Blythe was created in 1972 by designer Allison Katzman at Marvin Glass and Associates and marketed in the USA by the now-defunct toy company Kenner. Due to a lack of interest, Blythe dolls were only sold for one year in the U.S. (produced in Hong Kong) and also in Australia, during 1972. It would only become popular some 27 years later. Reportedly, she was modeled after drawings by Margaret Keane, similarly to many other dolls of the '60s and '70s. Her most distinctive feature were eyes that changed color with the pull of a string attached to the back of her head.
In 1997, New York TV and video producer Gina Garan was given a 1972 Kenner Blythe by a friend and began using it to practice her photographic skills. She began taking her Blythe everywhere with her and took hundreds of photos. In 1999, she was introduced to CWC's Junko Wong by artist and illustrator, Jeffrey Fulvimari which brought Blythe to the attention of Parco and toy executives. In 2000, Gina published her first book of Blythe photography with Chronicle Books, This is Blythe. In 2001, Hasbro (the Trademark and License owner) gave Takara of Japan and CWC a license to produce the New Edition of Blythe (Neo Blythe). Blythe was used in a television advertising campaign by Parco, the fashion branch of Seibu Department Stores in Japan and was an instant hit.
In 2003 Blythe was the subject in a segment on the VH1 special, I Love the 70s, where she was said to look like either "Barbie with elephantiasis" or "Christina Ricci" among other things. The success in Japan led Hasbro to issue a license to Ashton-Drake Galleries in 2004 to sell Blythe replica dolls in the United States, where the doll became a niche product in a marginal market, selling largely to adults. In spring 2009, Alexander McQueen launched a fashion line for Target with an ad campaign featuring Blythe dolls.