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Barbie necklace critiques plastic ideals

Brittni Larson

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The cashier at Michael's craft store looked at the dangling plastic pendant and thought it was a cat.

"I told her it was a Barbie doll crotch," Winter Park resident Allie Pohl said, recounting her most memorable experience wearing her necklace.

Flustered and red in the face, the older woman took an extra 10 minutes to check her out.

"She won't ever look at Barbie the same," Allie said.

Pohl's Ideal Woman Necklace takes the form of Barbie, an image of the perfect woman created more than 50 years ago, to make a statement.

"The necklace was created out of my belief that society is obsessed with the idea of the perfect woman … I try to critique trends that I find impractical or destructive to the female form."

Pohl is a graduate student in the Electronic Media Arts Design program at the University of Denver. The necklace takes the silhouette of Barbie from the waist to just above the knee, and comes in a variety of neon colors. Her mother, a Winter Park resident, prefers the one with Swarovski crystals.

"The bling necklace is my favorite," Joan Pohl said.

Joan wears the necklaces frequently, and said that there hasn't been a day that she's worn them that someone hasn't made a comment. She said all of her feedback has been positive, and many of her Winter Park friends have bought the necklaces.

"It's like an icebreaker and a conversation piece," Joan said. "It unites females."

Allie has created a blog for ideal necklace owners to share their icebreaking experiences. Comments range from praise for the design to happy accounts of shocking fellow lawyers during business meetings.

Shock isn't uncommon, and Allie doesn't shy away from unconventional ideas. She really got an interest in art as social and feminist commentary when she began her master's degree. Her early pieces explored trends in female hair and hair removal. Using a My Size Barbie as inspiration and template, she created porcelain sculptures with Chia plants growing out of the legs, armpits and, how Allie might put it, crotch. That's when Allie said she fell in love with the Barbie figure and continued to work with it.

Allie said her art has a purpose and wants it to make people question the world around them and think about how images — skinny models and actresses that never age — and social constructs affect them. She hopes her necklaces raise awareness to combat these impossible "Barbie" ideals.

"I've been forced and encouraged to think about what I put out there, what it means and how it resonates with people," she said.

"She's establishing a brand with a message, and making art accessible to the masses in a personal way, said Molly O'Brien, a necklace owner and Allie's friend.

Allie's necklaces, which have only been out for two months, are certainly resonating with the fashion community. They've been featured on several fashion Web sites and blogs, and in February will be in Marie Claire Greece.

"It strikes a real emotional connection with the person who's wearing it," O'Brien said. "There's something she's tapping into that's connecting with women."