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.