13 Facts About Caboodles Makeup Organizers

Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Images: Amazon (Caboodles), iStock (background).
Photo illustration by Mental Floss. Images: Amazon (Caboodles), iStock (background).

Teen girls in the late '80s and early '90s had to have a Caboodles organizer—the bright plastic cases filled with trays for organizing their makeup. (If you had one, you probably grew up to be the kind of person who hangs out in The Container Store for fun.) Now, the vintage organizers are back in stores. Here's what you should know.


Although company legend has it that Caboodles were inspired by a 1986 People magazine photo shoot where Vanna White used a fishing tackle box as a makeup organizer, Caboodles were actually the brainchild of New Zealand native Leonie Mateer. When she relocated to California in the 1980s, Mateer wanted to start a business; she recalled that she had once seen a model arriving to a photoshoot with a tackle box to organize her cosmetics, and an idea was born.


Mateer writes in her book, The Caboodle Blueprint: Turn Your Idea Into Millions, that she began by researching all the companies that made tackle boxes. The first company she approached offered to use their tools to create the boxes, then backed out.


The second manufacturer Mateer called (Plano Molding, though she doesn't name the company in her book) was interested, and hired her to launch Caboodles. "[The company] initially hired me as a consultant to create the line, market and develop the brand, set up the rep force and sell the product to the retailers," Mateer writes. "As I didn't have the capital required to launch a full product line, this manufacturer immediately took ownership of the brand and the products and invested all the capital required to create, market, and sell the product. I became an employee of this company." Later in Blueprint, she acknowledges that she gave the idea away: "I was given something that money cannot buy—hands on experience … I often say that Caboodles was my college education." Mateer left Caboodles in the early '90s to start a competitor, Sassaby, that was purchased by Estee Lauder; she did eventually return to Caboodles as a consultant.


"I knew that the name needed to be colorful if it was to appeal to my target audience—teens," Mateer writes in Blueprint, and she wanted it to be a C word. "I was sitting in my bathtub reading a huge Oxford English Dictionary," she recalled. "I came across 'Caboodles,' which had a definition of 'a collection or clutter of things.' How perfect, I thought, for an organizer box."


Just as the name had to be colorful, so did the boxes themselves. To come up with just the right ones, Mateer and the manufacturer visited "a local discount store where I chose four brightly colored plastic hair dryers in peach, yellow, pink, and purple," she writes. As she was checking out, she told a clerk who was curious about why they were buying so many hair dryers that they were for her new product, Caboodles—it was the first time she had named her idea out loud.


The first boxes, called "on-the-go organizers," hit the market in 1987. They were a runaway hit, selling 2 million units in the first two years. In 1992, The New York Times reported that an official at Plano said the company "now sells far more makeup boxes than it does tackle boxes," and that "nearly 80 percent of the teen-age girls in the country are aware of Caboodles." Eventually the line grew to 70 products, which retailed between $5 and $40.


In the ad, which came out in 1988, two sisters hear from their brother that his friend is coming over "in his Porsche." The girls quickly run upstairs to get dolled up. The sister with the Caboodles case is ready in a snap; her sister, not so much. The friend with the Porsche? He turns out to be a nerd.


One 13-year-old fan from a suburb of Minneapolis told the Times that "she and her friends would make fun of any compatriot foolish enough to show up at a slumber party with a rival brand." Way harsh.


It was targeted to girls aged 5 to 10. "Little ones can use the Caboodles Playsets for fantasy play," Meredith Moss wrote in the Dayton Daily News in 1993. "The cases come with a little fashion doll and have themes ranging from a beauty spa and beach to a workout gym and a wedding." There were also necklaces equipped with tiny Caboodles "that open to reveal an accessory inside."


In the early '90s, Caboodles partnered with Mattel to release a Caboodles Barbie. The doll retailed for $12.99 and came with "a real makeup case and glitter beach makeup," according to a 1993 ad. You can still get one on Etsy or eBay.


