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15 Tupperware Facts From the Back of the Fridge

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Tupperware is a household name in food storage, but there’s a lot you may not know about this decades-old container company.

1. TUPPERWARE GETS ITS NAME FROM CREATOR EARL TUPPER.

The famed storage containers weren't named at random. Inventor Earl Tupper branded the plastic sets with his own name after years of working with plastic and decades of flopped inventions. Tupper was a prolific innovator who had begun his own business, Tupper Tree Doctors, to help him in his goal to become a millionaire at age 30, while also supporting his wife and five children. After business dried up with the Great Depression, Tupper landed a job at a plastics factory in Leominster, Massachusetts. The new gig inspired him to venture out on his own and mold the then-new material into beads and plastic cigarette containers. By the late 1940s, Tupper’s experiments produced the first Tupperware bowls—called Wonderbowls.

2. TUPPER CREATED A NAIL DESIGN KIT THAT WAS AHEAD OF ITS TIME.

Tupper didn’t just create food storage solutions. He was a serial inventor and his notebooks (which have been digitized and are stored at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History) feature dozens of ideas meant to solve everyday problems. Tupper thought up no-drip ice cream cones, more comfortable corsets, fishing poles that weighed your catch as it was reeled in, and even a fish-propelled boat. One of Tupper’s ideas prior to Tupperware was his nail design kit. Created in 1937, the kits included tiny, plastic embellishments that could be glued on for dazzling manicures. While friends and family enjoyed the kits, they never went to market.

3. TUPPER'S EARLY BOWLS WERE WORKS OF ART.

Tupper focused heavily the Wonderbowl’s design, working to create an elegant piece of dishware that stood out from other kitchen items sold in stores. Initially, the Wonderbowl snagged accolades and won several design contests. By 1956, Tupper’s plastic products were even on display at the New York Museum of Modern Art. For some time, Tupper even had a Fifth Avenue retail spot for his innovative food storage bowls.

4. THE STORAGE CONTAINERS WERE INITIALLY A FLOP.

While Tupper was a clever inventor, he wasn’t the best at marketing. In its early days, Tupperware struggled at its Fifth Avenue store and catalogue sales slumped. Even with a good idea, Tupper’s salesman skills weren’t strong. His previously invented "Sure-Stay" bobby pins offered superior grip to other hairpins, but Tupper’s awkward ad copy didn’t make the sale: "Many women wear more or less false hair. Wigs cost good money, and romance or social prestige often hangs by the hairs on one’s head. A good 'Sure-Stay' hairpin is needed." Early Tupperware suffered similar slumping sales as Tupper’s other oddly marketed products.

5. A MOM-TURNED-SALESWOMAN SAVED TUPPERWARE.

Tupper believed he had created a useful piece of art for the modern housewife, but he knew his efforts weren’t helping the products sell. And if it weren’t for Brownie Wise, a divorced single mom with an eighth-grade education and expert sales skills, Tupperware wouldn’t have become a household name. Despite being a successful saleswoman for Stanley Home Products, Wise knew she had no future with the company after being told "management is no place for a woman." After encountering Tupperware, Wise quit selling brooms in 1949 and picked up plastic storage containers. That same year, she sold $150,000 worth of Tupperware and became a distributor for the state of Florida. After several years of sales, Wise called up Tupper to express her dismay about the downsides of the company, namely incorrect orders and shipping delays. Within a month, the two met and Wise gave Tupper the secret to her success and Tupperware’s future: home party sales.

6. BROWNIE WISE JUMP-STARTED THE HOME PARTY SALES.

Soon after Tupper met with Wise, she was offered a leadership role unusual for a woman in the 1950s: Vice President of Tupperware. Wise’s grand idea for Tupperware’s success wasn’t her own. Her former employer, Stanley Home Products, only sold its goods through home parties at a time when many sales companies still sold door-to-door. But, she used the sales tactic to Tupperware’s advantage, successfully transforming the company into a thriving home goods company and changing the way retailers of the time made sales. Within Wise’s first year as vice president, Tupperware orders surpassed $2 million, all because of the home party idea. At the heart of it, she knew it was the small people along the Tupperware chain that made the company successful: "Build the people and they’ll build the business."

7. EARLY TUPPERWARE SELLERS DIDN'T SELL—THEY DATED PARTIES.

Selling Tupperware was a viable side job for many stay-at-home mothers and housewives of the 1950s, '60s, and beyond. Hawking these plastic containers and tools required little specialty training and could be scaled up or down based on a woman’s schedule. But Tupperware made it clear that its saleswomen—called dealers or consultants—weren't scheduling sales pitches, they were "dating" parties (which even today Tupperware explains as "a.k.a. scheduling"). The goal was to create an atmosphere of fun complete with games, such as one where guests won Tupperware miniatures for writing the best sales ad for their husbands.

8. TOP TUPPERWARE SELLERS ROPED IN THEIR HUSBANDS.

While most Tupperware sellers were women, those who did exceptionally well got their husbands involved. Top Tupperware dealers quickly rose through the ranks and could be promoted from dealer to manager, which had perks such as additional commission, features in the company newsletter and prizes at the annual Tupperware Jubilee. But women who excelled at manager status could become a regional distributor, tasked with overseeing Tupperware sales and operations in their area. Because of social conventions of the time—and the difficulty for women to get their own business loans or have a bank account—married women were only awarded a distributor role if their husbands agreed to quit their day jobs and join their wives full-time.

