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How President Barbie has changed over the years

Credit: Mattel/iStock

If you think this year’s presidential candidates have been on a long, exhausting journey to the White House, they’ve got nothing on Barbie: The iconic doll has been running for the job of leader of the free world in almost every election year since 1992. (She only sat out the 1996 campaign).

Mattel was set to begin a big publicity push Wednesday around this year’s edition, which for the first time is a set that includes not only a woman commander-in-chief, but a woman vice president, too. The approach to marketing the dolls is a new one for Mattel, one that is part of a broader strategic shift by the company to redefine the brand to appeal to millennial parents who are seeking toys with purpose.

Love Barbie or hate her, it’s hard to ignore how much the politically themed doll has changed since it first came on the scene. Below, we’ve rounded up all the looks that the tiny presidential aspirant has sported over the years. And based on how the conversation usually goes around this iconic toy, we’d bet that some readers will cheer how far Barbie has come — and that others will think she hasn’t come nearly far enough.

1992: The original iteration of doll looks a bit more ready for the Inaugural Ball than for attending a G7 Summit. The box did come with a red power suit, though, so you could change her into more presidential attire.

2000: Barbie was apparently content to let Bob Dole and Bill Clinton duke it out in 1996. But for the turn of the century, Barbie got a power suit, a haircut and some Capitol Hill-friendly pantyhose. Some stores carried versions of the doll that still came with a shiny ballgown, though that was relegated to her secondary look this time around.

In 2004, Barbie switched to a pantsuit and a patriotic scarf.

In 2008, it was back to the skirt suit, but with a splash of glitter. Again, some retailers sold a version of the doll that came with an evening gown for her to change into.

2012: For this installment of the doll, Mattel turned to fashion designer Chris Benz to design her pink suit with red, white and blue trim. Note that instead of sensible pumps, this doll is sporting wedge heels, a design that allowed her to stand upright for the first time ever. Critics of Barbie have sometimes argued that there’s symbolism in the fact that the doll couldn’t stand on her own two feet.

2016: Mattel decided to put a new spin on its White House-themed dolls, creating both a president and a vice president. While the doll in the red blazer was designed as president and the one in the yellow peplum top and glasses was meant to be veep, Mattel says it expects girls will put their own spin on the role-playing.

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