Secrets from the Barbie fashion workshop


Fashion designer Carol Spencer spent her career creating covetable clothing for a highly unusual client, one who stood just 11 ¹/₂ inches tall: Barbie.

Spencer designed the doll’s wardrobe for more than three decades, making her the iconic figure’s longest-running stylist. Now happily retired, the 86-year-old writes about her reign in the colorful “Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes that Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them,” out Tuesday (HarperCollins).

Spencer started at Mattel in 1963, quickly wowing her bosses with her first original outfit: a Jackie-O inspired, red and white skirt and top set called “Crisp and Cool.”

From there, says the Los Angeles-based designer, she drummed up thousands of looks for the doll, including the brand’s all-time best seller: the sassy blond “Totally Hair” Barbie, who wore a Pucci-esque minidress and had voluminous, crimped hair that dangled all the way down to her ankles.

Although Spencer had a bona fide dream job, she says she almost didn’t have a career at all.

“When I graduated from high school [in 1950], I was madly in love and engaged to be married,” Spencer tells The Post. She had a job in her hometown of Minneapolis, setting pages on the Sears Roebuck catalog — work she describes as both “horrible” and “mundane,” but something that yielded a paycheck. And as her fiancé’s mom and dad liked to remind her, it wasn’t permanent: After he finished medical school, she could quit and wear “doctor’s wife” as a badge of honor.