My mom was a career woman; she earned two Master’s degrees and
was (and is) a computer systems analyst. So, it may not surprise
you that she wasn’t all into girly toys for me when I was
Macintosh computer and calligraphy set = YES
Barbie = NO
French horn and piano lessons = YES
Princessy dress-up outfits = NO
Add to that the fact that my dad was a
structural engineer and I didn’t have a sister, and you KNOW that I
didn’t get to have Fashion Plates.
oh, I wanted them. One of my friends, Marie, had two younger
sisters and a mom who was a home-ec teacher. Their house was a fairyland
of 1980’s girl toys. I remember the glee I felt when Marie’s parents
redid their basement into an enormous playroom, chockfull of all the
toys I coveted.
I remember begging Mom for Fashion
Plates. They’re creative! You DESIGN YOUR OWN CLOTHES! She
totally didn’t buy it. You just switch the plates around. That’s not
designing clothes. Draw your own.
So, while they were never to cross the
threshold into my house, I loved them at Marie’s.
The basic deal with Fashion Plates was
that you had rectangular plastic plates for the head, torso, and legs of
a figure. You switched up her hairdo/hat, blouse, and pants/skirt into
an outfit you liked by placing the plates into a grooved tray. Then you
rubbed over the raised patterns on the plates with a colored pencil or
crayon to get the outline of the outfit. It was a very satisfying
activity in that you actually created the fashion image, but it looked
all professional and perfect because it was an etching. Then you could
fill in the outlines with the colors or patterns you wanted to give it
your own artistic touch.
I remember that dreamy commercial, too.
A crooning male voice, Frank Sinatra-esque, that closed with a longing,
And they call them… Fashion Pla-a-a-ates!
Sadly, I can’t find this early 80’s
commercial online. I’d love to hear that jingle again. Here is one from
1990 that gives you the basic idea, though:
I mean, doesn’t that look FUN? The
eighties had some wild, exuberant fashion trends: huge bows, colorful
plastic jewelry, big hair, and tons of ruffles. Fashion plates were an
awesome way for little girls to play designer and create easy, pretty
fashion pictures of their own.
I’m none the worse for never owning my
own set (and I’m VERY glad I know how to play piano – thanks, Mom!) but
I’m also very glad that Marie had some Fashion Plates I could
play with. They are a sweet little memory from my 80’s childhood.