Vintage compact cases are one of those vintage items that can be both functional and collectable, they’re also extremely fabulous to look at and touch. They remind us of bygone eras, Hollywood glamour and of course our mothers and grandmothers, many of whom used their compacts daily. I remember when I was a young girl, I would always be fascinated by my Aunt’s powder compact and the fact she would never leave the house without it. I can still remember that familiar floral powdery smell whenever she would open her handbag, do you have any similar memories?
Perhaps you’ve inherited compacts and they’ve prompted a more adventurous collection? Or maybe you still use yours today? I’d love to hear your stories over on Instagram.
Although it seems that compacts have been around forever they didn’t make an appearance until the beginning of the 20th century when makeup began to be commercialised. Prior to this powder was simply stored in a bowl. These bowls could be as decorative as the compacts that followed and are also a favourite collector’s pieces.
After the First World War, women gradually left the confines of the home more often so the compact was invented purely so that a woman could carry loose powder around with her in her bag. It was an extremely popular accessory, and by the 20s and 30s they were made with vastly different materials such as silver, gold, leather and shell and decorated with stones, enamel and even tapestry. Some were hand painted and designed in the fashions of the time such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau or Egyptian shapes and symbols.
By the time the Second World War arrived compacts were also being made in plastic and wood, and marketing took a shift in the 1950s and 1960s to target the “busy woman” as this advert shows. The women in this 60s Max Factor ad are dressed more casually and were thought to be more relatable to the ever changing role of the modern woman.
There are still plenty of compacts around and many are in perfect condition. Make sure that the mirrors are not broken and that the clasps work, also look out for scratches and rust and that the front is undamaged and there are no dents. If the compact comes complete with puff, the label and possibly the packaging then its value will increase. We currently have this beautiful convertible vintage compact by Kigu in stock, complete with it’s original packaging...
Kigu was a Hungarian founded company who became one of the most respected compact manufacturers in the world. They are still incredibly collectible along with their British counterparts, Stratton. Other famous brands to look out for are Coty, Gwenda, Le Rage, Mascot, Houbigant of France, Yardley and Vogue Vanities.
Produced between the forties and sixties Stratton’s compacts were extremely popular, you may recognise them from your mother or grandmother’s makeup bags. They came with a special design so they were easy to carry and often came with a blue background. A Stratton cover would invariably include birds and flowers and would involve breath-taking attention to detail. We usually have several vintage Stratton compacts in stock, and this is a great example from our current offering...
Whatever takes your fancy there are some absolutely fabulous compacts out there are well worth either starting or adding to your vintage collection. They’re so beautiful and are likely to provoke an awful lot of admiring glances, touching and feeling. You may never want to part with them, or be able to leave them alone; they have a magical appeal that is timeless and although they are no longer used by many women, they’re worth it. But why not use them? Powder compacts are still sold and if you take care of your compact case they should still fit perfectly!
Until next time
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