How to go about making a life size Barbie?


Old 07-28-13, 04:08 PM
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How to go about making a life size Barbie?

Hello everyone, I'm hoping I can get some help here.

So I'm a part of an organization called Project H.E.A.L, Help to Eat Accept and Live. Our mission is to raise funds to provide scholarships for treatment to individuals suffering from an eating disorder and also to raise awareness, promote positive body image, and break stigmas associated with eating disorders.

We have a lot of events this academic year and we want to build a life sized barbie to help promote our message. So i measured a doll barbie and scaled her measurements for a 5' 7" woman. She would need to have :

Bust: ~29.5'
Waist: 19'
Hips: 30.5'

I've already tried to put her together with my boyfriend by putting together wood for a frame skeleton. Then we were planning on wrapping her with chicken wire and layering paper mache until we got our desired measurements. However her skeleton was too top heavy and she started to become undone.

I'm hoping someone can suggest a more practical or better way to go about creating this life size barbie. School is starting soon and I'm really hoping to finish this soon before September. Thank you everyone!
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Old 07-28-13, 05:10 PM
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It's possible you could run into a copy right problem doing this.
Life-size Barbie's shocking dimensions (PHOTO): Would she be anorexic? - HealthPop - CBS News
Old 07-28-13, 05:15 PM
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Thanks Joe! I actually was worried about that too initially when I started this, but I've looked into it and I'm confident that I won't run into any issues. Thanks for the concern though!

Anyone have an idea of how to best approach the actual construction?
Old 07-28-13, 06:42 PM
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You might try working with spray styrofoam insulation like 'Great Stuff'. It could be sculpted with a knife or saw when it dries.
Old 07-28-13, 07:21 PM
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That's a good idea toolmon, thank you! Can that kind of stuff be painted over? Also, how durable does that stuff tend to be? I'd want it to be able to survive a few bumps. If it works, it'll save me a lot of time over paper mache!
Old 07-28-13, 09:05 PM
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Spray foam would work, and you can paint it, but it but it makes an awful mess. You would need some kind of form to contain it.

Since you're a non-profit have you considered going to a name brand clothing store and see if they'll donate a mannequin to the cause ?
Old 07-29-13, 05:00 AM
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Not to send this thread sideways, but 5'7" sounds a bit short from what I remember hearing the a fill scale Barbie would be. That being said, it is a bit more manageable height for transporting.

Now... back on topic....

I would take PJmax's suggestion but only to borrow one for a weekend or so.
Being that it sounds like you only one 1 copy, Vacuum molding might be overkill. Do a google search of "life casting". It's a plaster technique for creating a mold of a person. If you cast a mannequin in individual parts (separate the legs, etc), you can create a mold that can be padded to make it smaller (to fit your needs). Odds are you won't need to pad it too much as most mannequin I had to deal with as a kid (parents owned a couple tanning salons and clothing stores), where really smaller then life.
Once you have your mold(s), you can fill them with either a heat foam (like used for packing delicate equipment for shipping) or similar. Add an aluminum rod in each piece to give it stability. Foam will be shape/shave able so you can compensate for any imperfections in the finish.

If you found a mannequin that was exactly as you liked, you could go fiberglass. Fiberglass would last a lot longer, but would need to have the mold perfect to reduce the effort to make presentable.

I'll be doing a carbon fiber life casting this fall. The customer is looking for a subwoofer enclosure replica of them self (don't ask, I didn't).
Old 07-29-13, 06:15 AM
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Thanks for the suggestions!

Regarding mannequins, I've spent hours looking at mannequins on websites and none of them quite come close to the measurements I would need. Getting a mannequin would be my #1 option, but such measurements do not exist from what I've looked at.

Regarding Barbie's height, the way I did it was that I measured her according to her 11.5" tall doll from Target. From there, I could scale her measurements up to a desired height. So for example, the ratio between 69" (5ft 9in) and 11.5" is 6. So then I would just multiply the measurements from the 11.5" doll by 6 and that would give me her measurements if I wanted to make her 5ft 9in.

Mike, I really like your suggestions but I'm worried about two things :


I've never done any kind of 'life casting' before, I don't know how realistic it would be for me to do it. If it's not that expensive or terribly difficult (like I'd need to be an expert) then maybe that'd be the best route for me to go.

Old 07-29-13, 06:23 AM
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Wondering about one of those wire frame forms that seamstresses use when making dresses for a frame? You could perhaps add/bend the wire to recreate close to the 'dimensions' you are wanting? My wife is the puppetmaker in this family however. She's made lifesize mosquitoes, sturgeon, ghouls, etc. for various projects. I'll see if she has any ideas.
Old 07-29-13, 06:24 AM
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That'd be great bill! I look forward to her ideas, thank you!
Old 07-29-13, 06:35 AM
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I suggested the casting as it would probably be much easier to get a closer to perfect outcome then trying to wrap a custom (from scratch) frame. I don't like recreating something when I can use something that exists and build on it.
I'm thinking you can get a mannequins reasonably close to your requirements. Once you case the mannequins, add material in the areas where you need the object smaller (skinnier).

I only used life casting as an example. Being that you wouldn't use a live person for this, you can use much cheaper materials such as regular plaster and cloth, etc. Humans have hair and what not and our skin doesn't like chemical burns and such.
Casting is super easy. It's actually like your paper mache except your using a plaster like soaked cloth. The basic steps are cover/coat the object with a wax (if on hard little to no texture plastic, lard or heavy paste automotive wax can do), cover with the plaster cloth and allow to dry. remove object and you have your negative mold.
Once you have your negative mold, you'll need to add your filler to make the void smaller (waist area, etc). Spend your time making the seams as smooth as possible between your filler and paster mold. Once completed, you have your mold to fill.

Do a search on youtube for "Life Casting" to see the technique being used. A similar technique to what you are doing has been done/shown on shows like MythBusters many times.
Old 07-29-13, 07:24 AM
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Something like this?

All sizes | Life-size Barbie (IMG_28448) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

If I were you, I'd figure out the proportions, then find a narrow-waist used mannequin that has the same waist to height ratio. Add padding to the existing mannequin to get the dimensions.
Probably have to get long thin arms / legs to finish.

Better idea see if you have a college engineering department or local business that has CNC machinery (computer controlled milling equipment).
They should be able to scan a barbie doll, or use some pre-existing 3d barbie data-

radiology art- This is a CT scan of a barbie doll.
Computed Tomography
January 2006 Figure 11. Photo of Ken and Barbie mounted in the CT set-up.

Once they have a barbie form, they shold be able to carve a torso, either out of a single big block of styrofoam, or by cutting layers of 1" e.g. foamcore insulation.

A cheaper and less elegant solution would be "barbie meat slicer tomography".

Fill a doll with plasticene (keep it from deforming) and run it through a meat slicer.
Take the little barbie discs, scan them, scale them up and print them on paper, use those as a pattern to carved full sized discs out of 1" foamcore insulation.

Assemble the full sized foamcore discs, glue together, smooth the edges, cover with a leotard.

Last edited by Hal_S; 07-29-13 at 07:40 AM.
Old 07-29-13, 11:35 AM
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Make your own foam block???

This prop guy suggested Gorilla glueing together some 2" home insulation foam sheets together to form a large block. Then you could trace the front and side profiles and sculpt her out. Not sure how artistically inclined you are, but it might be worth a shot. Here is his stuff:

Sculpting and Carving Foam - YouTube

Good Luck Molly!

Please post when she's finished.

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