Why I fucking love my Caboodle from 1988

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Vintage Caboodle from Etsy seller smilehood
Vintage Caboodle from Etsy seller smilehood

A few years ago, my father gave me a trunk that had been gathering dust in his storage shed.

“I think this is yours,” he said. I wasn’t sure, but I took it because I’m a pack rat and even if it wasn’t mine, doubtless there was something interesting inside.

And there was! Under my entire childhood collection of ElfQuest comics (!!!), I found a relic of my high school theater days — a vintage CABOODLES makeup case. It still had two yellow post-its taped onto the top that said “Ariel’s Makeup” and “Rum Tum Tugger! CATS,” relics from the last high school play I was in. (Assuming you ignore Jesus Christ Superstar, which I dropped out of because I had beef with the director and felt the whole show was miscast. YOU SHALL NEVER UNDERSTAND THE DEPTH OF MY ANGST, HIGH SCHOOL THEATER DIRECTOR.)

If you are a woman of a certain age, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say CABOODLES. If you are not, here’s the short explanation: Caboodles were essentially tackleboxes for girls. They were just like tackleboxes except for they had rounded edges, often a built-in mirror, and were the most obnoxious colors of pink and turquoise and purple. Instead of tackle, you filled them with makeup.

After 14 years of dormancy, in the mid ’00s the Caboodles box went into heavy rotation as my festival makeup box. Who knew I had so many sparkly eye shadows? And who knew how well they all fit into the Caboodles’ compartments? Then, I shifted its use over to being a cash box for the Salon of Shame, the diary-reading series I produced for many years. It got used again just last month as the cash box at the Seattle Lovesick Expo.

Amusingly, Caboodles are totally still around. They’ve branched out, but have a “retro” line. HA!

The Caboodle is the most useful late ’80s relic ever.

Comments on Why I fucking love my Caboodle from 1988

  1. I still use my caboodle from the 80s too! I was too young to store makeup in it during the 80s, but it was AMAZING at Barbie accessory storage. I kept all the shoes, brushes and other little bits that 5 year old me would have lost inside it. During the 90s it transferred into hair accessory storage.

    During college, it lay dormant in storage at my parents. When I moved into my first apartment the caboodle came back with a vengeance in use for its intended purpose–makeup storage.

    If you look at the home tour I submitted last year, you can see the caboodle in my media cabinet turned vanity. http://offbeathome.com/2013/01/delaware-split-level#.Uw9AyC0o6B8

  2. I’ve had my sister’s old pink caboodle for YEARS. I use it to store strings for my harp and various tools needed to replace strings, tune the harp, etc. It is truly fantastic.

  3. I have my mom’s! She gave it to me when I was a kid and it was a treasure box for awhile, but now is my sewing/beading box. It holds soooo mucccchhh stuffffff. And it’s probably the sturdiest thing I’ve ever owned.

  4. I missed the 80s Caboodle. I instead still have my awesome 90s ones (yes, I had 2). In the 90s they started making them transluscent with glitter, and that’s what I have. I actually do have a new-style one for actual makeup, and the old ones get used for miscellaneous stuff around the house. One of them actual is being used for hardward right now, and its funny because usually that means my husband is the one toting it around.

    • I think my sister had a Caboodle in the 90’s, too, as I have to say, that pink and turquoise box looks SOOOO familiar, though I can’t remember what happened to it. I think she may have had a small one, though, like maybe one of those cases for pencils, pens, and other school supplies.

      On a side note, Ashley, your comment made me think of how, when I was growing up, my dad always took his lunch to work in my sister’s old pink Barbie lunchbox. I think he might still sometimes use it, though the graphics on the centers have pretty much faded out. Still, my dad is a super-burly man (he has arms like Popeye, no lie), so I don’t think anyone other than family would ever feel safe teasing him for it. 🙂

  5. Oh man I remember caboodles so well. I had one for makeup, but then later it became a jewelry making kit. I filled it full of chunky plastic beads and letter bead. You know, the really cheap stuff. 😉 In my wilder days I would sit with my headphones on, slightly baked, and just create away. Ah such fond memories!

  6. Fun fact: My dad and I shared a caboodle when I was in the seventh grade and we started taking clowning classes together (we even went to a clown college weekend to learn how to make balloon animals and facepaint and whatnot). Our caboodle was filled with grease paint and red noses and baby powder and it was AWESOME.

  7. Oh my gosh, my sister and I had some! Even though we were 90’s kids. By then they made crappy mini themed ones on necklaces, that only had one thing built in like lip gloss. Our babysitter brought over a big older one for us to have though. It was dark purple and turquoise, and I yoinked it to store my rock collection. I don’t have it anymore, but I’m sure it would still be fine–that thing was so damn sturdy!

