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Bild Lilli - The Doll That Started It All - By Rosina Haskell 

German fashion doll Bild Lilli is better known for being the inspirationn for Barbie. However, she is an icon in her own right. Lilli was  created firstly as a cartoon character in the German newspaper Bild in the month of June 1952 - the Bild - Zeitung based in Hamburg. The creator Reinhard Beuthien was asked to invent an item for a blank space in the newspaper. He first created a baby character, which his boss didn't like so he improved the character and he then came up with Lilli, a young , shapely twenty -something with a ponytail. Her first outing in the paper showed Lilli asking a fortune teller to supply the name and address of a rich handsome man!

The cartoon was a great success, Beuthien drew up fresh cartoons each day for the paper, The last cartoon appeared in the paper on January 5th, 1961.

 

 

Lilli the doll appeared about a year later in 1953  The newspaper decided to market a doll and chose  Max Weissbrodt from O&M Hausser based in Neustag/Coburg, Germany to come up with a prototype based on Beuthiens drawings.

 

 

Lilii was on sale from 1955 to 1964 when numbers of dolls produced reached 130,000 Mattel bought the rights in 1964 and production of Lilli stopped. Lilli was quite a character, she had a job as a secretary  she was ambitious and had a penchant for rich men,her cartoons showed her talking to her friends boyfriend and her boss. Topics of some great one liners include fashion, politics, nature, always with an air of flippancy!

 

 

 

The doll herself - well look at Barbie! she did however, have some groundbreaking features: Her head joined the body under her chin: Her hair consisted of a cut out scalp which was fixed on with a concealed metal screw and her legs didn't sprawl out to the sides when sitting. Lilli was made of plastic and she had moulded

eyelashes, shoes and earrings all painted black. Lilli had painted on side glancing eyes, the fire engine red ,pouty lips and nails, high narrow eye brows, Her blonde hair was tied in a ponytail with a kiss curl on her forehead. There were variations on hair colour, her limbs were attached to the body with coated rubber bands, She was available in two sizes 30cm { 12 inches } and 19cm {71/2 inches}. She has no markings on her and was sold in a clear oval plastic tube on a round stand with her name on and which secured her in place via holes in her feet. She also came with a mini copy of the Bild - Zeitung newspaper.

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Lilli's entire package was deigned by Mrs E. Martha Maar {Mother-in-law to the owner of the Hausser company and owner of a doll company 3M Dolls}. In 1955 the 12" doll cost 12 Marks, the 7.1/ 2" 7.50 Marks. A typical German office workers salary in 1955 would be in the region of 200 to 300 Marks, so she was not cheap doll to buy.

 

She came ready dressed and seperate fashions could be bought for her. Her clothes represented fashions of the 1950s

Reinhard Beuthien's wife Erika helped with the fashions. She had party dresses, poplin suits/ cotton day dresses, duffle coats, saucy night wear and pyjamas as well as beach and tennis outfits {In those shoes?}.

 

Some of the outfits leaned towards her German culture and included aprons and Bavarian national costumes. Towards the end of her run most of the outfits consisted of dirndl skirts and dresses.

Most of her outfits had  unique fastenings which are marked "PRYM" and patented.

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Lilli was not aimed at the childrens market, She was produced for the adult market and could be bought  in bars, tobbaco shops and was marketed as a joke gift. She could be bought to hang from rear view mirrors sitting on a swing. Parents thought her inappropriate for children and steered well clear.

However, she did become popular with children. The smaller doll could be used in doll houses,accessories ,room settings and furniture was produced by German toy factories cashing in on her popularity. Eventually Lilli and her fashions were sold in toy shops in Europe and treated as a fashion doll, but in Germany she was still thought of as a adult novelty.Today Lilli is a collector's along with Barbie and she can also command prices of several thousand Euros,dependant on condition, packaging and clothes. 

Apart from Barbie, Lilli inspired other versions of herself, Hong Kong Lillies for instance but these were of poor quality but were as collectable as the girl herself. Louis Marx and Co acquired the rights to Lilli and in 1961 created Miss Seventeen.

Spain had Spanish Lilli and she had darker skin and a articulated waist,white earings and shoes, Spanish mothers highly disapproved of her and refused to buy her for their children, Spanish Lilli did not last long. In the UK she was

marketed as "Lilli Marlene" {Like the song } In the US she was just Lilli'

 

In 1958 Lilli became a movie star Lilli-a girl from the big city and a contest was organised to choose the actress to play her,Ann Smymer a Danish actress won the role.Lilli also put her name to several products such as scent, wine and jewwllery and a flower.

 

There are not many books on Lilli and they are just as difficult to get hold of, Mattel made it difficult for her image and name to be reproduced after Barbie established herself. You will of course notice on the menu to your left we have included many links to this subject with these links you will be able to reseach and understand more about this doll "That started it all Bild Lilli".............

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