Welcome to Barbie's pink heaven - or hell

Barbie has had countless outfits and accessories since she was born in 1959. But yesterday Barbie's Dream House opened in Berlin with some unofficial additions - police guards and topless protesters brandishing burning crosses.

The life-sized plastic mansion, dubbed "Hell in Pink" by its critics, welcomed its first visitors amid vitriolic protests from groups including women's-rights group Femen, who denounced the project as sexist propaganda.

The giant pink house dominates a 2500sq m site near Berlin's Alexanderplatz square and includes a Barbie cupcake kitchen and pink catwalk for girls to model Barbie clothes.

The project is the brainchild of Austrian entrepreneur Christopher Rahofer, who designed the house on licence from the doll's American producers, Mattel.

"This is just about having fun - it is a toy-world dream house that we bring to life," he insisted.

Michael Koschitzky, leader of Berlin's left-wing Occupy Barbie Dream House group, was among scores of protesters demonstrating outside. "This place sends the wrong message," he said. "We think that there is more to women than Barbie cliches which focus on the kitchen, make-up and clothes."

The protesters were unable to prevent a steady stream of parents and their eager daughters from filing past an enormous pink fountain in the shape of a high-heeled shoe to get inside.

Once in they were asked to part with a €12 ($19) entry fee and a further €10 if they wanted their daughter to take part in the fashion show. Seventy-two blonde Barbie dolls clad in different pink outfits stood in line behind glass to greet the visitors.

The Barbie brand was mercilessly reinforced via images of the pristine doll, accompanied by her siblings Skipper and Chelsea, which flashed up on to video screens at every turn.

Only Ken, Barbie's male partner, was missing. But he soon appeared in the cupcake kitchen, where girls were making virtual treats while multicoloured plastic cupcakes rotated above their heads.

Through a window, Ken could be seen hard at work acting out the German suburban dream as he polished an already gleaming pink vehicle which looked suspiciously like an open-topped VW Beetle. Dream House guides stood around dressed in black with the word "Friend" in large letters on the front of their T-shirts.

The main attraction was the Barbie wardrobe and dressing area where more "Friends" helped apply make-up and dressed the girls in Barbie costumes.

Outside, Sandra Grether, a leading member of Pinkstinks, a group which campaigns against gender stereotyping, was indignant. "Are women worth no more than their appearance?" she asked. Celine and Nadine Weise, aged 9 and 11, appeared unperturbed. "We thought it was great," said Nadine. "The walk-in wardrobe was best," added her sister.

- Independent

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