I’m one of those girls who was brainwashed by Lisa Eldridge into collecting vintage makeup. In general, I’m very interested in the history of beauty (having forced most of my professors to suffer through paper after paper on 1920s makeup and so on…) so actually owning the objects of study is both fun and useful. I can’t help but imagine the woman who has owned it, what her life looked like.
On holiday visiting my friend Mika (who, by the by, runs the fabulous accessory brand Earl Foolish) I ran into quite the cache of vintage powder compacts in an antique store. They had around ten vintage compacts, so of course I couldn’t buy them all, but made a few little selections – 3 compacts and one purse.
Two of the compacts are made for loose powder, both with original sifters. The large, round one seems to be unused since it even has a pristine original puff inside, while the square compact still has traces of powder on the sifter. This type of compact is filled with the powder of your choice, then you place the mesh sifter on top. The sifter dispenses a small amount of product when pressed with a puff, and there’s an inner lid to keep everything in place when the compact is closed. I’d like to note that neither of the larger compacts has any manufacturer’s stamp, except that the round one says ‘made in switzerland’.
My favourite, however, is this tiny Houbigant pressed powder compact from the 1920’s. It’s around 4.5cm across and includes a minuscule mirror and equally minuscule lambswool puff! The powder inside has a pale pink tint and still smells perfumed. It’s a real treasure, I just love the art deco design and how ridiculously small it is. I even found an advertisement for this same product, dated 1928. Houbigant, as you may know, is still around today but they only sell perfume these days.
Lastly, an unusual purse from the 1940s. This is basically a metal box covered with black suede, so it’s both heavy and fairly hard. I imagine you could use it for self-defense with some success. Inside, it has several compartments that open by pulling a little ribbon tab. One is still filled with loose powder (sifter still intact!), another has a small round indent with tiny puff and I assume it’s for a rouge pan.
The third compartment is for cigarettes (as every woman of style was a smoker back then), and there’s also a comb sleeve and built-in mirror! What really gets me is that the bottom is engraved: Barbro K.S.S, 6/3 1943. So we know who this belonged to, and when she got it.
I have a feeling this is only the beginning of my collection – right now I’m eyeing a vintage Helena Rubinstein lipstick and am on the hunt for a vanity powder box.
Are you interested in vintage cosmetics or beauty history?