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Bild Lilli

Bild-Lilli, the inspiration for the Barbie doll, began as a sexy cartoon character, created by Reinhard Beuthien in the early 50's. Bild-Lilli first appeared as a cartoon character, a 'space filler' in the German Bild Newspaper issued on June 24, 1952. She sat in a fortune-teller's tent asking: "Can't you tell me the name and address of this rich and handsome man?" Bild-Lilli's adventures found immediate appeal with readers, especially the male readers. The cartoon always consisted of a picture of Lilli talking to her friends or her boss. She was classy, sassy and fashionable much like Marlene Dietrich of the 1930’s movies.

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It was decided to create a doll in Lilli's likeness on August 12, 1955. Lilli was first sold in Germany.

Lilli’s original stand is round and the doll’s foot has holes that fit on to a prong of metal.  She held a miniature copy of the newspaper Bild-Zeitung.

The doll came in two sizes, 30cm and 19cm, the hair wasn’t rooted but a cut-out scalp that was attached by a hidden metal screw, usually blonde with a ponytail and one curl kissing the forehead.  Head and limbs attached with coated rubber bands. Fingernails, painted red shoes and earrings molded on. The doll cost around  12 Marks, by no means a cheap toy when the average monthly salary was 200 to 300 Marks.

Lilli came as a dressed doll, her wardrobe consisted mainly of “Dirndl” dresses but had outfits for parties, beach and business suits.

Production ceased in 1964.


This could have been the end of Lilli, but instead she continued her career under a different name, as she was the inspiration for the American Barbie Doll, which has celebrated more than 60 years continuous production. 

For in 1958, an American tourist named Ruth Handler purchased a Bild Lilli doll and was so impressed by the idea of a fashion doll that she created her own version. Named Barbie after Mrs. Handler’s daughter, this doll became a huge worldwide hit.

Marlene Dietrich

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Original Barbie

Bild Lilli

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