Barbie on a Budget: Thrifting Outfits Inspired by the Movie and Doll’s History

written by Thomas Starr

With Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, starring Margot Robbie, now officially out in theaters, the world has become completely Barbie obsessed. The iconic 60+ year old doll has long been a mainstay within pop culture, yet now one seemingly can’t even go outside without seeing an ad for the pink-clad blonde. With this Barbie-fever in full swing, there’s a good chance you might need an outfit inspired by the doll and movie for themed parties or going to see the film.

However, with Barbie’s luxurious taste, replicating her looks can get quite pricey. That’s why ThriftCon is here to show you just how easy it is to get your very own Barbie look on a tight budget, just by spending 30 minutes at the thrift store. In fact, we got three outfits inspired by classic looks sported by both the doll over the years as well as Margot Robbie. From western-inspired to pink and sparkly, these outfits show off the wide range of styles that Barbie has become known for over the years. But first, a quick bit about the history of the doll, since learning about vintage is kind of our thing here.

Created by Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel, Barbie made her debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959. Inspired by her daughter's fascination with paper dolls and imaginative play, Ruth envisioned a three-dimensional adult-like doll that could empower young girls to dream big and explore diverse career paths. The name "Barbie" was inspired by Ruth's own daughter, Barbara - a fact referenced in the movie. When Barbie first hit the market, she was met with skepticism, as dolls up until that point had been almost exclusively baby dolls, but soon, she captured the hearts of millions of children worldwide.

Over the decades, Barbie has continuously evolved to reflect changing times and societal norms, donning various careers, fashions, and cultural representations. Despite facing criticism for perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards, Barbie remains a symbol of empowerment, creativity, and endless possibilities for generations of children worldwide. Now a cultural icon, Barbie continues to sell millions of dolls every year, and has perhaps gotten even more popular with the release of the movie.

Now back to the real reason you’re here, some cute, but cheap, Barbie outfits. Every outfit on this list was created in one Goodwill trip for under $25 an outfit, for a grand total of $70 for three full fits, even including shoes in two of them! That’s even less than what you’d spend on a new outfit from potentially criminal fast fashion companies, *cough cough* Shein *cough cough*, yet astronomically better for the environment and the human beings that make your clothing. Barbie may be a material girl but she’s an ethical one for sure. So without further ado, three sub-$25 Barbie-inspired outfits from the thrift!

 The Original Barbie

First up is an outfit inspired by Barbie’s first ever outfit, an iconic black and white striped one-piece swimsuit, first worn in 1959. Also donned by Margot Robbie in the recently released movie, the swimsuit and striping have become forever associated with Barbie and fashion as a whole. It was obvious then to thrift an outfit inspired by the most vintage Barbie possible, yet we went in a bit of a different direction. Instead of a black and white striped swimsuit, we instead found a black and white striped business casual outfit, perfect for a professional like Barbie herself. Starting with a more abstract diagonally-striped top from Calvin Klein, this outfit is all about maximalism and mismatched patterns, much like a mismatched Barbie outfit. The bottom is a little bit simpler, with a thinner horizontal-striped Banana Republic skirt and simple black heels from the brand Dirty Laundry. The fit is finished off with a small black clutch, as there was plenty of room left in our $25 budget. While it may not be as useful as its inspiration for Ken’s job of “beach,” this fit is the ideal way to bring a bit of Barbie flare into your everyday life.

 Western Barbie

Next up is my personal favorite, a western/country-esque outfit inspired by the many cowgirl themed Barbies over the years, as well as Margot Robbie’s now famous all pink flared cowgirl fit in the movie. This outfit is certainly much less pink, but definitely wouldn’t be out of place on a Barbie at all. Up top is a sleeveless red and white (almost pink) plaid button up from Faded Glory, worn tied at the bottom. Next, a pair of made-in-USA Y2K flared jeans from the brand Red Engine that have the coolest fade and distressing on them. Now I must admit, we cheated a little on shoes, they’re a pair of previously thrifted cowboy boots that have an adorable pink heart on them. We unfortunately couldn’t find any cowboy boots at the thrift, but these ones are honestly perfect so they’re worth bending the rules. Finally, the fit is accessorized with a rhinestone belt with a big western buckle as well as a pink bandana, for the full Barbie effect.

 Glam Barbie

Last up, we have perhaps the most Barbie-esque outfit of all, a fully sparkled-out party fit perfect for the pink loving Barbies of the world. Inspired by countless Barbie outfits over the years, we were honestly shocked to find such a stereotypical Barbie outfit in one thrift trip. The main focus of the fit is a pink sequined dress from the brand Maner, reminiscent of many a sparkly pink dress worn by Barbie herself. The sparkly theme continues to the shoes, a pair of silver open-toed heels completely covered in rhinestones made by Candie’s. The fit is then accessorized with a pair of pink-tinted rhinestone sunglasses for maximal sparkliness. Perfect for any Barbie-themed party, this fit was the least expensive of the bunch as well, coming in under $20.

So there you have it, three outfits inspired by Barbie over the years, all thrifted and all costing under $25. You just can’t beat that value, plus the outfit creation process at Goodwill was a blast. Hopefully this inspires you to thrift your Barbie fit, or any other themed outfit for that matter, instead of buying a bunch of fast fashion pieces just to wear them once. And remember, once you’re done with your Barbie outfit, resell or donate the items instead of just throwing them away, that way someone else can enjoy them and they stay out of the landfill. So keep shopping second-hand! To see the outfits modeled check out the official ThriftCon TikTok!

@thriftcon which fit should i wear to the movie 🤩 #barbie #thriftcon #thrifting #barbiechallenge #inspo ♬ Barbie Girl - Lady Aqua