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Chest and Dresser

When actress Pamela Anderson Lee -- the closest thing we have to a walking, talking Barbie doll -- recently downsized her bountiful chest, the globe was left wondering. Why would anyone want to look less like the tiny toy that so many little girls around the world own? Are standards of beauty changing? Or was it true that Pam's bodacious tatas simply prevented her from cutting a sleek figure in the couture outfits she so wants to wear?

Maybe a presurgery Pam should have consulted with the students in the fashion studies program at Miami-Dade Community College's Kendall Campus. They know about designing for a woman whose bust measurement is triple the size of her waist. One year ago fashion design professor Carlos Marrero dreamed up a competition to challenge his students. The task: Create outfits centered around a theme for the Barbie doll. Last year the theme was South Florida Barbie and the final products were exhibited at the Bal Harbour Gallery. This year Millennium Barbie debuts at the Shops at Sunset Place's Barnes & Noble store.

"Every single fashion designer that everyone knows has designed for Barbie," Marrero says. The 40-year-old doll has more than 100 ensembles created for her every year. She has more clothes than any woman would ever need, but that doesn't stop the fashionistas-in-training from drawing, cutting, and stitching. "This is more of a challenge than designing for a real person because her proportions are so off," Marrero explains. "It was very hard. When they started sewing those little dresses, they were pulling their hair out!"

The student's creations range from forward-looking to somewhat traditional. Ingunn Boe's Barbie sports purple hair with white streaks, a silver mask-like sunshade over her eyes, black tights, a cropped tube top, and a microfiber skirt containing a circuit board, allowing the doll instant computer access. Janeth Aleman's doll, wrapped head to toe in what appears to be gold wire, resembles a Masai warrior. Luz Marcela Pena (last year's winner) designed a gown worthy of Ivana Trump or one of the Gabor sisters. Made of electric-blue sequined fabric, the high-necked dress sports gunmetal gray feather accents at the hem along with a matching wrap. It's all topped off by an Asian-inspired conical silver hat. Almicar Ferrer's doll is swathed in layers of white linen.

A scholarship for fashion design classes will be the top prize for the arresting apparel, which will be exhibited in a roped-off area in the store. With hope none of the dolls will disappear from the high-traffic shop. "We have Barbie protection," Marrero assures. But don't assume that it will be Ken modeling his own designer duds. "We want to keep it simple," Marrero laughs. "It's hard enough to design for one disproportionate doll!"

-- Nina Korman

Millennium Barbie will be on view Thursday, May 6, through Sunday, May 9, at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore at the Shops at Sunset Place, 5701 Sunset Dr, South Miami. An opening reception takes place Thursday from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Admission is free. Call 305-662-4770.


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