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Coverup girl

Kuwait's answer to the Barbie doll wears more modest clothes, just a hint of makeup and sports a less curvaceous figure than her American cousin.

Published January 12, 2004

[Times photo: James Borchuck]
The basic Fulla doll comes complete with “outdoor fashion,” the black scarf and long robe worn by many Muslim women in public.


KUWAIT CITY - In her 45 years, Barbie has been a doctor, pilot and figure skater, to name just a few accomplishments of this busty vinyl overachiever. But some in the Muslim world also consider her a decadent symbol of the West - hence Saudi Arabia's recent decision to ban Barbie along with her "revealing clothes and shameful postures."

So what's a kid to play with?

We don't know about the Saudis, but in at least one other conservative Persian Gulf nation the answer is . . . Fulla!

At Toyland in Kuwait's huge Marina Mall, a prominent display is devoted to the Barbie-sized Fulla and six separately packaged outfits. The basic doll comes in her "outdoor fashion," the black head scarf and long black abaya, or robe, that many Muslim women don in public. Befitting Fulla's upper-crust status, both abaya and scarf are trimmed in gold.

Underneath, Fulla wears lace undies, a calf-length straight skirt with modest side split, and a pink-and-white top with three-quarter-length sleeves. Pink slides and a pink shoulder bag complete the ensemble, which in traditional Muslim society would be seen only by other women and Fulla's close male relatives.

Fulla is 11-1/2 inches tall, like Barbie, and has long black hair with dramatic burgundy streaks. But her look is more demure - a few mascaraed lashes frame big brown eyes and a hint of fuchsia tints her dainty mouth. She's also noticeably less bosomy than her Mattel counterpart.

Fulla costs 5.55 Kuwaiti dinars - about $19 - or more than twice as much as a basic Barbie typically sells for at Kmart or Wal-Mart. Outfits are available for around $6 each and include a gold lame gown and pink jeans and jacket. Though the clothes come in trendy styles and colors, none reveals more than a few millimeters of flesh.

Fulla is named for a fragrant flower often made into garlands in the Mideast. But the doll's origins are a bit mysterious, like many things in the Arab world. The box says she's a product of "New Boy" and that the color "Fulla pink" - similar to that of Pepto Bismol - is registered to the company.

But New Boy doesn't have an Internet site, and nobody at Toyland knew much about it or whether Fulla will be joined by a boyfriend, say, Ali or Muhammed.

Despite the effort to create an Islamic fashion doll, Fulla and Barbie are more closely related than the Saudis and others might like to admit. Fulla may frequent the souks of the Mideast and Barbie may hang out in the malls of America, but they were "born" in the same place - China.

[Last modified January 9, 2004, 13:11:30]

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