Bathtime For Barbie And Her Entourage

Midge hangs out amidst her rejuvenated wardrobe.
Midge hangs out amidst her rejuvenated wardrobe.

For the last several years, Hubby Bryan and I have talked about going through our basement storage area to weed out the things that we don’t use or need. But talking was all we did — until this past weekend.

We finally decided to get serious about it and managed to remove a few boxes, setting a few things aside to sell, others to donate, and a few others went into a garbage bag.

It was a start.

But then I got sidetracked.

By Barbie.

I knew my Barbie case was down there. I also knew that it was probably a bit mildewed and that the dolls and clothes had likely developed a bit of that special “basement” odor. And I was right. The case needed a bit of cleanup, and so did its contents. But what was there was salvageable. So I set out to do so.

I didn’t make much headway with the other boxes and totes and bags that are in storage. But Barbie and friends have a new lease on life.

Well, actually, Barbie wasn’t in there. It was her BFF Midge that benefited from the rejuvenation process. I think Barbie lost a limb (or maybe her head?) and had to be tossed a number of years ago. But Midge — whose original owner was my 10-year-older-than-I sister, so is quite vintage — was still looking pretty good for her age. She just needed a bath, as did Barbie’s little sister (or was she a cousin?) Skipper and a few other assorted dolls that had found a home my 1970s-era Barbie case — not all from the Mattel line.

The first task was emptying out the case. The clothes all went into the washing machine on the delicate cycle, knowing full well that some would survive the dunking while others would not.

The tiny hand-knit pieces, many purchased at long-ago church bazaars while others were likely fashioned back in my mom’s avid knitting days, probably should have been hand-washed, but I knew they needed a deeper cleaning than I could achieve in the sink.

Overall, the knit items fared better than the store-bought ones. Midge’s glittery 1960s ballgown disintegrated, as did the lining in a coat. But for the most part, the laundry part of the job was a success. A few pieces were deemed sturdy enough to survive a quick tumble in the dryer, but most were carefully arranged on a thick towel to air dry.

Cleaning the case was a bigger endeavor, and the cardboard inserts on the inside did not survive it. The plastic parts, however, after being attacked by the outdoor hose, half a bottle of cleaning solution and some mold/mildew preventer, look just about like new. The plastic pockets inside hadn’t survived my youthful play days anyway, so they went the way of a scissors.

Then it was the dolls’ turn. They all took a bath in the kitchen sink. Their bodies were scrubbed thoroughly with a lemon body wash, and each head of hair got the full shampoo and conditioner treatment.

By Sunday afternoon, everything had dried enough for me to have a little fun. I sorted through the clothes and picked out some favorite outfits. Midge donned a purple knit ballgown with matching pearl-trimmed jacket. Skipper first tried on some snazzy sailor pants with a cute red coat, but alas a matching shirt could not be found. So instead she was outfitted in a skating skirt with coordinating sweater. For each of the smaller dolls, I was able to locate some sort of garb to fit on their bodies.

Alas, a matching pair of shoes could not be found for any doll, although several single shoes did turn up in the bottom of the case, along with Barbie’s skis, white go-go-boots and a plastic modeling agency portfolio. I think my brother confessed to chewing on Barbie’s footwear many years ago, so that wasn’t surprising. (He also blew up a doll or two with firecrackers back in the day, but that’s another story.)

Now that it was squeaky clean, I couldn’t bear the thought of my beloved Barbie case going back into the basement storage area, so I contacted my niece Gretchen, whose daughter, Millie, is about the right age for Barbies. Hopefully, Millie will enjoy dressing up Midge and friends as much as I did on a recent Sunday afternoon.