My Style Influences: Favorite Toys

(It seems like a thousand years since I have written a new blog post… especially one that contains positive thoughts. It’s just really hard right now to summon positive mental energy when it feels like the entire world is going to explode. Maybe though, forcing myself to think in that positive space is exactly what I need. Here we go…)

This year, I set out to write a series of posts about my fashion inspirations. You know, bits and pieces of my origin story that have influenced my love for style and self-expression that I have today. Thinking back, I can honestly say I have wanted a giant closet full of clothes my whole life. I grew up in a lower middle class family with four kids, so there wasn’t really a lot of extra money for designer clothes or an abundance of choices… but a girl could dream, right? I swore, someday when I had a job of my own, I was going to wear awesome stuff!

As a middle schooler, I would pour over copies of Seventeen, Teen, and Sassy magazines, clipping pictures of styles that I wanted to emulate. In high school, I got a job at Kmart the moment I turned 16 in order to have spare cash to buy a few fashionable items I really wanted. In college, my roommate and I cut out clothes from the J. Crew catalog and created a clothesline around the ceiling, representing our dream closet. Like I said… outfits have always been on my mind.

But really, my love of clothes and putting together a complete look were inspired by two favorite toys. Barbie and Fashion Plates.

Barbie has been around for over sixty years. You know, that uber-cool tall chic with the impossible body, a great career, a fancy car, and all the clothes you could ever dream of? Say what you will about Barbie giving little girls poor self-esteem and unrealistic expectations… I LOVED BARBIE! Between me and my sister, we probably had thirty Barbies nestled inside plastic carrying cases. Our Barbies had a TON of clothes.. and I wanted all of them!

As a child of the early 1980’s, my favorite Barbies were as follows: Fashion Jeans Barbie… She came with a fuzzy pink sweater, dark blue jeans, and pink cowboy boots. Her jeans were so skinny that they would only pull on if you slathered her legs with baby powder. (My sister pulled her head off once. We could only reattach it by jamming it on, leaving her no neck from that moment forward.) Western Barbie… She was a glorious Dolly Parton look alike, with a shiny fringed jumpsuit and a ton of blue eye shadow. Her right eye winked when you pushed a button in her back. (This function eventually stopped working and she just had a permanent lazy eye.) Crystal Barbie: She came with a crunchy iridescent gown, a long boa, and blingy jewelry. Talk about a fabulous date night outfit! (Again, in a moment of toddler destruction, my sister chewed on her hand until her fingers were several inches long. Mom salvaged Barbie’s usefulness by cutting her fingers off.)

However, my most prized Barbie possession was the Barbie Loves McDonald’s playset. Santa brought it for Christmas in 1983… and it was the BOMB! The set came with an order counter, a booth, brown food trays, and tiny food, including Big Mac boxes that had little burgers inside. Plus, I had a legit 80’s McDonald’s uniform to make one of the Barbies go to work.

My sister and I spent hours playing with Barbie and her identical friends… they shopped, went to work, starred in movies, and did fashion shows where they selected the perfect outfit for going out with Ken. (Yes, we had thirty Barbies and ONE Ken doll. The man was a pimp!) Poor Ken didn’t have a closet like Barbie’s for a very long time. No… we owned a Malibu Ken who had teal swim trunks with gold lame trim that he wore every day. (Sorry, buddy.) Our aunt finally took pity on him and bought him some clothes.

** A few things of note about Barbie play time… First, our Barbies never had a dream house. We just used items around our room to create an apartment. (Those little plastic stands from pizzas make excellent end tables!) Our Barbies never owned a car… shoes and Kleenex boxes did the trick. (Occasionally, they would hitch a ride with the Ninja Turtles in their van that shot pizzas out the front.) And most importantly, when my sister and I got bored, we would just throw everything in the carrying cases and close the closet door, leaving a box full of naked Barbies. (This frustrated and embarrassed our Mom… too much nudity!)

Fashion Plates, on the other hand appealed to the designer in me. This toy, invented in the late 1970’s, helps young designers create different style combinations with limited artistic talent. Each outfit consists of three interchangeable plates… the head, with different hairstyles and jewelry… the mid-section with blouses and bodices… and the bottom with skirts, dresses, and trousers. After loading the desired combination in the tray, you place a piece of tracing paper on top, then lightly rub over the plates with a dark crayon. Finally, you use colored pencils to make the outfits whatever color and pattern you desire. There are innumerable combinations of outfits to create and color. I filled an endless closet full of clothing! This toy has been updated throughout the decades and is still being manufactured today. Honestly, I loved it enough that perhaps I’ll order a new one to play around with this summer. (Coloring is quite therapeutic!)

You never know what pieces of childhood will spark your imagination and inspire your grown up hobbies and interests! What pieces of your past have created who you are today?

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