Monday, August 11, 2008

Here's looking at you...vintage compacts!

When women got the vote, they got the right to use makeup also. Before WW I, only “cheap” women (although they probably were not that cheap) openly used cosmetics. As women entered the work force, they started to use makeup and the compact became as much a necessity as the cell phone is to women today.

Ancient Egyptians used makeup, and nail polish dates at least to 3000 BC. The Chinese found ways to use gum arabic, egg whites, gelatin, and bees wax to create varnishes and lacquers for the nails. The Egyptians used henna to stain their fingernails. Nail color often represented social class. During the Chou Dynasty, (circa 600 BC) gold and silver were the royal colors. Later, royalty starting wearing black or red nail color. Lower ranking women were only permitted to wear pale tones. Wearing royal colors without the rank was punished by death. A little trivia on nail polish…modern nail polish is a actually a variation of car paint.

Max Factor is often called the father of modern makeup, created for the movies in 1914.By the 1920s and 1930s make-up was associated with Hollywood, and the compact was now part of the glamorous world.

Powdering the nose became an event. Long before pressed powder compacts were available in drugstores, ladies carried fancy compacts in their handbags. In fact, most ladies had an array of compacts to choose from since they were often presented to them as gifts by husbands, suitors and friends.

This is the inside of the large square compact...I love the personal touches of old things.

Some compacts were combined with music, watches, and even canes.
Truly unique compacts can be found on hat pins even! Vintage compacts come in a variety of styles, shapes, and motifs. They were crafted form precious metals, alloys, fabrics, and plastics.

At one time compacts were also favored souvenirs. All types of compacts featuring everything from the Florida Everglades to Mount Rushmore can be found on the market today. Sweetheart compacts are also popular crossover collectibles since they feature patriotic and military themes generally related to World War II.

There are "brand" names in compact: Elgin, Stratton, Max Factor, Estee Lauder, and Volupte. Many of the compacts found today are probably out of the 50s. Look for the marks on the inside or on the back of the compact. Here is an example of a Stratton.

Stratton compacts were designed and produced in Birmingham, England starting
in 1923. Some of the earliest Stratton compacts carry the name "Stratnoid", which was also the trade name for the company's knitting needles. In 1940, four of their five factories were destroyed during World War II. By 1946, they were up and running again.

So, next time you see a vintage compact at a sale, open it up...think of the woman who powdered her nose and dreamed of being a glamorous Hollywood star!


Anonymous said...


I have always loved compacts. I have one that belonged to my grandmother. It's not fancy but I carry it in my purse and use the mirror and think of her each and every time. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


Cottage Flair said...

As always, wonderful post and great photos. I love vintage and new compacts.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought if it might be vintage compacts. You have some very interesting information and beautiful pics. I missed an opportunity years ago to pics up some gorgeous ones and have regretted it ever since.

Miniature Patisserie Chef said...

Hi Susan,

Oh wow, I love cosmetics and makeup and thanks for doing a great post to teach us all about compact! Those were such unique compact powders!

Pei Li

Noelle Garrett Designs said...

Susan, Beautiful compacts are some of my favorite things. I just love them. I am a makeup girl! You really have some amazing ones here. I would just snatch them up!

Inka Smith said...

Again another lovely show and tell from you. I always enjoy them. I have a lipstick from my Grandmother. Bright Red of course!!

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

Hey Susan,
I'm so glad you did jump in on these posts. I look so forward to them every week.
I have my great grandma's compact and I just love it. Thanks again for a wonderful lesson.

Patricia said...

Those are so pretty, Susan. I just love the gold one with the blue flowers. I remember being out to dinner with my grandparents and parents and the ladies would whip out the compacts after dinner to reapply lipstick. Seemed so elegant at the time!


Lilli Blue said...

I would miss it so much if you didn't do S&T Monday. I really look forward to your blog. I love old compacts. I have some little ones that have rouge in them.Wonderful post. Lilli

Carolyn Kocman said...

as always, an educational experience. are we going to be tested? lol. i love that last pic with the little girl. reminds me of myself...haha!

Silena said...

Hi Susan,
Wow, what a great commentary on the history of compacts. I remember carrying one to my jr prom...they were popular then. Boy, now I'm giving away my age!! The photos are wonderful and the history lesson usual. Thanks!!!!

Just a bed of roses said...

Susan I always love your show and tells, I learn somuch and being in the same business one can never know it all, so thanks for the time you invest into sharing not only the pretty pictures, but the knowledge.

cathy said...

Another fascinating post! Now I want an old fashioned compact! Wish I had kept some of my grandmother's.

Carolee Crafts said...

Hi Susan

Love your finds especially the powder puffs.

Angel Heart Designs said...

Ooh! La La!...Love your pretty compacts,,and other pretties! Thanks for sharing..

Unknown said...

I was ill and missed your last blog, so today I treated myself to both articles. Thank you for sharing so much interesting information. I really look forward to reading it each week. By the by, do you have any Homespun (fine rib) depression in pink? That is my pattern and color. Love it!!!
Have a beautiful East Coast day,
Theresa @ Cottage Violets

SoCal Helene said...

Hi Susan,
Always so fun and interesting to read your S & T, for goodness sake do not stop!
Have a great week!