  8. My sister I had 4 between us, I believe. Although we always used ours for hair stuff storage – brushes and big banana clips go on the bottom, barrettes go in the smaller compartment of the sliding trays, hair ties, etc. go in the middle size compartment and scrunchies go in the largest tray compartment!

    Oh god. Scrunchies. I haven’t worn those since 5th grade, and that was holding onto them for far too long.

    I didn’t think anybody else read that! I just came across my remaining books last year… and still kept them.

    I’ve got a train case that I keep my makeup in and it’s fairly adult-looking ( mostly black with some pink ). The brand? CABOODLES! Natch.

    By the time I got to college Caboodles were no longer cool. My roommate had a huge tackle box she used and we all exclaimed over its usefulness and thrift. But inside I was wishing it was a Caboodle…

  10. My Caboodle was filled with beads that I always planned on using to make jewelry (but of course I didn’t, because the beads were too cool and I didn’t want to waste them on a bad bracelet!) So I just walked around carrying this Caboodle of beads, rattling mysteriously everywhere I went.
    That went well until the thing popped open in the aisle of my bus. Beads everywhere. RIP Bead Collection. I retired my Caboodle after that.
    I have a ton of things from my childhood that I use in one way or another, but I absolutely love that parts of my rock collection live in my mom’s fish tank.

    • This is a perfect description of way too much of my stuff that I don’t use: “My Caboodle was filled with beads that I always planned on using to make jewelry (but of course I didn’t, because the beads were too cool and I didn’t want to waste them on a bad bracelet!) ”

      But on the topic of caboodles, I had a sparkly glittery purple one that I used for belly dance make up in the 90s. I loved that box and how it made me seem more organized that I usually am.

  11. I recently bought one to hold a bunch of drugs necessary to provide anesthesia for a crash cesarean delivery outside of our labor and delivery ward (like in our main operating room). All the little compartments are perfect for storing all the different drugs.

  12. I am so excited by the replies to this post. I recently unearthed my American Girl Gear Caboodle-style box that used to hold school supplies in 1997, and I’ve been wondering what on earth I could do with it. Nail polish! Makeup!! Sewing supplies!!!

  13. YESSSSSS, this is totally timely for me because last week I was trying to wrangle and organize our bathroom situation and I was like OH MY GOD I SERIOUSLY JUST WISH I HAD A CABOODLE LIKE I DID IN MIDDLE SCHOOL. And then I realized that with the POWER OF THE INTERNET I could totally have this, and ebayed one way cooler than I could ever convince my parents to buy me (Caboodle Metallics anyone? I KNEW I’D BE COOL SOMEDAY.)

    In conclusion, Caboodles forever.

  14. Oh my gosh I used to make these! Srsly, I worked at Plano Molding and manufactured Caboodles in 1995. My sister had worked there the 5 years prior…

    Needless to say, we were well-stocked with Caboodles. My favorite one was white with hot pink clasp and handle. We would draw on it with markers, washing the pictures off with rubbing alcohol whenever we wanted to draw something else. I also used to use a Caboodle for lunch box one summer.
    I think I must have had 6 of them. I still use the mini (pencil box) size one for a teeny tiny sewing kit.

  15. My original 80s caboodle is somewhere at my parents’ house. But I bought a second one in college to store art supplies. Paint brushes, small rulers, other tools on the bottom, smaller things like charcoal and small tubes of paint and whatever on the top. It was great! I love those things.

  16. I miss my 90’s Caboodle case so much! I don’t know what happened to it. 🙁

    On the plus side, I have an art box that looks like a tackle box/Caboodle but it’s gray so I modge podged it fantastically.

  17. My first Caboodle was a much coveted, pink and turquoise Christmas gift from Santa. Ah, the 80’s.
    Thank you Ariel, for reminding me how old I am 😛

  18. Oh I loved that thing! It was like a secret treasure box because everything in the bottom compartment was hidden when it was opened! I kept a stash of halloween candy in the bottom of mine 🙂

  19. YES! i rediscovered my 90s caboodle last year – it had been waiting for me faithfully in storage while i was living overseas. i don’t own enough makeup to fill it, but it is serving as a perfect medicine cabinet since my apartment’s one isn’t big enough for both my roommate and me. these babies are built to LAST, i’m keeping it forever. p.s. it’s sparkly.

  20. I have a mini caboodle, the size of a small book, and I love it! I don’t think I ever took it out of circulation. My earrings don’t all fit in it now, and I have found myself wishing for more/a bigger one. It never occurred to me that I might able to find one until now. I love you, internets!

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