Fashion Plates

Fashion Plates fashion design toy

For all the little girls dreaming of being a dress designer when they grew up, Tomy Toys had just the thing to get those creative ideas flowing. Granted, they weren’t exactly an original concept; fashion plates have existed as far back as the 18th century. But these were specially made so that young hands could experience the exciting world of fashion design without ever leaving the kitchen table. Now, you could be the Christian Dior of your family!

Fashion plates were once elite design tools, passed back and forth between designers and dressmakers to show off their new dress styles. Eventually the technique gained popularity outside of the industry and fashion plates could be found all over the place. Many of these antiques, which capture the fashion eras of yesteryear have, in fact, become quite collectable throughout time.

Tomy’s version simplified the process and utilized more plastic than their predecessors but the concept is basically the same. Choosing from a large variety of indented plates that contained drawings of various fashion items – dresses, tops, pants, you name it – you would choose the combination that suited your tastes and assemble them into a base. By placing a piece of paper over the base, you could then glide a black crayon over it, which would create an image of your fashion statement. Then, by turning the paper over and selecting from a number of textures, you could take your trusty set of colored pencils out and begin adding a splash of color to your designs. The process itself wasn’t all that time consuming – but it was somewhat addictive, given the seemingly endless number of choices you had at your disposal. The hours passed swiftly as your prepubescent portfolio took shape.

Of course, most of these designs ended up hanging on bedroom walls – or the gallery of choice for kid’s art, the family refrigerator. And scotch-taped next to little Billy’s surrealist painting of something that might have been a fire engine, or possibly a hot dog with wheels, your artistry and fashion sense could shine above the surrounding scribbles that paled by comparison. That experience alone, that one-upmanship of your sibling’s artistic abominations, was worth the effort in itself.

Were you one of those kids from yesteryear that delved into the art of design via Fashion Plates? Share your recollections of your elegant creations with all of us at Retroland as we look back on this fondly remembered toy.

41 Responses to “Fashion Plates”

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  1. tcoria says:

    i had fashion plates, and i was in love with it, i played with it for hours on end.
    if they were to bring it back out, i think it would sell.

  2. Marcia says:

    I LOOOVED my Fashion Plates, and I was recently delighted to discover that they do have a new variation on them (though I’m still hoping my Mom finds my originals in the attic). Lookee here: http://www.modcloth.com/store/ModCloth/Apartment/Gifts+Electronics/Next+Betsey+Fashion+Designer

    • Jess says:

      The one you linked to looks EXACTLY like the one I used to play with when I was a child. I loved it sooo much. I still can’t believe I donated it, but I remember having tons of fun with that toy when I was little!

  3. Maggie Dailey says:

    I wish that I still had this toy.Me and my sister both played with this thing for hours.
    It was AWESOME.

  4. jennifer harris says:

    I wanted the New Kids ont he Block one,but I never got it.

  5. dee says:

    I loved this as a kid too. I had one given to me a little while ago and gave it to my kids today they loved it, but the black crayon is wearing down does anyone know where to buy these.

    • Erin says:

      If memory serves right, you could use any crayon with the wrapper taken off in place of the original black one. I loved this toy and I also had one that let you design different styles of birthday cards.

    • Kate says:

      Hi! I loved my fashion plates too! My mom and I just found them and gave them to my 4 year old daughter. We all spent the day having fun! You can just replace the crayon by breaking a new black crayon to fit inside of the holder.

  6. MM says:

    Hours of joy from these suckers. I liked the chick with her arms over her head that went with the swimsuit plates. I always wished I had sexy hair like her.

  7. Cathe Holden says:

    I believe that was one toy I envied from afar. Possibly my third choice item circled in the Sears wishbook at Christmas. The 7-Up machine always came in first, although I never got that either. Fun post, thanks for the memories!!

  8. fashion says:

    nice work..really very nice..!!

  9. Susheel Naseem says:

    Hi i am susheel
    This website is Good I like it

  10. patricia says:

    i never had this as a kid and i remember, every time we’d have Sunday lunch at my cousin’s, i’d bug her to bring it out so i could play with it (she had this and popples too). now that i’m much older, i thought i’d buy one for myself but don’t know where to (which brought me here, hehe). any suggestions?

