 50-year history, every bit of Barbie’s 11-inch-tall form has been the subject of scrutiny and debate. Originally introduced in 1959 as “a teen-age model,” her history has always been linked to the fashion world, and has become a tangled part of women’s girlhood memories and body images. (On Barbie’s actual 50th birthday in March, WVFC’s Laura Sillerman called her a “sweet mixed-up, career-minded, superficial and oh-so-deep manifestation of this cock-eyed business of living in the western world.”)

Is she the ideal woman? Is she a feminist nightmare and a lurking cause of eating disorders?

Books, blog posts, even academic debate have questioned the doll’s social consequence. She’s been a doctor, astronaut, sister, celebrity, even the star of her own live action movie. Dozens of designers have crafted outfits for the 11″ doll’s improbable curves. But the latest news is just beyond weird.

Christian Louboutin, famous French shoe designer slated to design shoes for Barbie, redesigned her feet and ankles as well. Apparently, according to WWD, he “found Barbie’s ankles too fat.”

The blogosphere is in an uproar over this one. “Louboutin, working as he does in the medium of shoes, has rarely before had the opportunity to put his own feet in his mouth regarding weight,” Mary Elizabeth Williams writes for Salon’s Broadsheet. Blogger Sweet Machine at fairly oozes scorn:

Barbie, the legendarily disproportionate model of femininity, whose feet are permanently molded for high heels, has cankles.

Louboutin has since backpedaled from his initial criticism, saying it’s the arches, not fat ankles, that he needed to redesign to create the perfect foot.

Since we’re curious about the business and craft of fashion, what we want to know is:  How can Christian Louboutin design his signature stilettos in plastic, to dimensions tinier than a fingernail —regardless of the size or proportion of Barbie’s ankles?

(This post originally appeared on, a new web magazine about the business of fashion. WVFC contributing editor Elizabeth Willse is an editor on Pinkyshears. Watch next week as we cover a campaign by designers to save New York’s Garment Center.)

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