I just bought my first-ever Barbie doll. She’s not for a grandchild, a niece or anyone else—she’s all mine and her name is Hudson’s Bay Barbie. For my non-Canadian readers, The Hudson’s Bay Company is Canada’s oldest department store, founded in 1670 as a trading post. The iconic striped blankets were like cash registers—with the black lines used for measuring the piled height of animal pelts (sorry fellow animal lovers) for trading merchandise by early trappers and settlers. Today, we’re more sophisticated; we just pile cash and credit cards on a scratched arborite countertop while waiting for a non-existent sales associate to materialize.
Barbie dolls debuted in 1959, a bit too late for me as an early Boomer to play with but we did have paper dolls or “cutouts” as we called them. Countless hours were spent carefully cutting out the paper evening gowns, mink coats, day dresses and sporting outfits from books for likenesses of June Allison and Jane Powell, bending the fragile paper tabs over their tiny cardboard shoulders and strutting them around. My personal favourites were my Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor paper dolls who offered unlimited juicy scenarios for role-playing as they fought over Eddie Fisher, made up, went to movie premieres and generally lived a life that was rich in my imagination. I was too old to play with dolls when Barbie came to market but I remember my namesake cousin Barbie playing with hers, cutting up old fabric scraps and whipping up crude little dresses on Aunt Betty’s treadle sewing machine.
A few years ago Holt Renfrew offered a limited edition Barbie by Kate Spade that I absolutely adored. She was wearing a rich emerald green wool coat and her little white Maltese dog (just like my little Gracie) stood sweetly by her side on a dainty leash. At more than three hundred dollars, however, that Barbie remained a distant dream. Then, like the Sirens’ call, Barbie beckoned me again when I spotted a more affordable version and one that also captured my heart. Hudson’s Bay Barbie is only $59.99 and call me a sucker but I had to have her. Perhaps I’m going a bit balmy but I liken it to old retired guys finally buying the Corvette they’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford when they were young. I couldn’t resist the call.
I have a love/hate relationship with The Hudson’s Bay Company. On one hand, I love their stores and merchandise but I hate their customer service. It drives me crazy that I can never find a sales associate to help me and the check-out registers are as hard to find as wine at an AA meeting. They could take lessons from Nordstrom who provide plenty of staff for assistance and their sales associates always take the time to walk around the counter to hand me my lovely silver shopping bag and thank me for shopping there. They make me feel valued and special.
So, I’m somewhat conflicted about endorsing Hudson’s Bay by purchasing their Barbie but . . . I love her with her tiny traditional point-striped blanket coat, her little leather tote bag with the newspaper and insulated cup peeking out, her ubiquitous Canadian wool toque, statement glasses and her little dog with its matching striped sweater. You’re welcome to come over for a tea party and play with my new Barbie; just don’t expect me to start whipping up tiny glittery evening gowns on my old Singer. Like me, she’s a classic and will remain so. The big question now is, because she’s a limited edition, should I crack open the packaging and prop her up on her little stand where all my friends can admire her and touch her little outfit or just leave her sealed up and strictly for show?
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