The pop star was "the original face of Caboodles," according to a press release. In 2013, she promoted Caboodles again, posting a video of herself on her YouTube channel with a Caboodles purse ("Two brands that ruled the 80s are now sophisticated, grown up versions—Pop Icon Debbie Gibson and Fashion Icon Caboodles," the info read). "I've got my life in here," she said, "including my makeup, all organized."


You can now relive your extremely organized teen years (hopefully without the awkwardness) by picking up a brand new Caboodle—they're available on Amazon or at Target, Urban Outfitters, and Ulta.


In celebration of Caboodles' 30th anniversary in 2017, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles—"an avid fan of Caboodles from an early age," according to a press release—signed on to be Chief Design Influencer for a line of Caboodles products. "I've always been a fan of Caboodles and am so excited to be able to help develop products that represent my personality and fashion sense in and out of the gym," she said. "Caboodles has been a big part of my cosmetic routine for as long as I can remember and it's a brand that I continue to rely on today."

25 Amazing Facts About the Human Body


The human body is an amazing piece of machinery—with a few weird quirks.

  1. It’s possible to brush your teeth too aggressively. Doing so can wear down enamel and make teeth sensitive to hot and cold foods.

  2. Goose bumps evolved to make our ancestors’ hair stand up, making them appear more threatening to predators.

Woman's legs with goosebumps
  1. Wisdom teeth serve no purpose. They’re left over from hundreds of thousands of years ago. As early humans’ brains grew bigger, it reduced space in the mouth, crowding out this third set of molars.

  2. Scientists aren't exactly sure why we yawn, but it may help regulate body temperature.

  3. Your fingernails don’t actually grow after you’re dead.

  4. If they were laid end to end, all of the blood vessels in the human body would encircle the Earth four times.

  5. Humans are the only animals with chins.

    An older woman's chin
    1. As you breathe, most of the air is going in and out of one nostril. Every few hours, the workload shifts to the other nostril.

    2. Blood makes up about 8 percent of your total body weight.

    3. The human nose can detect about 1 trillion smells.

    4. You have two kidneys, but only one is necessary to live.

    5. Belly buttons grow special hairs to catch lint.

      A woman putting her hands in a heart shape around her belly button
      1. The satisfying sound of cracking your knuckles comes from gas bubbles bursting in your joints.

      2. Skin is the body’s largest organ and can comprise 15 percent of a person’s total weight.

      3. Thumbs have their own pulse.

      4. Your tongue is made up of eight interwoven muscles, similar in structure to an elephant’s trunk or an octopus’s tentacle.

      5. On a genetic level, all human beings are more than 99 percent identical.

        Identical twin baby boys in striped shirts
        1. The foot is one of the most ticklish parts of the body.

        2. Extraocular muscles in the eye are the body’s fastest muscles. They allow both of your eyes to flick in the same direction in a single 50-millisecond movement.

        3. A surgical procedure called a selective amygdalohippocampectomy removes half of the brain’s amygdala—and with it, the patient’s sense of fear.

        4. The pineal gland, which secretes the hormone melatonin, got its name from its shape, which resembles a pine nut.

        5. Hair grows fast—about 6 inches per year. The only thing in the body that grows faster is bone marrow.

          An African-American woman drying her hair with a towel and laughing
          1. No one really knows what fingerprints are for, but they might help wick water away from our hands, prevent blisters, or improve touch.

          2. The heart beats more than 3 billion times in the average human lifespan.

          3. Blushing is caused by a rush of adrenaline.

8 Facts About Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was a multi-talented children’s author, comic artist, poet, playwright, and songwriter, and above all else, a rule-breaker. From The Giving Tree to Where the Sidewalk Ends, his titles are beloved by children and adults alike. At the time they were written, though, they defied common notions about what a "children’s" story could and should be. This isn’t all that surprising, considering that the Chicago-born author, who passed away in 1999, led a pretty unconventional life. Here are eight things you might not know about him.

