The world now has its first store in Buenos Aires where little girls can immerse themselves in the dream world of the long-legged doll.
Behind the store's inconspicuous facade lies a full 650 square metres of retail space where girls can discover all that goes on in the life of a proper doll. They also can be transformed into a Barbie.
While more mature Argentine women prefer to have surgery to achieve a certain aesthetic, girls aspire to similar goals in this Barbie land in a less harmless way. From pink-coloured erasers, Barbie shampoo, television sets to Barbie golf sets, no little girl's dreams go unfulfilled. The marketing ploy, Barbie and I, even makes it possible for girls to return home looking just like their beloved little plastic doll.
Laura, 5, is among the store's excited customers. Devotedly and wholeheartedly, she gazed into a white lacquered fairy tale mirror. A hair dresser is using a curling iron and heart-shaped barrettes to turn her brown hair into a design called Butterfly. Meanwhile, Laura's mother sits in an all-white tea room leafing through a magazine with a sandwich called Rainbow on the table in front of her.
"The Barbie store is a place where generations meet," said Pebly Garcia, philosophically. Garcia is one of the store's founders and is responsible for its design and concept.
The idea of Barbie's beautiful pink wonder world was conceived in 2004 when Tito Loizeau, who at the time was working for an advertising agency hired by Mattel, the toy company that created Barbie 50 years ago, set up a life-size Barbie house in a Buenos
Aires shopping centre. Shoppers beat a path to her door and the plan for a Barbie store was born.
The world's first Barbie store was developed along the lines of "fashiontainment" - a blend of fashion and entertainment. Since autumn 2007, business has been humming along. Every month about 4,000 receipts pass through its coffers and new stores are supposed to open this year in Lima, Peru and in Mexico City.
Prices are high considering a salaried employee in Argentina earns 2,000 pesos ($550) per month on average. Laura's butterfly hairstyle costs 120 pesos, but it includes her fairly tale make-up.
For an additional 25 pesos she can play for one hour in Barbie's house.
"Every child can shop here," Garcia said. "One takes home an eraser for 3 pesos, another buys a Barbie horse for 200 pesos."
Right behind the Barbie tea salon lies the doll paradise par excellence. There's a life-size princess room, Barbies in all colours and shapes, rows of professional make-up and a catwalk for up-and-coming models. Girls who book a birthday party in Casa de Barbie and their guests are allowed to use it under the direction of a professional kindergarten teacher.
To feminists the entire attraction is a nightmare in pink. On Barbie's official birthday, March 9, women's rights advocates publicly burned about 30 of the plastic beauties in the provincial capital La Plata to protest the doll's imposed ideal of beauty. Sociologists complain that Barbie's thinness makes girls anorexic.
This may not change anything for Laura and her friends, who have a 10 percent probability, according to Argentine studies, of developing an eating disorder. Garcia counters such criticism with her sweetest PR smile.
"I also had a Barbie and she certainly didn't traumatise me," she said.