Welcome the next installment of my year-long look back at the decade that was ruled by big hair and bigger egos. Every other week I’ll be covering pop culture tidbits from the 1980s, sharing memories, choking on the ridiculousness, and maybe offering an insight or two into what made the 1980s so great/bad/silly. Serving as my inspiration are two lists from Buzzfeed, and I’ll include links to the original list items in each post. So throw on your neon windbreaker, lace up your hi-tops, and adjust your Wayfarers, because this DeLorean is taking off! (Ugh. Did I really just type that? Gag me with spoon, seriously.)
List item #12 from 53 Things Only 80s Girls Can Understand
Thinking Rainbow Brite was the coolest girl EVER and drawing fashion inspiration from her colorful getups.
When I first went through BuzzFeed’s 1980s-themed lists in preparation for these posts, I highlighted this one about Rainbow Brite because two things immediately jumped to mind: my Rainbow Brite doll (that I loved so much more than my Cabbage Patch Kid), and my Rainbow Brite sheets (the only character sheets I ever had).
Now that I’m here actually writing about Rainbow Brite, all I can think of is the color black.
See, the Buzzfeed list item specifically referenced garnering fashion inspiration from Rainbow Brite. I really can’t say much to that one way or another. When I was in to Rainbow Brite, fashion wasn’t much on my mind. However, color was. And it’s quite possible that Rainbow Brite had something to do with that.
First off, who was Rainbow Brite? Um, she was a…girl who…who…wore brightly colored clothes. She had a horse and, and lots of friends (each designated by a color…from the rainbow! Surprise!), and this little…furry…companiony thing, and together they… … Oh hell, I don’t know. They probably did magical things with rainbows and stuff. And they probably fought again non-rainbow-ness, because RAINBOWS. For as much as I remember loving my Rainbow Brite doll, you’d think she would have made more of an impression. I know she had her own cartoon, but I really remember the Rainbow Brite merchandise, because for a time her aisle in the toy store rivaled the pinkness of Barbie’s. I had the doll, the bedsheets, and tons of Rainbow Brite stickers. Like, enough to fill up nearly half my sticker book! (Tons.)
While I don’t remember what Rainbow Brite actually did, I do recall that for several years of my life, I was all about color. I imagine that rings true for many of us – everything made for children is bright and colorful, from toys to clothing. Growing up, it was rare (and still is) to see kids below the age of ten in anything black, let alone all black. (I can’t imagine knitting a black sweater for either my young niece or nephew – it just doesn’t seem right.) It’s easy, as a kid, to associate the color black with “bad” – the stereotypical villain in all black still reigns today. Light versus dark, bright versus murky, right versus wrong, it’s what you’re taught from day one.
Me, I didn’t like the color black for a long time. In elementary school, I was enamored of pinks and purples, and I was especially keen, for awhile, on anything having to do with strawberries. My niece knows the word “goth” and has her own opinions on its connotations. When I was her age the term didn’t exist (in my social circles). In my young mind, the only appropriate time to wear all black was on Halloween and only if you were being a bad guy. This (weird? probably) abhorrence extended into my general surroundings. I didn’t want anything to do with black in my room, in my toys, or even in my school supplies. You could blame Rainbow Brite, or maybe blame the general day-glo culture of the early to mid 1980s.
Interruptus memoria: One day I brought my Rainbow Bright doll to school. I’ve no idea why I needed her companionship that day, but I definitely remember that she was taken away by my teacher. “She’ll be waiting for you at the end of the day,” she said firmly but kindly. The teacher stuck the doll in one of her desk drawers, and I could see her yellow hair poking out over the desk. I remember being very worried about her, nervous that I wouldn’t get her back. But I did. And I never brought her to school again.
Ick. Probably good thing these 80s posts are nearing the end of their run. The nostalgia is getting dangerously mediocre at this point.
But Rainbow Brite. We eventually parted ways, and I came to terms with black as clothing option. Though, the notion of wearing all black never solidified as a fashion choice until I started working in the theatre and had to wear all black backstage. Prior to that, black was fine as long as it was offset by a bright color. First it was neon – pink, blue, yellow, orange, green – but I eventually grew out of that fad. And then I eventually grew wild, showing off such taboo color combinations as navy and black and brown and black. So illicit!
These days, Rainbow Bright’s influence might as well be little more than a dying filament, because I need to make myself buy/wear colors that aren’t black. When I was working in theatre professionally, my wardrobe became three-quarters dark. It was wonderful not having to think about what I was going to wear to work. (Hmm…how about black and…black!) Even better was that black clothing was incredibly easy to buy – what the garment actually looked like wasn’t really important as long as it fit. However, I continued to cling onto, though I didn’t much espouse verbally, the notion that wearing all black was somehow not a good thing. In the back corner of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that wearing all black made me look “goth” or “like death” or “dour.” Those thoughts have softened quite a bit. Now, as I said, black is a necessary staple and I’d have no problem wearing all black to work five days a week. But I can’t, or I can’t bring myself to do it all the time. Once a week in black is fine; more than that feels lazy.
Perhaps Rainbow Brite and her brightly-colored do-goodness left more of an impression than I thought.