The Barbie doll started out as a high-class German Escort called Lilli
Bild-ing the Lilli

Barbie’s first career was as a “golddigger, exhibitionist, and floozy” cartoon in the Hamburg tabloid, Bild-Zeitung.

The sexy and witty cartoons of Lilli in Bild Zeitung. Source

While she might have spent most of her time flinging herself at “balding, jowly fat cats“, Lilli was lippy and luscious and had no problem telling off authority.

Lilli on the Law

When a policeman tells a bikini-clad Lilli that two-piece swimsuits are illegal, she says, “Oh, and in your opinion, which part should I take off?”

Lilli on economics

In another scene, she explains: “I can do without balding old men, but my budget couldn’t”.

Lilli on literature

“Do I prefer light reading? The weight doesn’t matter – I have the car outside.”

Lilli on the environment

She even tackles the beauty of nature :The sunrise is so beautiful that I always stay late at the nightclub to see it!”.

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She became so popular that the newspaper immortalized her as a novelty doll to be sold at bars, tobacco kiosks and adult toy stores.

Lilli dolls were often given out as bachelor party gag gifts and dangled from a car’s rearview mirror. Source


Lilli the doll went on the market on August 12, 1955, and became an overnight sensation. Every other doll of her time was a baby; Lilli was a fully grown modern young woman.

Rolf Hausser, who created the doll, told fondationtanagra:

“Lilli was symbolic of her time She was sexy young, innocent, fresh..She was independent but, and this is most important, no one could say she wasn’t a virgin.”

Rolf still remembers the woman who wanted – and got – a Lilli dressed in mink, for which she paid thousands of marks.

Lilli had 100 different outfits, all made by Martha Maar, Rolf’s mother-in-law and the owner of the doll’s clothing company MMM. She had outfits for parties, the beach and tennis, as well as cotton dresses, pajamas and poplin suits.

She even had miniskirts years before they came into fashion!

In her chic clothing catalogues, Lilli is accessorized with cigarettes, French champagne bottles, bar stools, and a clock indicating that it was three (time to get up or go home?).

If Lilli was indeed a prostitute, she would have been legal in Hamburg. Not so Barbie, of course.

The Star of Every Bar (bie)

Say romance with flowers and kinky sex with a pin-up doll. Source

Not surprisingly, parents considered the Lilli doll inappropriate for children, despite one German brochure’s assurance that she was “always discreet”.

In the 1950s, a holidaying Ruth Handler of Mattel bought a few Lilli dolls. She reinvented the “star of the bar” and 3 years later debuted Barbie at the New York toy fair.

Although Barbie’s curvy proportions are modeled after Lilli’s, the American version eschewed the heavy makeup, flirty eyebrows and red nails.

If you STILL can’t can’t the difference, check out the feet.

According to M.G. Lord, the author of Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll : 

“She [Lilli] doesn’t even have a foot. The end of her leg is cast in the shape of a stiletto-heeled pump and painted a glossy black.”

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