Vintage Vanity

There is a whole genre of YouTube videos called, What’s In My Bag. After you watch a few, you realise that most woman carry—to a greater or lesser degree—the same stuff.

However, I would suggest adding one more item: a vintage compact. This accessory is practical (even the Queen reapplies her lipstick with one), beautiful, elegant, and you feel very glamorous using it.

 Coty advert- French Flair. October 1958, Ladies Home Journal
Coty advert- French Flair. October 1958, Ladies Home Journal

Yet they are small, portable, affordable objects, and the craftsmanship is extraordinary.

I recently came across two Stratton powder compacts in a thrift store. One in silver,

and one in gold.

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Lucky me!

BACKGROUND

An English company, Stratton was established in 1860 as a knitting needle manufacturer. It wasn’t until 1923 that they produced their first powder compacts. The needles and compacts had the same un-glamorous brand name: Stratnoid.

In the early 1930’s, the compacts were re-branded as Stratton, based on the name of a hero in a popular novel.

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Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts; Circa 1930’s

 

The business was a highly successful one, but the real heyday of the company was the 1950’s:

The booming love for cosmetics, particularly the powdered and polished Hollywood look, made compacts a must. Stratton introduced their now famous “self-opening lids”. These inner lids hold loose powder safely, and unclasp automatically as you open the compact. Patented in 1948, the innovation was designed to prevent chips in nail polish… and became a major selling point!

~ Jane Vanro, Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

 

Stratton adapted and innovated with the times and beauty trends: the advent of cream (pressed) powder resulted in patented new designs: the Glamorizer for pressed powder refills, and the Convertibles for both loose and pressed powders. They also began adding the artist’s signature on the lid crediting the designers. The most famous Stratton range is the Waterbirds Series from  the Fifties.

Image via Etsy
Image via Etsy

 

There is a Stratton for every taste. For the ultimate luxury, you could have a compact for each of your bags so you’d never have to switch. Just think of the fun and challenge of collecting them to compliment the style, colour, or hardware of your purse.

Or you could, as Stratton advertised in Vogue in 1955, match the compact design to what you’re wearing, and where you’re going:

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Vogue, 1955

A compact is a very personal effect; mainly hidden from view and then only glimpsed, when seen. It represents the alluring French concept of luxe caché or hidden luxury. 

 Revlon vintage ad, 1943
Revlon vintage ad, 1943

In the day, compacts were also made to hold lipstick, cards, and cigarettes. Wallis Simpson had a rather special one:

The most expensive compact that we’ve auctioned belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, and sold for more than pounds 72,000. It had a map of Europe and Africa and an array of jewels marking the places that meant a lot to her and the Duke.

~ Alexandra Rhodes, senior director head of the Sotheby’s London jewellery collection, Independent

Image via The Daily Mail
Image via The Daily Mail

I wonder if she carried it in her handbag?

 

STRATTON COMPACTS: Etsy; Ebay; or at auction.

POST: How To Refill/Replace Powder In A Vintage Compact

BOOKPowder Compacts – A Collectors Guide, Amazon

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