1. One of Shel Silverstein's first jobs was selling hot dogs in Chicago.

Shel Silverstein didn’t always want to be a writer, or even a cartoonist or songwriter. His first love was baseball. "When I was a kid—12, 14, around there—I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls," he once said in an interview. "But I couldn’t play ball, I couldn’t dance. Luckily, the girls didn’t want me; not much I could do about that. So I started to draw and to write.” The closest he came to his MLB dream was when he landed a stint at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, selling hot dogs to White Sox fans.

2. Silverstein never finished college.

Silverstein was expelled from one school (the University of Illinois) and dropped out of another (the School of the Art Institute of Chicago). Finally, he managed to get through three years of the English program at Chicago's Roosevelt University, but his studies came to an abrupt end when he was drafted in 1953.

3. Silverstein was a Korean War veteran.

In the 1950s, Silverstein was drafted into the U.S. armed service. While he was stationed in Korea and Japan, he also worked as a cartoonist for the military publication Stars and Stripes. It was his first big cartooning gig. "For a guy of my age and with my limited experience to suddenly have to turn out cartoons on a day-to-day deadline deadline, the job was enormous,'' Silverstein told Stars and Stripes in a 1969 interview.

4. Silverstein worked for Playboy magazine and was Part of Hugh Hefner's inner circle.

That’s right: the lovable children’s author was on Playboy’s payroll for many years. He started drawing comics for the men’s magazine in the 1950s and ended up becoming close friends with Hugh Hefner. In fact, he often spent weeks or even months at the Playboy Mansion, where he wrote some of his books. His cartoons for the magazine proved so popular that Playboy sent him around the world to find the humor in places like London, Paris, North Africa, and Moscow during the Cold War. Perhaps his most off-color assignment, though, was visiting a nudist camp in New Jersey. These drawings were compiled in the 2007 book Playboy's Silverstein Around the World, which includes a foreword from Hefner.

5. Silverstein wrote Johnny Cash's hit song "A Boy Named Sue."

Few people know that Silverstein was a songwriter, too. One of his biggest hits was the comical tale of a boy who learned how to defend himself after being relentlessly bullied for his feminine-sounding name, Sue. The song was popularized by Johnny Cash and ended up being his top-selling single, while Silverstein was awarded a Grammy for Best Country Song. You can watch Silverstein strumming the guitar and shouting the lyrics alongside Cash on The Johnny Cash Show in the video above. Silverstein also wrote a follow-up song from the dad’s point of view, The Father of a Boy Named Sue, but it didn't take off the way the original did.

6. Silverstein is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Three years after his death, Silverstein was inducted posthumously into this exclusive society of songwriters. He wrote more than 800 songs throughout his career, some of which were quite raunchy. But his best-known songs were performed by country legends like Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings. “His compositions were instantly identifiable, filled with elevated wordplay and captivating, humor-filled narratives,” the Nashville Songwriters Foundation said of Silverstein's music.

7. Silverstein wrote the first children’s book to appear on The New York Times best sellerS list.

A Light in the Attic (1981) was the first children’s book to ever make it onto the prestigious New York Times Best Sellers list. It remained there for a whopping 182 weeks, breaking all of the previous records for hardcover books at that time.

8. Silverstein wasn't a fan of happy endings.

If you couldn’t already tell by The Giving Tree’s sad conclusion, Silverstein didn’t believe in giving his stories happy endings. He felt that doing so would alienate his young readers. "The child asks why I don't have this happiness thing you're telling me about, and comes to think when his joy stops that he has failed, that it won't come back,” the author said in a 1978 interview. This turned out to be a risky move, and The Giving Tree was rejected several times for being too sad or too unconventional. Fortunately, after four years of searching for a publisher, it found a home at HarperCollins (then Harper & Row) and has gone on to become one of the best-selling—and most beloved—children's books of all time.