Even before I got to the theater, I saw the pink.
One or two people in bright pink outfits isn’t unusual in a crowded space, but it became clear as I walked toward the movie theater that the pink-clad group I was following wasn’t alone. Dozens of people sporting pink ensembles were all heading to see Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie. People of all genders and ages came dressed for the occasion. I saw a father in a bright tropical-style shirt take a picture with his daughter in pink, posing in front of a photo backdrop, while lines of pink-clad people in groups waited for their turn. Some went for head-to-toe pink, while others simply sported pink sunglasses or a bright pink shirt. But it was clear what movie they were here to see. (The chorus of “Hi, Barbie!” from one pink group to another certainly cemented that; as seen in one of the movie’s first trailers, that’s how all the Barbies in Barbieland greet each other.)
As it turns out, the dress-up vibe at my screening wasn’t an anomaly. Around the world, people are showing up to Barbie wearing either their pinkest attire or their most fabulous fashion. If you’ve been to a theater this past week or so, even if you weren’t seeing Barbie, you probably noticed this phenomenon.
Fans dressing up in ways that reflect the movie they’re seeing is still a popular way to express excitement for the experience; just ask anyone who went to a Hunger Games or Harry Potter midnight premiere back in the day. But there’s a certain energy in the Barbie dress-ups that feels a little different. For one, it’s not just the premiere getting the hype, but any Barbie screening. (A friend told me that her Tuesday-evening screening was packed with people who’d dressed for the occasion.) And for another, it seems like people from all walks of life are picking appropriately festive outfits for this cinematic experience.
“I just loved seeing so many girlies all dressed up and excited for a movie tbh,” Lauryl Fischer tells Polygon via DM. “I feel like that kind of fervor is usually only for huge fantasy franchises.”
“I saw a mom and a daughter dress up,” says Mandy Stoffel. “It’s a nice reminder for those of us who are adults — like, why not put on your most fun clothes for a Monday?”
“Though it was not the whole theater, seeing so many people, especially one group of older women who were hanging out near us before the movie, made this truly a wonderful time of just existing in this shared experience,” Chloe Rostron-Manning says via email.
The other thing that separates Barbie from some of these big franchise dress-ups is that it’s just been a long time since people were this hyped up for a movie. Many of the people I spoke to told me that they haven’t been this pumped to go to the theater in ages.
“I actually have never been this excited for a movie,” says Vera Westwood.
“It’s a cultural movie reset right now! People haven’t been going back to the movies since COVID, and this energy is really special,” says Jonathan Souza.
“The internet just takes stuff and runs with it,” adds Darby Flynn.
Jonathan, Darby, and their friends came to the theater for the Barbie/Oppenheimer double feature, complete with a midday costume change from dreary black suits to their bright ensembles. For some of the people doing the Barbenheimer combo viewing, that means combination costumes.
Via Instagram, Noble Nolan tells me that she and her fiancé did the double feature over two days, and it made perfect sense for them to do a joint costume, with her in Barbie colors and him in Oppenheimer vintage.
“We had seen all of the memes and thought it would be fun to dress up to match the memes,” she says. “Especially because my personal style is fun, feminine, and pink, and my fiancé loves ’40s-style clothing. Everything we wore, we already own!”
Personally, I saw a couple of Barbenheimer shirts when I was at the theater, along with people dressed in suits with pink ties, and one particularly impressive all-pink suit. But while the Oppenheimer of it all certainly adds an extra oomph to theater dress-up, the focus still all wraps around to Barbie.
My Barbie Movie outfit from last night pic.twitter.com/TsUF1o358Q— Michelle Otter ️⚧️ (@michellexotter) July 23, 2023
went to see Barbie with @AnnaBarlog today. I love that she had custom fabric printed so she could make her own outfit for the our movie date.— the fake cory balrog (@corybarlog) July 30, 2023
She looks so fucking amazing!
I am so very lucky and wholly undeserving of her. I love her so much!❤️
The movie was great too! pic.twitter.com/GYXwxPMXAh
After all, fashion is a big part of who Barbie is and has always been. While Barbie is a big brand name, the movie itself isn’t a franchise installment, and it has a different fan base from the big blockbusters that usually invite costuming. It’s unabashedly girly and unapologetically feminine, which invites a special experience that is unlike other theater trips. It’s a sea of pink outfits and cheerful “Hi, Barbie!” greetings as theatergoers zero in on other people in fun outfits.
“Seeing everyone in pink was so thrilling. I felt like I was a part of something,” says Clementine Henthorn. “I loved how many women, girls, and femme-presenting people there were. I’ve never been to a movie with that energy.”