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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Barbie's Moscow Dreams

I once lived near a Barbie shop at Alekseyevskaya metro where black market Barbie shuttle traders would hang around outside the shop trying to sell the latest accessory f Barbie barbecue sets f on the cheap, as well as the latest starry-eyed doll.

On the other side of town, 57 Barbies crowd together in a small room at the Saburov Gallery. There are black-haired, yellow-haired, blue-haired and otherwise oddly-haired Barbies sitting f or rather leaning in that having-difficulty-with-my-joints way Barbie has f on stands all around the shop.

But these Barbies are a bit different from those you'd find in a toy store.

Clad in dresses that flare outward in flamboyant hoop shapes, these are 19th-century Russian Barbies. At the "Moscow Dreams of Barbie" exhibit at Saburov, the Barbies are dressed in 57 costumes handmade f all within a period of three months f by the late Natalya Titova.

"That's a baryshnyka," said gallery director Tatyana Anyshina, pointing to a doll in a dress that used more material than might an American Barbie's lifetime wardrobe.

More than five years ago, Titova was at home one day after having been diagnosed with cancer. A friend and her daughter visited, only to leave a doll behind. Titova then decided to dress the doll and, by the time of her death three months later, Titova, a former accountant, had created the dozens of doll costumes the gallery's dolls wear today.

"It was psychological rehabilitation," said Anyshina. "She wanted to stay beautiful."

Among the various costumes are gypsy-style dresses, what Anyshina calls "carnival-style"dresses and a Chekhovian Dog on the Floor lady's dress (at left).

"It's fur," Anyshina said, pointing to a beautiful gray wrap perched on the doll's shoulders. "It's probably rabbit."

According to Anyshina, hundreds of children have already visited the exhibit.

"We did it for the little girls," she said. "To help them learn how to dress dolls."

But one thing is missing at this exhibit of Barbies, besides the jeans and sparkle makeup: Ken, Barbie's long-term boyfriend.

There is, however, an Alexander Pushkin doll in the next room. Of course Pushkin is no Ken, although I'm betting he has charm enough for Cheerleader Barbie, Rapunzel Barbie, "Gone With the Wind" Barbie, Veterinarian Barbie, Spring Petals Barbie, Pilot Barbie and all of their friends.

"Moscow Dreams of Barbie" (Moskovskiye Grozi o Barbie) runs until September at the Saburov Gallery, located at 55 Kashirskoye Shosse, Building 1. Metro Kashirskoe. Tel. 344-9872.