Guest Blogger Joanne Fox is back for another trip down memory lane
When I was growing up in the seventies, it felt like the boom-time for party-plan selling. Few weeks passed without my mum and our neighbours visiting one another’s homes to swoon over the latest ranges of clothes, make-up and kitchenware that could be bought on a party-plan basis.
The concept was simple but effective. Imagine you make an innocent comment to the lady who’s just moved in along the road. “That’s a nice blouse,” you say, privately thinking the swirly orange pattern reminds you of your lounge curtains.
“It’s from Pippa Dee,” she replies. “Would you like to come to my next party?”
To be friendly, you go to the party, noticing how the menfolk of her household have made themselves scarce before guests arrive. The hostess’s daughter models a few frilly tops. You feel obliged to purchase a serviceable bra so that your hostess will make enough sales to receive her free gift.
Just when you think you can escape, a couple of other guests decide they will arrange parties – and of course you are invited. Now you have to go to their houses and buy more overpriced clothes so they can get their free gifts too. But never fear, because you can always have a party of your own and it’ll be your turn for the free gift. Hurray! You’ve only spent a small fortune on clothes you’ll never wear to get that lilac baby-doll nightie which will give you a shock of static every time you put it on.
When I was about ten I had two pink nylon Pippa Dee nightdresses. I can still remember how I detested the feel of the cold material, which did much to put me off man-made fabrics for life. To me all their clothes looked terribly old-fashioned, but one guest who found inspiration at a Pippa Dee party was Jacqueline Gold, now chief executive of the Ann Summers chain. Back in the eighties she saw how the concept of party-plan selling might revive the Ann Summers business, which was then owned by her father.
At your Pippa Dee party you would be expected to provide a few nibbles, and what better to serve them in than your extensive collection of Tupperware? Following its invention in the 1940s by Earl Tupper, Tupperware became king of the party-plan circuit. Any time that people thought they had enough pastel-shaded bowls, boxes and cruet sets to build a Tupperware mountain, out would come some new item that nobody realised they needed until it was demonstrated by the party organiser.
I particularly remember we had a round, white Tupperware dish which was divided into half a dozen sections. There was a handle which screwed into the centre, and the dish had its own lid. It was used a lot for peanuts and crisps if we had visitors, or for bits of salad for Sunday tea. The second Tupperware item that sticks in my mind is a pale green beaker, again with a lid. Whenever I went on a school trip the beaker would come with me, filled with orange squash which never tasted very nice. During holidays, Tupperware really came into its element. Picnics on the beach would feature hard-boiled eggs, pickled onions, cheese and cucumber sandwiches, and other delights, all packed neatly into every possible size of Tupperware container.
In the late 70s Tupperware’s popularity began to wane and I remember a brief fad for stainless steel parties instead. However Tupperware has since regained its place in the party-plan market, with the result that there was recently estimated to be a Tupperware party held every 2.5 seconds!