A Grown-Up Barbie As a child, Jane Hamill thought Barbie was the ultimate in cool. Now a fashion designer in Chicago, Hamill realizes her belief in a doll was a belief in her own skills, creativity and ability to succeed.

A Grown-Up Barbie

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5419659/5421370" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Unidentified Man #1: I believe in honor, faith, and service.

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe that a little outrage...

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in freedom of speech.

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in empathy.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in truth.

Unidentified Woman #3: I believe in the ingredients of love.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.


On Monday's on NPR News, we bring you THIS I BELIEVE, statements of personal belief from people in all walks of life. And this morning we'll meet a Chicago fashion designer who has her own way to express what she believes.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

In our series, people find surprising ways to name their beliefs. The belief itself may reside at a person's philosophical core, but extracting it, finding its root, and naming it, can reveal unlikely connections.

As you will hear, that is the case for fashion designer Jane Hammill. Here she is with her essay for THIS I BELIEVE.

Ms. JANE HAMMILL (Fashion Designer): I consider myself a feminist, and I feel like a moron admitting it. But it's true.

I believe in Barbie.

For me, as a kid, Barbie was about cool clothes, a cool job, cool friends, and cool accessories, the airplane, the apartment building and the camper. I learned to sew so I could make outfits for Barbie and her friends, who took turns being the airplane pilot, the doctor, the fashion designer.

Barbie was never about Ken. He was always a little dusty and in the corner. My Barbie didn't enter beauty contests, get married, or have children. She went to Paris and New York for fancy dinners and meetings. Years later, I became a fashion designer. I lived in Paris and New York, and went to fashion shows and fancy dinners. It was all about the outfits, and I began to wonder: am I just a grown up Barbie?

I'm a strong, intelligent woman. My idols are supposed to be Georgia O'Keeffe or Gloria Steinem or Madeleine Albright. Was I in danger of becoming a puff piece like Barbie?

When I achieved my Barbie-style life, I wasn't so sure I wanted it. My husband is a prosecutor, and he can change a person's life forever in just one day. I come home from work and say, Wow, I sold a great green dress today. And you should have seen the shoes!

Today, I'm sort of the anti-fashion designer fashion designer. I don't particularly like shopping, and if someone says fashion is silly, I'm the first to agree. It's just clothes. But if the sleeve is cut just right, it makes a difference. It makes a difference in how you present yourself. So many people have body issues. I hope I can help people like themselves a little bit more.

Clothes are personal and they're part of your identity. A few weeks ago, I got a call from a customer. She told me now that she has my clothes to put on in the morning, she's never felt so confident in her life. They may just be clothes, but they help her to be who she wants to be and to believe in herself.

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Malibu Barbie I loved looked nothing like my red-haired, freckled self. But that didn't stop me from thinking I was just like Barbie, cool and independent and smart. It's only as an adult that I realize that my belief in Barbie is really a belief in my own imagination. In whoever I imagined I could be and whatever I imagined I could do.

I believe in imagining a life and then trying to live it.

ALLISON: Jane Hammill with her essay for THIS I BELIEVE.

We hope you too will consider naming your personal belief in a 500-word essay, and sending it to us. You can find out more and see all the essays in our series at npr.org. You can also call 202-408-0300 for more information.

For THIS I BELIEVE, I'm Jay Allison.

INSKEEP: Our series continues next Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED when a Denver man tells us that he believes not in Barbie but in barbecue.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.