  11. kitty says:

    I loved this toy most of all. My brother had a similar apparatus to make his own monsters. We used to use the plates interchangeably to make Horror Plates. Hilarious.

  12. Lisa says:

    I loved this as a kid. I actually still have it in a box. Not the original box and the colored pencils are missing. All the plates are exactly as shown in the picture. Wish I had a daughter to share it with; my son would not use it.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I am still mad at my mom for selling this in a garage sale. Funny story: I actually became a fashion designer! Great post. Go Tomy Toys!

  14. Maya says:

    Love my fashion plates. I was SO going to be a designer when I grew up. :)

  15. Karin says:

    I just found mine today. I was so excited! My 7 year old daughter is loving them. How fun and how neat that 30 years later, we all still have such great memories of them. :)

  16. George says:

    would love to have a replacement for the black crayon, regular crayons do not work as well. the one that came with was harder and left less smudges and residue. any ideas?

  17. Jamileena says:

    I loved Fashion Plates, I even remember the song in the comercial. *sigh* I always liked the long flowing hair or the gal with the hat. I would usually do them with the tall boots and plaid skirt – everything I colored was burgandy and brown with orange. How much more late 70′s can I get? I remember the waxy black crayon that went in the pink clip to rub over the plates. I had tons of colored pencils and used them instead of the small selection that came with it. Man, I wish I had those again, I would love to ‘deign’ an outfit and color.

  18. purplemoon72 says:

    I found mine in the garage and all of it is still there! Awesome!! I played with it for hours at a time!!

  19. ANDREA says:

    I LOVED THIS AS A YOUNG GIRL. SOMETIMES I WISH I KEPT IT. JUST FOR NOSTALGIA:)

  20. Kathy says:

    Fashion Plates were one of my all-time favourite toys and I’m so happy to see my 8-year-old daughter enjoying them now too! I remember working so hard on my clothing “catalogue” – rubbing out each individual piece, then giving it an “order number.” Then doing paper swatches of all the patterns (from the backs of the plates), and the final option was the colour, with each colouring pencil being labelled with its own code (written on medical tape and stuck to the pencil).
    I believe that the success of this toy for so many children was that it was just the start of the creative process – you could create your own stories, fashion shows, etc. Plus you never ran out of the supplies (except for the wax black pencil!) I would love to see the whole set re-created and updated for today’s children.

  21. Kim says:

    i still have my set as shown above and the booster set of plates (they were blue) My 5 year old loves making her fashion books. Totally the best toy ever!

  22. Drahken says:

    I used to have the monsters version. The problem though was that I had gotten it used & all the head plates were missing. Despite this, I liked it a lot. I would often wind up using stampers for the heads, after using the plates for everything else. I wonder… Just how manymer-wolf-man monsters, with Mr. T heads did I wind up with? :p

  23. paula says:

    I have longed for my fashion plates and remember them fondly, I loved them. Looking at that picture of them just dazzles me. I wanted to keep them but I think they were thrown out somewhere down the line which I am very sad about. I would looove to have them again, my girls would love them. Thanks for the memories

  24. Melissa M. says:

    I’m a 70s kid and this was absolutely one of my favorite “toys”. More than a toy, yes? This was and is ART. Just saw a post about this on Faceboook, then did a google search and found your site. Will come back often. Next year I may very well buy this on ebay!

  25. Kristine says:

    interested in purchasing one if there is anyone here looking to sell!
    thank you

  26. I remember spending hours with my Fashion Plates. I wish they still sold these. I would buy one in a heartbeat!!!!!

  27. Cara Berkeley says:

    Where can I buy the crayon that fits in the crayon holder?

  28. Jen says:

    I would love to find these for my daughters – they were the best! I bought one of the sets that are out now and they are just not the same. :-( I keep looking, but the vintage ones are pretty expensive on EBay.

  29. Bought my daughter a new attempt at this great concept but it just wasn’t tge same

  30. Dawn says:

    I had hours and hours of fun playing this as a little girl! I desperately want to find one for my daughter (and myself)!!

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