9. WISE LOVED TO REWARD TUPPERWARE SELLERS WITH EXTRAVAGANT PRIZES.

As part of fostering Tupperware’s hardest workers, Wise launched the annual Tupperware Home Parties Jubilee, a gathering of top hostesses, managers, and distributors. With exotic themes such as "Around the World in 80 Days" and "Arabian Nights," Tupperware’s best won German clocks, fur stoles and coats, Chinese carvings, and entire wardrobes packed with clothing. At the first Jubilee in 1954, Wise ran with a gold rush theme that led to attendees digging up buried prizes.

10. ONE TUPPERWARE JUBILEE LED TO COUNTLESS LAWSUITS.

The 1957 Tupperware Jubilee went horribly awry due to dangerous weather. Wise planned an island party but when a thunderstorm threatened the beach luau, a panicked rush by the 1200 guests led to several boat accidents and 21 injured attendees. Tupperware spent several years in and out of courtrooms handling injury lawsuits.

11. TUPPERWARE'S SECRET WAS IN THE BURP.

The key to perfect food preservation lies in the Tupperware "burp," the process of closing the lid and reopening a small portion to let out any remaining air. Earl Tupper's idea for lid burping came from the practice of closing paint cans with the intention of creating an airtight seal. But, the burping process wasn’t easy for everyone, such as people with disabilities or difficulty using their hands. Tupperware introduced its Instant Seals line in the 1960s, featuring containers that could be closed with the push of a finger.

12. TUPPERWARE CREATED ITS OWN TOY.

At the height of Tupperware mania, the company began to sample plastic products outside of dishware, such as drawer organizers, portable lap desks, and fly swatters. With the baby boom well underway, Tupperware set out to create its own toy in the 1960s—the Shape-O. Kids have been popping geometric shapes into this large red and blue ball ever since.

13. TUPPERWARE CONTAINERS ARE IMPRINTED WITH BRAILLE.

In 1993, Tupperware looked to make food storage more accessible for people with visual impairments. The company launched its CrystalWave line in the early 1990s, including Braille on the bottom of containers to indicate volume.

14. BROWNIE WISE AND EARL TUPPER DIDN'T END ON GOOD TERMS.

While Tupperware has gone on to become a staple in kitchens nationwide, the team that made it a household staple wasn't nearly so indestructible. While Tupper and Wise didn’t always get along, their teamwork helped grow the company and its products. But by 1958, Tupper allegedly had enough of Wise’s ideas, extravagant spending and reputation as the "First Lady of Tupperware"—not to mention the previous year's Jubilee disaster. Tupper supposedly told top Tupperware executives that he'd "had enough of Brownie Wise" and planned to fire her. Wise had no stock in the company and after battling Tupper in court, received one year’s salary as severance pay. Wise went on to dabble in her own home party cosmetics companies, though never found the same level of success as she had with Tupperware. Tupper sold Tupperware within a year for $16 million, divorced his wife, and moved to Costa Rica. He died there in 1983; Wise died in 1992.

15. VINTAGE TUPPERWARE IS A HOT COLLECTIBLE.

Tupperware styles have changed with each decade to reflect new ideas, color schemes, and food storage needs. Older containers have become common collectibles and many sets, such as the iconic Wonderlier Bowls manufactured throughout the 1960s, sell for nearly $45 per set. Even the Smithsonian has its own stash of more than 100 Tupperware pieces, dating between 1946 and 1999. Who knew your fridge was housing such an important part of pop culture? Just make sure you don't lose any lids.

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers
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For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $9.1 billion this year on spooky goods, including a record $3.4 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, CEO of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a costume doesn’t always work.

1. SOME COSTUMES ARE JUST TOO OUTRAGEOUS FOR RETAIL

A woman models a scary nun costume for Halloween
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For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … BUT THERE ARE SOME LINES THEY WON’T CROSS.

Homeowners are scared by trick-or-treaters on Halloween
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Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta, a business that broke into the industry on the strength of their fake dreadlock wig in 1992. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. THEY CAN DESIGN AND PRODUCE A COSTUME IN A MATTER OF DAYS.

A man models a costume in front of a mirror
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. BEYONCE CAN HELP MOVE STALE INVENTORY.

A screen shot from Formation, a music video featuring Beyonce
beyonceVEVO, YouTube

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “Last year, we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. WOMEN DON’T USUALLY WEAR MASKS.

A man tries on a Joker mask at a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage last year.

6. FOOD COSTUMES ARE ALWAYS A HIT.

A dog wears a hot dog costume for Halloween
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At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.” Demand for these faux-edible costumes can occasionally get ugly: Rasta is currently suing Sears and Kmart for selling a banana costume that they allege infringes on Rasta’s copyrighted version, which has blackened ends and a vertical stripe.

7. ADDING ”SEXY” TO EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

A packaged Halloween costume hangs on a store rack
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. PEOPLE ASK FOR SOME WEIRD STUFF.

A person appears in a skull costume with glowing eyes for Halloween
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. THEY HAVE WORKAROUNDS FOR BIG PROPERTIES.

Go out to a party this year and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. PEOPLE LOVE SHARKS.

Singer Katy Perry appears on stage with two dancing sharks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. DEAD CELEBRITIES MEAN SALES.

A portrait of Hugh Hefner hangs in the Playboy Mansion
Hector Mata/Getty Images

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

12. THEY PROFIT FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING AT THE LAST MINUTE.

A man shops for Halloween costumes in a retail store
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A SEASONAL BUSINESS.

A woman shops for costumes in a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.” Weeks says he'll begin planning in May 2018—for Halloween 2019.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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